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    HIST 1151 American History to 1877 MORE Primary Source Readings: Unit 4 An Expansive Nation

    HIST 1151 American History to 1877 MORE Primary Source Readings: Unit 4 An Expansive Nation


    A collection of primary source readings for American History to 1877.

    Tecumseh and Pushamataha Debate War at the Choctaw and Chickasaw Council (1811)

    This is a second set of primary sources by Jennifer Nardone to use in addition to, or instead of, the primary source set by Christianna Hurford.

    The primary source readings in this course align with CSCC's version of The American Yawp, Volume 1, which is derived from the The American Yawp open textbook by Stanford University Press.  While the original The American Yawp is accompanied by its own primary source reader called The American Yawp Reader, the selection of primary sources you will find in this course differ somewhat in that some of the text excerpts are from the same sources but might feature a different selection from the text. Some of the primary sources in this course are in addition to those found in The American Yawp Reader. 

    Microsoft Word and PDF downloads of these readings are available.

    To take this course for credit, register at Columbus State Community College.

    This work, except where otherwise indicated, by Jennifer Nardone at Columbus State Community College is licensed CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0.

    Tecumseh, Shawnee Chief

    Tecumseh and Pushamataha Debate War at the Choctaw and Chickasaw Council (1811)


    Tecumseh was a Shawnee warrior and chief born outside of Chillicothe, Ohio in 1768. The Shawnee supported the British during the Revolution, only to watch the Ohio Territory fall under American control following the war (remember the sources we read about the Ohio Territory). The 1787 Northwest Ordinances encouraged Americans to move westward to the Ohio Territory where they encountered Indian Nations like the Shawnee, Delaware, and Mingo. President George Washington ordered troops into Ohio to ensure the safety of white Americans, resulting in the first wave of Indian removal. Under the command of General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, US troops waged war against the Indians living in the Northwest Territory. Tecumseh joined the Indian Independence movement, fighting in several battles, including the final and bloodiest, the Battle of Falling Timbers in 1794. The first Indian removal happened in the wake of Falling Timbers as thousands of Indians were forced to leave Ohio for Indian Territory (now Indiana).


    In 1809, General William Henry Harrison coerced several Indian tribes living in the region to cede three million acres of land to “white settlers.” Harrison made a fortune (while in and out of office) from the land he secured as part of the Treaty of Greenville. Facing another removal, Indians across the Great Lakes region formed a Pan-Indian Independence Movement. In 1811, Tecumseh, now a leader of the Independence movement, travelled to the southern Nations hoping to rally support for the resistance movement.


    While Tecumseh campaigned in the South, US troops, now under the direction of General/Governor Harrison, attacked the religious community established by Tecumseh’s bother and Shawnee prophet, Tenskwatawa at Tippecanoe (the Shawnee called it Prophetstown). Tenskwatawa died in the ensuing Battle of Tippecanoe, and Tecumseh returned to Indian Territory on the eve of the War of 1812. Tecumseh and many Shawnee allied with the British, while the Choctaw and Chickasaw allied with the Americans. Tecumseh died in 1813 during the Battle of the Thames in Southwest Ontario, Canada.


    Pushmataha was Chief of the Six Towns, encompassing most of the Choctaw and Chickasaw living in the Lower Mississippi Valley. He fought with the Americans during the Revolution and championed cooperation with them afterward. While Tecumseh called for a Pan-Indian Alliance to resist further American expansion, Pushmataha strongly disagreed. In 1811, the situation on the northern frontier (the Great Lakes region) was more perilous than Pushmataha’s southern region. Ultimately, none of the southern Indian Nations joined the resistance. In fact, Pushmataha fought under General Andrew Jackson against the Seminole during the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. Following the end of the War in 1815, the United States secured millions of acres of land from the Great Lakes Nations. Despite the alliance with Pushmataha and the Choctaws, the United States proceeded to aggressively remove the southern Nations as well, culminating with the Indian Removal Act of 1831, Andrew Jackson’s signature piece of legislation while President. The following account of the debate between Tecumseh and Pushamataha was recorded in the 1880s based on Choctaw oral histories[1].




    Tecumseh Appeals to the Council


    In view of questions of vast importance, have we met together in solemn council tonight. Nor should we here debate whether we have been wronged and injured, but by what measures we should avenge ourselves; for our merciless oppressors, having long since planned out their proceedings, are not about to make, but have and are still making attacks upon those of our race who have as yet come to no resolution. Nor are we ignorant by what steps, and by what gradual advances, the whites break in upon our neighbors. Imagining themselves to be still undiscovered, they show themselves the less audacious because you are insensible. The whites are already nearly a match for us all united, and too strong for any one tribe alone to resist; so that unless we support one another with our collective and united forces; unless every tribe unanimously combines to give a check to the ambition and avarice[2] of the whites, they will soon conquer us apart and disunited, and we will be driven away from our native country and scattered as autumnal leaves before the wind.


    But have we not courage enough remaining to defend our country and maintain our ancient independence? Will we calmly suffer the white intruders and tyrants to enslave us? Shall it be said of our race that we knew not how to extricate ourselves from the three most to be dreaded calamities – folly, inactivity, and cowardice? But what need is three to speak of the past? It speaks for itself and asks, “Where today is the Pequod? Where the Narragansetts, the Mohawks, Pocanokets[3], and many other once powerful tribes of our race? They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white men, as snow before the summer sun. In the vain hope of alone defending their ancient possessions, they have fallen in the wars with the white men. Look abroad over their once beautiful country, and what see you now? Naught but the ravages of the pale-face destroyers meet your eyes. So it will be with you Choctaws and Chickasaws[4]! Soon your mighty forest trees, under the shade of whose wide spreading branches you have played in infancy, sported in boyhood, and now rest your wearied limbs, after the fatigue of the chase, will be cut down to fence in the land which the white intruders dare to call their own. Soon their broad roads will pass over the grave of their fathers, and the place of their rest will be blotted out forever.


    The annihilation of our race is at hand unless we unite in one common cause against the common foe. Think not, brave Choctaws and Chickasaws, that you can remain passive and indifferent to the common danger, and thus escape the common fate. Your people too, will soon be as falling leaves and scattering clouds before their blighting breath. You too will be driven away from your native land and ancient domains as leaves are driven before the wintery storms.


    Sleep not longer, O Choctaws and Chickasaws, in false security and delusive hopes. Our broad domains are fast escaping from our grasp. Every year our white intruders become more greedy, exacting, oppressive and overbearing. Every year contentions spring up between them and our people and when blood is shed we have to make atonement whether right or wrong, at the cost of the lives of our greatest chiefs, and the yielding up of large tracts of our lands. Before the palefaces came among us, we enjoyed the happiness of unbounded freedom, and were acquainted with neither riches, wants, nor oppression. How is it now? Wants and oppressions are our lot; for are we not controlled in everything, and dare we move without asking, by your leave? Are we not stripped day by day of the little that remains of our ancient liberty? Do they not even now kick and strike us as they do their black-faces? How long will it be before they will tie us to a post and whip us, and make us work for them in their corn fields as they do them? Shall we wait for that moment or shall we die fighting before submitting to such ignominy[5]?


    Have we not for years before our eyes a sample of their designs, and are they not sufficient harbingers of their future determinations? Will we not soon be driven from our respective countries and the graves of our ancestors? Will not the bones of our dead be plowed up, and their graves be turned into fields? Shaw we calmly wait until they become so numerous that we will no longer be able to resist oppression? Will we wait to be destroyed in our turn, without making an effort worthy of our race? Shall we give our homes, our country, bequeathed to us by the Great Spirit, the graves of our dead, and everything that is dear and sacred to us, without a struggle? I know you will cry with me. Never! Never! Then let us by unity of action destroy them all, which we now can do, or drive them back whence they came. War or extermination is now our only choice. Which do you choose? I know your answer. Therefore, I now call on you, brave Choctaws and Chickasaws, to assist in the just cause of liberating our race from the grasp of our faithless invaders and heartless oppressors[6].


    The white usurpation in our common country must be stopped, or we, its rightful owners, be forever destroyed and wiped out as a race of people I am now at the head of many warriors back by the strong arm of English soldiers[7]. Choctaws and Chickasaws, you have too long borne with grievous usurpation inflicted by the arrogant Americans. Be no longer their dupes. If there be one here tonight who believes that his rights will not sooner or later be taken from him by the avaricious American palefaces, his ignorance ought to excite pity, for he knows little of the character of our common foe. And if there be one among you made enough to undervalue the growing power of the white race among us, let him tremble in considering the fearful woes he will bring down upon our entire race, if by his criminal indifference he assists the designs of our common enemy against our common country. Then listen to the voice of duty, of honor, of nature and of your endangered country. Let us form one body, one hear, and defend to the last warrior our country, our homes, our liberty, and the graves of our fathers.


