« ZurückWeiter »
religious belief to them. It does not belong to the holy character of the religion which we profess, to carry its precepts, by the force of the bayonet, into the bosoms of other people. Mild and gentle persuasion was the great instrument employed by the meek founder of our religion. We leave to the humane and benevolent efforts of the reverend professors of Christianity to convert from barbarism those unhappy nations yet immersed in its gloom. But, spare them their prophets! spare their delusions! spare their prejudices and superstitions ! spare them even their religion, such as it is, from open and cruel violence. When, sir, was that treaty concluded ? On the very day after the protocol was signed, of the first conference between the American and British Commissioners, treating of peace, at Ghent. In the course of that negociation, pretensions so enormous were set up by the other party, that, when they were promulgated in this country, there was one general burst of indignation throughout the Continent. Faction itself was silenced, and the firm and unanimous determination of all parties was, to fight until the last man fell in the ditch, rather than
submit to such ignominious terms. What a contrast is exhibited between the contemporaneous scenes of Ghent and of Fort Jackson! What a powerful voucher would the British Commissioners have been furnished with if they could have got hold of that treaty !"
“ The first circumstance which, in the course of his performing that duty, fixed our attention, has filled me with regret. It was 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 honourable war ? No; but by means of deception ; by hoisting foreign colours 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 !
“But, sir, I have said that you have no right to practise, under colour 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, coeval and coexistent 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. If, 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 toward us, we are morally bound by this invariable usage, and cannot lawfully change it without the most cogent reasons. So far as my knowledge extends, 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 was the destruction of Indian towns, which was supposed to be authorized upon the ground that we could not bring the war to a termination but by destroying the means which nourished 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 rigours of war were mitigated, begin? At a time when we were weak, and they 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 parties 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 departure from the established laws and usages which have regulated our Indian hostilities. And does the honourable gentleman from Massachusetts expect, in this august body, this enlightened assembly of Christians and Americans by glowing appeals to our passions, to make us forget our principles, our religion, our clemency, and our humanity? Why is it that we have not practised toward the Indian tribes the right of retaliation, now for the first time asserted in regard to them? It is because it is a principle proclaimed by reason, and enforced by every respectable writer on the law of nations, that retaliation is only justifiable as calculated to produce effect in the war. Vengeance is a new motive for resorting to it. If retaliation will produce no effect on the enemy, we are bound to abstain from it by every consideration of humanity and of justice. Will it then produce effect on the Indian tribes? No;