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Speech Of Mr. Giddings, Of Ohio: Delivered In The House Of R...

Speech Of Mr. Giddings, Of Ohio: Delivered In The House Of R... image
Parent Issue
Day
26
Month
May
Year
1841
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

[cOKCIiUDED.]If the negroes, whoappear to have controlled the Indians, had quietly suffered themselves to be trailed with bloodhounds, or to be hanged for their love of liberty, ihey would have well deserved to be laves. Another important piece of intelligence we have here also. The expenditure of $5,000 for bloodhounds in Cuba, was not, as has been supposed, for the purpose of trailing Indians. In this letter we have it officialiy announced, that they -were sent for and obtained for the purpose of catching slaves . I desirc the peou cf ihis nation to under3tand cüettnctly ihat ihey are taxed for the purpose of muintaining and supporting slavery in the slave States; that their treasurehas been appropriated directly and pubiicly to ihat purpose; that our army - many of whose officers and soldiers were bred in the freo States, and in the love of liberfy - have been employed, by order of the Communding General, in pürsuing and capturing fugitive slaves. Nor is that a!l. Tlie frecmen of the North are taxed fur the purpose of buying bloodlioundd to act in concert with our army, in this degrading and dÍ8gusting warfare. The taking of fugitive siaves is regardod, by Northern people, as a most ignominious employment; so much so, that carcely a man can be found who wilt do It pubiicly. Yet it seeni3 that our military officers in Florida were openly engaged in it. I will now cali the altention of this committee to that portion of Gen. Jesup's order which fastens upon the people of this nation the character of slaveholders, and the 'purchaser3 of slaves;" by which this nation, boasting of liberty and ils regard for equal rights, became a "dealer in human fiesh." I refer to that portion of the order which declares the slaveá to be "taken on account of Government, and held subject to the order of the Secretary of War.'1 - On the 24th September, 1838, General Jessup wrote the Commissioner of Iiidiun Affair8, saying, "The Seminóle negroes tre now all the property of the public. I ïiave promised Abraham the freedom of bis farnily if he prove faithful to us: and I hall certainly hang1 him if he be not failh ful. Mr. Chairman, Ithink the people of my district will be slow to adtnit ihat General Jeaup possessed the consltiutional Jpower, or right to make ihem slaveholders. Sorne of them, I am sure, will disclaim all title to these slaves, and, like General Taylor, will refuse to have any concern or connection with this transaction. They will, I am confident, deny the right of General Jepup, or of the honorable Secretary of War, to pay out their money for the purebase of slavei. Nor do I believe they will admit the justice or honor of selling -the freedom of a man's family for the purchase of his fidelity, as promised by General Jesup to Abraham. It I understand the letter rcferred to, this Abraham was taken into the service of the Government, for the purpose of acting as a pilot lo lead our men to the habitations of other blacks, for the purpose of capturing more slaves nnd Indians. If he proved faithful to our Iroops and a traitor to his own kindred and friends, then hts wife and children - the objects of his affection - werc to have their freedom; but if he refused to betray his own people, he was to be hanged, and his family enslaved. Sir, I know not how other gentlemen view this transaction, but I am free to declare ihat it does not comport with my own views of honor or justice. But, sir, where are hose slaves? Are they 8etat liberty. or have they been sold into slavery? The purchase was certainly a very extraordinary transaction, and one that will excite inquiry. The slaves remained at Fort Pike for many months. And, if I had time, I would read to the fcommjUee a curious correspondencepecting their being employed in such a manner as to earn their living, and the like; but I will not detain the committee for that purpose. The manner in which they were to be finally disposed of seems to have created some uneasiness whh the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. In a letter addressed to the acting Secretary of War, dated May 1, 1838, speaking of the purchase of these slaves, he says: "I would respectfully suggest whethcr there are not other objections to the purchase of these negroes by the United States. It seems to me that a proposition to Congress, to appropriate money to pay for thein, and their transporiation to África, could its authority for that course be obtained, or for ahy other disposition of them, would occasion great and extensive excitement. Such a relation assumed by the United States, for however laudable an object, would, it ap pears, place the country in no eaviable attitude, especially at this juncture, when the public mind here and elsewhere, is so sensitive upon the subject ot siavery." - Sir, I fully agrec with the Commissioner oflndian AfFairs. This purchnseof slaves by General Jesup, and sanctioned by the honorable Secreta ry of War, has placed the country in no enviable attitude; ithas tarnished our national honor, and deeply wounded the feelings of the North. But this suggestion, as to the propriety of the purchase, was made on the lst of M33', 1838,and, on the24th September previous, General Jesup, writing Cnpt. B. L. Bonneville, commanding the Choctaw warriors, says: "In adiliticm to iheir pay as soldiers, they (the Choctaws) will have all the Seminóle property they capture. And those Indians (the Seminóles) are rich in iorses and negroes. The Creek warriors i'eccived between fourteen and flfteen thousand dollars for their captures." Yet it seems that, some eight months after the date of this letter, showing that the Creek warriors had then received their pay, the iropriely of the purchase was doubted. 