    Choctaws and Chickasaws, you are among the few of our race who sit indolently at ease. You have indeed enjoyed the reputation of being brave, but will you be indebted for it more from report than fact? Will you let the whites encroach upon your domains even to your very door before you will assert your rights in resistance? Let no one in this council imagine that I speak more from malice against the paleface Americans than just grounds of complaint. Complaint is just toward friends who have failed in their duty; accusation is against enemies guilty of injustice. And surely, if any people ever had, we have good and just reasons to believe we have ample grounds to accuse the Americans of injustice; especially when such great acts of injustice have been committed by them upon our race, of which they seem to have no manner of regard, or even to reflect. They are a people fond of innovations, quick to contrive and quick to put their schemes into effectual execution, no matter how great the wrong and injury to us; while we are content to preserve what we already have. Their design is to enlarge their possession by taking yours in turn; and will you, can you, long dally[8], O Choctaws and Chickasaws? Do you imagine that that will not continue longest in the enjoyment of peace who timely prepare to vindicate themselves, and manifest a determined resolution to do themselves right whenever they are wronged? Far otherwise. Then haste to the relief of our common cause, by consanguinity[9] of blood you are bound, let the be not far distance when you will be left single-handed and alone to the cruel mercy of our most inveterate foe.


    Pushamataha Opposes Tecumseh


    It was not my design in coming here to enter into a disputation with anyone. But I appear before you, my warriors and my people not to throw in my plea against the accusations of Tecumseh; but to prevent your forming rash and dangerous resolutions upon things of highest importance, through the instigations of others. I have myself learned by experience, and I also see many of you, O Choctaws and Chickasaws, who have the experience of years that I have, the injudicious[10] steps of engaging in an enterprise because it is new. Nor do I stand up before you tonight to contradict the many facts alleged against the American people, or to raise my voice against them in useless accusations. The question before us now is not what wrongs they have inflicted upon our race, but what measures are best for us to adopt in regard to them; and though our race may have been unjustly treated and shamefully wronged by them, yet I shall not for that reason alone advise you to destroy them, unless it was just and expedient for you so to do; nor, would I advise you to forgive them; though worthy of your commiseration, unless I believe it would be to the interest of our common good. We should consult more in regard to our future welfare than our present.


    What people, my friends and countrymen, were so unwise and inconsiderate as to engage in a war of their own accord, when their own strength, and even with the aid of others, was judged unequal to the task? I well know causes often arise which force men to confront extremities, but, my countrymen, those causes do not now exist…Remember the American people are now friendly disposed toward us. Surely you are convinced that the greatest good will result to us by the adoption of and adhering to those measures I have before recommended to you; and, without giving too great a scope to mercy or forbearance, by which I could never permit myself to be seduced, I earnestly pray you to follow my advice in this weighty matter, and in following it resolve to adopt those expedients for our future welfare. My friends and fellow countrymen! You now have no just cause to declare war against the American people, or wreak your vengeance upon them as enemies, since they have ever manifested feelings of friendship towards you. It is besides inconsistent with your national glory and with your honor, as a people, to violate your solemn treaty; and a disgrace to the memory of your forefathers, to wage war against the American people mere to gratify the malice of the English[11].


    The war, which you are now contemplating against the Americans, is a flagrant breach of justice; yea, a fearful blemish on your honor and also that of your fathers, and which you will find if you will examine it carefully and judiciously, forebodes nothing but destruction to our entire race. It is a war against a people whose territories are now far greater than our own, and who are far better provided with all the necessary implements of war, with men, guns, horses, wealth, far beyond that of all our races combined, and where is the necessity or wisdom to make war upon such a people? Where is our hope of success, if thus weak and unprepared we should declare it against them? Let us not be deluded with foolish hope that this war, if begun, will soon be over, even if we destroy all the whites within our territories, and lay waste their hopes and fields. Far from it. It will be but the beginning of the end that terminates in the total destruction of our race. And though we will not permit ourselves to be made slaves, or like inexperienced warriors, shudder that the thought of war, yet I am not so insensible and inconsistent as to advise you to cowardly yield to the outrages of the whites, or willfully to connive at their unjust encroachments but only not yet to recourse to war, but to send ambassadors to our Great Father at Washington[12], and lay before him our grievances, without betraying too great eagerness for war, or manifesting an tokens of pusillanimity[13]. Let us, therefore, my fellow countrymen, form our resolutions with great caution and prudence upon a subject of such vast importance, and in which such fearful consequences may be involved.


    Heed not, O, my countrymen, the opinions of others to that extent as to involve your country in a war that destroys its peace and endangers its future safety, prosperity and happiness. Reflect, ere it be too late, on the great uncertainty of war with the American people, and consider well, ere you engage in it, what the consequences will be if you should be disappointed in your calculations and expectations. Be not deceived with illusive hopes. Hear me, O, my countrymen, if you begin this war it will end in calamities to us from which we are now free and at a distance; and upon whom of us they will fall, will only be determined by the uncertain and hazardous event…



    [2] What does avarice mean?

    [3] The Pequot, the Narragansetts and Pocanokots tribes were part of the Algonquin Nations living in New England. What happened to the Pequots near Mystic, CT in 1637 (see your notes)? All three tribes fought with Metacom during King Phillip’s War – what happened to the Algonquins after the war (see your notes)? The Mohawk were part of the Iroquois Confederacy living in upstate New York; they aligned with the British against the Algonquins throughout the seventeenth century. Tecumseh refers to them as a Nation destroyed by Americans as well. Why?

    [4] The Choctaw and Chickasaw were among the most powerful Indian Nations in the southern states and territories, along with the Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee. Less than 20 years after Tecumseh’s speech, the southern tribes will be forcibly removed to Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears.

    [5] Public shame or disgrace.

    [6] Where’s the lie?

    [7] Remember this is the eve of the War of 1812. British troops are still in Canada and on the northern border (border security was one of the major causes of the war). This should be in your notes.

    [8] Waste time.

    [9] Descended from the same ancestor; part of the same family.

    [10] Showing poor judgement.

    [11] What does he mean here?

    [12] President James Madison.

    [13] Lack of courage or determination.

    Image: Used with permission from Florida Center for Instructional Technology

    John Quincy Adams, Debates over the “Missouri Question”

    Photograph of John Quincy Adams
    John Quincy Adams

    John Quincy Adams, Debates over the “Missouri Question”

    John Quincy Adams served as the sixth President of the United States (1825-29), only one stop in a long and distinguished political career. His father, John Adams, served as the second President of the United States (between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. As you know). As a result, Quincy Adams grew up among the political elite. He witnessed the American Revolution during his teens, and earned a law degree at Harvard during his father’s Presidency. Quincy Adams served as Secretary of State under President James Monroe, he negotiated the treaty with Spain securing the Florida Territory for the United States. Negotiations with Spain took place at the same time as the debate over the expansion of slavery into Missouri.  


    Adams left behind an incredible written record of his personal and political life, including a detailed journal of the debates over slavery in Missouri, and negotiations with Spain about Florida and New Orleans. Adams recorded the heated debate regarding expansion of slavery in the House of Representatives and the eventual “compromise” over Missouri. During the debates, Adams met regularly with John Calhoun, then Secretary of War and ardent supporter of slavery (he owned over 40 slaves on his South Carolina cotton plantation). Calhoun spent his entire career fighting for the protection and expansion of slavery.


    By 1819, enough people lived in the Missouri territory to form a provisional government, write a state constitution, and submit it to Congress for approval for statehood. When the bill granting Missouri statehood made it to Congress, James Tallmadge, Representative from New York, proposed that Congress add an amendment prohibiting slavery in any states deriving from the Louisiana Purchase including Missouri itself. The amendment also called for a mandated gradual end to slavery in Missouri as a requirement for statehood. Representatives from the southern states argued that Congress did not the authority to restrict slavery in any states, especially new ones as the country moved west. Their argument went even further, claiming the Northwest Ordinances unconstitutional and only the states could regulate slavery.


    The fight in Congress got so nasty, they suspended debate until early 1820. Adams’ role as Secretary of State included advising President James Monroe about the debate over Missouri’s constitution and whether slavery would be protected or prohibited. Ultimately, the Congressmen reached a “compromise” regarding Missouri statehood, although a more accurate description would be “capitulation to slave owners[1].”





    January 16, 1820

    There was no preaching at the Capitol; and I passed the morning not profitably at home. I had some private business to which it was necessary that I should attend, and I wrote according to the President’s directions to Mr. Middleton. In my walk for exercise before dinner, I paid several visits and called upon Mr. Lowndes[2], with whom I had a long conversation upon public affairs— I told him the President wished that the Instructions to the late Commodore Perry should be communicated to him; but thought there might be some inconvenience in making them public, which they must be, if given to Congress, or even to the Committee— Lowndes said that in that case it would perhaps be better that he should not see them; because it would be difficult to use any information contained in them in debate, without giving rise to suspicions and to allusions, which would rather counteract than promote the views of the Administration.[3]


    We had also much conversation upon the Missouri or Slave-question— Lowndes, who is from South-Carolina, and a large Slave-holder is of course on the Slavery side of the question, which there is now every appearance will be carried by the superior ability of the Slavery party—for this much is certain that if Institutions are to be judged of by their results; in the composition of the councils of this Union, the Slave-holders are much more ably represented than the simple freeman— With the exception of Rufus King[4] there is not in either house of Congress a member from the free States, able to cope in powers of the mind, with William Pinkney or James Barbour[5]— In the House of Representatives the freemen have none to contend on equal terms either with John Randolph or Clay[6]— Another misfortune to the free party is that some of their ablest men are either on this question with their adversaries, or lukewarm in the cause.


