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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Injustice to the Indian

By John Quincy Adams (1767–1848)

[From a Speech in the U. S. H. of R. on Certain Resolutions for Distributing Stores to the Distressed Fugitives from Indian Hostilities in Alabama and Georgia. 1836.]

YOU have sanctioned all these outrages upon justice, law, and humanity, by succumbing to the power and the policy of Georgia; by accommodating your legislation to her arbitrary will; by tearing to tatters your old treaties with the Indians, and by constraining them, under peine forte et dure, to the mockery of signing other treaties with you, which, at the first moment when it shall suit your purpose, you will again tear to tatters, and scatter to the four winds of heaven; till the Indian race shall be extinct upon this continent, and it shall become a problem, beyond the solution of antiquaries and historical societies, what the red man of the forest was.

This, sir, is the remote and primitive cause of the present Indian war—your own injustice sanctioning and sustaining that of Georgia and Alabama. This system of policy was first introduced by the present administration of your national government. It is directly the reverse of that system which had been pursued by all the preceding administrations of this government under the present constitution. That system consisted in the most anxious and persevering efforts to civilize the Indians, to attach them to the soil upon which they lived, to enlighten their minds, to soften and humanize their hearts, to fix in permanency their habitations, and to turn them from the wandering and precarious pursuits of the hunter to the tillage of the ground, to the cultivation of corn and cotton, to the comforts of the fireside, to the delights of home. This was the system of Washington and of Jefferson, steadily pursued by all their successors, and to which all your treaties and all your laws of intercourse with the Indian tribes were accommodated. The whole system is now broken up, and instead of it you have adopted that of expelling, by force or by compact, all the Indian tribes from their own territories and dwellings to a region beyond the Mississippi, beyond the Missouri, beyond the Arkansas, bordering upon Mexico; and there you have deluded them with the hope that they will find a permanent abode, a final resting-place from your never-ending rapacity and persecution. There you have undertaken to lead the willing, and drive the reluctant, by fraud or by force, by treaty or by the sword and the rifle—all the remnants of the Seminoles, the Creeks, of the Cherokees and the Choctaws, and of how many other tribes I cannot now stop to enumerate. In the process of this violent and heartless operation you have met with all the resistance which men in so helpless a condition as that of the Indian tribes can make.

Of the immediate causes of the war we are not yet fully informed; but I fear you will find them, like the remoter causes, all attributable to yourselves.

It is in the last agonies of a people forcibly torn and driven from the soil which they had inherited from their fathers, and which your own example, and exhortations, and instructions, and treaties, had riveted more closely to their hearts—it is in the last convulsive struggles of their despair that this war has originated; and, if it bring some portion of the retributive justice of heaven upon our own people, it is our melancholy duty to mitigate, as far as the public resources of the national treasury will permit, the distresses of our own kindred and blood, suffering under the necessary consequences of our own wrong.