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Upon the subject of the Indians, you will represent that an adequate arrangement of their interests is considered by your Government as a sine qua non of peace; and that they will, under this head, require not only that a full and express recognition of their limits shall take place: you will also throw out the importance of the two States entering into arrangements, which may hereafter place their mutual relations with each other, as well as with the several Indian nations, upon a footing of less jealousy and irritation. This may be best effected by a mutual guarantee of the Indian possessions, as they shall be established upon the peace, against encroachment on the part of either State. Much of the disquietude to both Governments, as connected with Indian affairs, has been produced by that regular and progressive system of encroachment which renders the Indians resentful and discontented, and which, by gradually approximating the American and British settlements, gives both States a motive for interference in Indian affairs which would not otherwise exist. The best prospect of future peace appears to be that the two Governments should regard the Indian territory as a useful barrier between both States, to prevent collision; and that, having agreed mutually to respect the integrity of their territory, they have a common interest to render these people, as far as possible, peaceful neighbours to both States.
The Plenipotentiaries of the United States to the Secretary of State,
GHENT, August 12th, 1814.
The British Commissioners then stated the following subjects as those upon which it appeared to them that the discussions would be likely to turn, and on which they were instructed:
2d. The Indian allies of Great Britain to be included in the pacification, and a definite boundary to be settled for their territory.
The British Commissioners stated that an arrangement upon this point was a sine qua non; that they were not authorized to conclude a treaty of peace which did not embrace the Indians as
1 American State Papers, Foreign Relations, Vol. III, p. 705
allies of His Britannic Majesty; and that the establishment of a definite boundary of the Indian territory was necessary to secure a permanent peace, not only with the Indians, but also between the United States and Great Britain.
There could be no hesitation on our part in informing the British commissioners that we were not instructed on the subjects of Indian pacification or boundary, and of fisheries; nor did it seem probable, although neither of these points had been stated with sufficient precision in the first verbal conference, that they could be admitted in any shape. We did not wish, however, to prejudge the result, or, by any hasty proceeding, abruptly to break off the negotiation. It was not impossible that, on the subject of the Indians, the British Government had received erroneous impressions from the Indian traders in Canada, which our representations might remove. And it appeared, at all events, important to ascertain distinctly the precise intentions of Great Britain on both points. We, therefore, thought it advisable to invite the British commissioners to a general conversation on all the points; stating to them, at the same time, our want of instructions on two of them, and holding out no expectation of the probability of our agreeing to any article respecting these.
At our meeting on the ensuing day, we informed the British commissioners that, upon the first and third points proposed by them, we were provided with instructions;
We then stated that the two subjects, first, of Indian pacification and boundary; second, of fisheries, were not embraced by our instructions. We observed, that as these points had not been heretofore the grounds of any controversy between the Government of Great Britain and that of the United States, and had not been alluded to by Lord Castlereagh in his letter proposing the negotiation, it could not be expected that they should have been anticipated and made the subject of instructions by our Government. That it was natural to be supposed that our instructions were confined to those subjects upon which differences between the two countries were known to exist; and that the proposition to define in the treaty between the United States and Great Britain the boundary of the Indian possessions within our own territories, was new and without example. No such provision had been inserted in the treaty of peace in 1783, nor in any other treaty between the two countries. No such provision had, to our knowl
edge, ever been inserted in any treaty made by Great Britain, or any other European Power, in relation to the same description of people, existing under like circumstances. We would say, however, that it could not be doubted that peace with the Indians would certainly follow a peace with Great Britain; that we had information that commissioners had already been appointed to treat with them; that a treaty to that effect might, perhaps, have been already concluded; and that the United States, having no interest nor any motive to continue a separate war against the Indians, there could never be a moment when our Government would not be disposed to make peace with them.
In reply to our observation, that the proposed stipulation of an Indian boundary was without example in the practice of European nations, it was asserted that the Indians must in some sort be considered as an independent people, since treaties were made with them both by Great Britain and by the United States; upon which we pointed out the obvious and important difference between the treaties we might make with Indians living in our territory and such a treaty as was proposed to be made respecting them with a foreign Power, who had solemnly acknowledged the territory on which they resided to be part of the United States.
