HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
Jan. 31. 1832
These considerations have led me to the conclusion that a very valuable property was secured to the lessee by his lease. That the poor and warriors of the Chickasaw Nation were to be much benefitted, I cannot see. Unless salt was made, they got nothing for their four miles square. If salt was made, they got 750 bushels annually. As to the other benefit, that it was to be sold for $1 within the reservation. I believe it may be safely said, that it was wholly __ugatory. Whenever salt could be sold at $1 at the saline, it could be sold at Nashville, or the Muscle Shoales at the same price from the Virginia salt works.
By this observation was additional and failing those condition the land was to revert to the United States. It is true no time is specified in the treaty, after which the land should revert for non performance of the conditions. I will therefore, state the case alternatively; take it either way. The fact is however, take up to this time, no rent has been paid, and no salt made.
In this state of things, in the summer of 1789 a negotiation was entered into by John H Eaton and John Coffee, with the Chickasaw tribe of Indians, for the cession of their lands in Mississippi and Alabama: lands be it observed, far distant from ' totally disconnected with the reservation in West Tennessee. The treaty is negotiated in the usual manor, and a conditional cession obtained. The following day, certain supplementary articles were negotiated in addition to the main treaty and at the heel of all of them, an article is agreed upon of a most extraordinary character, by which substantially the reservation of which I have been speaking was sold for $2,000 to the second Auditor, and a person associated with him. I say, sir, in substance, the reservation was sold to these gentlemen for $2,000 although the form given to the transaction is that of a change of the former lease. The change consists in reducing the rent from 750 bushels of salt to four bushels of salt or the value thereof, and payment of $2,000 down.
Now, sir, I will take the case either way. Either the land had reverted to the United States for nonperformance of the conditions of the reservation, or it had not. If it had reverted to the United States--as I am well persuaded is the fact--then, in this transaction we see the late Secretary of War ' his associate permitting the Chickasaw Indians to cede, for a trifling consideration to the Second Auditor of the Treasury a valuable tract of land belonging to the United States ' which the Chickasaws had no more right to cede than they had the town of Memphis. To say that such a pretended cession is a nullity is expressing but a small part of its character.
But suppose the land has not reverted to the United States, but is still the property of the Chickasaws. The object for which the reservation was made in 1818 now of necessity fails. It is impossible to benefit the poor and warriors of the Chickasaw tribe of Indians by making salt that will sell for one dollar a bushel in West Tennessee. The only duty then of the Commissioners was to purchase this reservation at a fair price for the United States. Instead of which they allow Messrs. Lewis and Currens to purchase it for a trifle till it is submitted, it is to be viewed only as a proposition on the part of those concerned, and if ratified by Senate it is a legal transaction. But not so sir. There are things of a character which can acquire no legality by the forms of the law. To suppose the Senate would ratify this article is to suppose two impossibilities, one which the Senate would ratify with a stipulation; the other that any ratification could legalize it. It is essentially corrupt, and the parties concerned in it have laid themselves under a responsibility which no act of the Senate can remove. --Suppose that Chancellor Livingston in negotiating the cession of Louisiana, or my honored colleague (Mr. ADAMS) in negotiating the Florida Treaty had stipulated that a friend and relative should be allowed to purchase four mile square of choice land for a song, would it have been a defence of the transaction to say, that it was only a proposal submitted to the Senate?
But the fact is, although the Chickasaw Treaty never has been and probably never will be submitted to the Senate, unless I am misinformed, a deed was executed by the Indian Trustees to Mr. Lewis and his partner, on the day on which the treaty was negotiated eighteen months ago. Sir, the consent of the Senate has not been waited for; they may register the deed if they please; the parties interested have registered it, eighteen months ago, in Humphreys County, Tennessee. In like manner as the first lease was executed, on the day of the treaty was negotiated, and nearly three months before the ratification of the treaty, so this new deed was executed on the very day the treaty was negotiated which has not yet been submitted to the Senate.