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John Tyler and "Indian Affairs"

by John Tyler



WASHINGTON, June 1, 1841...

I beg leave particularly to call your attention to the accompanying report from the Secretary of War. Besides the present state of the war which has so long afflicted the Territory of Florida, and the various other matters of interest therein referred to, you will learn from it that the Secretary has instituted an inquiry into abuses, which promises to develop gross enormities in connection with Indian treaties which have been negotiated, as well as in the expenditures for the removal and subsistence of the Indians. He represents also other irregularities of a serious nature that have grown up in the practice of the Indian Department, which will require the appropriation of upward of $200,000 to correct, and which claim the immediate attention of Congress.
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 1, 1841.

To the Senate of the United States:

I submit to the Senate, for its consideration and constitutional action, a treaty concluded at Oeyoowasha, on Minneesota (or St. Peters) River, in the Territory of Iowa, on the 31st day of July last, between James Duane Doty, commissioner on the part of the United States, and the Seeseeahto, Wofpato, and Wofpakoota bands of the Dakota (or Sioux) Nation of Indians.

The accompanying communication from the Secretary of War fully sets forth the considerations which have called for the negotiation of this treaty, and which have induced me to recommend its confirmation, with such exceptions and modifications as the Senate may advise.

DEPARTMENT OF WAR, August 31, 1841.


SIR: I transmit herewith a treaty concluded with certain bands of the Dahcota Nation of Indians, commonly called Sioux, which has been received at this Department from His Excellency James D. Doty, governor of Wisconsin, who was appointed a commissioner on the part of the United States for the purpose of negotiating the treaty; and I desire to submit the following facts and opinions inducing me to request its favorable consideration:

It was known on my entering upon the duties of the Department of War that some provision must speedily be made for the Winnebago Indians in the Northwest. By the treaty with those Indians in 1837 it was provided that they should move temporarily upon a narrow strip of country west of the Mississippi River, called the neutral ground, from the object of its purchase in 1830. That strip of country is only 40 miles in width, 20 miles of it having been purchased from the Sac and Fox Indians and 20 miles from the Sioux, the object of the purchase having been to place a barrier between those tribes, which had been for many years at war and parties of which were continually meeting and destroying each other upon or adjacent to the country purchased.

When the delegation of Winnebago chiefs was in Washington negotiating a sale of all their lands east of the Mississippi River, in 1837, a permanent location for those Indians was not fixed upon, and a temporary expedient was adopted, and acceded to by the Indians, by which they agreed, within eight months from the ratification of the treaty, to move upon and occupy a portion of the neutral ground until they should select a permanent home.

Owing to the small extent of country thus temporarily assigned to the Winnebagoes, utterly destitute of all preparation for the reception of them, slenderly supplied with game, and, above all, the circumstance that the Sac and Fox Indians were continually at war with the Sioux, the object of the purchase having utterly failed, the neutral ground, so called, proving literally the fighting ground of the hostile tribes—owing to all these circumstances the Winnebagoes were extremely reluctant to comply with the treaty. It was in part a dictate of humanity to give them more time for removal than that allotted in the treaty, in the hope of effecting their permanent removal beyond the Missouri or elsewhere; but as no steps were taken to select their future home, and as the white settlers in Wisconsin were fast crowding upon the Indians, overrunning the country, as usual, in search of town sites, water privileges, and farming districts, it became absolutely necessary to make some efforts toward carrying the treaty into effect. Owing to the excited state of the Indians and the apprehension of disturbance, the Eighth Regiment of Infantry, in 1840, more than two years, instead of eight months, after the ratification of the treaty, was ordered upon the Winnebago frontier, the greater part of the Fifth Regiment being already there, and in the presence of that force the Indians were required to comply with the treaty. They reluctantly removed from the banks of the Wisconsin River and crossed the Mississippi, but did not go to that portion of the neutral ground agreed upon, which commenced 20 miles from the river, but instead of it they spread themselves along the bank of the Mississippi, some of them recrossing that river and ascending the Chippewa and Black rivers. Only a small portion of the tribe has yet removed to the portion of the neutral ground assigned to them, and it is perhaps fortunate that local attachments have not been formed, since, from the position of the country, it was not and never could have been intended as their permanent home.

After a careful examination of the country in the Northwest the importance of providing for the Winnebago Indians, though immediate, became secondary in a more national and wider prospect of benefits in future years by arrangements which presented themselves to my mind as not only practicable, but of easy accomplishment.

A glance at the map and at the efforts hitherto made in emigration will show an extensive body of Indians accumulated upon the Southwestern frontier, and, looking to the numbers yet to be emigrated from within the circle of territory soon to become States of the American Union, it will appear upon very many considerations to be of the utmost importance to separate the Indians and to interpose a barrier between the masses which are destined to be placed upon the western frontier, instead of accumulating them within limits enabling them to unite and in concert spread desolation over the States of Missouri and Arkansas to, perhaps, the banks of the Mississippi.

