« PreviousContinue »
INDIAN RIGHTS AND OUR DUTIES.*
The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery,
and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully. And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed , upon their heads, saith the Lord God.- Ezekiel.
ABOUT nine hundred years before this appalling record was made by the prophet, God denounced against Israet the very punishment which is here declared to have been inflicted. This denunciation was communicated to the people by, their great law-giver, at the foot of Mt. -Sinai. • Thou shalt neither vex a stranger nor oppress him ; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Ye shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child: if thou afflict them in any wise and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry ; and
wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall be widows and your children fatherless.'
How long the Israelites remembered their own sufferings in Egypt, and were restrained from deeds of violence and oppression, we are not informed. But we learn from Ezekiel, that regardless of justice and humanity, and in defiance of the wrath of God revealed from heaven, they at length used oppression and exercised
* Delivered at Amherst, Hartford, &c. Dec. 1829.
robbery, and vexed the poor and needy, and oppressed the stranger wrongfully. * And though the prophets and some few others boldly remonstrated, though they exhorted the people to repent and would fain have averted the threatened judgments by their prayers, they were borne down and disheartened by the overwhelming torrent of corruption. No man in authority was found to second their efforts. Neither the king, nor any of his nobles or counsellors stood in the gap. None of them employed their abilities and influence, to stop the progress of wickedness and rescue those who were crying to God from under the hand of violence; wherefore, he poured out his fury upon the people and consumed them with the fire of his anger.'
And is there no monitory voice addressed to our own nation in all this ? Or if there be, are we at liberty to place it on the same ground with other ancient historical records ? Woe to the politician, woe to the moralist, who shall attempt thus to bring down the writings of Moses and the Prophets, to a level with Josephus and Tacitus. If the historical and prophetical books of the Old Testament are true, they are inspired, and are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
Perhaps of all nations, whether ancient or modern, we are most deeply interested in the dealings of God with the children of Israel. In looking back upon their deliverances and their sins, most emphatically may we repeat and appropriate to ourselves the words of Paul to the Corinthians. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come:'
Are we then, of these United States, chargeable with
violence, oppression, and robbery? Is the unoffending and beseeching stranger anywhere vexed and persecuted in this boasted land of religion, justice, and humanity ? Is there an individual, is there a whole people at the present moment, suffering from our rapacity, and trembling at our cruel menaces ? Would God that we could indignantly answer these questions in the negative. Would God that the recorded testimony of our encroachments upon the sacred rights of humanity could be prevented from crossing the ocean in every ship, to excite the loud derision of all the enemies of republican institutions.
I allude not here to African servitude. For terrible as it is o’er one half the land, it is a hereditary curse and shame, against which the constituted authorities of the nation in obedience to the voice of the people, long since bore their solemn testimony by prohibiting the importation of slaves.
But there is another, and a still more interesting people, dwelling within the limits of what we have been pleased to mark off as our national territory, who have already been subjected, I had almost 'said, to a harder fate than the Africans themselves. The first European settlers found them here, the immemorial possessors and undisputed lords of the country : and what has become of those powerful tribes that two centuries ago dwelt where we now dwell; and kindled their watch-fires where our proudest cities rise; and owned all these rivers, and bays, and harbors, and great lakes, and lofty mountains, and fertile vallies? Where are they? A nobler race of wild nien never existed in any age or country. accustomed to speak of them as ferocious savages. And it is true that they were uncivilized. They had no
schools, nor Colleges. They had never enjoyed the blessed light of Christianity; and in their wars with one another, they were as cruel, as they were brave and crafty. It is true, also, that when we began to extend our settlements far into the country, and they saw us in possession of their finest hunting grounds and fisheries, they became jealous of us and being instigated by the French, who then flanked our whole northern and western frontier, from the gulph of St. Lawrence to the mouth of the Missouri, they made depredations upon our property and cruelly butchered some of our people.
All this is true. But savages as they were, they bore with our gradual encroachments much longer than we should have borne with theirs under similar circumstances, and taught us lessons which may well put to the blush all our boasted religion and civilization.
The Indians,' says Dr. Trumbull, at the first settlement of our fathers, performed many acts of kindness towards them. They instructed them in the manner of planting and dressing the Indian corn. They carried them safe through rivers and waters. They gave them much useful information respecting the country, and when the English and their children were lost in the woods, and they were in danger of perishing with hunger, or cold, they conducted them to their wigwams, fed them, and restored them to their families and parents. By selling them corn when pinched with famine, they relieved their distresses, and prevented their perishing in a strange land and uncultivated wilderness.' historian tells us, that it was nearly sixteen years after the settlement of Plymouth, before the Indians commenced hostilities upon their English neighbors ; and again that the English lived in tolerable peace with all the Indians