1 hink, however, that the Cominissioner ol [ndian Affairs had good reason to suppose thatsome excitemcnt mightarise from this transaction, by which you and I, and our constituent8, as a portion of the peoplo ol this nation, became "slaveholders," and aurchasersof ourfellow men. At page 74, of the document last citetl, is a list of these Seminóle negroes who were sent to Tampa Bay, after being received as "public property," by order ol General Jesup, at the price of eight thoueand dollars The listcontains the name age, sex, and descriplion of each person I should like to presaflMp the people of the free States as a sa (■Brof the manner in which the slave tracreis carried on under color of this Florida war. But as the list is of great length, I beg leave to give an extract only. It is in the following form Name. Age. Sex. Remarles. Ben, 5 years, Male, Son of Elsy, Molly,3 years, FemaIe,Daughter of Ëlsy Judy, 1 year, Fema!e,D;iughter of Elsy This short extract contains the nameso three children, apparently of one fjimily and all less than sjx years of age. These children were purchased by our officers as "public property." Sir, what do our people of the free states, or of the civilizec world, think of this kind of "Government chattels?" I have no doubt that many n northern lady will inquire for the mothp.r of those children? This question Icannot anawer. I find in the list the name of Elsy, aged twonty years, said to be the daughter of Fanny. I should judge that she was not the molher of the children, aut such my tho case. I am led to believe that both father and mother escapee the fangs of the bloodhound and the slave catchers. But the question recurs, where are those slaves? I have for more than a month, had a resoiution lying in my drawer, calling on the Secretary of War for information respecting them; but to this hour l have had no opportunity of offering it in the regular course of business, and I feit no hopes of success by offering it ot any other time. It may not have been observed by mnny members, that in the last session of the lato Congress, a petition was resented to this House from a Mr. Watson, in which he states that, in May, 1838, he purchased these same negroes, captured by the Creek warriors, of their agent, and paid for them $14,600, and he gives )retty good evidence to sustain his statenent. This occurred in May, '38, while he order of General Jesup receiving them as public property, was in September previous; and the confirmalion of that order vas on the 7th October, prior to the time of Waison's apparent purchase. General 'esup's letter to Colonel Warren, saying hat these warriors had received between L14,000 and $15,000, bears date on the 7th October, prior to Watson's supposed urchase. It will be borne in mind that hese are official documents, transmitted at he time of their dates. There is a curious coincidence in regard to price. General Jesup said, in October, 1837, that hese warriors had'received "between foureen and fifteen thousand dollars." AndWatson 8ays, and gies good evidence to ! prove, that he paid to these same warriors $14,600 in May following. Now, if these Indians got twice paÜ for those sla ves, they were more fortúnate in slave trading than they ever were in any other transaction with the white people. Another singular circuinstance I will menlion. On the lst of May, the CommissionApf Indian Affairs suggested to the SéTLétury of War, that for the United States 1o assume the relation of sluveholders, might créate ex. tensive exciiemenl, particularly as the public mind here and elsewhere was so sensitive on the subject of slavery; while Watkin's bill of sale beaivi date only eight daysafterwards. On the 9lh of May, the Comissioner of Indian Aftairs requests of the Secretary of War an order for the officer at Fort Pike to deliver these negroes to N. F. Collins, agent for the Creek warriors: whüe, from other Communications, one would think that the United States never had own'ed the negroes, although thej were taken into possession of our iruups on tne om öepiemoer, ïatii, anu keptat the public expense until, and long afier, the supposed purchase by Watson. Sir, this transaction is shrouded in mystery. I have read to the committee a portion of its history; but the whole I think is not communicated by the documents before us. I have an opinión, and I express it as an opinión foundedon official papers, it is true, but it is nevertheless the conclusions of my own mind in regard to the matter. I then suppose that after the purchiise by General Jesup, on the 6th of September, and the sane ion by the Secretary of War, on the 7th October, 1837, and after keeping these negroes at the expense of the public for eight months, and transporting them to Fort Pike, the honorable secretary began to entertain doubts whether the public would justify the transaction. He probably feit that my friend here from Vermont, (Mr. Slade,) or the gentleman from New York, (Mr. Gates,) might not remain enlirely silent, "whenv (to use the wordd of the Commissioner of Indian Affaire) "ihe public mind here and elsewhere is so 6ensiti ve upon the subject of slavery ;" especially as it was ascertaiued that there must be an nppropriation of money by Congress for the funds that would seem to have been paid long nreviously. Difficulties appear to have beset him on every side; and I think his feelings were well expressed in a letter to General Arbuckle, dated uly 21st, 1838, in which, speaking of this