restricted access 9. Committee Report on the Southern Department, August 3, 1787
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10 9. Committee Report on the Southern Department August 3, 1787 The conduct of Indian affairs under the Articles of Confederation suffered because of conflicts between federal and state authority. The proviso in the Indian clause of the Articles gave the states grounds for independent action which seriously weakened the authority of the general government in dealing with the Indians. A special committee which investigated Indian troubles in the southern department in 1787 considered the action of the states to be the crucial problem in Indian affairs. . . . . [The committee observe] that the encroachments complained of appear to demand the serious attention of Congress, as well because they may be unjustifiable as on account of their tendency to produce all the evils of a general Indian war on the frontiers. The committee are convinced that a strict enquiry into the causes and circumstances of the hostilities often committed in and near the frontier settlements ought to be made; that it is become necessary for government to be explicit and decisive, and to see that impartial justice is done between the parties; that Justice and policy as well as the true interests of our citizens, evince the propriety of promoting peace and free trade between them and the Indians. Various circumstances shew that the Indians, in general, within the United States want only to enjoy their lands without interruption, and to have their necessities regularly supplied by our traders, and could these objects be effected, no other measures would, probably be necessary for securing peace and a profitable trade with those Indians. . . . An avaricious disposition in some of our people to acquire large tracts of land and often by unfair means, appears to be the principal source of difficulties with the Indians. There can be no doubt that settlements are made by our people on the lands secured to the Cherokees, by the late treaty between them and the United States; and also on lands near the Oconee claimed by the Creeks, various pretences seem to be set up by the white people for making those settlements, which the Indians tenacious of their rights, appear to be determined to oppose. From these contrary claims, difficulties arise which are not easily removed. The respective titles cannot readily be investigated: but there is another circumstance far more embarrassing, and that is the clause in the confederation relative to managing all affairs with the Indians, &c. is differently construed by Congress and the two States within whose limits the said tribes and disputed lands are. The construction contended for by those States, if right, appears to the committee, to leave the federal powers, in this case, a mere nullity; and to make it totally uncertain on what principle Congress is to interfere between them and the said tribes; The States not only contend for this construction, but have actually pursued measures in conformity to it. North Carolina has undertaken to assign land to the Cherokees, and Georgia has proceeded to treat with the Creeks concerning peace, lands, and the objects, usually the principal ones in almost every treaty with the Indians. This construction appears to the committee not only to be productive of confusion, disputes and embarrassments in managing affairs with the Independent tribes within the limits of the States, but by no means the true one. The clause referred to is, “Congress shall have the sole and exclusive right and power of regulating the trade and managing all affairs with the Indians, not members of any of the States; provided that the Legislative right of any State within its own limits be not infringed or violated”. In forming this clause, the parties to the federal compact, must have had some definite objects in view; the objects that come into view principally, in forming treaties or managing Affairs with the Indians, had been long understood and pretty well ascertained in this country. The committee conceive that it has been long the opinion of the country, supported by Justice and humanity, that the Indians have just claims to all lands occupied by and not fairly purchased from them; and that in managing affairs with them, the principal objects have been those of making war and peace, purchasing certain tracts of their lands, fixing the 11 boundaries between them and our people, and preventing the latter settling on lands left in possession of the former. The powers necessary to these objects appear to the committee to be indivisible, and that the parties to...