« AnkstesnisTęsti »
ship, involving the liability to taxation, when any one accepts the privilege of voting; the privilege of voting to be allowed to those accepting it and paying a poll-tax, whether the towns tax real or personal property, or not; and when the towns do tax the real or personal property of one thus accepting the privilege of voting, they shall become liable for the support of the individual and his descendants, as in the case of other citizens; and when the privilege of citizenship is once assumed, and the right of taxation once exercised, the individual, from that time forth for ever, shall be, to all intents and purposes, a citizen of the state, and debarred from returning to the condition of an Indian.
"4th. The appointment of one Indian commissioner, who shall direct the application of all moneys appropriated by the state for the benefit of the Indians, and who shall devote his whole time, if need be, to their improvement, especially to devising means for gradually preparing them for the privileges of citizenship.
"Upon the first point, we think there can hardly be a difference of opinion
"2nd. The merging of the smaller remnants in the general community. We entertain not the slightest doubt that this, with the restrictions afterwards indicated, is desirable and practicable. The Fall River, Dudley, Grafton, Punkapog, and Natick, are few in number; and, as the inducements to remain on their lands are small, they are more and more scattering every year, never to return. They have but little land, or property of any kind, have no separate schools or preaching, and receive no money for these purposes, either from the State or benevolent societies. They will soon lose their individuality, as other tribes have done. The lands of the Punkapog and Natick tribes are already all sold; the Legislature will undoubtedly, before long, be called upon to provide for the sale of the lands of other small tribes. The course we recommend we believe to be in accordance with sound State policy, and with a humane regard for the welfare of the Indians.
"3rd. There are difficulties connected with the matter of gradually extending to the Indians the privileges of citizenship; but none, we are convinced, which may not be overcome by an earnest and intelligent effort to accomplish so desirable a result. We need not repeat our conviction that the only way to provide for the permanent improvement of the Indian, is to show him the path of escape from political and civil disfranchisement; and we believe that the plan we recommend, with the restrictions suggested, and others which will occur to those whose duty it shall be to arrange the details of the law, while it imposes no liabilities either upon the Indian or the town which they do not voluntarily assume, opens to the Indian a certain prospect of civil, political, and social elevation.
"4th. But, whether the other recommendations be adopted or not, we regard the appointment of a single commissioner, instead of the several guardians and the commissioner of Marshpee, as indispensable to the improvement of the Indians. They have been so long under disabilities as to be, as a whole, incapable, at present, of self-government; still there is enough of the Indian impatience of restraint to make them dislike the idea of guardianship. They need counsel, advice, encouragement; almost universally they are teachable and accessible to kind influences. A single commissioner, intelligent, sagacions, and prudent, acting upon system, and devising means of permanent improvement, entrusted with disrcetion to apply the funds appropriated by the State for their benefit, would contribute, more than any other instrumentality we can conceive, to their permanent welfare, and to prepare them for the privileges of citizenship. The influence of the guardian must be purely parental. The smallest element of dictation or control, in any system designed for their improvement, will defeat all its aims. They have too good reason to be jealous of the white man, to be ready to acquiesce in any measures which are not, to their own comprehension, benevolent in their motives and tendencies The whole success of any system of measures, the only hope of any permanent improvement, will depend upon the character of the commissioner. The amount now paid annually, for the salaries of the commissioner of Marshpee and Herring Pond and the several guardians, is $540. This is somewhat less than the average for the last six years. A small addition to this amount would secure the services of a competent person, as commissioner, for the whole state. The advantages arising from the familiarity of the commissioner with the facts necessary to be known to the committees of the Legislature, would alone equal the amount of his salary. We earnestly recommend this matter to the favorable consideration of the Legislature."
"While, therefore, the Legislature should not impose upon them any change which they do not voluntarily adopt, they owe it to the advantages of their position to recommend such measures as they think would conduce to their improvement, and to tender to them every facility for a fair trial of those measures. Disfranchisement and depression have almost become the normal condition of the poor Indians; they cannot appreciate the almost miraculous power of a cordial recognition and a practical application of the principle of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, at whose Ithuriel touch, nations have, during the past year, been literally born in a day.' We boast of the successful solution of the problem of self-government; but we exclude from its operation nearly a thousand of our citizens. It is not enough to assert, until the Indian has been brought within the reach, at least, if not under the full influence, of complete civil and political enfran
chisement, that it will not exert the same vivifying influence upon him as upon the Anglo-Saxon."
