RCC Honors History Project

Henry Clay speech on Indians

Posted by steel13 on November 2, 2009

The United States stand charged with the fate of these poor children of the woods in the

face of their common Maker, and in presence of the world. And, as certain as the

guardian is answerable for the education of his infant ward, and the management of his

estate, will they be responsible here and hereafter, for the manner in which they shall

perform the duties of the high trust which is committed to their hands, by the force of

circumstances. Hitherto, since the United States became an independent power among

the nations of the earth, they have generally treated the Indians with justice, and

performed towards them all the offices of humanity. Their policy, in this respect, was

vindicated during the negotiations at Ghent, and the principles which guided them in their

relations with the Indians, were then promulgated to all Christendom. On that occasion,

their representatives, holding up their conduct in advantageous contrast with that of Great

Britain, and the other powers of Europe, said: “ . . . . the Indians residing within the

United States are so far independent, that they live under their own customs and not

under the laws of the United States; that their rights upon the lands where they inhabit or

hunt, are secured to them by boundaries defined in amicable treaties between the United

States and themselves; and that whenever those boundaries are varied, it is also by

amicable and voluntary treaties, by which they receive from the United States ample

compensation for every right they have to the land ceded by them . . . . That relation is

neither asserted now for the first time, nor did it originate with the [1795] treaty of

Greenville. These principles have been uniformly recognized by the Indians themselves,

not only by that treaty, but in all the other previous as well as the subsequent treaties

between them and the United States.” Such was the solemn annunciation to the whole

world, of the principles and of the system, regulating our relations with the Indians, as

admitted by us and recognized by them. There can be no violation of either, to the

disadvantage of the weak party, which will not subject us, as a nation, to the just

reproaches of all good men, and which may not bring down upon us the maledictions of a

more exalted and powerful tribunal.

Source: Henry Clay, Address to the Colonization Society of Kentucky, [Washington, DC] National

Intelligencer, January 12, 1830.

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