    The Slave men have indeed a deeper immediate stake in the issue than the partizans of freedom; their passions and interests are more profoundly agitated, and they have stronger impulses to active energy than their antagonists, whose only individual interest in this cause arises from its bearing on the balance of political power between North and South. Lowndes is a member of great weight and influence in the house, which he has acquired, and maintains as much by the urbanity of his manners as by his talents. He is a man of easy fortune, and entire independence, and the winter before last declined the offer of a mission either to Russia, or to Constantinople[7]— Yet, with various acquirements, and a character of perfect integrity, there is a want of energy and of activity in his mind. He has too much love of ease, and aversion to labour— As to the Committee of Foreign Relations, Clay the Speaker who appoints all the Committees, selected that one, with a view to prevent any thing’s being done congenial to the views of the Administration.



    Jan. 24

    I walked with R. M. Johnson[8] to the Senate chamber and heard Mr. Pinkney close his Missouri speech. There was a great crowd of auditors. Many ladies, among whom several seated on the floor of the Senate. His eloquence was said to be less overpowering than it had been last Friday. His language is good, his fluency without interruption or hesitation, his manner impressive, but his argument weak, from the inherent weakness of his cause.



    Feb. 11

    I went up to the Capitol and heard Mr. King in the Senate, upon what is called the Missouri question. He had been speaking perhaps an hour before I went in, and I heard him about an hour. His manner is dignified, grave, earnest, but not rapid or vehement. There was nothing new in his argument, but he unravelled with ingenious and subtle analysis many of the sophistical tissues of the slave-holders. He laid down the position of the natural liberty of man, and its incompatibility with slavery in any shape. He also questioned the Constitutional right of the President and Senate to make the Louisiana Treaty; but he did not dwell upon those points, nor draw the consequences from them which I should think important in speaking to that subject. He spoke, however, with great power, and the great slave-holders in the House gnawed their lips and clenched their fists as they heard him…


    We attended an evening party at Mr. Calhoun's, and heard of nothing but the Missouri question and Mr. King's speeches. The slave-holders cannot hear of them without being seized with cramps. They call them seditious and inflammatory, when their greatest real defect is their timidity. Never since human sentiments and human conduct were influenced by human speech was there a theme for eloquence like the free side of this question now before Congress of this Union. By what fatality does it happen that all the most eloquent orators of the body are on its slavish side? There is a great mass of cool judgment and plain sense on the side of freedom and humanity, but the ardent spirits and passions are on the side of oppression. Oh, if but one man could arise with a genius capable of comprehending, a heart capable of supporting, and an utterance capable of communicating those eternal truths that belong to this question, to lay bare in all its nakedness that outrage upon the goodness of God, human slavery, now is the time, and this is the occasion, upon which such a man would perform the duties of an angel upon earth!




    Attended the divine service at the Capitol, and heard Mr. Edward Everett, the Professor of the Greek language at Harvard University, a young man of shining talents and of illustrious promise[9]. His text was from I Cor. vii. 29: "Brethren, the time is short," and it was without comparison the most splendid composition as a sermon that I ever heard delivered…Mr. Clay, with whom I walked, after the service, to call upon Chief-Justice Marshall[10], told me that although Everett had a fine fancy and a chaste style of composition, his manner was too theatrical, and he liked Mr. Holley's manner better.


    Clay started, however, immediately to the Missouri question, yet in debate before both Houses of Congress, and, alluding to a strange scene at Richmond, Virginia, last Wednesday evening, said it was a shocking thing to think of, but he had not a doubt that within five years from this time the Union would be divided into three distinct confederacies. I did not incline to discuss the subject with him. We found Judges Livingston and Story with the Chief Justice.




    February 23.

    A. Livermore and W. Plumer, Junr, members of the House of Representatives from New Hampshire, called upon me, and, conversing on the Missouri slave question, which at this time agitates Congress and the Nation, asked my opinion of the propriety of agreeing to a compromise. The division in Congress and the nation is nearly equal on both sides. The argument on the free side is, the moral and political duty of preventing the extension of slavery in the immense country from the Mississippi River to the South Sea. The argument on the slave side is, that Congress have no power by the Constitution to prohibit slavery in any State, and, the zealots say, not in any Territory. The proposed compromise is to admit Missouri, and hereafter Arkansas, as States, without any restriction upon them regarding slavery, but to prohibit the future introduction of slaves in all Territories of the United States north of 36º 30' latitude. I told these gentlemen that my opinion was, the question could be settled no otherwise than by a compromise.



    Feb. 24.

    I had some conversation with Calhoun on the slave question pending in Congress. He said he did not think it would produce a dissolution of the Union, but, if it should, the South would be from necessity compelled to form an alliance, offensive and defensive, with Great Britain.

    I said that would be returning to the colonial state. He said, yes, pretty much, but it would be forced upon them. I asked him whether he thought, if by the effect of this alliance, offensive and defensive, the population of the North should be cut off from its natural outlet upon the ocean, it would fall back upon its rocks bound hand and foot, to starve, or whether it would not retain its powers of locomotion to move southward by land. Then, he said, they would find it necessary to make their communities all military[11].


    I pressed the conversation no further: but if the dissolution of the Union should result from the slave question, it is as obvious as anything that can be foreseen of futurity, that it must shortly afterwards be followed by the universal emancipation of the slaves. A more remote but perhaps not less certain consequence would be the extirpation of the African race on this continent, by the gradually bleaching process of intermixture, where the white portion is already so predominant, and by the destructive progress of emancipation, which, like all great religious and political reformations, is terrible in its means though happy and glorious in its end.[12]


     Slavery is the great and foul stain upon the North American Union, and it is a contemplation worthy of the most exalted soul whether its total abolition is or is not practicable: if practicable, by what it may be effected, and if a choice of means be within the scope of the object, what means would accomplish it at the smallest cost of human suffering. A dissolution, at least temporary, of the Union, as now constituted, would be certainly necessary The Union might then be reorganized on the fundamental principle of emancipation. This object is vast in its compass, awful in its prospects, sublime and beautiful in its issue[13].




    Washington, March 2

    The compromise of the slave question was this day completed in Congress. The Senate have carried their whole point, barely consenting to the formality of separating the bill for the admission of the State of Maine into the Union from that for authorizing the people of the Territory of Missouri to form a State Government. The condition that slavery should be prohibited by their Constitution, which the House of Representatives had inserted, they have abandoned. Missouri and Arkansas will be slave States, but to the Missouri bill a section is annexed, prohibiting slavery in the remaining part of the Louisiana cession north of latitude 36º 30'. This compromise, as it is called, was finally carried this evening by a vote of ninety to eighty-seven in the House of Representatives, after successive days and almost nights of stormy debate.



    March 3

    Went with Mrs. Adams, our Son Charles, and Mary Hellen to the Capitol Hill, and viewed Sully’s Picture of the passage of the river Delaware by General Washington, 25 December 1776, now exhibited in the building lately occupied by the two houses of Congress.[14] As a picture of men and especially of horses, as large as life it has merit; but there is nothing in it that marks the scene, or the crisis— The principal figure, is the worst upon the Canvas— Badly drawn, badly coloured; without likeness, and without character— While we were there Jeremiah Nelson, a member of the House from Massachusetts came in, and told us of John Randolph’s motion this morning to reconsider one of the votes of yesterday upon the Missouri Bill, and of the trickery by which his motion was defeated; by the Speakers declaring it not in order when first made; the Journal of yesterday’s proceedings not having been then read—and while they were reading the Clerk of the House carried the Bills as passed by the House, to the Senate; so that when Randolph, after the reading of the Journals renewed his motion, it was too late; the papers being no longer in possession of the house.[15]


    And so it is that a Law Perpetuating Slavery in Missouri and perhaps in North-America has been smuggled through both houses of Congress. I have been convinced from the first starting of this question that it could not end otherwise— The fault is in the Constitution of the United States, which has sanctioned a dishonourable compromise with Slavery. There is henceforth no remedy for it but a new organization of the Union, to effect which a concert of all the white States is indispensable[16]. Whether that can ever be accomplished is doubtful— It is a contemplation not very creditable to human nature, that the cement of common interest produced by Slavery is stronger and more solid than that of unmingled freedom. In this instance the Slave-States have clung together in one unbroken phalanx, and have been victorious by the means of accomplices and deserters, from the ranks of Freedom. Time only can show, whether the contest may ever be with equal advantage renewed.


    But so polluted are all the streams of Legislation in regions of Slavery, that this Bill has been obtained only by two as unprincipled artifices as dishonesty ever devised; one by coupling it as an appendage to the Bill for admitting Maine; and the other by this outrage, perpetrated by the Speaker upon the Rules of the house— When I came this day to my Office, I found there a Note requesting me to call at one O’Clock at the President’s house— It was then one, and I immediately went over— He expected that the two Bills; for the admission of Maine, and to enable Missouri to make a Constitution, would have been brought to him for his signature; and he had summoned all the members of the Administration, to ask their opinions in writing to be deposited in the Department of State; upon two Questions. 1. Whether Congress had a Constitutional right to prohibit Slavery in a Territory? and 2. Whether the 8th. Section of the Missouri Bill, (which interdicts Slavery forever in the Territory North of 36 1/2 Latitude, was applicable only to the territorial State, or would extend to it, after it should become a State.