transaction, he says, in a very emphatic language, "the whole affair is a delicate and ditlicult one." Just at this time, Mr. Wutson, being at this city, was, as il appears from hisstalemenis, persuaded by the officers of Government to purchase the negroes, being fully assured that the Indian litle was good and valid. The contract was accordingly made, as it appears, with the agent of the Creek warrioro, by which he, Watson, paid the $14,600 and relieved the honorable Secretary from his embarrassment. and thenation from the purchase made by General Jesup. The purchase was effected in "this markef," with the approbation of the high oflicers oi Staie, and in the midst of a Christian community. Now, sir, in order that I may bc undorstood, I will leave the purchase anc sale of the slaves for a moment, and ask the patience of the committee while I relate the brief story of the --ol8 and per egrinations. They were sent from Florida, immediately after Ihe order of the 6th September, 1837, to Fort Pike, New Orleans. Here some sixty of them wero detained by a pretended claim, set up b}7 persons living in Georgia, who iusisted that this "public property" was their own proper goods and chatteb ; while General Gaines, who appeared better versed in the law of nations and the military code than he is in the slave trade, boldly claimed them "as prisoners of war." Yes, Mr. Chairman, the negroes, declared by one commanding general tö he "the property of tho public," were boldly asserted by another lo be "prisoners of war." In the mean time, a Lieut. Reynolds was deputed to conduct the emigrating Indians to their home west of the Mississippi. Among the Seminóles were these slave, who had been the subject of capture and purchase, yet remaining at Fort Pike, all under the charge of Lieutenant Reynolds. To him Mr. Collins, agent for the Creek warriors, and acting, as Watkins says, for him, also attended by Watsons brother, applied to get possession of the negroes, and presented the order of the Secretary of War for their delivery to Collins. There is some difierence in the relation of Collins and that of Lieut. Reynolds. Mr. Watson says distinclly that General Gaines and Lieut. Reynolds both refused to obey the order of the honorable Secretary to deliver over the negroes. General Gaine3 appears to have declared them "prisoners of war," and ordered them to be sent to the place assigned to the Seminóles west of the Mississippi; and Lieut. Reynolds,punctilious thó discharge of his military duty, "took the responsibility," and staited or. lis way with Indians and negroes, both slaves and freemen. He landed his chargeat Little Rock, in Arkansas, to which place ! 10 was followed or attended by Collins; vho, faithful to his irust, determined to get he negroes. At that time he again demanded them of Lieut. Reynokte. But a df- icutty now interposed, for that officer had not military force sufficient lo hold the Indians in subjection, if irritated by an attempt to deliver over the negroea to Collins, to be brought back slaves to the white people. He, therefore, called upon the Governor of Arkansas for troops to cnable him to effect that object. But Governor Roane, thinking the safety of the people of his State more important than the slave trade, refused all military aid, and required Lieut. Reynolds lo proceed forthwith on his way to the territory assigned to the Indians. Jn answer to Lieut. Reynold, he says: "Had the Government inlended to dispose of these negroes to the Creek war riors, it should have been done so in Florida, and not bring Indians and negroes t Arkansas, the vicinity of their future residence, and irrítate the Indians to madness and lurn lhenuüucujuuuui dum;,, hui we have no adequate protection. The massacre of our citizens will be the inevi table consequence," "Your immediate departure will insure peace, and avert the outrages you had such good cause to expect." Thus, Mr. Chairman, you see tha wo were brought to the very verge of a war west of the Mississippi, by reason o the efiörts of our officers to maintain slavery ond the slave trade. But Collins, who, so far as the public documents speak of him,was the agent of the Creek warriors, now applied to these same 6reek warrior for possession of ihe negroes. This, sir, i another curiosity. The Indians were taken west among ihe very Indians who ori ginally captured them, and in whoso nam the Government officers and Collins wer tryingjo obtain possession of them, Bu these warriors, having received the $14,600 in "the bctter curpency," showed n disposition to interfere any further. Indeed, they said that they had suld the negroes, and thut the United States had pos session of them, and that the Creeka wer under no obligation to interfere any furthe in the business. But Collins, ever faithfu to his trust, remained in ihat country, anc a correspondence took place between him and the honorable Secretary of War, anc other officers of Government, in regard t the measuree to be adopted in order to ge those negroes back into Slavery. Order were sent to Gen. Arbuckle, and counci of the Indians were calleH; the Indians however, showed but little disposition toaic their white brethren in enslaving thos who had gained their liberty by such concatenation of circumstances. In shor sir they showed almost as much insens bility to the claims of our slaveholders, a Our most civil ized friendo John Buil, ha so often evinced; excepting, alwaye, tha the Indians civily answered all question on the subject, while I believe the Britis Government has never condescended eve to hold any correspondence whatcver fo delivering up fuguive slaves. But, si while the Indians appeared thus insensib to tho appeals made to them in bebaJf o slaver)', the