restricted access 33. Creation of a Bureau of Indian Affairs in the War Department, March 11, 1824
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37 avoidably ensued. European policy, numbers, and skill, prevailed. As the white population advanced, that of the Indians necessarily receded. The country in the immediate neighbourhood of agriculturists became un- fit for them. The game fled into thicker and more unbroken forests, and the Indians followed . The soil, to which the crown originally claimed title, being no longer occupied by its ancient inhabitants, was parcelled out according to the will of the sovereign power, and taken possession of by persons who claimed immediately from the crown, or mediately, through its grantees or deputies. That law which regulates, and ought to regulate in general, the relations between the conqueror and conquered, was incapable of application to a people under such circumstances . The resort to some new and different rule, better adapted to the actual state of things, was unavoidable. Every rule which can be suggested will be found to be attended with great difficulty. However extravagant the pretension of converting the discovery of an inhabited country into conquest may appear; if the principle has been asserted in the first instance , and afterwards sustained; if a country has been acquired and held under it; if the property of the great mass of the community orginates in it, it becomes the law of the land, and cannot be questioned. So, too, with respect to the concomitant principle, that the Indian inhabitants are to be considered merely as occupants, to be protected, indeed, while in peace, in the possession of their lands, but to be deemed incapable of transferring the absolute title to others. However this restriction may be opposed to natural right, and to the usages of civilized nations, yet, if it be indispensable to that system under which the country has been settled, and be adapted to the actual condition of the two people, it may, perhaps, be supported by reason, and certainly cannot be rejected by Courts of justice. . . . It has never been contended, that the Indian title amounted to nothing. Their right of possession has never been questioned. The claim of government extends to the complete ultimate title, charged with this right of possession, and to the exclusive power of acquiring that right. . . . After bestowing on this subject a degree of attention which was more required by the magnitude of the interest in litigation, and the able and elaborate arguments of the bar, than by its intrinsic difficulty, the Court is decidedly of opinion, that the plaintiffs do not exhibit a title which can be sustained in the Courts of the United States; and that there is no error in the judgment which was rendered against them in the District Court of Illinois. [8 Wheaton, 543, 587–92, 603–5.] 33. Creation of a Bureau of Indian Affairs in the War Department March 11, 1824 Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, without special congressional authorization, set up a “Bureau of Indian Affairs” within his department and assigned the duties of the office to Thomas L. McKenney. McKenney held the office until dismissed by President Jackson in 1830. Congress confirmed the position, then designated “Commissioner of Indian Affairs,” in 1832. Department of War March 11th, 1824 Sir: To you are assigned the duties [of] the Bureau of Indian Affairs in this Department, for the faithful performance of which you will be responsible. Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Miller are assigned to you, the former as chief, and the latter as assistant clerk. You will take charge of the appropriations for annuities, and of the current expenses , and all warrants on the same will be issued on your requisitions on the Secretary of War, taking special care that no requisition be issued, but in cases where the money previously remitted has been satisfactorily accounted for, and on estimates in detail, approved by you, for the sum required . You will receive and examine the accounts and vouchers for the expenditure thereof, and will pass them over to the proper 38 Auditor’s Office for settlement, after examination and approval by you; submitting such items for the sanction of this Department as may require its approval. The administration of the fund for the civilization of the Indians is also committed to your charge, under the regulations established by the Department. You are also charged with the examination of the claims arising out of the laws regulating the intercourse with Indian Tribes, and will, after examining and briefing the same, report them to this Department, endorsing a recommendation for...


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