12. Establishment of the War Department, August 7, 1789
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13 could not be undertaken with a probability of success, with less then an army of 2,500 men. The regular troops of the United States on the frontiers, are less than six hundred; of that number, not more than four hundred could be collected from the posts for the purpose of the expedition. To raise, pay, feed, arm, and equip 1900 additional men, with their necessary officers for six months, and to provide every thing in the hospital and quartermaster ’s line, would require the sum of 200,000 dollars; a sum far exceeding the ability of the United States to advance, consistently with a due regard to other indispensable objects. Were the representations of the people of the frontiers (who have imbibed the strongest prejudices against the Indians, perhaps in consequence of the murders of their dearest friends and connexions) only to be regarded, the circumstances before stated, would not appear conclusive—an expedition, however inadequate, must be undertaken. But when the impartial mind of the great public sits in judgment, it is necessary that the cause of the ignorant Indians should be heard as well as those who are more fortunately circumstanced. It well becomes the public to inquire before it punishes; to be influenced by reason, and the nature of things, and not by its resentments. It would be found, on examination, that both policy and justice unite in dictating the attempt of treating with the Wabash Indians: for it would be unjust, in the present confused state of injuries, to make war on those tribes without having previously invited them to a treaty, in order amicably to adjust all differences. If they should afterwards persist in their depredations, the United States may with propriety inflict such punishment as they shall think proper . . . The time has arrived, when it is highly expedient that a liberal system of justice should be adopted for the various Indian tribes within the limits of the United States. By having recourse to the several Indian treaties, made by the authority of Congress, since the conclusion of the war with Great Britain, excepting those made January 1789, at fort Harmar, it would appear, that Congress were of opinion, that the Treaty of Peace, of 1783, absolutely invested them with the fee of all the Indian lands within the limits of the United States; that they had the right to assign, or retain such portions as they should judge proper. But it is manifest, from the representations of the confederated Indians at the Huron village, in December, 1786, that they entertained a different opinion, and that they were the only rightful proprietors of the soil; and it appears by the resolve of the 2d of July, 1788, that Congress so far conformed to the idea, as to appropriate a sum of money solely to the purpose of extinguishing the Indian claims to lands they had ceded to the United States, and for obtaining regular conveyances of the same. This object was accordingly accomplished at the treaty of fort Harmar, in January, 1789. The principle of the Indian right to the lands they possess being thus conceded, the dignity and interest of the nation will be advanced by making it the basis of the future administration of justice towards the Indian tribes. . . . As the settlements of the whites shall approach near to the Indian boundaries established by treaties, the game will be diminished , and the lands being valuable to the Indians only as hunting grounds, they will be willing to sell further tracts for small considerations . By the expiration, therefore, of the above period, it is most probable that the Indians will, by the invariable operation of the causes which have hitherto existed in their intercourse with the whites, be reduced to a very small number. . . . [American State Papers: Indian Affairs, 1:13–14.] 12. Establishment of the War Department August 7, 1789 When the First Congress under the Constitution established the War Department, it placed Indian affairs under its jurisdiction, where they remained until the establishment of the Interior Department in 1849. 14 An Act to establish an Executive Department, to be denominated the Department of War. Section 1. Be it enacted . . . , That there shall be an executive department to be denominated the Department of War, and that there shall be a principal officer therein, to be called the Secretary for the Department of War, who shall perform and execute such duties as shall from time to time be...


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