Gambar halaman

pretation of the treaty of Ghent favorable to their cause, given, too, by one of the American commissioners who negotiated it, in this deliberative assembly. With such a paper, coming from such high authority, although not strictly official, they might, indeed, have assumed an imposing attitude with the British ministry. Our difficulties would have thickened around us, and the peace of the union might have been endangered, without a relinquishment on our part of the lands so necessary to the growing strength and population of our southern states and territories, for the possession of which we were indebted to the valor and patriotism of that man who, for having done too much for his country, is arraigned, as a criminal, at the bar of this House. The treaty of 1790, made at New York, with M'Gillivray, was objected to on the same pretexts now urged to defeat the agreement made at Fort Jackson, in 1814. The baron de Carondelet, in behalf of the Creek Indians, protested against it as absolutely null and void, because it had not been sanctioned by a majority of the nation. On the recent occasion, Spain is silent, and we are favored with the humane and benevolent interposition of Nichols and Woodbine, Arbuthnot and Ambrister! I confess, sir, I have no ambition to be found in the ranks with either of these sage and beneficent counsellors: it is enough for me to vindicate the rights of my own country against the attacks of all foreign emissaries, whatever guise they may assume to accomplish their detestable purposes. An honorable gentleman from Pennsylvania, (Mr. Hopkinson,) has said, that every step we have taken, in reference to the unfortunate aborigines, whom we found in possession of the soil over which we have spread our population, has been marked with cruelty and blood; and the honorable Speaker has informed us, that the friends of legitimacy in Europe make two serious and important charges against this country; the one is an inordinate spirit of aggrandizement, and the other the treatment which we extend to

the Indians. Now, sir, with all the respect which I entertain for those gentlemen, and for the political morality of the friends of legitimacy in Europe, I deny, in their whole extent, the accuracy of these charges; they are unsupported either by history or the experience of any man living. When did the United States make an offensive war on an Indian tribe? When did they extend their settlements within the boundary of Indian territory, without a full equivalent, agreed on by treaty, fairly concluded and executed ? I challenge any gentleman to put his finger on that page of history which affords evidence of these facts. And can England or Spain make the same declarations, supported by a retrospect on their past conduct towards the Indian tribes within their territorial limits ? No, sir! they grant lands for military services, and push their settlements without the smallest respect for Indian boundary. The law of force is the only rule which they recognize as applicable to these people; and if presents, favors or privileges, have been occasionally granted to them, they were based in avarice, or intended to stimulate them to the numerous wars which have proved so fatal to them, and which have drenched our extensive frontier in the blood of our citizens. I appeal to every western man, whether, in the long catalogue of Indian hostilities, from the period of the revolution up to the present moment, one instance can be designated in which the war could not be traced to the influence of British agents and traders ? Whether we have not constantly endeavored to withdraw their attention from the art of war; to cultivate with them the relations of peace and amity; to civilize them, and ameliorate their condition ? These facts are notorious and indisputable; they demonstrate, most clearly, the mildness and justice of our policy towards the savage tribes, and leave no foundation for the charges made on this government, either by the legitimates of Europe or the citizens of our own country.

I aver, without the fear of contradiction, that the

United States have, on all occasions, without a single exception to the contrary, acted on the defensive in the commencement of every war with our Indian neighbors; that they have never turned a deaf ear to the voice of conciliation; and we have abundant evidence that the late Seminole war was of a character, similar in all respects to those which preceded it. The finger of British intrigue, and of Spanish duplicity and connivance, are visible, from the very inception of these hostilities to their final termination. I will not detain the winmittee by entering into a methodical and critical examination of the documents, in the hands of every gentleman; showing the means employed to excite this war, the preparations made for its prosecution, and the guarantee of ultimate aid from the British government to recover the lands for which the outlawed Creeks contended. They are voluminous and multifarious; many of them official, and all leading to the unavoidable conclusion, that nothing short of a restoration of these lands, upon the most humiliating terms, could avert the impending blow.