negroes theznselves appearec perfectly callous to all entreaties. Th Indians would not deliver them up, anc the negroes appeared to have become suc denly impressed wüh the belief that the cuuiu tako care of themselves. They rto feit themselves restored to that liberty o which they had so long beea unjustly de prived. Indeed, it appears that the ne groes were thorougb'y convinced of th perfect safety and propriety of "immediat emancipation and of Westera coloniza tion." They, at all events, appeared de termined to give the world sotne practica demonstrationson these subjects; and, sir 1 believe that they are yet carrying ou thatdetermination. Thusj you see, Mr.JClisirman, that th efforts of our honorable Secretary of War and of other officers of Government, failed to bring those negroes back to a stat of slavery, and the agents ofWatson were compelled to return without the negroes. But, in the meantime, Mr. Watson's money was gone, and the negroes were gone also. He had bought the negroes, as he says, upon the assurance of title held out to him by the officers of Government. These officers had exerted their utmost skill too get the negroes for him, but all had failed; and Mr. Watson then applied o congress for compensa tion for ijjs ioss. The commissioner of Indian AiTairs and he honorable Secretary of War both recommend the claim to the favorable con8ideration of congress, and urge us to make in appropriation. Of the propriety of loing S0j I shall say nothing at this time. hope to do my duty on that subject when t comea before us. My object now is, to how the manner in which the officers of his Government have attemp'od, not only o make us, in our national character, laveholders and slavetraders, but to make he freemen of the North pay this purchaer for slaves which he could not catch. beg leave give the opinión of the commiasioner of Indian Affairs, in his own words. In a letter to the honorableretary of War, dated July 1, 1840, speaking of these negroes, he sayB : "Any atterapt at enforcing a claim to thera under the Creek warriors, would perhaps, hav resulted in a conflict; and, as the hazardof such au issue prevented the use of morO than persuasive means, I think General Watson has a just claim on the United States, for the money he paid and interest," Thi8, sir, is the logic of the commissioner of Indian Affairs, and that same opinión is endorsed by the honorable Seoretary of Wan I have stated, and I think I have shown from authentic documenta, that the war in Florida originated in at tempt8 by our Executive officera to sup port and maintain slavery ; that it has been renewed and carried on for that purposo; that the money of our nation has been paid for the purchase of fugitive sla ves and of Indian slaves. To these I now add the fact that those officers deern it just that we should pay for slaves which the ownen cannot obtain. When I obtained the floor, I intended to liavu uttllcü tliu uucuiiüu jC hc cuiiiiuiuco to the mar.ner in which this war was ro newed after Gen. Macomb's treaty of peace in 1839. But 1 have already detained the committee too long, and Í will only say, that if the public papers are to be accredited, the people of Florida held meetings for the purpose of protesting against that trealy, for the reason that it perniitted the Indians to remain in Florida ; and they urged that the territory occupitd by them would afford a harbor fot ruiiaway slaves. Of course the war wa renewed, and continúes, anI,.like a migh- ty malestrom, draws within its vortexand swallows up the immense resources of the nation. For a period almost equal to that of our Revolutionary war, the peoploof the Northern States have been taxed ior the purpose of carrying on this contest, directed principally against the fugitive slave in Florida. To this war the foelings, the principies, the interests, the honor of the free States are opposed; yet, sir, they have been and still are compelled to furnish means for its prosecution. Revolting as trading in slaves is to the feelings of our Northern people, they have been constrained to supply the means of purchasing their fellow beings. Holding, as the people of the North do, "these truths to be self-evident, that mart is born free, and ut endowed by his Creator with the inalienable right of liberty,,they have been obüged to furnish money for the recapture and rcr-enslaving of those who, fleeing fronv the power that oppressed them, had sought in the wilds of Florida, those rights towhich, by the laws of nature, and oí na=ture's God they were entitled. Sir, 1 am anxious to see a period put to those abuses of Northern rights. I desira to see this war terminated at the earliest possible moments; but I fear that it wilt not be accomphshed by the method proposed by the gentleman from South Caroiina. My opinión is, that all attempta toremove the indians and leave the negree, will prove aborlive. We are told that the negroes control the Indians. With thee negroes, an unconditional surrender to u, would be a voluntary separation from their relatives and famjlies, and slavery forlife. They will probably prefer death to sucb an alternative. Of course the war will continue until the murder of those people by our army shall proclaim poace to Florida, who refuses peace upon other terms. For one, I am prepared to send all who will surrender themselves as prisonora of. war to the western country, under the pledged faiih of this nation to protect thera in the enjoyment of their lives, their liberty and their domestic relations ; and for that purpose I have prepared an amendnaent, which I now send to the Chair.

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Signal of Liberty
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