The Exiles of Florida Part 33

The position was evidently correct, and those disgraceful rules were repealed by the next Congress.

[130] This statement is founded upon the authority of Captain Sprague.

It is however certain, that many of the claimants actually received compensation from the public treasury for the loss of their slaves. The power to pay for them was a.s.sumed by Executive officers, under the appropriation act of March, 1841, without reference to Congress.

[131] Captain Sprague, in his history, enters into a somewhat lengthened apology for this practice of General Worth, by saying, the negroes were the most active and vindictive of the hostile forces; that, from the peculiar situation of the country, ten negroes could keep it in a state of constant alarm; that many of them had intermarried with the Seminoles and become identified with them, had acquired their habits, and would have been useless to their owners had they been delivered to them; that the negro would have remained in service but a few days, when he would have again taken to the swamps and hommocks, when he could elude pursuit, and would have been more vindictive than before.

[132] Vide opinions of the Attorney Generals, from 1838 to 1851, page 1944, Senate Doc. 55. It is a singular fact that, in the whole of this elaborate opinion, no allusion is made to the real condition of the Exiles; nor would any person suspect, from reading it, that the Attorney General had any knowledge of the claim which the Creeks preferred.

Although he quotes the clause in the articles of capitulation, which expressly and emphatically declares that "Major General Jessup, in behalf of the United States, agrees that the Seminoles _and their allies, who come in and emigrate, shall be protected in their lives and property_;" yet he appears never to have conceived the idea that such a stipulation could impose any duties upon our Government in favor of negroes; nor does he attempt to define the meaning of this most explicit covenant.

[133] Under this law, which is general in all slave States, free colored citizens of nearly every free State of the Union have been seized and enslaved, and are now toiling in chains.

[134] Hon. R. W. Johnson, a Representative from Arkansas, spoke of this wretch as having come from Louisiana; but from ma.n.u.script letters on file in the War Department, the Author is led to think he came from Florida, and had previously partic.i.p.ated in kidnapping Exiles in that Territory.

[135] The Author, being unable to obtain a publication of the doc.u.ments showing these facts, states them upon the best authority he possesses.

During the discussions upon what is called the Indian Appropriation Bill for 1852, in the House of Representatives of the United States, the following colloquial debate occurred, and is now cited as a part of the evidence on which these facts are stated. It will be found in the Congressional Globe of 1852, vol. 24, part 3d, pages 1804, 1805:

"Mr. GIDDINGS. I rise for a different purpose than that of expressing my approbation of the amendment which has just been read. I ask the especial attention of gentlemen to some interrogatories which I desire to propound for the purpose of obtaining information; and that the information may go to the country, I will observe, that I desire to have the experience of the able Chairman of the committee on Indian Affairs (Mr. Johnson of Arkansas), to obtain this intelligence. According to reliable information which I received in the summer of 1850, these Creek Indians, to whom attention has been turned, with force and violence, seized from seventy to one hundred free persons of color in the Indian Territory, or at least those claiming to be free, and enslaved, sold and transported them to the State of Louisiana, where they are now in servitude as slaves. I will state that this was done in violation of the treaty entered into in 1845, and in subversion of our solemn faith, entered into with these negroes during the Seminole War, in 1837. The official information upon this subject is in the Indian Department, where it has been received; and from which that we have not been able to obtain any intelligence by resolution, although a resolution for that purpose has been in my desk since the first day of the session. The questions I desire to propound to those gentlemen are--First, Is it a fact that those persons of color were seized and sold into slavery; and, second, by what claim of right or pretended t.i.tle did these Creek Indians enslave and sell those people?

"Mr. JOHNSON. I have no official knowledge in the matter at all.

Then as to the knowledge I have obtained incidentally, I do know that there has been a great contest in relation to a portion of these Creek Indian negroes; I do know that the matter has been looked into here in the Executive Departments; I do know that the matter has never been before the House at all, unless it has strangely escaped my notice; I know it has not been before my committee; I know the Attorney General of the United States has declared his opinion as to the t.i.tle of these negroes: I think there were seventy of them, though it might have been more or less.

So, then, I have no official information on the subject to which the gentleman alludes.

"Some two or three years ago, I know of a contest going on about the t.i.tle to these negroes, and that it was decided that they belonged to those Indians. They had established themselves in a free town, which they maintained with force and arms. There were heavy disturbances existing there in the Indian nation, amounting at times almost to civil war: I believe before it was done with, it was quite civil war. I know they were taken; but what was done with them, I do not know. They were taken, and carried out of the nation, with the design of holding them as property, when they could not hold them in the nation on account of the disturbance which they created. I know the decision of the Attorney General of the United States, as to the t.i.tle to these negroes; and that is the whole statement in regard to the matter as far as I can give it."

[136] The Author has written many letters, and made frequent efforts, to obtain a copy of the record of this writ, if any had been kept, and the proceedings, together with the opinion of the Judge thereon, but has not succeeded. The statement, therefore, rests on the verbal reports, current at the time in the Indian Country, and communicated to the Author by individuals who happened to be there at the time.

[137] The Author has been unable to obtain official data of the number of Exiles who remained in the Indian Country.

[138] The Author has been compelled to rely on verbal reports received from individuals for these facts. He also understood Mr. Johnston, the Representative from Arkansas, in the debate referred to in a former note, to say distinctly, that the Creeks pursued the Exiles, and that a _battle was fought_, but he was unable to state particulars.

[139] Vide Official Report of Major Emory, in regard to the boundary line between the United States and Mexico. He states the location of Wild Cat and the Seminole Indians, but omits all reference to the Exiles.

[140] This number has been increased by fresh arrivals from the Indian Country, since 1850.

[141] Vide Ma.n.u.script Letters now on file in the Indian Bureau at Washington.

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