74. Indian Commissioner Taylor on Transfer of the Indian Bureau: Extract from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, November 23, 1868
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117 sake of justice to the Indians, I recommend that the management of Indian affairs be restored to the War Department, with authority to make regulations for their government and for their protection against lawless whites. . . . [House Executive Document no. 1, 40th Cong., 3d sess., serial 1367, pp. xvii–xviii.] 74. Indian Commissioner Taylor on Transfer of the Indian Bureau Extract from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs November 23, 1868 The proposal, advanced strongly in the late 1860s and again a decade later, to transfer the Bureau of Indian Affairs from civilian control under the Interior Department to military control under the War Department brought a spirited attack from Commissioner Nathaniel G. Taylor. He admitted, however, that affairs had not been well handled under the Interior Department, and he recommended the creation of a separate department of Indian affairs. The question of the transfer of the indian bureau to the War Department It will be seen, by recurring to the proceedings of the peace commission at its late meeting at Chicago, that a resolution was adopted recommending to Congress the transfer of the Indian Bureau to the War Department. In view of probable action upon that recommendation, and impelled by solemn convictions of duty, I feel called upon to offer some facts and arguments, for the consideration of Congress, in opposition to the proposed transfer, and to give some views, suggested by nearly two years’ intimate official connection with the Indian service, with regard to the best method for the future conduct of Indian affairs. In 1849, Congress, upon the creation of the Department of the Interior, incorporated the Bureau of Indian Affairs in that department , giving to its head the supervisory and appellate powers theretofore exercised over Indian affairs by the Secretary of War. It is now proposed to re-transfer the bureau to the War Office. It is presumed the question for legislative solution will be three-fold: Shall the bureau be transferred to the War Department; or shall it remain under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior; or shall it be erected into an independent department, upon an equal footing in all respects with the other departments , as recommended, unanimously, by the peace commission in their report to the President of 7th January last. I shall endeavor to present some reasons against the transfer. These I proceed to offer, assuming all the time that the transfer means that in future all our Indian affairs are to be administered by the army, under the direction of the War Office. My reasons in opposition are— 1. That the prompt, efficient, and successful management and direction of our Indian affairs is too large, onerous, and important a burden to be added to the existing duties of the Secretary of War. There is a limit to human capacity and endurance, and when either is taxed beyond that limit, it must fail in the performance of its functions, and the result must be disappointment , and most probably disaster, to the service. The business of the War Department, in all its varied and complex ramifications, is sufficient already, if properly transacted, to employ all the faculties of the most accomplished head, even with all the aids he may summon to his assistance; and there are few men living, if any, who can give the requisite attention to its demands, and at the same time discharge properly and with requisite promptness the delicate, important, and numerous duties the care of Indian affairs would superadd. None can deny that the safe and successful management of the military affairs of a republic of 40,000,000 of people, demands the constant and exclusive exercise of all the powers of an accomplished and experienced statesman. Alittleinvestigation,andevenasuperficial 118 knowledge and a little reflection, will convince every candid mind that there is no branch of the public service more intricate and difficult, and involving more varied and larger public and private interests, than our “Indian affairs;” none requiring in their control and direction a larger brain, or a more sensitive and charitable heart. If these things be true, the conclusion is irresistible that the proposed “transfer” is unreasonable and wrong. If the argument applies as well to the Interior as to the War Department, let it be so; its force is not abated by the admission. 2. The “transfer,” in my judgment, will create a necessity for maintaining a large standing army in...