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and loss on the other. Such relations inculcated lenity and patience in the powerful, the benefited party. An inflexible exaction of submission to terms which the Indians protested were neither expressed nor implied by the treaty as they assented to it, and an impatient requirement that the specific work of three years should be consummated in one, showed no leaning towards either of these benignant qualities. The Seminoles believed they were outraged and contemned, and turned upon their oppressors with a fury, that has raised a cry of horror through the land for years.
Their fatal success has proved that the weak may sometimes be so strengthened by accident or circumstances, as to be able to do enormous harm; that no nation or tribe, however insignificant, should be unnecessarily provoked to hostility, lest a power
of vengeance be imparted to them beyond all foresight or calculation. The servile war in Rome, and the Maroon war in Jamaica, are examples, which show that contests may be begun in scorn or heedlessness, which run through years of disappointment and humiliation, draining the treasure, and wasting the life-blood, of a great nation.
The second error" pointed out by Mr. Everett, namely, that of enforcing the treaty at the point of the bayonet, instead of attempting further negotiation, or compromise, or explanation, has been amply manifested by the course of events, though it may not have been very obvious at the time when, the Senate having ratified the treaty, the President, as we have before suggested, may have felt himself constrained, by the obligations of his situation, to fulfil it to the utmost of his power
A strict fulfilment of all its stipulations being impracticable, it became a serious question how embarrassments arising out of such circumstances could best be avoided. Two years of the time embraced by the treaty, during which important stipulations were to have been completed, had already elapsed. Mr. Everett appears to incline to an opinion, that the incongruity springing from this lapse of time vacated the instrument. But the Senate, with this incongruity half matured, and still maturing even while under its own protracted examination, ratified the treaty with all these imperfections on its head.
And in so doing it is understood that the majority acted, not only with the full concurrence, but at the earnest instance, so far as it could be manifested, of the President. The removal of these Indians in common with
all other Indians, beyond the Mississippi, was a favorite measure of the President, who may have considered that no opportunity to secure its fulfilment should be permitted to escape. He knew the difficulties which beset all negotiations with them ; how reluctantly they made up their minds to any measure which
gave such a new shape to their destiny ; and that a reference to them of any subject involving this most unpopular change, with a view to a readjustment, carried almost certain defeat with it. Whether this unpromising aspect
of such a course furnished a sufficient reason for avoiding it, few will probably be at a loss to determine. Justice must be done, whoever and whatever may suffer. But it would seem that ratification or rejection were not the alternative. A conditional ratification might have secured all the advantages of the treaty, without imposing upon the executive a seeming obligation to seize them at the imminent hazard
Such conditions could probably have been annexed by the Senate, as, with patience and management, might have averted all this hazard. The course of the Senate, however, most unfortunately, was not so prudent. That as little prudence regulated the measures of the President, when thus jest with a most difficult and impracticable law to execute, has been fully attested by events.
If the opinion of the Attorney-general had prevailed, and the Indians had been allowed the stipulated three years for their emigration, it is not improbable that they would have submitted, provided the indulgence had been made known before any blows were struck, and provided, also, that a proper force had been present to compel, if necessary, such submission. But the double error of the Senate and the executive converted a treaty, that was intended to secure peaceful blessings to the red and the white man, into a bloody scourge of both.
The " third error” which Mr. Everett imputes to the President is, that he underrated the force of the Indians, and the obstacles which were to be overcome in any hostile operations against them. We have already stated the computations, in the first respect, of the President and of his Secretary of War. Time has proved both of them to be very wide of the truth. Whether they had
Whether they had any certain sources of information is not distinctly known. The duties of the Secretary of War led to a partial examination of the numbers
- No. 114. 2
of these Indians at times when presents were issued, and when other purposes connected with the administration of Indian affairs required it. There was an Indian Agent in the country, who was in constant communication with these tribes, and whose duty it was to become acquainted, as far as practicable, with their numbers. His reports were, of course, at Washington. Moreover, the treaty which had lately been made with them, had necessarily called for as accurate a census as could be obtained. These were the data on which the President and the Secretary of War must have based their calculations, as they were the best, and probably the only, information within their reach. How they could have arrived at such different conclusions, varying almost one hundred per cent., is indeed a matter of wonder ; still, we cannot suppose that they had any separate or distinct knowledge of the subject. There may have been a strong bias on the part of the President towards the opinion, that the hostility about to be provoked was insignificant in its character, and not to be regarded in its consequences. The Secretary of War, however, could have no motive to deceive himself, and must have considered the estimate he arrived at as correct as circumstances would admit. Whether the force sent into Florida was proportioned to the President's or to the Secretary of War's estimate, can be determined, so far as we know, only by inference, which would incline to the former, that amount having been better adapted to overawe four hundred, than seven hundred and fifty, warriors. For the latter purpose, it was obviously deficient ; while it could hardly be supposed to secure the submission of even the less number. In Florida affairs, the President's opinion undoubtedly always prevailed. He had had much experience with the southern Indians, and was authorized to believe that he knew sufficiently well those who were at the extreme South. It is not, therefore, derogating from the official independence of the Secretary of War, to suppose that in this affair he acted in entire subordination to the opinions of the executive. This co
error, therefore, of underrating the Florida Indians may safely be ascribed to the executive. It was a great one, and necessarily aggravated the evil consequences of the second false step, namely, that of enforcing the treaty at the point of the bayonet.