    As to the first question, it was unanimously agreed that Congress have the power to prohibit Slavery in the Territories; and yet neither Crawford, Calhoun, nor Wirt[17] could find any express power to that effect given in the Constitution; and Wirt declared himself very decidedly against the admission of any implied powers— The progress of this discussion, has so totally merged in passion all the reasoning faculties of these Slave holders, that these Gentlemen in the simplicity of their hearts had come to a conclusion in direct opposition to their premises; without being aware or conscious of inconsistency— They insisted upon it that the clause in the Constitution, which gives Congress power to dispose of, and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory and other property of the United States, had reference to it, only as land, and conferred no authority to make rules, binding upon its inhabitants; and Wirt added the notable Virginian objection, that Congress could make only needful rules and regulations —and that a prohibition of Slavery was not needful— Their argument, as Randolph said of it in the House covered the whole ground, and their compromise, measured by their own principles is a sacrifice of what they hold to be the Constitution— I had no doubt of the right of Congress to interdict Slavery in the Territories and urged that the power contained in the term dispose of, included the authority to do everything that could be done with it as mere property, and that the additional words authorising needful rules and regulations respecting it, must have reference to persons connected with it, or could have no meaning at all— As to the force of the term needful, I observed it was relative, and must always be supposed to have reference to some end— Needful to what end— Needful in the Constitution of the United States to any of the ends for which that compact was formed, those ends are declared in its preamble—to establish justice for example.  What can be more needful to the establishment of Justice, than the interdiction of Slavery where it does not exist.


    As to the second question my opinion was that the interdiction of Slavery in the 8th. Section of the Bill, forever, would apply and be binding upon the State, as well as upon the Territory; because by its interdiction in the Territory, the People when they come to form a Constitution, would have no right to sanction Slavery— Crawford said that in the new States, which have been admitted into the Union upon the express condition that their Constitutions should consist with the perpetual interdiction of Slavery, it might be sanctioned by an ordinary act of their Legislatures— I said, that whatever a State Legislature might do in point of fact, they could not by any rightful exercise of power establish Slavery— The Declaration of Independence, not only asserts the natural equality of all men, and their unalienable right to Liberty; but that the only just powers of government are derived from the consent of the governed.


    A power for one part of the people to make slaves of the other can never be derived from the consent, and is therefore not a just power[18]. Crawford said this was the opinion that had been attributed to Mr. King. I said it was undoubtedly the opinion of Mr. King; and it was mine. I did not want to make a public display of it, where it might excite irritation, but if called upon officially for it, I should not withhold it— But the opinion was not peculiar to Mr. King and me— It was an opinion universal in the States where there are no Slaves— It was the opinion of all those members of Congress who voted for the restriction upon Missouri, and of many of those who voted against it— As to the right of imposing the restriction upon a State, the President had signed a Bill with precisely such a restriction upon the State of Illinois— Why should the question be made now, which was not made then— Crawford said that was done in conformity to the compact of the Ordinance of 1787: and besides the restriction was a nullity, not binding upon the Legislatures of those States[19].


    It was sickening to my Soul to hear the assertion; but to have discussed it there would have been useless, and only have kindled in the bosom of the Executive the same flame which has been raging in Congress; and in the Country— Its discussion was unnecessary, to the decision of the questions proposed by the President— I therefore only said that the Ordinance of 1787 had been passed by the old Congress of the Confederation, without authority from the States, but had been tacitly confirmed by the adoption of the present Constitution, and the authority given to Congress in it to make needful rules and regulations for the territory— I added that in one of the numbers of the federalist, there was an admission that the old Congress had passed the Ordinance without authority, under an impulse of necessity—and that it was used as an argument in favour of the enlarged powers granted to Congress in the Constitution. Crawford said it could therefore have little or no weight as authority— I replied that it was not wanted as authority— That when the old Confederation was adopted the United States had no territory. Nor was there in the Act of Confederation, in which the powers of Congress under it were enumerated a word about territory. But there was a clause interdicting to Congress the exercise of any powers not expressly given them.[20]


    I alluded to the origin of the Confederation with our Revolution— To the revolutionary powers exercised by Congress, before the Confederation was adopted— To the question whether the Northwestern territory belonged to the United States or the separate States— To the delays occasioned by that question in the acceptance of the Confederation; and to the subsequent cessions of Territory by several States, to the Union, which gave occasion for the ordinance of 1787. To all which Crawford said nothing. Wirt said that he perfectly agreed with me that there could be no rightful power to establish Slavery where it was res nova[21]— But he thought it would not be the force of the Act of Congress that would lead to this result— The principle itself being correct, though Congress might have no power to prescribe it to a sovereign State. To this my reply was, that the power of establishing Slavery, not being a Sovereign power, but a wrongful and despotic power, Congress had a right to say that no State undertaking to establish it de novo should be admitted into the Union; and that a State which should undertake to establish it would put herself out of the pale of the Union, and forfeit all the rights and privileges of the connection.


    Mr. Thompson, the Secretary of the Navy cautiously avoided giving any opinion, upon the question of natural right, but assented to the Slave sided doctrine that the eighth Section of the Bill, word forever, and all, applied only to the time and condition of the territorial Government— I said therefore that if required to give my opinion upon the second question, standing alone, it would be necessary for me to assign the reasons upon which I entertained it— Crawford saw no necessity for any reasoning about it, but had no objection to my assigning my reasons— Calhoun thought it exceedingly desirable that no such argument should be drawn up and deposited— He therefore suggested to the President, the idea of changing the terms of the second question, so that it should be, whether the 8th. Section of the Bill was consistent with the Constitution?


    Which the other members of the administration might answer affirmatively, assigning their reason, because they considered it applicable only to the territorial state; while I could answer it, also affirmatively: without annexing any qualification— To this the President readily assented, and I as readily agreed— The questions are to be framed accordingly— This occasion has remarkably manifested Crawford’s feelings, and the continually kindling intenseness of his ambition.


    I have had information from the Governor of the State of Indiana, that there is in that State a party countenanced and supported by Crawford whose purpose it is to introduce Slavery into that State, and there is reason to believe that the same project exists in Ohio and Illinois[22]— This avowed opinion that in defiance of the Ordinance of 1787 and of the Laws admitting those States into the Union, Slavery may be established in either of those States by an ordinary act of its Legislature strongly confirms the impressions of him communicated to me by the Governor of Indiana. It is apparent that Crawford is already aware, how his canvass for the Presidency may be crossed by this Slavery contest[23]— The violence of its operation upon his temper is such that he could not suppress it.


    After this meeting, I walked home with Calhoun, who said that the principles which I had avowed were just and noble: but that in the Southern country, whenever they were mentioned, they were always understood as applying only to white men. Domestic labor was confined to the blacks, and such was the prejudice, that if he, who was the most popular man in his district, were to keep a white servant in his house, his character and reputation would be irretrievably ruined.


    I said that this confounding of the ideas of servitude and labor was one of the bad effects of slavery: but he thought it attended with many excellent consequences. It did not apply to all kinds of labor - not, for example, to farming. He himself had often held the plough, so had his father. Manufacturing and mechanical labor was not degrading. It was only manual labor—the proper work of slaves. No white person could descend to that. And it was the best guarantee to equality among the whites. It produced an unvarying level among them. It not only did not excite, but did not even admit of inequalities, by which one white man could domineer over another.[24]


    I told Calhoun I could not see things in the same light. It is, in truth, all perverted sentiment—mistaking labor for slavery and dominion[25] for freedom. The discussion of this Missouri question has betrayed the secret of their souls. In the abstract they admit that slavery is an evil, they disclaim all participation in the introduction of it, and cast it all upon the shoulders of our old Grandam Britain[26]. But when probed to the quick upon it, they show at the bottom of their souls’ pride and vainglory in their condition of masterdom. They fancy themselves more generous and noble-hearted than the plain freemen who labor for subsistence. They look down upon the simplicity of a Yankee's manners, because he has no habits of overbearing like theirs and cannot treat negroes like dogs. It is among the evils of slavery that it taints the very sources of moral principle. It establishes false estimates of virtue and vice: for what can be more false and heartless than this doctrine which makes the first and holiest rights of humanity to depend upon the color of the skin?[27]


    I have favored this Missouri compromise, believing it to be all that could be effected under the present Constitution, and from extreme unwillingness to put the Union at hazard. But perhaps it would have been a wiser as well as a bolder course to have persisted in the restriction upon Missouri, till it should have terminated in a convention of the States to revise and amend the Constitution. This would have produced a new Union of thirteen or fourteen States unpolluted with slavery, with a great and glorious object to effect, namely, that of rallying to their standard the other States by the universal emancipation of their slaves. If the Union must be dissolved, slavery is precisely the question upon which it ought to break. For the present, however, this contest it laid asleep.[28]









    [2] William Lowndes, Representative from New York

    [3] Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry was a decorated Navy officer best known for leading the American victory at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. After the War, Perry had a few questionable incidents (like slapping a lower-ranking officer) that led President Monroe to send him to South America to negotiate trade terms with Simon Bolivar, the leader of the South American independence movement. Commodore Perry died on the trip back to the United States, but his report (referenced here) helped shape the “Monroe Doctrine.” See your notes.