Entertaining these views, it was determined to open negotiations with the Sioux Indians north and northwest of the purchase of 1830, the neutral ground, so called, with the purpose of purchasing sufficient territory beyond the reasonable limits of Iowa to provide a resting place for the Winnebagoes, intending to treat also with the Sac and Fox Indians and with the Potawatamies north of the State of Missouri, and thus enable our citizens to expand west of the Missouri River north of the State.

It is difficult to state in a condensed report all the reasons now imperatively urging the adoption of these measures. Besides the absolute necessity of providing a home for the Winnebagoes, the citizens of Iowa and of Missouri are crowding upon the territory of the Sac and Fox Indians and already producing those irritations which in former times have led to bloody wars. It is not to be for a moment concealed that our enterprising and hardy population must and will occupy the territory adjacent to that purchased in 1837 from the Sacs and Foxes, and the only possible mode of its being done in peace is by another purchase from those Indians. But the position of the Potawatamies will then become relatively what that of the Sac and Fox Indians now is, with the difference that access to their country by the Missouri River will hasten its occupancy by our people. The only mode of guarding against future collision, near at hand if not provided against, is by emigrating not only the Sac and Fox Indians, but also the Potawatamies.

Great efforts have been made to induce those Indians, as also the Winnebagoes, to move south of the Missouri, but without effect, their opposition to it being apparently insurmountable, the Potawatamies expressing the most decided aversion to it on being urged to join other bands of Potawatamies on the Marais de Cygne, declaring that they would rather at once go to California, being determined not to unite with those bands, but to maintain an independence of them. By the purchase from the Sioux no doubt is entertained that their prejudices may be advantageously accommodated, for among the objects in contemplation before adverted to it is to my mind of primary importance so to dispose of those Indians as to enable this Government to interpose a State between the Northern and Southern Indians along the Missouri River, and thus, by dividing the Indians on the frontier and separating the divisions, prevent a combination and concert of action which future progress in civilization might otherwise enable them to effect in the prosecution of revenge for real or imagined grievances.

Great importance is attached to this view of the subject, but scarcely less to the means provided by the treaty for inducing the remnants of other Northern tribes to remove to a climate congenial to their habits and disposition.

From the earliest efforts at emigration certain Northern Indians have strenuously objected to a removal south of the Missouri on account of the climate; and where tribes have been induced to dispose of all right to live east of the Mississippi within the United States, many individuals, dreading their southern destination, have wandered to the north and are now living in Canada, annually in the receipt of presents from the British Government, and will be ready without doubt to side with that power in any future conflict with this Government. In this manner considerable numbers of the Delawares and Shawnees and other Indians have disappeared from our settlements—a fact of great importance, and which I apprehend has not been heretofore sufficiently considered. There are many Potawatamies and Ottawas, as also Winnebagoes and Menomonees, who may be easily induced to move into Canada by seductive bribes, in the use of which the British Government has always displayed a remarkable foresight.

Of the Chippewas and Ottawas now in the northern part of Michigan it is believed there are over 5,000 under treaty obligations to remove to the Southwest, the greater portion of whom openly declared their determination to cross the line into Canada and put themselves under the protection of the British Government in preference to a removal to that country. These Indians may be accommodated by the arrangements in contemplation, not only to their own satisfaction, but under circumstances promising the greatest permanent advantages to the United States, and separating them from all inducements and even the possibility of entering the British service. I am not without hope, also, that through this treaty some suitable and acceptable arrangement may be made with the New York Indians by which they may be removed with safety to themselves and benefit to the people of that State. The very peculiar situation of these Indians is well known; that while they are under treaty obligation to remove, the treaty being by the Constitution the supreme law of the land and perfecting in this instance the title of the land they occupy in a private land company, there is yet every reason to sympathize with them and the highest moral inducements for extending every possible relief to them within the legitimate powers of the Government. I have been assured from sources entitled to my fullest confidence that although these Indians have hitherto expressed the most decided aversion to a removal south of the Missouri, there will probably be no difficulty in persuading them to occupy a more northern region in the West. I have every reason for believing that a benevolent interest in their behalf among a portion of our own people, which, it is supposed, has heretofore presented an obstacle to their emigration, will be exerted to effect their removal if a portion of the Sioux country can be appropriated to them.

It will be perceived, therefore, that a multitude of objects thus rest upon the success of this one treaty, now submitted for examination and approbation.

Of the Sioux Indians I will but remark that they occupy an immense country spreading from the Mississippi north of the neutral ground west and northwest, crossing the Missouri River more than 1,200 miles above the city of St. Louis. They are divided into bands, which have various names, the generic name for the whole being the Dahcota Nation. These bands, though speaking a common language, are independent in their occupancy of portions of country, and separate treaties may be made with them. Treaties are already subsisting with some of the bands both on the Mississippi and Missouri. The treaty now submitted is believed to be advantageous, and from its provisions contemplates the reduction of those wandering Indians from their nomadic habits to those of an agricultural people.