[Mr. Poindexter proceeded to give a summary of the prominent occurrences on which he rested the vindication of this government against the charge of aggression.

He observed, that the occupation of a strong military post on the Appalachicola, the asylum of fugitive slaves, of vagabonds and banditti, of hostile Indians and of all who would enlist under the English jack or bloody flag, was the first certain indication of the approaching rupture; that the Spanish government tacitly acquiesced in this open violation of its neutral territory; that the operations of these men were directed by Col. Nichols, a desperate villain under the influence of the British government; that it was the design of the Indians in conjunction with this force, to commence hostilities against the United States, whenever directed so to do by Nichols; that arms and ammunition, to a considerable amount, had been procured,

which were destroyed or taken at the destruction of Negro Fort; that subsequently, Nichols retired from the situation he had occupied, and appointed Arbuthnot his successor, who used every means in his power to excite the Seminoles and Red Sticks to war against the United States; that his efforts were successful, and that the United States were necessitated to take up arms in self-defence.]

Need I ransack the documents on our files to collect the evidence of the murders and robberies which preceded the determination of this government to commence offensive operations against the Indians in Florida ? They must be fresh in the recollection of every gentleman. They have been so often repeated by my honorable friends, that I will forbear the painful task of recounting them. The cruel massacres of aged mothers and helpless infants were spread along the whole line of our southern frontier in that quarter. The threatened war soon ripened into full maturity. The murders, committed on our unoffending citizens, were openly avowed, and justified under the hollow and unfounded pretence of retaliation for similar outrages, alleged to have been practised by the Georgians on their people. As early as the 5th of February, 1817, the governor of Georgia made a solemn appeal to the general government for the protection of the exposed settlements within the limits of the state over which he presided. He details circumstances calculated to leave no doubt of the hostile spirit of the savages, and of the active preparations which were making, by Woodbine and Nichols, to carry their hellish designs into execution. Scenes of cruelty, at the recital of which humanity shudders, followed in succession, and still the executive paused, and demanded the punishment only of the offenders. On the 24th of February, 1817, fifteen Indian warriors entered the peaceful dwelling of the unfortunate Garret, a citizen of Wayne county, in Georgia; finding in it only Mrs. Garret, and her two infant children, the eldest of whom



was three years old, and the other in its mother's arms, on whom she had bestowed her tender smiles and caresses for the short period of two months. The helpless condition of this family, their natural protector being absent, innocent and unoffending, alike incapable of inflicting or repelling injury and insult, surrounded by a band of armed ruffians, exhibited a picture of human misery, and heart-rending distress, which might well have tamed the ferocity of the most bloody monster who ever trod the face of the habitable globe. But their cries and entreaties were unavailing; the unhappy mother was twice shot through the body, stabbed and scalped, her two babes murdered, her house robbed of all the valuables which it contained, and, to complete the melancholy catastrophe, the lighted torch was applied to the building, where once they enjoyed the sweets of domestic comfort, and where now their mangled and lifeless forms lay prostrate, covered with the warm blood yet streaming from their hearts-and the flames which ascended to heaven wasted their spirits into the presence of a just God, while, amidst the devouring element, their ashes mingled in one common grave. The mind, which can contemplate, with calm composure, deeds of cruelty and barbarity like these, must be destitute of that refined sensibility which ennobles and dignifies our nature in all the social relations of life.

This act alone, independent of the black list which both preceded and followed it, was open, unqualified war on the United States, unless the criminal perpetrators of these crimes, whose enormity resembles more the tales of fiction and romance than the narrative of real, unsophisticated truth, should receive the prompt and condign punishment which they so justly merited. General Gaines, in obedience to instructions, demanded the murderers, and admonished the chiefs and warriors of the consequences which would result from a refusal to comply with his demand. It was not only refased, but fresh outrages, of a similar character,

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »