Friends of the Indians Convention 1861

Friends of the Indians Convention of 1861

(Boston, February 27, 1861) In accordance with a general call, the Friends of the Indians met in Allston Hall, Boston, on the 26th of February. Father Beeson was chosen Chairman, and Richard Thayer, Secretary.

The Chairman opened the meeting by offering for consideration the following resolutions:

  • 1st Resolve: There is no law of nature or of necessity by which the Indians pariah before the march of civilization.
  • 2nd Resolve: That the Indians are capable of attaining the arts of civilized life.
  • 3nd Resolve: That the interact and honor of the American people are deeply involved in the civilization and protection of the Indian race.
  • 4th Resolve: That peace commissioners, of well-selected person, should be sent to every tribe in our States and Territories, to ascertain the nature and extent of existing difficulties, with a view to a final settlement in accordance with sanity and justice.
  • 6th Resolve: That a committee be appointed to apply to the proper department at Washington for authority and means to carry out the foregoing.

He remarked that it is commonly said that, with the disappearance of the forest and the buffalo, the Indian fades away from the land, and that so common is this idea that it seems stereotyped in the minds of all classes of society. We are told that there is a fixed law of nature, established by God himself, that the Indian shall perish before the march at civilization, and that the strong will overpower the weak, the big fish devour the smaller, and that we see this law in force throughout all nature.

William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator was a weekly abolitionist newspaper published in Boston. The paper held true to the founder’s ideals. Garrison was a journalistic crusader who advocated the immediate emancipation of all slaves and gained a national reputation for being one of the most radical of American abolitionists.

The Chairman admitted that all this is true, as applied to brute law, but not applicable to the true and higher nature of man. The strong brute may brutishly push away his fellow from the comforts provided alike for both; and men in all ages and nations, who are under the animal instead of the true human law, do the same towards their brother man.

But the legitimate effect of a true civilization and religion is to reverse this sentiment and practice, by inspiring sympathy for the sufferer, and using the strong to bear the burdens of the weak, “AND SO FULFILL THE LAW OF CHRIST.”

Webster defines civilization to consist in being AFFABLE, COURTEOUS, GENTLE and KIND. Now, although it is compatible with these qualities that, so far as use requires, the forests may be cleared away, and the buffaloes may be destroyed, yet It is utterly impossible that the exercise of these qualities should destroy, or even hurt, any human being. Hence, those who speak of Indians “perishing” before “civilization,” misapply the term; and for Christians, and especially Christian pastors, to do so, seems to me incomprehensible.

They tell us to look at facts. “Have not the Indians faded away,” say they, “from the landing of our Pilgrim Fathers to the present time! “Let us look at PRINCIPLES. A Christian civilization, for the promotion of which there are fifty thousand pastors in the United States, besides authors and professors, and organizations almost without number, works no ill to its neighbor; it is gentle, easy to be entreated, thinketh no evil, suffereth long, is kind, and is full of mercy and good works. It is certain, absolutely certain, that the outworking of these principles will clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and ensure homes for the homeless.

Nothing less than this is the gospel of glad tidings which Christ intended should be preached to “the poor” throughout all the world; and could it be offered to the Indians in sincerity and good faith, instead of the creeds and curses which they get, there is not one among the race but would receive it gladly.

But the fact that, instead of this, the Indians upon our frontiers are rubbed, and poisoned, and starved, and massacred, and made savage by the savageness of their treatment, is a demonstrative proof that the principles of Christianity are not applied or sustained; and it is obvious to every candid mind that they never can be, so long as those who are high in authority are continually harping about the Indian’s destiny to perish before “civilization,” and at the same time seem satisfied (for aught they do) with the spread of such a civilization.

A delegation of three gentlemen, with the power to fill vacancies, was chosen to visit Washington with on appeal to the General Government in behalf of the Indians remaining in our country.

The meeting then adjourned.

Source: The Liberator, March 8, 1861

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