We were then asked by the British commissioners, whether, in case they should enter further upon the discussion of the several points which had been stated, we could expect that it would terminate by some provisional arrangement on the points on which we had no instructions, particularly on that respecting the Indians, which arrangement would be subject to the ratification of our Government.
We answered, that before the subjects were distinctly understood, and the objects in view more precisely disclosed, we could not decide whether it would be possible to form any satisfactory article on the subject, nor pledge ourselves as to the exercise of a discretion under our powers, even with respect to a provisional agreement.
We took this opportunity to remark, that no nation observed a policy more liberal and humane towards the Indians than that pursued by the United States; that our object had been, by all practicable means, to introduce civilization amongst them; that their possessions were secured to them by well defined boundaries; that their persons, lands, and other property, were now more effectually protected against violence or frauds, from
any quarter, than they had been under any former Government; that even our citizens were not allowed to purchase their lands; that when they gave up their title to any portion of their country to the United States, it was by voluntary treaty with our Government, who gave them a satisfactory equivalent; and that through these means the United States had succeeded in preserving, since the treaty of Greenville of 1795, an uninterrupted peace of sixteen years with all the Indian tribes-a period of tranquillity much longer than they were known to have enjoyed heretofore.
It was then expressly stated on our part, that the proposition respecting the Indians was not distinctly understood. We asked whether the pacification and the settlement of a boundary for them were both made a sine qua non? which was answered in the affirmative. The question was then asked the British commissioners, whether the proposed Indian boundary was intended to preclude the United States from the right of purchasing by treaty from the Indians, without the consent of Great Britain, lands lying beyond that boundary, and as a restriction upon the Indians from selling, by amicable treaties, lands to the United States, as had been hitherto practised?
To this question it was first answered, by one of the commissioners, that the Indians would not be restricted from selling their lands, but that the United States would be restricted from purchasing them; and, on reflection, another of the commissioners stated that it was intended that the Indian territories should be a barrier between the British dominions and those of the United States; that both Great Britain and the United States should be restricted from purchasing their lands; but that the Indians might sell them to a third party.
The proposition respecting Indian boundaries, thus explained, and connected with the right of sovereignty ascribed to the Indians over the country, amounted to nothing less than a demand of the absolute cession of the rights both of sovereignty and of soil. We cannot abstain from remarking to you, that the subject of Indian boundary was indistinctly stated when first proposed, and that the explanations were at first obscure, and always given with reluctance; and it was declared, from the first moment, to be a sine qua non, rendering any discussion unprofitable until it was
admitted as a basis. Knowing that we had no power to cede to the Indians any part of our territory, we thought it unnecessary to ask, what probably would not have been answered till the principle was admitted, where the line of demarcation of the Indian country was proposed to be established.
The British commissioners, after having repeated that their instructions on the subject of the Indians were peremptory, stated that, unless we could give some assurance that our powers would allow us to make at least a provisional arrangement on the subject, any further discussion would be fruitless; and that they must consult their own Government on this state of things. They proposed, accordingly, a suspension of the conferences until they should have received an answer; it being understood that each party might call a meeting whenever they had any propositions to submit.
Before the proposed adjournment took place, it was agreed that there should be a protocol of the conferences; that a statement should, for that purpose, be drawn up by each party; and that we should meet the next day to compare the statements. We accordingly met again on Wednesday, the roth instant, and ultimately agreed on what should constitute the protocol of the conferences. A copy of this instrument we have the honor to transmit with this dispatch; and we also enclose a copy of the statement originally drawn up on our part, for the purpose of making known to you the passages to which the British commissioners objected.
Their objection to some of the passages was, that they appeared to be argumentative; and that the object of the protocol was to contain a mere statement of facts. They, however, objected to the insertion of the answer which they had given to our question respecting the effect of the proposed Indian boundary; but they agreed to an alteration of their original proposition on that subject, which renders it much more explicit than is stated either in the first conference or in their proposed draft of the protocol. They also objected to the insertion of the fact, that they had proposed to adjourn the conferences until they could obtain further instructions from their Government."