Address to the people of the United States and to the members of Congress in particular.
"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." -- 2 Peter, 1, 2.
Our minds have been seriously impressed with considerations in regard to the civilization and christian instruction of the aborigines of our land -- especially those removed, and about to be removed to the regions west of the Mississippi, desiring that the inhabitants of the United States, may, as a nation professing Christianity, acquit themselves of the debt which they owe to this much injured people, by endeavoring to extend to them the benefits of civilization, and the inestimable blessing of being taught to read the Holy Scriptures.
In the history of our country, we notice Wm. Penn to be one among the first of the original proprietors, who put in practice, a just and equitable plan of procedure in their intercourse with the Indian tribes. Although Charles the Second, his rightful sovereign, had conferred upon him a grant of a great part of the land now composing the State of Pennsylvania; yet he refused to take possession of it, until he had peaceably obtained of the natives, their title by purchase. He regarded their rights, and treated them as brethren: he sought no undue advantage over those uninstructed persons. By just means he secured their confidence and esteem; he never deceived them in his contracts, and by this means he secured good faith and punctuality, on their part, in their transactions with him. He maintained the utmost fidelity in regard to his promises to them. He bore testimony against the numberless vices, and the perfidy which had too much obtruded into civil society, accounting that these people would not be persuaded that the religion of Jesus is a pure and holy religion, while its advocates practised violence,
4dissimulation and fraud: (witness the acts of Cortez and Pizarro, and even of some among the protestants of North America.) Men are inclined to judge of a doctrine or profession very much from the conduct of those who profess it. Principles lawful and right in themselves, will not be so readily received from us, by those who are justly offended at our course of conduct.]
The government of the United States, has, in diverse instances, extended towards the Indian tribes, a generous course of policy. It has contemplated bestowing on them the benefits of civil and religious instruction, and has made provision for it, by appropriating a considerable amount of money annually, as a civilization fund, and giving encouragement, and affording the protection of the civil law to persons engaged in teaching the Indians. Should not these acts of liberality serve to stimulate more fully the benevolent feelings and conduct of the Christian public towards the several tribes of Indians yet remaining? The condition of those who are now located in the country west of the Mississippi, and of such as may be placed there hereafter, presents a vast field for the labors of the Christian philanthropist. To instruct the ignorant and to subdue the passions of men, is worthy the exertions of an enlightened people; and to succeed in improving their mental condition by imparting to them Christian instruction, would be a conquest indeed. The message of the Gospel to all people is designed "to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God": and this people, as well as all others in a state of nature, are deeply involved in darkness, "having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts." Should not we, therefore, who are blessed with a knowledge of the Gospel of peace and salvation, and otherwise abundantly favored with the blessings of Heaven, be zealously engaged to teach them, not only literature and the arts, which everywhere, in greater or less perfection, accompany the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures; but above all, as instruments in the Divine hand, teach them the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. The principles of mercy, and forgiveness of injuries,
5and the necessity of good fruits, should form a distinguished part in the course of instruction.
Persons engaged in imparting christian instruction to the Indians, should themselves seek to be Christians in life and practice, as well as thoroughly to possess a knowledge of the doctrine of the fail of man, his depravity by nature, his redemption by Jesus Christ, and of that grace which comes through him, by which Christians are enabled to walk in newness of life. Exertions of this kind have been made, with considerable success, by various christian brethren, towards several of the Indian tribes, particularly the Cherokees and the Choctaws. We ardently desire that these labors in the spirit of the Gospel may be continued, and that the Lord, in the riches of his grace, may give renewed wisdom and understanding to all persons thus engaged, even to make known among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and that those to whom these labors are extended, may increase in true and saving knowledge unto life eternal. We also desire that the remaining tribes may, if possible be plucked from ruin and total extermination.
It is observable in the character of the aborigines of America, that they are ardent in their affections for their friends, but implacable to their enemies: the emotions of their minds are powerful and energetic; they are cruel when roused to resentment; they carry on war with indiscriminate, slaughter; and this is their law of retaliation.
But the light of the Gospel is calculated to change the whole heart and direct the affections to objects worthy the pursuit of rational creatures, designed for a state of immortal existence. Under its influence the desires and imaginations of the mind would be brought into subjection to the divine law. The Gospel of Christ is capable of changing the, savage and cruel disposition of man, and by its regenerating power within him, of giving him newness of life: instead of darkness there would be light and the "fruit of the Spirit," which "is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance."