    [4] Senator from New York. King was also a delegate (from Massachusetts) to the Constitutional Convention.

    [5] William Pinkney was a Senator from Maryland and one of the delegates (from South Carolina) to the Constitutional Convention; James Barbour was a Senator from Virginia and would serve as Secretary of the Navy after John Calhoun.

    [6] John Randolph was a Representative from Virginia. Henry Clay, Representative from Kentucky, should be in your notes. Clay became Sectary of State after John Quincy Adams. Clay owned 60 slaves, yet opposed the expansion west of slavery. He is credited with designing the Missouri/Maine component of the “Compromise.”

    [7] Constantinople was the capitol city of the Ottoman Empire in 1820. Adams refers to diplomatic missions to Russia and modern-day Turkey - Istanbul was Constantinople. Do you know the song by They Might Be Giants explaining this phenomenon? Probably not. It’s a deep 90s cut. Although…the song itself dates to the 1950s and has to do with post-colonialism and the Cold War, despite it’s whimsical nature. (You have to come to History 1152 to hear more).

    [8] Senator from Kentucky.

    [9] Edward Everett was a Greek scholar who also served as President of Harvard College, and Senator and Governor of Massachusetts. He was close friends with Henry Clay.

    [10] John Marshall served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1801-1835, the longest serving chief justice in Supreme Court history. His most influential case, Marbury vs. Madison, established judicial review, meaning the Court has the authority to rule a federal law unconstitutional (and thus has the final word on Congressional Legislation). It’s the reason every major piece of legislation prompts an immediate lawsuit from those opposing the legislation. The Supreme Court is very good at dismantling legislation. Despite a few significant exceptions, the Supreme Court dismantles, it does not reinforce.

    [11] What is Calhoun saying here? If slavery is restricted, the South will do what? Where have we heard this before??

    [12] Adams considers the options for the northern states should the country divide. What does he mean by the “extirpation of the African race?” What movement does he reference here (check your notes)?

    [13] Adams is pretty serious here. The issue of slavery should break the Union.

    [14] Thomas Sully was an American painter from Virginia. His 1819 painting, The Passage of the Delaware, was commissioned by the North Carolina State Legislature to hang in the state’s Senate Chambers (not to be confused with Emmanuel Leutze’s 1851 painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware). The painting was too large, so Sully sold it to a private collector who then took the painting on tour. Adams and his family saw the painting while on display in Washington DC, although he doesn’t seem to like it very much. It’s now on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

    [15] Basically, while the House was voting on the Missouri statehood bill, now with the “compromises,” the southern Congressmen took the bill to the Senate and started procedures despite the fact that the House had not technically voted on the bill yet.

    [16] What do you think he means by the “white states?”

    [17] William Wirt, Attorney General and slave owner.

    [18] What is Adams arguing here? What does he mean by “a power for one part of the people to make slaves of the other can never be derived from the consent, and is therefore not a just power?”

    [19] As you know, the Northwest Ordinances prohibited slavery north of the Ohio River.

    [20] What is this argument between Adams and Crawford about? Why does Crawford think the Northwest Ordinances are invalid? How does Adams respond?

    [21] Legal term meaning an issue or case that has not been previously decided.

    [22] What’s happening in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio?

    [23] William Crawford lost his bid for the Presidency in 1824 to John Quincy Adams.

    [24] We heard this argument during the Constitutional Debates over Slavery: “The poor despise labor when performed by slaves.”

    [25] If you don’t know what dominion means, please look it up, it will only take a minute.

    [26] We have seen this before in the Constitutional Debates over Slavery: “this infernal traffic originated in the avarice of British Merchants.” What is Calhoun’s point here?

    [27] Remember the Constitutional Debates over Slavery: Slaves “produce the most pernicious effect on manners. Every master of a slaves is born a petty tyrant…”

    And remember your Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia: “There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other.” These men knew exactly what they were doing when they continued protecting slavery decade after decade.

    [28] Despite his deep opposition to slavery, Adams agrees to the compromise because of his “unwillingness to the Union at hazard.” Then he immediately tells us slavery is the question that will break the Union. I keep pointing this out: these men knew exactly what they were doing and exactly what would happen. They knew it when they signed the Constitution. Slavery would destroy the Union. Has it ever recovered?


    Image from Wikimedia Commons.


    Pontiac’s Speech to the Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Huron, 1763

    Pontiac’s Speech to the Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Huron, 1763


    The British victory over the French in the Seven Years’ War meant that Indian Nations in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley could no longer maintain their independence through the balance-of-power diplomacy. It was clear to many Indians that the sudden departure of the French from the Canada and the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys meant continued British expansion and a dire threat to their sovereignty. Despite extensive Indian involvement in the Seven Years’ War, no Indians were invited to participate in the Treaty of Paris in 1763. As British settlers poured into the Ohio Valley (before the Treaty was even signed), many Indians were lost their land and trading networks.


    In 1763, Indians of the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes launched a revolt against British rule. Pontiac, an Ottawa war leader, began spreading the message of the Delaware (Loup) religious prophet, Neolin, who advocated for a new interpretation of Indian-European diplomacy.


    There are several layers of interpretation here. Most likely, Neolin spoke his native Delaware language when recounting his vision. Pontiac gave his speech in his native Ottawa, and the speech was then transcribed by a French-Canadian soldier (probably Robert Navarre) at a later time[1].



    An Indian [Neolin] of the Loup[2] Nation wanted to meet the Master of Life, which is the
    name all the Indians call God. He decided, without telling anyone in his nation or village, to go
    on a journey to Paradise, where he knew the Great Master lived. But since he didn’t know the
    way to get there and knew no one who had been there and could show him the road, he tried
    magic, hoping to pull forth good omens from his dreams.


    All Indians, as a general rule, put great faith in their dreams, and it is very hard to free
    them from this superstition, as this story proves. In his dream, the Loup Indian imagined that all
    he had to do was start out, and after many, many steps, he would arrive at the heavenly dwelling
    place, so very early the next day he did start. He dressed and equipped himself for hunting, not
    forgetting to take his weapons and a large cooking pot.


    And thus he set out on his journey to Heaven to see the Master of Life.


    The first seven days went well according to his plans. He walked with good courage,
    always firm in the confidence that he could reach his goal. Eight days went by without anyone
    appearing to block his way. On the evening of the eighth day, as the sun was setting where it
    always sets, he stopped at an opening into a little meadow where he saw a good place to spend
    the night along the bank of a creek. As he was setting up camp, he noticed at the other end of the
    meadow three paths, all very wide and well trodden down, and this seemed strange to him.
    Nevertheless, he kept working, setting up shelter and starting a fire. As he cooked his supper, he
    realized that the farther the sun went down and the darker the day grew, the lighter the three
    paths became. This surprised him, and frightened him, too.


    He hesitated, considering what to do—stay where he was or get away from there and
    camp somewhere else. But as he reflected, he remembered his magic, or rather, his dream, and
    that the only reason he had started out on this journey was to see the Master of Life, and this
    thought led him to feel and believe that one of the three paths was the one he had to take to get
    where he wanted to go.


    [Neolin tries two of the paths but comes upon huge fires on both.]

    So he had to go back and take the third path. He walked on it for a whole day without
    seeing a thing to hold him back, when all of a sudden there appeared before him an astonishingly
    white mountain, which amazed him and brought him to a halt. Nevertheless, he firmed his
    resolve and kept going, determined to see what this mountain could be.


    When he reached the foot of the mountain, the path gave out, and it grieved him not to be
    able to keep going. As he stood there, he looked around and saw a woman of the mountain. She
    was dazzlingly beautiful, and her clothes were so white the whiteness of the snow seemed dull
    next to them.


    She was sitting down, and she spoke to him in his own language: “You seem surprised
    not to find the path to where you want to go. I know that for a long time you have wanted to see
    and speak with the Master of Life. That is why you set out on this journey: to see him. The path
    to his home is on this mountain, and to climb the mountain, you must abandon everything you
    have, take off all your clothes, and leave everything at the foot of the mountain. No one will stop
    you. Go wash in the river over there, and afterwards you will climb.


    Step by step, the Loup Indian obeyed the words of the woman…When he got to the top
    he was surprised not to see anybody anymore. The woman had disappeared. He found himself
    without a guide, facing three villages that stood in front of him. He did not recognize them, and
    they seemed differently constructed from his own, more beautiful and better ordered.