If some of the provisions seem not such as might be desired, it will be recollected that many interests have to be accommodated in framing an Indian treaty which can only be fully known to the commissioner, who derives his information directly from the Indians in the country which is the object of the purchase.

It is proper to add that I had instructed the commissioner expressly not to take into consideration what are called traders' claims, in the hope of correcting a practice which, it is believed, has been attended with mischievous consequences; but the commissioner has by a letter of explanations fully satisfied me that in this instance it was absolutely necessary to accommodate those claims as an indispensable means of obtaining the assent of the Indians to the treaty. This results, doubtless, from their dependence upon the traders for articles, in a measure necessaries, which are for the most part furnished without competition, and of the proper value of which the Indians are ignorant.

To compensate in some degree for the article in this treaty providing for the payment of traders' claims, very judicious guards are introduced into the treaty, calculated effectually to exclude that source of interest adverse to the Government in all future time within the purchase under this treaty.

There are other articles in the treaty which I have not been able fully to realize as judicious or necessary, but for reasons already stated they deserve respectful consideration.

Notwithstanding the article stipulating that a rejection of any of the provisions of the treaty should render the whole null and void, I would respectfully recommend such modified acceptance of the treaty as in the wisdom of the Senate may seem just and proper, conditioned upon the assent of the Indians subsequently to be obtained, the Senate making provision for its reference back to the Indians if necessary.

It will be seen that the treaty provides for a power of regulation in the Indian Territory by the United States Government under circumstances not hitherto attempted, presenting an opportunity for an experiment well worthy of mature consideration.

I ought not to dismiss this subject without adverting to one other important consideration connected with the integrity of our Northwest Indians and Territory. The Sioux treaty will effectually withdraw from British influence all those who are a party to it by making them stipendiaries of the United States and by operating a change in their wandering habits and establishing them at known and fixed points under the observation of Government agents, and as the British can only have access to that region by the way of Fond du Lac, one or two small military posts in a direction west and south from that point, it is believed, will completely control all intercourse with the Indians in that section of country.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


The war with the Indian tribes on the peninsula of Florida has during the last summer and fall been prosecuted with untiring activity and zeal. A summer campaign was resolved upon as the best mode of bringing it to a close. Our brave officers and men who have been engaged in that service have suffered toils and privations and exhibited an energy which in any other war would have won for them unfading laurels. In despite of the sickness incident to the climate, they have penetrated the fastnesses of the Indians, broken up their encampments, and harassed them unceasingly. Numbers have been captured, and still greater numbers have surrendered and have been transported to join their brethren on the lands elsewhere allotted to them by the Government, and a strong hope is entertained that under the conduct of the gallant officer at the head of the troops in Florida that troublesome and expensive war is destined to a speedy termination. With all the other Indian tribes we are enjoying the blessings of peace. Our duty as well as our best interests prompts us to observe in all our intercourse with them fidelity in fulfilling our engagements, the practice of strict justice, as well as the constant exercise of acts of benevolence and kindness. These are the great instruments of civilization, and through the use of them alone can the untutored child of the forest be induced to listen to its teachings.
JANUARY 27, 1842.

To the House of Representatives:

I transmit herewith a report* of the Secretary of War, in answer to the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 9th August, 1841.


*Relating to the origin of the Seminole war, slaves captured during said war by United States troops, etc.
WASHINGTON, April 11, 1842.

To the Senate of the United States:

I herewith transmit a memorial66 which I have received from the Choctaw tribe of Indians and citizens of the State of Mississippi, with a request that I should communicate the same to Congress. This I do not feel myself at liberty to decline, inasmuch as I think that some action by Congress is called for by justice to the memorialists and in compliance with the plighted national faith.

WASHINGTON, April 28, 1842.

To the Senate of the United States:

I submit to the Senate, for the constitutional action of that body, a treaty concluded on the 11th day of August last with the Minda Wankanton bands of the Dakota or Sioux Nation of Indians, with the papers necessary to an understanding of the subject.

WASHINGTON, April 28, 1842.

To the Senate of the United States:

I submit to the Senate, for the constitutional action of that body, a treaty concluded with the half-breeds of the Dakota or Sioux Nation on the 3ist day of July last, together with the papers referred to in the accompanying communication from the Secretary of War as necessary to a full view of the whole subject.

WASHINGTON, May 10, 1842.