We again advert to the sentiment, that it will require
6those who have to deal with the Indians, to be persons of Christian experience, and to be leavened with the fruits of the spirit. They must seek not theirs but them, and demonstrate by sound doctrine and virtuous conduct, that their chief desire is to instruct them in the principles which will bring them to Christ, and to the saving knowledge of His grace in the heart; and further, they should fully inform them respecting rewards and punishments in a future state, in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, by Jesus Christ, according to the gospel: See Rom. 2 chapter, from 6 to 16 verse. These truths plainly brought to their view in the demonstration of the spirit and of power, and an example set them worthy of the Christian character, would have a tendency to reclaim them from their savage habits, and to convert them to Christianity.
It may be asked, why so few of them have yet embraced Christianity? has the Supreme Judge pre-determined to exclude them from the benefits of civilized life, and from being gathered to His church? Surely not. It may be answered, in the first place, that a proneness in their nature to follow the customs of their forefathers, is an inducement to them to avoid the society of civilized man. But the principal cause of their not being reclaimed, is the maltreatment which they, in too many instances, have received from persons professing Christianity. This is calculated to beget in them a lasting hatred to our laws and customs. "They view in one light, the professor and the religion professed," and under these impressions they flee from our society, and fortify themselves in repelling a belief in our holy religion. It may be said of us in too many cases, "thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law, dishonorest thou God? for the name of God is blasphemed among the gentiles through you."
We gratefully cherish the belief, that none are judicially excluded the blessings of Christianity: for in the faith of Christ, revealed by the Gospel, shall all the, families of the earth be blessed; and for this cause Christ was manifest in the flesh, and suffered without the gate; and for this cause the gospel is preached, "that the blessing of Abraham might come on the gentiles through
7Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of me Spirit through faith." Whilst, therefore, we see no cause for utter discouragement in regard to the ameliorating the condition of the Indians; yet we are sensible, that in relation to this subject, there is much labor for the advocates of their cause, not only in the spirit of the Gospel to teach them right principles, but earnestly to pray to the Lord, that he may prepare an entrance and enlargement in their minds to receive instruction, and enable them to put in practice the principles of the glad tidings which declare "glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." If we should recur to examples to show the influence of christian instruction, under the divine blessing, upon the minds of uncivilized, men, we should find that it has ever been productive of the most valuable effects.
Among those examples, we notice the following account of the fruits, attending the labors of John Elliot, a native of Essex in England, who spent a great portion of his life in affording Christian instruction to the Indians, in the early settlement of New England.
He first set foot in Boston in 1631, at 27 years of age, full of manly vigor and religious ardor for the cause in which he had embarked. He took charge of a congregation, at Roxbury, but it was not long before he felt his mind drawn towards the natives of his adopted country. Some years elapsed before this feeling ripened into action. But in 1646, he earnestly entered into that career, which, for the faithfulness with which he pursued it, and the success that attended his efforts, richly earned for him the honorable title, by which he became familiarly known, "the Apostle of the Indians." He had many difficulties to encounter, and not the least of them was the acquisition of a barbarous language; yet it is said of Elliot that he could speak the language intelligibly after exercising himself for three months, in conversation with an Indian servant; three years after, however, he lamented his unskilfulness. He found his way to the acquisition of a language which offered him nothing to gratify taste, or to impart wisdom, solely that he might use the spoken and written word for his God, and his Saviour; and well might he say, as he does with
8pious simplicity of heart, at the close of his Indian Grammar, "Prayer and pains, through faith in Christ Jesus, will do any thing."