    After meditating for a while on what he ought to do next, he started out toward the village
    that seemed most promising to him…


    He had no more difficulty and walked all the way to what he thought must be the village
    gate. He stopped and waited for it to open so that he could enter. As he was gazing at the lovely
    outside of the village, the door opened. He saw a handsome man all dressed in white coming
    toward him. The man took him by the hand and said that he was going to grant his wish to speak
    to the Master of Life. The Loup allowed himself to be led, and they came together to a place of
    unequaled beauty, which the Indian could not cease to wonder at. There he saw the Master of
    Life, who took him by the hand, gave him a hat embroidered all over with gold, and bade him sit
    down on it. The Loup hesitated for fear of spoiling the hat, but he was ordered to sit, and he
    obeyed without a word.


    When the Loup was seated, God said to him, “I am the Master of Life, and I know what
    you want to learn and whom you wish to speak with. Listen well to what I am about to say to
    you, for your own sake and for all the Indians. I am the one who made Heaven and Earth, the
    trees, the lakes, the rivers, and all people and everything you see and everything you have seen
    on Earth. Because I made all this and because I love you all, you must do what I say and what I
    love and not do what I hate. I do not at all love for you to drink until you lose your senses the
    way you do. When you fight among yourselves, you do not do right, and I hate it. You take two
    wives or chase after the wives of other men, and that is not right. I hate it. You should have only
    one wife and keep her until death. When you want to go to war you juggle and sing magical
    incantations, thinking you speak to me. You don’t. You speak to Manietout[3], an evil spirit who
    breathes nothing but evil into you and whom you listen to because you don’t know me well.


    “The land where you live—I made it for you and not for other people. Why do you put up
    with the Whites[4] on your lands? Is it because you can’t get along without them? I know that the
    people you call the Children of your Great Father[5] supply your needs, but if you were not evil, as
    you are, you would do without them and you could live just as you lived before you met them.
    Before the people you call your Brothers came to your lands, didn’t you live by the bow and
    arrow? You didn’t need guns or powder or those other things. Nevertheless, you caught animals
    to eat and dressed in their skins, but when I saw you giving yourselves to evil, I withdrew the
    animals into the depths of the forests so that you would need your Brothers to supply your needs
    and clothe yourselves. All you have to do is become good and do what I want and I will send the
    animals back for you to live on.


    “I do not forbid you to allow the Children of your Father among you. I love them. They
    know me and pray to me, and I give them their needs and everything they bring with them. But
    as for those who have come to trouble your lands: drive them out, make war on them. I do not
    love them. They do not know me and are my enemies and the enemies of your Brothers. Send
    them back to the lands I made for them, and let them stay there.[6]


    “Here is a prayer which I give to you in writing to learn by heart and teach to the Indians
    and to the children.” The Loup answered that he did not know how to read. The Master of Life
    answered that when he went back to the Earth all he had to do was give the writing to the village
    chief, who would read it and teach it by heart to him and all the Indians and that they must recite
    it evening and morning without fail. “You must tell all the Indians, drink no more than a cup of
    wine a day or at most two cups. Have no more than one wife. Do not chase after other men’s
    wives or after the unmarried women. Do not fight among yourselves. Do not practice magic, but
    prayer, because when you practiced magic you conversed with the Evil Spirit. Drive from your
    lands those redcoat dogs[7] who will do you nothing but harm. When you need something, address
    your prayers to me, and I will give to you as I give to your Brothers. Do not sell to your Brothers
    what I have placed on Earth for food. In short, be good, and you will receive free all that you
    need. When you meet one another, give greetings, and give your left hand, because it is the
    heart’s hand. Above all things, Loup Indian, I command you to pray every day, morning and
    night, the prayer that I give you.”


    The Loup promised to do what the Master of Life told him and to speak for him to the
    other Indians, and that in the future the Master of Life would be happy with them.

    Then the same man who had brought him by the hand came to take him again and guide
    him back to the foot of the mountain, where he told him to take up his belongings again and go
    back to his village. This the Loup Indian did, and when he arrived, he astonished the people of
    his nation and his village, because they had not known what had become of him, and they asked
    him where he had been. Since he had been ordered not to speak to anyone until he spoke to the
    village Chief, he simply made signs to them with his hands that he had been on high. As soon as
    he entered the village, he went straight to the chief’s house and gave him the prayer and the law
    that the Master of Life had given him.


    This adventure was soon known throughout the village, and people came to hear the
    words of the Master of Life and carried it to the next village, and those people came to see the
    famous traveler and spread the news from village to village until it reached Pontiac, who
    believed it just as we believe an article of faith; and he instilled it into the minds of his Counsel,
    who listened to it as to an oracle and told him that he only had to say the word, and all of them
    were ready to do what he demanded.


    [1] Translated by John DuVal from [Robert Navarre?], “Journal ou dictation d’une conspiration, faite par les sauvages contre les Anglais, et du siège du fort de Detroix par quatre nations différentes le 7 mai, 1763,” in Journal of Pontiac’s Conspiracy, ed. M. Agnes Burton (Detroit, 1912), 23-33. In Interpreting a Continent: Voices from Colonial America, ed. Kathleen DuVal and John DuVal (Lanham, Md., 2009), 79-83. Full source here.

    [2] The Loup or Wolf Indians were the Delawares or Lenni Lenape.

    [3] Manitou was the name for spirits in Algonquian cultures.

    [4] Early Spanish and French documents rarely used terms of color to differentiate between Europeans and Native Americans. Native Americans did sometimes use Red for themselves and White for the English or for all Europeans. This phrasing most likely reflects the language of the French officer who translated the speech.

    [5] The “Children of their Great Father” were the French, hence the French were also “Brothers” to the Indians.

    [6] Neolin (and Pontiac) refers to the French colonists as “Brothers,” and the Master of Life claims he “loves” the French. The British colonists, however, were determined to take the land and resources away from both the French colonists and Indian Nations, and are thus enemies of both.

    [7] British regular army soldiers, who wore red coats.

    Letter from Lucy B. Armstrong to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1849

    Letter from Lucy B. Armstrong to the

     Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1849


    Lucy B. Armstrong was born in 1818 in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, where her father worked as a Methodist missionary on the nearby Wyandotte Indian Reservation. Her husband, John McIntyre Armstrong, was a quarter Wyandotte and devout Methodist like his wife. Lucy Armstrong was adopted by the Wyandotte Nation following her marriage. John was admitted to the Ohio bar association in 1839. The couple returned to the Wyandotte reservation in 1840 fighting another removal by the state government. Despite the wishes of the Wyandottes to remain on the landed promised them, they were forcibly removed to Kansas in 1843.


    Lucy Armstrong, her husband, and the Wyandotte Nation settled on a strip of ground lying between the west line of Missouri & the Kansas river, current location of Kansas City, KS. Lucy and her husband established a Methodist Church, taught in the school (which they built), and served as distinguished members of Tribal Council. In 1854, Kansas Territory erupted in violence over the issue of slavery in the impending state of Kansas. Lucy Armstrong witnessed Bleeding Kansas first hand. After Kansas was finally admitted as a state in 1859, Lucy Armstrong attended the Kansas Constitutional Convention every day, advising the (male) delegates from the gallery.


    The conflict over slavery split the Methodist Church into the Northern Methodist Church, opposed to slavery, and the Methodist Church, South, which supported slavery and its expansion. An 1849 directive from the Bureau of Indian Affairs replaced the northern missionary on the Wyandotte reservation with a pro-slavery missionary from the southern church. Lucy Armstrong penned the following letter in response to the changes.




    Wyandotte Nation

    Jan. 10th 1849


    Dear Sir[1],


    I will make no other apology for addressing you than our friendship and the position you occupy in community. It is well known to all, that the conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the slave holding States have seceded from the parent Church and have found themselves into “a distinct ecclesiastical organization under the name of the “Methodist Episcopal Church South.” [2]


    A majority of the members of the Wyandotte Society have refused to go with the succession and have sought and obtained a missionary from the Methodist Episcopal Church.[3]


    An effort is now being made by slave-holding missionaries and Government Agents to induce the Indian Department to expel our missionary from among us, and thus deprive us of our religious rights.


    We reside West of the State of Missouri where the compromise act forever excludes Slavery and we think that a slave-holding ministry ought not to be forced upon us, to the exclusion of the one of our Choice.[4] Dr. A. Stile the Presiding Elder of this District resides in the State of Missouri.[5] The Government Agent threaten strongly that they will prohibit him from coming among us any more to hold our quarterly meeting. We think it a hard case that if after compelling us in a to leave our Sweet Ohio the government should not allow us to seek our own church relations.[6]


    The Missionaries of the Church South bring their Slaves right in among us and engage in the traffic before our eyes. There are now about twenty negro slaves in the Shawnee and Wyandotte Territory. It has a very bad affect upon the real Indian, it confirms him in his preconceived notion that labor is dishonourable. 


    Although slavery is the main objection we have to the new church yet we distinctly disclaim being abolitionists, but residing on free soil we desire to have nothing to do with and consider the matter here as settled. Now as a personal friend and an acquaintance I have turned to you for assistance.  Can you not create interest sufficient for us in Washington to induce the Indian Department to award to us our national inalienable religious rights.