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

The season for active hostilities in Florida having nearly terminated, my attention has necessarily been directed to the course of measures to be pursued hereafter in relation to the few Indians yet remaining in that Territory. Their number is believed not to exceed 240, of whom there are supposed to be about 80 warriors, or males capable of bearing arms. The further pursuit of these miserable beings by a large military force seems to be as injudicious as it is unavailing. The history of the last year's campaign in Florida has satisfactorily shown that notwithstanding the vigorous and incessant operations of our troops (which can not be exceeded), the Indian mode of warfare, their dispersed condition, and the very smallness of their number (which increases the difficulty of finding them in the abundant and almost inaccessible hiding places of the Territory) render any further attempt to secure them by force impracticable except by the employment of the most expensive means. The exhibition of force and the constant efforts to capture or destroy them of course places them beyond the reach of overtures to surrender. It is believed by the distinguished officer in command there that a different system should now be pursued to attain the entire removal of all the Indians in Florida, and he recommends that hostilities should cease unless the renewal of them be rendered necessary by new aggressions; that communications should be opened by means of the Indians with him to insure them a peaceful and voluntary surrender, and that the military operations should hereafter be directed to the protection of the inhabitants.

These views are strengthened and corroborated by the governor of the Territory, by many of its most intelligent citizens, and by numerous officers of the Army who have served and are still serving in that region. Mature reflection has satisfied me that these recommendations are sound and just; and I rejoice that consistently with duty to Florida I may indulge my desire to promote the great interests of humanity and extend the reign of peace and good will by terminating the unhappy warfare that has so long been carried on there, and at the same time gratify my anxiety to reduce the demands upon the Treasury by curtailing the extraordinary expenses which have attended the contest. I have therefore authorized the colonel in command there as soon as he shall deem it expedient to declare that hostilities against the Indians have ceased, and that they will not be renewed unless provoked and rendered indispensable by new outrages on their part, but that neither citizens nor troops are to be restrained from any necessary and proper acts of self-defense against any attempts to molest them. He is instructed to open communications with those yet remaining, and endeavor by all peaceable means to persuade them to consult their true interests by joining their brethren at the West; and directions have been given for establishing a cordon or line of protection for the inhabitants by the necessary number of troops.

But to render this system of protection effectual it is essential that settlements of our citizens should be made within the line so established, and that they should be armed, so as to be ready to repel any attack. In order to afford inducements to such settlements, I submit to the consideration of Congress the propriety of allowing a reasonable quantity of land to the head of each family that shall permanently occupy it, and of extending the existing provisions on that subject so as to permit the issue of rations for the subsistence of the settlers for one year; and as few of them will probably be provided with arms, it would be expedient to authorize the loan of muskets and the delivery of a proper quantity of cartridges or of powder and balls. By such means it is to be hoped that a hardy population will soon occupy the rich soil of the frontiers of Florida, who will be as capable as willing to defend themselves and their houses, and thus relieve the Government from further anxiety or expense for their protection.

WASHINGTON, May 16, 1842.

To the Senate:

Having directed hostilities in Florida to cease, the time seems to have arrived for distinguishing with appropriate honors the brave army that have so long encountered the perils of savage warfare in a country presenting every imaginable difficulty and in seasons and under a climate fruitful of disease. The history of the hardships which our soldiers have endured, of the patience and perseverance which have enabled them to triumph over obstacles altogether unexampled, and of the gallantry which they have exhibited on every occasion which a subtle and skulking foe would allow them to improve is so familiar as not to require repetition at my hands. But justice to the officers and men now in Florida demands that their privations, sufferings, and dauntless exertions during a summer's campaign in such a climate, which for the first time was witnessed during the last year, should be specially commended. The foe has not been allowed opportunity either to plant or to cultivate or to reap. The season, which to him has usually been one of repose and preparation for renewed conflict, has been vigorously occupied by incessant and harassing pursuit, by penetrating his hiding places and laying waste his rude dwellings, and by driving him from swamp to swamp and from everglade to everglade. True, disease and death have been encountered at the same time and in the same pursuit, but they have been disregarded by a brave and gallant army, determined on fulfilling to the uttermost the duties assigned them, however inglorious they might esteem the particular service in which they were engaged.

To all who have been thus engaged the executive department, responding to the universal sentiment of the country, has already awarded the meed of approbation. There must, however, in all such cases be some who, availing themselves of the occasions which fortune afforded, have distinguished themselves for "gallant actions and meritorious conduct" beyond the usual high gallantry and great merit which an intelligent public opinion concedes to the whole Army. To express to these the sense which their Government cherishes of their public conduct and to hold up to their fellow-citizens the bright example of their courage, constancy, and patriotic devotion would seem to be but the performance of the very duty contemplated by that provision of our laws which authorizes the issuing of brevet commissions.

Fortunately for the country, a long peace, interrupted only by difficulties with Indians at particular points, has afforded few occasions for the exercise of this power, and it may be regarded as favorable to the encouragement of a proper military spirit throughout the Army that an opportunity is now given to evince the readiness of the Government to reward unusual merit with a peculiar and lasting distinction.