In this devoted man we have a bright example of what may be effected, under the divine blessing, by the persevering energy of a single mind. All the assistance he ever received from others, was trifling compared with the great work in which he was engaged, and his coadjutors were always few: yet so judicious was he in his method of instruction, and such apt and willing learners did he find the natives to be, that in a very short time, his converts formed a respectable congregation, and before declining years had materially impaired his natural strength, he succeeded in establishing fourteen towns of "Praying Indians," and had two more in a state of preparation. Nonantum and Natick were conspicuous among these cheering communities. His zeal and success had inspired a few of his cotemporaries to enter into the same work; and at the period spoken of, there were in Plymouth colony on Nantucket, and on Martha's Vineyard and Chappa-quiddick, about 2500 converts, besides those under his care. He ascribed much importance "to the mechanical arts, as well as to schools, in bringing the natives to a better condition," and was desirous to make his Indians good farmers, and good artizans, as well as good Christians." But the bright prospects thus rapidly opening upon this unhappy race, were destined soon to experience a fatal change. The murderous war with King Philip broke out, and though the christian Indians, faithfully endeavored to avoid all participation with him, they were quickly involved in the calamities of their more warlike neighbors, by the indiscriminate vengeance of the colonists, whose natural prejudice against the Indians was now stimulated by the destruction of property and life, and by a sort of religious phrenzy, which taught them to regard the natives in the light of the Canaanites of old, and themselves as the special emissaries of the Most High, sent for their extermination. Elliot contended fearlessly, though at the hazard of his life, in their defence, but with small effect. In a little while, many of his cherished communities were
9broken up, and all were, subjected to the most cruel suffering. Great numbers were butchered, others seized and sold out into West Indian slavery. The remnant of the settlement at Natick were transported to Deer Island. It was with heavy hearts they abandoned this favorite spot, hallowed by many tender recollections. Their number was about two hundred, including men, women and children. They were ordered to a place on Charles's river, where boats were to be in readiness to take them to the island. At this place, their spiritual father and ever faithful friend met them, to say a few kind and consoling words before they embarked. While he sympathized in their sorrows, he exhorted them to be patient under suffering, and firm in their faith, reminding them that "through much tribulation they must enter into the kingdom of God."
There is an affecting moral beauty in this scene. That settlement, towards which the heart of the good Apostle had yearned alike through seasons of discouragement and of hope, the foundation of which was laid by his own hands, and hallowed by his own prayers; where the tree of life, as he believed was firmly rooted in the wilderness; where by the patient labor of years, he had made the word of God understood, and had reared civil and social institutions; that settlement, which probably, next to his own house, he loved better than any thing else on earth, is suddenly broken up and its inhabitants are hurried away from their fields and homes into what is little better than an imprisonment. At the hour of their departure, the venerable man, on whose head more than seventy winters had shed their frosts, stands with them on the bank of the river, to pour forth his prayers for them, to mingle his tears with theirs, and to teach them the lesson, not of resentment against man, but of submission to God -- the lesson of meekness, and of strong endurance. The whole company present were deeply affected to see the quiet resignation of the poor souls encouraging and exhorting one another with prayers and tears. On the 30th of October, 1675, about midnight, when the tide served, they embarked in the vessels to their destined confinement on Deer Island.
"Subsequently the Christian Indians from Paukopog, on some slight pretence, were removed to the same spot, as others had been from various places. The whole number of those now collected there amounted to about 500. They were necessarily exposed to much suffering. Towards the end of December, 1675, Gookin, Elliot, and others visited them several times, to cheer them under their trials. They found these objects of their benevolent care uniformly patient and humble, never disposed to murmur at the treatment they had received, and exhibiting in their whole temper much of the spirit of practical Christianity." What a contrast to the conduct of their highly professing masters!
In an account of the labors of the missionaries of the United Brethren, dated in the year 1836, we find the following remarks concerning the progress of Christian instruction amongst the Esquimaux, even in the cold inhospitable regions about Labrador. "Our Esquimaux daily peruse the Word of God, (Holy Scriptures). We might mention many instances of the blessed effects produced thereby, but one may suffice. A believing Esquimaux thus expressed himself lately, ‘When I read the New Testament every morning, and evening, and sometimes, if my occupations allow, in other parts of the day, and my inner man, deeply feeling its need of Divine consolation, is refreshed, and encouraged to fix its hope on Christ, who made an atonement for sin, it often occurs to my mind, from whom is it that I receive this precious boon; and I then feel constrained to implore my Savior that it may please him bountifully to reward those who so kindly remembered us, poor unworthy creatures, and to grant to them the enjoyment of the same peace and blessing which I derive from this precious boon; the more so as I cannot afford them any thing in return for this kindness.’ Cases might be referred to among the Cherokees, and some among the Shawnees and several other tribes, wherein they have manifested like gratitude for favors bestowed upon them; and to say nothing of the vast debt of reparation which we owe them, we may venture to repeat the assertion, that if we would more generally exercise christian
11kindness in our intercourse with them, they would cease to be our enemies. Christian benevolence would reach their hearts us effectually as it did that of the Esquimaux above mentioned; we should have their prayers, and would be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
In extracts from the journal of a Christian minister from London, we find the following testimony from a gathered church of the natives of Tahite, one of the Polynesian islands, where, it is said, the natives, about half a century ago, were cannibals. The writer says, "the same evening the deacons of the church, Tehati and Puna by name, came to the house of J. M. Orsmond, the resident teacher there, and being seated with us, one of them produced a letter written on behalf of the congregation at Tea-hu-poo, which being literally translated, was found to contain the following address, viz:
Tra-hu-poo, 26th of June, 1835.