    Lucy Armstrong




    [1] Orlando Brown, Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

    [2] The Methodist Episcopal Church split in 1844 over the issue of the Church’s support of slavery. Throughout the early nineteenth century, southern Methodist clergy preached that slavery was an essential part of Christian civilization while ministers in northern Methodist churches increasingly agreed with the abolitionist argument that slavery was unchristian and undemocratic. Following the rupture, the Northern Methodist Protestant Church, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, drew up a “Plan of Separation,” dividing the states into one church or the other. Both churches claimed the Kansas Territory congregations, many of which were located on Indian reservations. Here is an interesting article with more information.

    [3] Missionaries from both the northern and southern churches competed for Indian congregations, which continued to diverge on the issue of slavery – a particularly important issue in Kansas Territory where the fight over the expansion of slavery permeated every aspect of life. In 1849, Commissioner Brown abruptly replaced the northern missionary on the Wyandotte reservation with one from the southern church.

    [4] Surely you know the name of the Compromise of which she speaks.

    [5] The Wyandottes choice for missionary.

    [6] Indian removal out of Ohio started in the 1790s and continued well into the 1840s, but you know this already. As you know, the Wyandotte Nation was forcibly removed from their promised lands near Upper Sandusky, OH in 1843.

    Letters to Count and Countess Tocqueville

    Letters to Count and Countess Tocqueville

    Alexis de Tocqueville


    Alexis de Tocqueville was a French aristocrat and member of Parliament whose book, Democracy in America[1], remains one of the most astute examinations of the American character ever written. Tocqueville came to the United States as part of a fact-finding mission tasked with researching the American penal system. While he did visit a few prisons, Tocqueville spent most of his nine-month expedition crisscrossing the country while keeping a detailed journal of his experiences. From the eastern cities he travelled through Ohio and the Northwest frontier, then took a steamboat down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. During his trip South, Tocqueville experienced slave society up close, and witnessed the first stop on the Trail of Tears – Memphis, Tennessee.


    As you know, white Americans starting moving into Mississippi Territory in 1815, after the end of the War of 1812. Mississippi and Alabama were states by 1820, and the demand for land and slaves seemed insatiable. The state and federal governments coerced, bribed, and aggressively seized more and more land from the southern Nations. Andrew Jackson promised to resolve the “Indian Problem” on both the northern and southern frontier, resulting in the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Tocqueville witnessed the first wave of removal of the Choctaw and Chickasaw[2]. In addition to his copious notes and observations, Tocqueville also corresponded with dozens of friends and family during his trip. The letters written to his parents in December, 1831, bear witness to the harrowing ordeal of Indian Removal[3].




    To his Father

    Memphis, December 20, 1831


    The place from which I write, my dear father, may not be on your map. Memphis is a very small town on the banks of the Mississippi, at the far southwestern edge of the state of Tennessee. We’ve been here for several days. By what chance, you ask, are we in Memphis rather than in New Orleans? Therein lies a long, pitiful tale, which I shall attempt to relate as succinctly as possible. I wrote my last letter to you when I was sailing down the Ohio and about to arrive at Louisville. There I expected to find a steamboat ready to make the six- or seven-day voyage to New Orleans. But during the night of December 4–5, the temperature, which was already low, fell so precipitously that the Ohio, despite its strong currents and its width, froze, trapping us in ice. You should know that Louisville is in the same latitude as Sicily. It doesn’t often freeze there, to say the least, and no one could remember ever experiencing such cold before the end of January. That’s what I call good luck!


    In any event, we managed to get ashore, where we learned that Louisville was 9 leagues distant. A local frontiersman, a big bruiser, offered to transport our trunks to the port in his cart. Our traveling companions, who numbered ten, did the same as we, and off we went, on foot, across mountains and woods that had never, since the beginning of time, been visited by a loaded wagon. It rolled, thanks to the audacity of our driver and to some strong shoulders occasionally put to the task. But we were marching in snow knee high. The journey became so strenuous that our companions began to drift off, one after another. We, on the other hand, persevered and finally arrived at Louisville toward nine in the evening. The following day we learned that the Ohio was frozen solid, that we would have to establish winter quarters in Louisville or turn back.


    But there was another alternative. At a small town called Memphis on the banks of the Mississippi in the state of Tennessee, all steamboats plying the river replenish their store of wood. We were told that if we found our way there, we could surely resume our journey waterborne, since the Mississippi never freezes. Because this information was conveyed by eminently credible people, we acted on it straightaway and left Louisville for Memphis. These two cities lie about 150 leagues apart; we had to travel that distance on the most abominable roads, in the most infernal carriages and, above all, the most dreadful cold imaginable—the natural order seemed to have been upset for our particular discomfort. Tennessee is in about the same latitude as the Sahara Desert. Cotton is raised there, as well as other exotic plants, and when we crossed the state, it was 15 degrees below freezing; no one had ever seen anything like it[4]. Finally arriving at Memphis, we learned that several miles upriver, the Mississippi itself was unnavigable; one could see icebound steamboats sitting as motionless as rocks. We must now plan ahead. If, after several days, this freakish cold doesn’t let up, we shall forego our voyage to the South and make for Washington by the shortest route possible.


    I will say this: apart from the frustration of having our projects more or less thwarted (through no fault of our own), we do not regret our trip through the forests of Kentucky and Tennessee. We acquainted ourselves there with a breed of humanity and a way of life completely unknown to us. The only inhabitants of that region are men called Virginians[5]. They have preserved a moral and physical identity all their own; they are a people apart, with national prejudices and a distinctive character. There, for the first time, we had the opportunity to observe the social consequences of slavery. The right [north] bank of the Ohio is a scene of animation and industry; work is honored, no one owns slaves. But cross the river and you suddenly find yourself in another universe. Gone is the spirit of enterprise. Work is considered not only onerous but shameful: whoever engages in it degrades himself. The White Man is meant to ride horseback, to hunt, to smoke all day long; using one’s hands is what a slave does. South of the Ohio, Whites form a veritable aristocracy which, like every other, marries low prejudices to lofty instincts. It is said—and I am much inclined to believe it—that these men are incomparably more sensitive to issues of honor than their counterparts up North. They are straightforward, hospitable and value many things higher than money. They will end up being dominated by the North, however. The latter grows richer and more populous by the day, while the South, if it grows at all, grows poorer[6].


    Inhabitants of Kentucky and Tennessee live scattered in vast forests and deep valleys. It was there, one evening after a long day, that we happened upon a log cabin with chinks on every side through which a big fire could be seen crackling. We knocked. Two mongrels, as tall as donkeys, rushed to the door. Their master followed, roughly shook hands with us, and invited us to enter. Picture a fireplace half the width of the room, in which a whole tree was burning; a bed; a few chairs; a six-foot-long carbine[7]; a hunter’s accoutrements hanging on the log wall and dancing in the draught. The mistress of the house sat near the hearth, with that quiet, modest air so characteristic of American women, while four or five robust children were frolicking on the floor, in light summer clothes. Sitting on their haunches under the mantelpiece of the chimney were two or three Negroes who looked as if they had been shivering ever since Africa. Our gentleman played the host nonetheless easily and courteously for his house being a hovel. He hardly stirred, mind you, but the poor Blacks served us at his behest: one presented us glasses of whisky, and another corncakes and a plate of venison. The third was sent off to fetch more wood. The first time I heard this order given, I assumed that he was going to the cellar or a woodpile; no, the blows of an ax echoing in the woods soon informed me that a tree was being felled for our benefit. That is how things are normally done here. While the slaves were thus occupied, the master, quietly seated in front of a fire that could have roasted an ox down to its bones, majestically wrapped himself in a cloud of smoke and between each puff entertained his guests with an account of his most memorable feats as a hunter.


    I must recount one more little anecdote, which will tell you at what price a man’s life is held here when he is unlucky enough to have black skin. About a week ago we faced the Tennessee River. The only means of crossing was a paddle steamer operated by two slaves with a horse. We ourselves made it over, but since the river was full of drift-ice the master hesitated to transport the carriage. “Rest assured,” one of our traveling companions said, “that should the boat sink, we will compensate you for your horse and slaves.” This argument seemed irresistible: the carriage was loaded, and sailed across.



    To his Mother                                        

    On the Mississippi, December 25, 1831[8]


    At last, at last, my dear Mama, the signal is given and here we are cruising down the Mississippi, as rapidly as possible under the combined influence of steam and a strong current. We were beginning to despair of ever escaping the wilderness. If you take the trouble to examine your map, you will see that we had reached a pretty pass. In front of us, the Mississippi half frozen and no boats launching; overhead, a Russian sky, pure and frozen. We could have retraced our steps, you say. But that option was fast disappearing. During our sojourn in Memphis, the Tennessee had frozen, and carriages could no longer cross. So there we were, in the middle of a triangle[9] formed by the Mississippi, the Tennessee, and impenetrable backwoods to the south. We might as well have been marooned on a rock in mid-ocean, inhabiting a world made expressly for us, without papers, without news of the rest of mankind, and facing the prospect of a long winter. That is how we spent a week.


