General Jesup: Treachery – Vile and Unblushing (1838)

(The Colored American/February 3, 1838) The conduct of General Jesup (see note) in decoying the Indians within his power by means of “the flag of truce,” and then sending them to a dungeon, is in the highest degree abominable. It must and certainly will bring down the indignation of heaven. It is not enough that the solemn treaties made with the poor red man, by which their lands were guaranteed, are ruthlessly violated, and the Indians, by the white man’s rapacity, driven far away from the graves of their fathers.

But now TREACHERY is added to COVENANT BREAKING. The doctrine that MIGHT MAKES RIGHT is practiced again. What a miserable wretch this called General Jesup must be, deliberately to plan such treachery upon the poor unsuspecting Indian.

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He has neither the courage nor the talent to meet and conquer these red men in battle, and now resorts again and again, to such treachery as has not yet been ventured upon even by the Turk or the lawless Arab.

“Sweet Hero! how thy image doth appear,
Composed and framed of treachery.”

An embassy of peace is sent forth – the pledge of love is held out – the Indians are decoyed by it, and then sent to a dungeon. Surely the poor confiding Indian,

“Gave thee no instance why thou shouldest do treason,
Unless to dub thee with the name of traitor.”

The following account, which we take from the Journal of Commerce, furnished by one of the delegation will fully exhibit this wicked measure.

Washington City, Dec. 31st, 1837:

We could not succeed in our mission to make peace with our red brethren, the Seminoles, but it was not our fault nor theirs, but that of the commanding officer of the army. Micanopy, the Principal of the Seminoles, and several chiefs who came in with us under the protection of my little white handkerchief as a flag of peace, were after it was ascertained that peace could not be established, sent to St. Augustine and thrown into prison; so much for the honor of the United States. This is the second violation of the flag of peace. – We remonstrated against the measure, but it availed nothing, and the poor Indians had to go to prison through our instrumentality. Under the strongest appearance, friendship and peace, we were made the instrument having sent them to a dungeon. But enough; I have not patience to write upon so painful a fact.

In 1836, while Jesup was still officially Quartermaster General, President Andrew Jackson detached him first to deal with the Creek tribe in Georgia and Alabama, and then to assume command of all U.S. troops in Florida during the Second Seminole War (1835–1842). His capture of Seminole leaders Osceola and Micanopy under a false flag of truce provoked controversy in the United States and abroad. Many newspapers called for an inquiry and his firing but the government supported its general, and at the conclusion of the hostilities, Jesup returned to his official post. He was famously quoted as having declared about the Seminole that “the country can be rid of them only by exterminating them.”

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