DEAR FRIENDS, -- The ministers, with the brethren and sisters in London, peace be unto you in the true Jehovah and in Jesus Christ his Son, who came into the world to save sinful men; we indeed are sinful men. Here is Daniel Wheeler (the christian minister referred to) amongst us, and he has made known to us all the good words of Jesus Christ, and comfort has grown, in our hearts, and great pleasure has been to us from his words, concerning the words of Jesus the Messiah. It is indeed great pleasure in his saying to us, the truth as it is in Jesus, is the pearl of great price -- it is a pearl good within and good without, and many have been the good words he has spoken to us. Now, indeed, we know assuredly that he has true love to the brethren and sisters in all places where the things of Jesus are held. In that love he has come amongst us, and indeed our love has grown towards him and his son, his companion, in their making known on their way the things of Jesus, and in their visit of love to all the brethren, and in inviting all to enter in to Jesus the Messiah.
Signed on behalf of the Church,
We would here remark, that we believe if exertions were completely carried out for the civilization and Christian instruction of the several remaining tribes of the North American Indians, many of them, through unfeigned faith, would be gathered to the church of Christ.
We are thus disposed to plead with you on behalf of the powerful but savage people, who now appear, in all human probability, to be fast approaching the verge of ruin, bleeding with wounds inflicted by a nation professing the benign religion of Jesus Christ, and which was furnished with all the means necessary, through the assistance of the grace of God, to instruct them in the rules of moral right, in the laws of justice and mercy.
The tribes within the chartered limits of the several states, a few years since, were settled on lands of their own, which they had reserved for themselves, in order that they might have permanent homes; lands which they had held as their undisputed right for ages, and to which, after their other lands were secured to the United States, either by purchase or by conquest, our government acknowledged their claims, and confirmed the same by treaties; and in many instances the faith of the nation was pledged in the most solemn manner, that they should have those lands for a lasting possession for themselves and their posterity after them; that if they would turn their attention to a civilized life, improve their land, raise grain, cattle, &c. to maintain their families, and live at peace with the whites, that they should be under the fostering care of the United States, and that the government would protect them, from the incursions of the whites.
This, it will be conceded on all hands, is what many of the Indian tribes had good reason to look for at the hands of the government; and with its aid and countenance under the different administrations, and by the benevolent care of Christian societies, many of them had made considerable progress towards a life of civilization, acquiring not only the necessaries, but in many instances the comforts and conveniences of life. But in tracing the course pursued towards this unfortunate people still further, we find that the whites soon wanted the remainder of their land. And the legislatures of several states, as well as individuals, petitioned Congress on the subject, asking that the Indian title to ands east of the Mississippi might be extinguished, which has been done to a great extent; and they have
13again been told that they must give up their possessions, and leave their homes, to make room for the whites. That it was the design of the United States' Government, that they should all be settled in a country together, and that that country should be set apart for a lasting home for themselves and their posterity, with the renewal of the same pledges to them, that they should never be asked for their lands, and that they might rely in full faith and confidence on the fidelity of the United States, in protecting them against the encroachments of the whites, and that, on the part of our government, every stipulation, in the various treaties, should be strictly carried into effect.