I therefore nominate to the Senate the persons whose names are contained in the accompanying list for brevet commissions for services in Florida. That the number is large is evidence only of the value of the services rendered during a contest that has continued nearly as long as the War of the Revolution. The difficulty has been to reduce the number as much as possible without injustice to any, and to accomplish this great and mature consideration has been bestowed on the case of every officer who has served in Florida.

WASHINGTON, May 24, 1842.

To the Senate of the United States:

I transmit herewith to the Senate a treaty recently concluded with the Wyandott tribe of Indians, and request the advice and consent of the Senate to the ratification of the same as proposed to be modified by the War Department.

WASHINGTON, June 10, 1842.

To the Senate of the United States:

I submit herewith a treaty concluded at Buffalo Creek on the 20th day of May last between the United States and the Seneca Nation of Indians, for your advice and consent to its ratification, together with a report on the subject from the War Department.


The vexatious, harassing, and expensive war which so long prevailed with the Indian tribes inhabiting the peninsula of Florida has happily been terminated, whereby our Army has been relieved from a service of the most disagreeable character and the Treasury from a large expenditure. Some casual outbreaks may occur, such as are incident to the close proximity of border settlers and the Indians, but these, as in all other cases, may be left to the care of the local authorities, aided when occasion may require by the forces of the United States. A sufficient number of troops will be maintained in Florida so long as the remotest apprehensions of danger shall exist, yet their duties will be limited rather to the garrisoning of the necessary posts than to the maintenance of active hostilities. It is to be hoped that a territory so long retarded in its growth will now speedily recover from the evils incident to a protracted war, exhibiting in the increased amount of its rich productions true evidences of returning wealth and prosperity. By the practice of rigid justice toward the numerous Indian tribes residing within our territorial limits and the exercise of a parental vigilance over their interests, protecting them against fraud and intrusion, and at the same time using every proper expedient to introduce among them the arts of civilized life, we may fondly hope not only to wean them from their love of war, but to inspire them with a love for peace and all its avocations. With several of the tribes great progress in civilizing them has already been made. The schoolmaster and the missionary are found side by side, and the remnants of what were once numerous and powerful nations may yet be preserved as the builders up of a new name for themselves and their posterity.

WASHINGTON, December 14, 1842.

To the Senate of the United States:

I transmit to the Senate a treaty recently concluded with the Chippewa Indians of the Mississippi and Lake Superior, with communications from the War Department in relation thereto, and ask the advice and consent of the Senate to the ratification of the said treaty.

WASHINGTON, December 14, 1842.

To the Senate of the United States:

I transmit to the Senate a treaty recently concluded with the Sac and Fox Indians, with communications from the War Department in relation thereto, and ask the advice and consent of the Senate to the ratification of the said treaty.

WASHINGTON, January 31, 1843.

To the House of Representatives:

In compliance with a resolution of the House of Representatives of the 24th instant, requesting me to communicate answers to certain queries therein contained respecting instructions given to the commissioners appointed to adjudicate claims arising under the Cherokee treaty of 1835, I transmit herewith a report from the War Department, accompanied by a copy of the instructions referred to.

WASHINGTON, January 31, 1843.

To the House of Representatives:

At the last session of Congress a resolution was passed by the House of Representatives requesting me to cause to be communicated to the House "the several reports made to the Department of War by Lieutenant-Colonel Hitchcock relative to the affairs of the Cherokee Indians, together with all information communicated by him concerning the frauds he was charged to investigate; also all facts in the possession of the Executive relating to the subject."

A resolution of the same import had been passed by the House of Representatives on the 18th of May last, requiring the Secretary of War to communicate to the House the same reports and matters. After consultation with me and under my directions, the Secretary of War informed the House that the reports referred to relative to the affairs of the Cherokees contained information and suggestions in reference to the matters which it was supposed would become the subject of a negotiation between that Department and the delegates of the Cherokee Nation. It was stated by him that the nature and subject of the report, in the opinion of the President and the Department, rendered its publication at that time inconsistent with the public interest. The negotiation referred to subsequently took place, and embraced the matters upon which Lieutenant-Colonel Hitchcock had communicated his views. That negotiation terminated without the conclusion of any arrangement. It may, and in all probability will, be renewed. All the information communicated by Lieutenant-Colonel Hitchcock respecting the Cherokees—their condition as a nation and their relations to other tribes—is herewith transmitted. But his suggestions and projects respecting the anticipated propositions of the delegates and his views of their personal characters can not in any event aid the legislation of Congress, and in my opinion the promulgation of them would be unfair and unjust to him and inconsistent with the public interest, and they are therefore not transmitted.