"No man can say what would have been the present condition of the Indians, but for these disabilities. It will not do to say that the Indian is incapable of improvement. The experiment has never been fairly tried. Efforts have been made to Christianize and elevate them; and we are gravely told that, because they always have failed, therefore they always must fail; but it seems to have been forgotten, that the effect of these efforts has always been controlled by the crushing influence of civil and political disability, and, as a necessary result of these, of social proscription. It is, as Frederick Douglass says in relation to the incapacity of the African race for improvement-himself an eloquent refutation of the falsity of the affirmation:- Sixteen millions of Anglo-Saxons grind to the very dust three millions of Africans. Take your heels off our necks, and see if we do not rise.' We have treated the Indians as wards, serfs, vassals, slaves. We have taken the management of their property, and have allowed it to be squandered and lost. We claim the right to dispose of their persons, giving their guardians the power to bind them out, as minors, and to appropriate the proceeds of their labor, at their own almost irresponsible discretion. That this power has not been abused, is owing to the character of the guardians, and to a state of public opinion, which, unfortunately, has not yet infused itself into the laws. Can we hesitate as to the duty of the commonwealth to those whom Chief-Justice Parker terms 'the unfortunate children of the public." "
No words of ours can add anything to these lucid and comprehensive statements of the Commissioners. Every humane man is their debtor for the patience with which they have investigated this subject; and none can be offended with a zeal which keeps so singularly within the bounds of moderation, after months spent in the consideration of so touching and painful a picture. "There is a prudent wisdom, and there is also a wisdom which does not remind us of prudence," says a thoughtful writer. If the calculating conservatism of the State House must still scorn the latter, we do not see how it can refuse to place the plan of the Commissioners among the best fruits of the former. While the humanity of the State gathers up the blind, the dumb, the idiot, and the insane; while strong friends compel attention to the slave, let us see for once the mercy of the majority toward those whose only plea is their feebleness, their friendlessness, and their wrongs. The first word from Indian lips that our annals have
preserved is "Welcome." Let us so govern that the last farewell of the going out of the race may be "Thanks." Whatever Men may say of our conduct toward them when their fortune was at high noon, let History have it to record that their sun went down in peace. Our Institutions have not proved themselves very wonderful, if they only give new vigor to a race that was already blossoming under the best culture of the old world—the ripe fruit of English polity and life. Let them be shown capable of redeeming the African from the long degradation of centuries, of returning the "welcome" which the red man gave us to his new world by lifting him to the level of our own civilization, and endowing him with the treasures of the past, and the capacity to use and enjoy them. There is one moral to be drawn from this experiment of Indian life in the midst of us, which throws light on the solution of a question esteemed so dark and difficult that every, the least, ray from any quarter should be welcome. "How shall Slavery be dealt with? The Indian, few in numbers, separated by an insolent barrier of caste from the dominant race, isolated at school and church, put under guardianship that he might, in time, be fitted to spend his own money and vote for his neighbors, is found, after the lapse of a century and the trial of three generations, where? In such plight that humanity weeps, and the best state-craft is dumb and confounded. We commend the picture to the careful consideration of those who propose for the Slave a gradual emancipation, apprenticeship, pupillage, a preparation in the mill of white mercy for the care of himself, a holding in leading strings; till he too is ready for the ballot box. No: but till, three generations wasted in the experiment, our great grandchildren shall weep over his wretchedness, and curse the short-sighted and cruel disbelief of their fathers in the great law that Right is always expediency.
For Massachusetts we hope the considerable experiment of her Indian tribes will be enough to induce her to hold on to the principle she has so often avowed, of immediate, unconditional enfranchisement, having learnt from the sacrifice of her thousand sons, at least, this lesson, that to be free is the only discipline which can fit man for freedom, and that patience under the temporary evils of the first years of such emancipa tion are the inevitable atonement the son must make for the sin of his fathers.
ART. VIII.-THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE LATE MR. POLK.
THE administration of Mr. Polk took place at an important period in the affairs of the nation; it is connected with some of the most remarkable events which have happened in America since the adoption of the Constitution-events which will deeply and long affect the welfare of the people. The time has not yet come when the public, or any person, can fully appreciate the causes then put or kept in action. But the administration was so remarkable, the events connected with it so new in our history, and so important, that it seems to us worth while to pause a moment and study this chapter in American politics, with such light as we now possess. It becomes the more important to do this just as a new Congress is about to assemble, while the government is connected with a new President not very well tried in political affairs. In judging the contemporary events of our country it would be ridiculous in us to pretend to the same coolness and impartiality which it is easy to have in studying the politics of times a thousand years gone by; still, we think we have no prejudice against Mr. Polk or his administration, or in favor thereof; certainly we do not look through the partizan eyes of a Democrat, or a Whig, or a Free Soiler, but are ready to praise or blame an idea, a measure, or an act, on its own account, without asking what political family it belongs to.
The materials for the history of this administration are abundant and accessible. We make no pretentions to a knowledge of the Secrets of either party; they would be of small value if known. The volumes of private and confidential letters of some New York politicians, of which so much talk was made a few years ago, contain much matter for gossip, some even for scandal, little for history, and for political philosophy nothing at all. We neither seek nor welcome information from such quarters. In politics, as in all science, the common and obvious facts are of the greatest value. With the secret history of the Baltimore Convention, of the Congress, or the Cabinet, we have nothing to do, only with their public acts. Our information will be drawn chiefly from public documents.
We have nothing to say of the personal character and pri vate motives of the distinguished actors in the political drama.