Our feelings have been awakened, at this time, under a deep sense of the obligations that rest upon our government, as well as upon the citizens individually, in relation to this deeply injured race of our fellow-men. Our conduct towards them has become a matter of history. We know that we are in possession of the soil that once was theirs, and which was obtained from them for a mere trifle in comparison to its real value. In some of the treaties made with them, by which their claims to land have been extinguished, we are aware that measures have been taken to induce them to consent to relinquish their title thereto, that we conceive cannot be sustained by the principles of justice. The Indians have been persuaded to leave their homes, through the fear of becoming subject to our laws, without being allowed the full benefit or protection of them. Another evil which we have much regretted is, that in the payments to the Indians of their annuities, as well as in the immediate payments made to them for land, instead of receiving the full compensation, which was justly their due, they have in many instances, as we believe, by the management of speculators and others, been paid in goods at a price far above their just value, and in this way have suffered considerable loss; and much of the means which ought to have been applied to the relief of their families have gone into the hands of these speculators. It has seemed to us that if the officers in the Indian Department of our Government have it in their power to remedy this evil, they would only be
14rendering an act of justice to this people, in interposing their kind offices in their behalf, so as to put a stop to such proceedings. And while partaking of the rich productions of the soil which once was theirs, are we not bound, by the laws of justice and humanity as Christians, to make reparation, and in the best way that we can, with the means in our power, to alleviate their condition?
Is it not certain beyond all question, that if the Indian race is to be saved from utter ruin, it must be done by setting apart, in perpetuity, a territory sufficiently extensive for all the Indians; securing it to them and their posterity forever, for a possession beyond the power of alienation, by a solemn act of the National Legislature, and the establishment of a suitable government, in which the Indians should participate; and allowing them a delegate in the popular branch of Congress, as they, like other rational beings must have a permanent home, and a government to afford them protection, or they can never rise from their present state of degradation? If we are not sincere in desiring their preservation and reformation, let us not mock them, and disgrace ourselves, by compacts and legislation which can never remedy the evil. If we are ever to wipe away even a part of the moral guilt, incurred by our conduct towards the Indians, now when we are removing them from our limits, is the time to make a commencement.
We feel constrained, by a sense of duty, further to plead with you on behalf of the remaining tribes, who are still on the lands of their fathers, and who are not willing to leave them. We beseech you to remember the universal obligation of the rule laid down by our blessed Lord, "whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Their extensive domain is reduced to the small limits which they now claim; and shall a great and powerful nation, rich in the very soil which was once theirs, and rich in its productions, drive from that scanty pittance this helpless people, against their will? We trust not; we hope for the honor of our government, and for the sake of justice and humanity, that this will never be the case.
When we remember that he "who made of one blood all nations who dwell upon all the face of the earth," has declared himself to be "the refuge of the poor, the refuge of the needy in his distress, and the avenger of the wrongs of the oppressed," that "justice and judgment are the habitations of his throne," and that as respects nations as well as individuals, "with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again," we feel an ardent solicitude, that the citizens generally, and our rulers in particular, for whose welfare we feel deeply interested, may be guided in their proceedings in regard to this interesting race of our fellow creatures, by the benign spirit of our Holy Redeemer, who has emphatically pronounced a blessing on the merciful, with a promise that they shall obtain mercy.
As it has been, and it still is, the policy of our government, to remove and settle the Indians in a country to themselves, it is our earnest desire, and we do most respectfully entreat, that the spirit of conciliation and forbearance may be manifested towards this uncivilized people; that the shedding of their blood may be withheld, after the many solemn pledges of protection and friendship made and repeated to them in the face of the world; that instead of the sword, ambassadors of peace may be sent amongst them. We are convinced that much may be done with the Indians by pursuing peaceable measures towards them; when, on the contrary, resorting to violence would not only destroy them, but bring on our beloved country the horrors of war, and all its evil consequences; for we believe that the Most High rules in the nations of the earth. All history combines in an unbroken chain to support the belief of the interposition of God in human affairs. The rise and fall of empires bear testimony, which cannot be resisted, to the riches of his goodness, the chastisements of his displeasure, and sometimes of the terrors of his judgments. These dispensations of an overruling providence, have ever been in intimate connection with the laws which he has established for the government of his rational creatures.
Under a sense of the claims of justice and humanity on behalf of a deeply injured race of our fellow-men,
16and the various responsibilities that rest upon our rulers, in regard to their present, as well as their future condition, we implore the continuance of the mercies of God upon our beloved country, and that he may graciously condescend to direct the understanding of the rulers thereof, by the wisdom that is from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, -- without partiality and without hypocrisy, in considering and determining this most important subject, in which the welfare and happiness of the present and future generations are so deeply involved; that through their instrumentality, His benedictions may be shed upon our country, and the blessings of those who are ready to perish may come upon them.
Signed on behalf of the Meeting aforesaid,
ELIJAH COFFIN, CLERK.