The Secretary of War further stated in his answer to the resolution that the other report referred to in it, relating to the alleged frauds which Lieutenant-Colonel Hitchcock was charged to investigate, contained such information as he (Colonel Hitchcock) was enabled to obtain by ex parte inquiries of various persons whose statements were necessarily without the sanction of an oath, and which the persons implicated had had no opportunity to contradict or explain. He expressed the opinion that to promulgate those statements at that time would be grossly unjust to those persons and would be calculated to defeat rather than promote the objects of the inquiry, and he remarked that sufficient opportunity had not been given to the Department to pursue the investigation or to call upon the parties affected for explanations or to determine on the measures proper to be adopted. And he hoped these reasons would be satisfactory for not transmitting to the House at that time the reports referred to in its resolution.

It would appear from the report of the Committee on Indian Affairs, to whom the communication of the Secretary of War was referred, and which report has been transmitted to me, together with the resolutions of the House adopted on the recommendation of the committee, and from those resolutions, that the reasons given by the Secretary were not deemed satisfactory and that the House of Representatives claims the right to demand from the Executive and heads of Departments such information as maybe in their possession relating to "subjects of the deliberations of the House and within the sphere of its legitimate powers," and that in the opinion of the House the reports and facts called for by its resolution of the 18th of May related to subjects of its deliberations and were within the sphere of its legitimate powers, and should have been communicated.

If by the assertion of this claim of right to call upon the Executive for all the information in its possession relating to any subject of the deliberation of the House, and within the sphere of its legitimate powers, it is intended to assert also that the Executive is bound to comply with such call without the authority to exercise any discretion on its part in reference to the nature of the information required or to the interests of the country or of individuals to be affected by such compliance, then do I feel bound, in the discharge of the high duty imposed upon me "to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States," to declare in the most respectful manner my entire dissent from such a proposition. The instrument from which the several departments of the Government derive their authority makes each independent of the other in the discharge of their respective functions. The injunction of the Constitution that the President "shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed" necessarily confers an authority commensurate with the obligation imposed to inquire into the manner in which all public agents perform the duties assigned to them by law. To be effective these inquiries must often be confidential. They may result in the collection of truth or of falsehood, or they may be incomplete and may require further prosecution. To maintain that the President can exercise no discretion as to the time in which the matters thus collected shall be promulgated or in respect to the character of the information obtained would deprive him at once of the means of performing one of the most salutary duties of his office. An inquiry might be arrested at its first stage and the officers whose conduct demanded investigation may be enabled to elude or defeat it. To require from the Executive the transfer of this discretion to a coordinate branch of the Government is equivalent to the denial of its possession by him and would render him dependent upon that branch in the performance of a duty purely executive.

Nor can it be a sound position that all papers, documents, and information of every description which may happen by any means to come into the possession of the President or of the heads of Departments must necessarily be subject to the call of the House of Representatives merely because they relate to a subject of the deliberations of the House, although that subject may be within the sphere of its legitimate powers. It can not be that the only test is whether the information relates to a legitimate subject of deliberation. The Executive Departments and the citizens of this country have their rights and duties as well as the House of Representatives, and the maxim that the rights of one person or body are to be so exercised as not to impair those of others is applicable in its fullest extent to this question. Impertinence or malignity may seek to make the Executive Departments the means of incalculable and irremediable injury to innocent parties by throwing into them libels most foul and atrocious. Shall there be no discretionary authority permitted to refuse to become the instruments of such malevolence?

And although information comes through a proper channel to an executive officer it may often be of a character to forbid its being made public. The officer charged with a confidential inquiry, and who reports its result under the pledge of confidence which his appointment implies, ought not to be exposed individually to the resentment of those whose conduct may be impugned by the information he collects. The knowledge that such is to be the consequence will inevitably prevent the performance of duties of that character, and thus the Government will be deprived of an important means of investigating the conduct of its agents.

It is certainly no new doctrine in the halls of judicature or of legislation that certain communications and papers are privileged, and that the general authority to compel testimony must give way in certain cases to the paramount rights of individuals or of the Government. Thus no man can be compelled to accuse himself, to answer any question that tends to render him infamous, or to produce his own private papers on any occasion. The communications of a client to his counsel and the admissions made at the confessional in the course of religious discipline are privileged communications. In the courts of that country from which we derive our great principles of individual liberty and the rules of evidence it is well settled—and the doctrine has been fully recognized in this country—that a minister of the Crown or the head of a department can not be compelled to produce any papers or disclose any transactions relating to the executive functions of the Government which he declares are confidential or such as the public interest requires should not be divulged; and the persons who have been the channels of communication to officers of the State are in like manner protected from the disclosure of their names. Other instances of privileged communications might be enumerated if it were deemed necessary. These principles are as applicable to evidence sought by a legislature as to that required by a court.

The practice of the Government since its foundation has sanctioned the principle that there must necessarily be a discretionary authority in reference to the nature of the information called for by either House of Congress.