Of the “fourth error” specified by Mr. Everett, we cannot treat at much length, consistently with such an examination as we propose, of the document named second at the head of this article. It would open a wide page of history, and lead to investigations and comparisons which would at once overflow our narrow bounds. There is no doubt that the whole course of government in respect to the Florida war has been governed by “ a feverish impatience of instant success. Mr. Everett's bare enumeration of the many generals, who have successively been in command, is a satire upon
the administrations which have thus shifted responsibility from shoulder to shoulder, and made command there as deciduous as the leaves of the forest. There seemed to be little or no appreciation of the novel and embarrassing impediments that beset the troops at almost every step. Ample means were provided, it is true, after the first campaign, but they were expected to insure immediate success. Disappointment could see in failure nothing but inability on the part of those who commanded. Change was to supply all defects, cure all evils, and a flourish of new hopes introduced each new actor upon the scene.
This Florida war has been singular, if not unprecedented, in one important respect. The diminution of the enemy has only served to render him the more unconquerable. During the first campaigns, when he had confidence in his strength, he was not only willing to meet our forces, but often sought an encounter. This has not been the case within the last two or three years. His operations have latterly been altogether of a wily, stealthy, disconnected character. He has been broken up into fragments, and sought only such advantages as such a condition of his strength brought within his reach. This has been the result, in part, of a large reduction in his numbers, arising from captures, deaths, and surrenders, but more, perhaps, from the withdrawing of the principal chiefs, who were mostly sent off to Arkansas in 1838, and left their power to fall into numerous hands, as ambition, talent, or hereditary claims, might succeed in the scramble. There has been probably little inclination in these subordinates, thus thrown by accident into the enjoyment of independent rule, to form junctions which would more or less restrain or curtail it. The Indians have, therefore, during the period referred to, been divided into comparatively small bands, which have confined their movements to the dense hummocks, waylaying the few and the unguarded, or seeking isolated families, where resistance was likely to be slight, and women and children the only prey. They have been nearly invisible and intangible to our troops, which have notice of their covert marches only by the murders committed, the perpetrators being far away, and their trace soon lost in waters, or dark morasses, rendering all pursuit nearly blind and hopeless. No calculations can be made of the length of time that these small bands often patiently await, in some secure lurking-place, an unwary traveller, on whom they may wreak their sanguinary purpose, nor of the persevering watch with which they beset a habitation, until a negligent moment throws the unarmed or the weak into their power. And life has invariably been taken, or supposed by them to have been taken, in all these chance advantages. The Indians, in this war, have spared neither sex nor age.
There has not been an instance, so far as we have heard, of relenting, or of mercy. It has been unsparing massacre from first to last.
The public has at length been convinced, that, if this war is to be carried on at all, it requires that the stern law of retaliation be applied. Humanity shudders at the idea of excluding a people from the pale of civilized warfare. But there are cases when mercy itself pleads for justice. The Indians have not made a white captive in this contest. All who have fallen into their hands have been sacrificed, while no apprehension has been felt, under the forbearance of the whites, that blood would be exacted for blood. The events of 1841 have in part dispelled this illusion. not be charged with making an unwarrantable assertion, when we say, that subsequent successes as to emigration have been due in a great degree to these retributive severities. It is true, we waged war with the Indians, knowing their unmitigated cruelty. This is something in their favor, - especially if the provocation were not on their side, — and enough to justify them in acting up to the horrible rigor of the rule, but not enough to oblige their antagonists to abstain from all retaliation. A civilized nation has a character to sustain, and becomes vindictive only after long suffering and much forbearance. But there are motives which overrule this reluctance. ple of Florida have now for several years had their hearths drenched with the blood of women and children, who were seated around them, far from the din of war, in supposed
And we may