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13 January, 2012
B Franklin on Native AmericansFrom Franklin's Autobiography
The year following, a treaty being to be held with the Indians
at Carlisle, the governor sent a message to the House, proposing that
they should nominate some of their members, to be join'd with some
members of council, as commissioners for that purpose.[*] The House
named the speaker (Mr. Norris) and myself; and, being commission'd,
we went to Carlisle, and met the Indians accordingly.
[See the votes to have this more correctly.
As those people are extreamly apt to get drunk, and, when so,
are very quarrelsome and disorderly, we strictly forbad the selling
any liquor to them; and when they complain'd of this restriction,
we told them that if they would continue sober during the treaty,
we would give them plenty of rum when business was over.
They promis'd this, and they kept their promise, because they could get
no liquor, and the treaty was conducted very orderly, and concluded
to mutual satisfaction. They then claim'd and receiv'd the rum; this was
in the afternoon; they were near one hundred men, women, and children,
and were lodg'd in temporary cabins, built in the form of a square,
just without the town. In the evening, hearing a great noise
among them, the commissioners walk'd out to see what was the matter.
We found they had made a great bonfire in the middle of the square;
they were all drunk, men and women, quarreling and fighting.
Their dark-colour'd bodies, half naked, seen only by the gloomy light
of the bonfire, running after and beating one another with firebrands,
accompanied by their horrid yellings, form'd a scene the most
resembling our ideas of hell that could well be imagin'd; there was
no appeasing the tumult, and we retired to our lodging. At midnight
a number of them came thundering at our door, demanding more rum,
of which we took no notice.
The next day, sensible they had misbehav'd in giving us that disturbance,
they sent three of their old counselors to make their apology.
The orator acknowledg'd the fault, but laid it upon the rum;
and then endeavored to excuse the rum by saying, "The Great Spirit,
who made all things, made every thing for some use, and whatever use
he design'd any thing for, that use it should always be put to.
Now, when he made rum, he said 'Let this be for the Indians to get
drunk with,' and it must be so." And, indeed, if it be the design
of Providence to extirpate these savages in order to make room
for cultivators of the earth, it seems not improbable that rum may
be the appointed means. It has already annihilated all the tribes
who formerly inhabited the sea-coast.
Contributed by Gifford, Katya
3 November 2004