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ticularly toward the miserable remnant of the aborigines. It would have comported better with those principles, to have imitated the benevolent policy of the founder of Pennsylvania, and to have given to the Creeks, conquered as they were, even if they had made an unjust war upon us, the trifling consideration, to them an adequate compensation, which he paid for their lands. That treaty, I fear, has been the main cause of the recent war. And if it has been, it only adds another melancholy proof to those with which history already abounds, that hard and unconscionable terms, extorted by the power of the sword and the right of conquest, serves but to whet and stimulate revenge, and to give to old hostilities, smothered, not extinguished by the pretended peace, greater exasperation and more ferocity. A truce thus patched up with an unfortunate people, without the means of existence, without bread, is no real peace. The instant there is the slightest prospect of relief from such harsh and severe conditions, the conquered party will fly to arms, and spend the last drop of blood rather than live in such degraded bondage. Even if you again reduce him to submission, the expenses incurred by this second war, to say nothing of the human lives that are sacrificed, will be greater than what it would have cost you to have granted him liberal conditions in the first instance. This treaty, I repeat it, was, I apprehend, the cause of the war. It led to those excesses on our southern borders which began it. Who first commenced them, it is perhaps difficult to ascertain. There is, however, a paper on this subject, communicated at the last session by the President, that tells, in language pathetic and feeling, an artless tale—a paper that carries such internal evidence, at least, of the belief of the authors of it, that they were writing the truth, that I ask the favor of the committee to allow me to read it.
[Mr. Clay here read a letter from ten of the Seminole towns to the commanding officer at Fort Hawkins.]
I should be very unwilling to assert, in regard to this war, that the fault was on our side; but I fear it was. I have heard that very respectable gentleman, now no more, who once filled the executive chair of Georgia, and who, having been agent of Indian affairs in that quarter, had the best opportunity of judging of the origin of this war, deliberately pronounce it as his opinion, that the Indians were not in fault. I am far from attributing to general Jackson any other than the very slight degree of blame which attaches to him as the negotiator of the treaty of Fort Jackson, and which must be shared by those who subsequently ratified and sanctioned that treaty. But if there were even a doubt as to the origin of the war, whether we were censurable or the Indians, that doubt would serve to increase our regret at any distressing incidents which may have occurred, and to mitigate, in some degree, the crimes which we impute to the other side. I know, that when general Jackson was summoned to the field, it was too late to hesitate the fatal blow had been struck in the destruction of Fowltown, and the dreadful massacre of lieutenant Scott and his detachment; and the only duty which remained to him was to terminate this unhappy contest.
The first circumstance, which, in the course of his performing that duty, fixes our attention, fills me with regret. It is the execution of the Indian chiefs. How, I ask, did they come into our possession? Was it in the course of fair, and open, and honorable war? No, but by means of deception-by hoisting foreign colors on the staff from which the stars and stripes should alone have floated. Thus ensnared, the Indians were taken on shore, and without ceremony, and without delay, were hung. Hang an Indian! We, sir, who are civilized, and can comprehend and feel the effect of moral causes and considerations, attach ignominy to that mode of death. And the gallant, and refined, and high minded man, seeks by all possible means to avoid it. But what cares an Indian whether you hang
or shoot him? The moment he is captured, he is considered by his tribe as disgraced, if not lost. They, too, are indifferent about the manner in which he is despatched. But, I regard the occurrence with grief for other and higher considerations. It is the first instance that I know of, in the annals of our country, in which retaliation, by executing Indian captives, has ever been deliberately practised. There may have been exceptions, but if there were, they met with contemporaneous condemnation, and have been reprehended by the just pen of impartial history. The gentleman from Massachusetts may tell me, if he chooses, what he pleases about the tomahawk and scalping-knife-about Indian enormities, and foreign miscreants and incendiaries. I, too, hate them; from my very soul I abominate them. But I love my country, and its constitution; I love liberty and safety, and fear military despotism more even than I hate these monsters. The gentleman, in the course of his remarks, alluded to the state from which I have the honor to come. Little, sir, does he know of the high and magnanimous sentiments of the people of that state, if he supposes they will approve of the transaction to which he referred. Brave and generous, humanity and clemency towards a fallen foe constitute one of their noblest characteristics. Amidst all the struggles for that fair land between the natives and the present inhabitants, I defy the gentleman to point out one instance in which a Kentuckian has stained his hand by-nothing but my high sense of the distinguished services and exalted merits of general Jackson prevents my using a different term—the execution of an unarmed and prostrate captive. Yes, there is one solitary exception, in which a man, enraged at beholding an Indian prisoner, who had been celebrated for his enormities, and who had destroyed some of his kindred, plunged his sword into his bosom.