The authority was claimed and exercised by General Washington in 1796. In 1825 President Monroe declined compliance with a resolution of the House of Representatives calling for the correspondence between the Executive Departments of this Government and the officers of the United States Navy and others at or near the ports of South America on the Pacific Ocean. In a communication made by the Secretary of War in 1832 to the Committee of the House on the Public Lands, by direction of President Jackson, he denies the obligation of the Executive to furnish the information called for and maintains the authority of the President to exercise a sound discretion in complying with calls of that description by the House of Representatives or its committees. Without multiplying other instances, it is not deemed improper to refer to the refusal of the President at the last session of the present Congress to comply with a resolution of the House of Representatives calling for the names of the members of Congress who had applied for offices. As no further notice was taken in any form of this refusal, it would seem to be a fair inference that the House itself admitted that there were cases in which the President had a discretionary authority in respect to the transmission of information in the possession of any of the Executive Departments.

Apprehensive that silence under the claim supposed to be set up in the resolutions of the House of Representatives under consideration might be construed as an acquiescence in its soundness, I have deemed it due to the great importance of the subject to state my views, that a compliance in part with the resolution may not be deemed a surrender of a necessary authority of the Executive.

Many of the reasons which existed at the date of the report of the Secretary of War of June 1, 1842, for then declining to transmit the report of Lieutenant-Colonel Hitchcock concerning the frauds which he was charged to investigate have ceased to operate. It has been found wholly impracticable to pursue the investigation in consequence of the death and removal out of the country of those who would be called upon to testify, and in consequence of the want of adequate authority or means to render it effectual. It could not be conducted without expense. Congress at its last session prohibited the payment of any account or charge whatever growing out of or in any way connected with any commission or inquiry, except military and naval courts-martial and courts of inquiry, unless special appropriations should be made for the payment of such accounts and charges. Of the policy of that provision of law it does not become me to speak, except to say that the institution of inquiries into the conduct of public agents, however urgent the necessity for such inquiry may be, is thereby virtually denied to the Executive, and that if evils of magnitude shall arise in consequence of the law I take to myself no portion of the responsibility.

In relation to the propriety of directing prosecutions against the contractors to furnish Indians rations who are charged with improper conduct, a correspondence has been had between the War Department and the Solicitor of the Treasury, which is herewith transmitted in a conviction that such prosecution would be entirely ineffectual.

Under these circumstances I have thought proper to direct that the report of Lieutenant-Colonel Hitchcock concerning the frauds which he was charged to investigate be transmitted to the House of Representatives, and it accordingly accompanies this message. At the same time, I have to request the House to consider it so far confidential as not to direct its publication until the appropriate committee shall have examined it and expressed their opinion whether a just regard to the character and rights of persons apparently implicated, but who have not had an opportunity to meet the imputations on them, does not require that portions at least of the report should not at present be printed.

This course is adopted by me from a desire to render justice to all and at the same time avoid even the appearance of a desire to screen any, and also to prevent the exaggerated estimate of the importance of the information which is likely to be made from the mere fact of its being withheld.

The resolution of the House also calls for "all facts in the possession of the Executive, from any source, relating to the subject." There are two subjects specified in the resolution—one "relative to the affairs of the Cherokee Indians," and another "concerning the frauds he [Lieutenant-Colonel Hitchcock] was charged to investigate."

All the papers in the War Department or its bureaus relating to the affairs of the Cherokee Indians, it is believed, have been from time to time communicated to Congress and are contained in the printed documents, or are now transmitted, with the exception of those portions of Lieutenant-Colonel Hitchcock's report hereinbefore mentioned, and excepting the correspondence with the Cherokee delegates in the negotiations which took place during the last summer, which are not supposed to be within the intent of the resolution of the House. For the same reason a memorial from the Old Settlers, or Western Cherokees, as they term themselves, recently presented, is not transmitted. If these or any other public documents should be desired by the House, a specification of them will enable me to cause them to be furnished if it should be found proper.

All the papers in the War Office or its bureaus known or supposed to have any relation to the alleged frauds which Lieutenant-Colonel Hitchcock was charged to investigate are herewith transmitted.


In regard to the Indian tribes residing within our jurisdictional limits, the greatest vigilance of the Government has been exerted to preserve them at peace among themselves and to inspire them with feelings of confidence in the justice of this Government and to cultivate friendship with the border inhabitants. This has happily succeeded to a great extent, but it is a subject of regret that they suffer themselves in some instances to be imposed upon by artful and designing men, and this notwithstanding all efforts of the Government to prevent it.
WASHINGTON, January 26, 1844.

To the House of Representatives:

I transmit herewith a report of the Secretary of War and accompanying papers, containing the information respecting the Indians remaining at present in Florida, requested by a resolution of the House of Representatives of the 10th instant.

WASHINGTON, February 7, 1844.

To the Senate of the United States:

I transmit to the Senate of the United States, in answer to their resolution of the 9th of January last, a report[1] from the Secretary of State and a report[2] from the Secretary of War.