    I must say, however, that except for our anxiety, those days were not disagreeable. We were staying with good people, who did their utmost to ingratiate themselves. Only twenty paces from our house was the edge of the world’s most beautiful forest, a sublime place, picturesque even under snow. We had rifles and plenty of powder and lead. A few miles from the village lived an Indian nation, the Chikasaws; once on their land, we always found a few natives happy to join us in the hunt. Hunting and warring are the sole occupations of the Indian, his pleasures as well…


    That’s how time passed, lightly at any given moment, but with the future weighing upon us. At last, one fine day, we noticed a wisp of smoke on the horizon, over the Mississippi; the wisp soon became a cloud, out of which loomed not the giant or the dwarf of fairy tales, but a large steamboat chugging up from New Orleans. It dilly-dallied in front of us for a quarter hour, as if wanting to keep its intentions secret. Would it stop, or continue on its way? Suddenly, it blew like a whale, made straight for us, smashed the ice with its heavy hull, and docked. The whole population gathered at the riverbank, which, as you know, once formed the edge of our empire.


    All of Memphis was astir; the bells weren’t rung because there aren’t any, but the assembly shouted hurrahs! and the new arrivals knelt down on the shore after the fashion of Christopher Columbus. We weren’t yet saved, however, for the captain had Louisville, north of us, as his ultimate destination, while we had our sights set on New Orleans to the south. Fortunately, there were about fifteen other derelicts not wanting to make Memphis their winter quarters. We exerted collective pressure on the captain. What did he think he could accomplish up the Mississippi? He would unavoidably be halted by ice. The Tennessee, the Missouri, the Ohio were frozen. We all swore we had witnessed the situation for ourselves. The ice would not only stop his vessel but almost certainly damage it, or worse. We had only his interest in mind—his rather than ours, of course . . . The spirit of altruism lent so much color to our argument that the man began to waver. Even so, I am convinced that he would still have gone forward, but for a felicitous event, thanks to which we have not become citizens of Memphis.


    As we were parleying on the riverbank, we heard an infernal racket in the nearby forest: drumbeats, the neighing of horses, the barking of dogs. At length, a large group of Indians emerged—old people, women, children, with baggage—all led by a European, and came toward us. These Indians were Chactas (or Tchactaws)[10], to pronounce it as Indians do. You would like to know, no doubt, what these Indians were doing there and how they could serve us. Patience, I beg of you; since I have time and paper today, I don’t want to hurry.


    You will learn that the Americans of the United States, a rational people without prejudices, known for their great philanthropy, conceived the idea, like the Spanish before them, that God had bestowed upon them, as an unrestricted gift, the New World and its inhabitants. And listen to this: it having been demonstrated that one square mile could nourish ten times more civilized men than savages, it followed logically that wherever civilized men settled, savages had to make way for them. What a splendid thing is logic[11].


    When the Indians found themselves a little too near their white brethren, the president of the United States[12] sent them a message explaining that, in their own interest naturally, they would do well to retreat slightly westward. The region they’ve inhabited for centuries belongs to them, no doubt: no one denies them this incontestable right. But it is, after all, uncultivated wilderness—woods, swamps, very poor land really. Beyond the Mississippi there is, on the contrary, splendid terrain which the European will never reach, where game have never been alarmed by the sound of a woodman’s ax. Pioneers are separated from it by a hundred leagues. Throw in various gifts of inestimable value, calculated to buy the Indian’s compliance: casks of whisky, glass-bead necklaces, earrings and mirrors. What clinches the argument is the insinuation that if Americans meet with a refusal, force may be applied.


    What to do? The poor Indians carry their old parents in their arms; mothers hoist their children onto their shoulders; the whole nation begins to march, taking their most cherished possessions with them. It abandons forever the soil on which its forefathers lived for a millennium perhaps and settles in a wilderness where the Whites will be harassing it ten years from now. Can you see what becomes of a high civilization? The Spanish are real brutes, unleashing their dogs on Indians as they would on ferocious beasts; they kill, burn, massacre, pillage the New World like an army storming a city, pitilessly and indiscriminately. But one cannot destroy everything; fury spends itself. Indian populations that survive end up mingling with their conquerors, adopting their customs, their religion; there are several provinces today in which they hold sway over those who subdued them in the past. Americans of the United States, being more humane, more moderate, more respectful of law and legality, never bloodthirsty, are more profoundly destructive of the Indian people than Spaniards. And one cannot doubt that within a century there will no longer remain on the North American continent a single Indian nation, nor even a single man belonging to the most remarkable of Indian races.


    But I’ve left my story behind. I was writing about the Chactas, I believe. The Chactas form a powerful nation occupying the border country of Alabama and Georgia. This year, after protracted negotiations, they were persuaded to leave their homeland and emigrate to the west bank of the Mississippi. Six or seven thousand Indians have already crossed the great river; those appearing in Memphis came there with the intention of following their compatriots. The government agent who accompanied them, with authority to pay their passage, hurried to the riverbank upon hearing that a steamboat had arrived. The fee he offered for their transportation sixty leagues downriver fixed the wavering mind of the captain. He gave the signal to depart. The bow was turned south and we cheerfully climbed aboard, passing passengers on their way down the gangway who, instead of going to Louisville, found themselves, poor souls, obliged to await the spring thaw in Memphis. So goes the world.


    But we hadn’t yet left; we had to board our exiled tribe, its horses and dogs. Here a truly lamentable scene unfolded. The Indians advanced mournfully toward the riverbank; first came the horses, several of which, unaccustomed as they were to the forms of civilized life, took fright and leaped into the Mississippi, from which they were rescued with difficulty. Then came the men, who, in the customary fashion, bore nothing but their weapons. The women followed, carrying children tied to their backs or swaddled in blankets; they were also loaded with bundles containing all their wealth. Last of all, the old people limped along, with help. Among the latter was a woman 110 years old. I have never seen such a horrifying figure. She was naked, except for a threadbare blanket revealing, here and there, the scrawniest body imaginable. She was escorted by two or three generations of grandchildren. Having to leave one’s land at that age and seek one’s fortune in a foreign country—what an abomination! Amidst the old people was a young woman who had broken her arm a week earlier; for lack of care, the arm had frozen beneath the fracture She was obliged nonetheless to join the march. When everyone had passed, the dogs approached the bank but refused to go further and protested with hair-raising yelps. Their masters dragged them aboard.


    This whole spectacle had an air of ruin and destruction; it spoke of final farewells and of no turning back. One felt heartsick watching it. The Indians were calm, but somber and taciturn. One of them knew English, and I asked him why the Chactas were leaving their land. “To be free,” he replied[13]. I couldn’t get anything else out of him. We shall deposit them tomorrow in the backcountry of Arkansas. One must admit, it was a singular chance that placed us in Memphis as witnesses to the expulsion, one might say the dissolution, of the remnants of one of the most celebrated and oldest American nations.


    But enough about the savages. It is high time I returned to civilized folk. Just one more word about the Mississippi, which, in truth, hardly deserves more than that. It is a large, yellow river, gently rolling through the emptiest of unpeopled countrysides amidst the forests it floods in the spring and fertilizes with its muck. There is not a hill to be seen, only woods, more woods, yet more woods: reeds, vines; profound silence, no vestige of man, not even the smoke of an Indian camp[14].



    [1] Democracy in America, 1835 – full source.

    [2] Remember your Tecumseh and Pushamataha. As Pushamata wanted, the Choctaw and Chickasaw allied with the Americans, who promised sovereignty. 

    [3] Alexis de Tocqueville, Letters from America, translated by Frederick Brown.

    [4] 15 degrees below freezing in Celsius is about 5 degrees Fahrenheit.  For those of you who are good at equations, here’s the conversion: (T=temperature):  T(°F) = T(°C) × 9/5 + 32.

    [5] Many of the planters and slaveowners in Tennessee and Kentucky moved west from Virginia. Most could not afford slaves and/or land in Virginia; moving to the frontier of TN and KY offered them socio-economic mobility not available in the other Southern states. In other words, poor white men had a chance to become slaveowners.

    [6] Tocqueville’s point is well-taken in one sense – the northern economy was booming, the southern economy seemed stuck farming the same crops as before which meant less economic growth. On the other hand, enslaved bodies made up the vast majority of the wealth in the country, and thus, the planters who owned slaves were some of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the country.

    [7] A rifle, slightly shorter than a traditional rifle.

    [8] Please note the date of this leg of Indian Removal.

    [9] Memphis, Tennessee was named after the Egyptian city of Memphis that marks the convergence of the two major headways of the Nile River and marks the beginning of the Nile Delta. Memphis, TN is situated at the mouth of the Mississippi River Delta.

    [10] Choctaws.

    [11] Shady. But accurate. Why does he mention the “Spanish before them?”

    [12] Andrew Jackson.

    [13] To be free.

    [14] An interesting final observation from Tocqueville. Before the 1820s, the Mississippi Valley was a forest right up to the banks of the Mississippi River. The fertile land was cleared by enslaved people during the 1820s and 30s – cleared so thoroughly that it was replaced by flat cotton fields. The levees controlling the flow of the Mississippi River were also built and maintained by slaves. The trees felled from the forest were split and removed by slaves. The soil was turned up and plowed by slaves. Cotton was planted and beautiful plantation homes were built by slaves. The forest Tocqueville describes here will be gone a decade later, by the 1840s. Only the Delta National Forest remains.