The wicked deed was considered as an abominable outrage when it occurred, and the name of the man has
been handed down to the execration of posterity. I deny your right thus to retaliate on the aboriginal proprietors of the country; and unless I am utterly deceived, it may be shown, that it does not exist. But before I attempt this, allow me to make the gentleman from Massachusetts a little better acquainted with those people, to whose feelings and sympathies he has appealed through their representative. During the late war with Great Britain, colonel Campbell
, under the command of my honorable friend from Ohio, (general Harrison,) was placed at the head of a detachment consisting chiefly, I believe, of Kentucky volunteers, in order to destroy the Mississinaway towns. They proceeded and performed the duty, and took some prisoners. And here is evidence of the manner in which they treated them. (Here Mr. Clay read the general orders issued on the return of the detachment, from which it appeared, that not only the lives of the women and children were preserved, but also of all the warriors who ceased to resist; and that, even when vigorously attacked by the enemy, this heroic band respected the lives of their prisoners.) I hope, sir, the honorable gentleman will be now able better to appreciate the character and conduct of my gallant countrymen than he appears hitherto to have done.
But, sir, I have said that you have no right to practise, under color of retaliation, enormities on the Indians. I will advance in support of this position, as applicable to the origin of all law, the principle, that whatever has been the custom, from the commencement of a subject, whatever has been the uniform usage co-eval and co-existent with the subject to which it relates, becomes its fixed law. Such is the foundation of all common law; and such, I believe, is the principal foundation of all public or international law. İf, then, it can be shown that from the first settlement of the colonies, on this part of the American continent, to the present time, we have constantly abstained from retaliating upon the Indians the excesses practised by
them towards us, we are morally bound by this invariable usage, and cannot lawfully change it without the most cogent reasons. So far as my knowledge ex-, tends, from the first settlement at Plymouth or at Jamestown, it has not been our practice to destroy Indian captives, combatants or non-combatants. I know of but one deviation from the code which regulates the warfare between civilized communities, and that is the destruction of Indian towns, which is supposed to be authorized upon the ground that we cannot bring the war to a termination but by destroying the means which nourish it. With this single exception, the other principles of the laws of civilized nations are extended to them, and are thus made law in regard to them. When did this humane custom, by which, in consideration of their ignorance, and our enlightened condition, the rigors of war were mitigated, begin? At a time when we were weak, and they were comparatively strong-when they were the lords of the soil, and we were seeking, from the vices, from the corruptions, from the religious intolerance and from the oppressions of Europe, to gain an asylum among them. And when is it proposed to change this custom, to substitute for it the bloody maxims of barbarous ages and to interpolate the Indian public law with revolting cruelties? At a time when the situation of the two partjes is totally changed—when we are powerful and they are weak—at a time when, to use a figure drawn from their own sublime eloquence, the poor children of the forest have been driven by the great wave which has flowed in from the Atlantic ocean almost to the base of the Rocky mountains, and overwhelming them in its terrible progress, has left no other remains of hundreds of tribes, now extinct, than those which indicate the remote existence of their former companion, the Mammoth of the new world! Yes, sir, it is at this auspicious period of our country, when we hold a proud and lofty station among the first nations of the world, that we are called upon to sanction a de