[1]Stating that there has been no correspondence with the British Government relative to presents, etc., by that Government to Indians in the United States.
[2] Transmitting a letter from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs relative to presents, etc., to Indians in the United States by the British Government
WASHINGTON, February 12, 1844.

To the Senate of the United States:

I herewith transmit to the Senate articles of agreement between the Delawares and Wyandots, by which the Delawares propose to convey to the Wyandots certain lands therein mentioned, for the ratification and approval of the Senate, together with the accompanying documents, marked A and B.

My mind is not clear of doubt as to the power of the Executive to act in the matter, but being opposed to the assumption of any doubtful power, I have considered it best to submit the agreement to your consideration.

WASHINGTON, April 29, 1844.

To the Senate of the United States:

I transmit to the Senate a report of the Secretary of War, prepared in compliance with the request contained in a resolution of the 10th instant.*


* Proceedings under act of March 3, 1843, for the relief of the Stockbridge tribe of Indians in the Territory of Wisconsin.
WASHINGTON, December 18, 1843.

To the House of Representatives:

I received within a few hours of the adjournment of the last Congress a resolution "directing payment of the certificates or awards issued by the commissioners under the treaty with the Cherokee Indians." Its provisions involved principles of great importance, in reference to which it required more time to obtain the necessary information than was allowed.

The balance of the fund provided by Congress for satisfying claims under the seventeenth article of the Cherokee treaty, referred to in the resolution, is wholly insufficient to meet the claims still pending. To direct the payment, therefore, of the whole amount of those claims which happened to be first adjudicated would prevent a ratable distribution of the fund among those equally entitled to its benefits. Such a violation of the individual rights of the claimants would impose upon the Government the obligation of making further appropriations to indemnify them, and thus Congress would be obliged to enlarge a provision, liberal and equitable, which it had made for the satisfaction of all the demands of the Cherokees. I was unwilling to sanction a measure which would thus indirectly overturn the adjustment of our differences with the Cherokees, accomplished with so much difficulty, and to which time is reconciling those Indians.

If no such indemnity should be provided, then a palpable and very gross wrong would be inflicted upon the claimants who had not been so fortunate as to have their claims taken up in preference to others. Besides, the fund having been appropriated by law to a specific purpose, in fulfillment of the treaty, it belongs to the Cherokees, and the authority of this Government to direct its application to particular claims is more than questionable.

The direction in the joint resolution, therefore, to pay the awards of the commissioners to the amount of $100,000 seemed to me quite objectionable, and could not be approved.

The further direction that the certificates required to be issued by the treaty, and in conformity with the practice of the board heretofore, shall be proper and sufficient vouchers, upon which payments shall be made at the Treasury, is a departure from the system established soon after the adoption of the Constitution and maintained ever since. That system requires that payments under the authority of any Department shall be made upon its requisition, countersigned by the proper Auditor and Comptroller. The greatest irregularity would ensue from the mode of payment prescribed by the resolution.

I have deemed it respectful and proper to lay before the House of Representatives these reasons for having withheld my approval of the above-mentioned joint resolution.


I refer you to the report of the Secretary of War for an exhibition of the condition of the Army, and recommend to you as well worthy your best consideration many of the suggestions it contains. The Secretary in no degree exaggerates the great importance of pressing forward without delay in the work of erecting and finishing the fortifications to which he particularly alludes. Much has been done toward placing our cities and roadsteads in a state of security against the hazards of hostile attack within the last four years; but considering the new elements which have been of late years employed in the propelling of ships and the formidable implements of destruction which have been brought into service, we can not be too active or vigilant in preparing and perfecting the means of defense. I refer you also to his report for a full statement of the condition of the Indian tribes within our jurisdiction. The Executive has abated no effort in carrying into effect the well-established policy of the Government which contemplates a removal of all the tribes residing within the limits of the several States beyond those limits, and it is now enabled to congratulate the country at the prospect of an early consummation of this object. Many of the tribes have already made great progress in the arts of civilized life, and through the operation of the schools established among them, aided by the efforts of the pious men of various religious denominations who devote themselves to the task of their improvement, we may fondly hope that the remains of the formidable tribes which were once masters of this country will in their transition from the savage state to a condition of refinement and cultivation add another bright trophy to adorn the labors of a well-directed philanthropy.
WASHINGTON CITY, February 13, 1845.

To the Senate of the United States:

I transmit herewith, for the advice and approbation of the Senate, a treaty with the Creek and Seminole tribes of Indians, concluded on the 4th day of January last.

WASHINGTON, February 26, 1845.

To the Senate of the United States:

In compliance with the resolution of the Senate of the 3d instant, I herewith transmit the information* called for.


* Operations of the United States squadron on the west coast of Africa, the growth, condition, and influence of the American colonies there, and the nature, extent, and progress of the commerce of the United States with the same.

Terms Defined

Referenced Works