Treaty Quick Finder
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 7th instant, requiring me to report any information in my posssion in relation to the treaties negotiated with the Indians in Calif transmitted to you on the 13th ultimo, when they were respectively received here; the causes which induced me to delay their transmission, whether they embraced any new principle; whether, in my judgment, the public interests would be promoted or impaired by their ratification any facts within my knowledge tending to elucidate the merits of the treaties.
In reply, I would most respectfully state, that the correspondance already sent to you, and the copies and extracts herewith of communication since received from the agents in California, and the Superintendent Indian Affairs for that State, contain, it is believed, all the material information in relation to the treaties which has reached this office.
1. Those negotiated by the board of commissioners were received February 18, 1852.
2. Those negotiated by Agent McKee were received on the same day.
3. Those negotiated by Agent Barbour were received February 2, 1852.
Those negotiated by Agent Wozencraft were received -- one July 9; two September 22; three November 3, 1851, and two on February 18, 1852.
The one received July 9 was represented in the letter enclosing it as a "copy," and it was not until recently that it was discovered to be an original.
The treaties were not transmitted to you at an earlier day because it was desirable to consider them all in connexion, and some of them, as above shown, were not received until recently, end because it was believed that further information was necessary to enable the department to judge correctly as to their merits and the action required in regard to their final disposition. It was known that the delegation in Congress from California were opposed to the treaties, and that there was violent opposition to them in the legislature of that State, where they were undergoing investigation. The final action of that body on the subject has not yet been ascertained. Under these circumstances it seemed to be prudent to take fuIl time for inquiry and deliberation, especially as there was, and is, in my judgment, good reason to apprehend that the hasty rejection of the treaties would be followed by a general Indian war in California, disastrous to the interests of that State and the country at large.
Some of the stipulations of these treaties are regarded as new, the most important of which is that providing for an entire relinquishment of title by some of the tribes, and their permanent settlement within the limits of a State on lands not previously owned by them. This provision, as far as I know, is without precedent; but I am by no means prepared to say it is wrong. On the contrary, I am inclined to consider it both necessary and proper in consequence of the impracticability of removing the Indians beyond the limits of the State, and of the expediency of withdrawing them from their intermixture with the white population. Another peculiarity of these treaties is that they stipulate for no annuities to be paid in perpetuity or for a series of years, according to the common practice heretofore. In view of the probable necessity for future negotiations with these Indians, it is fortunate that a knowledge of the annuity system has not been introduced among them. It is a system fraught with evil, and when once adopted it is impossible to get rid of it.
The treaties also provide that all difficulties between different tribes or members of the same tribe shall be adjusted by the agent of the Government, and that controversies between Indians and whites shall be settled by the civil tribunals of the State.
Should these provisions be energetically and faithfully enforced they would doubtless be productive of the most salutary results.
There are some other features of these treaties that might be characterized as novel, but they are not of sufficient importance to require particular notice.
With respect to the question whether the public interest would be promoted or impaired by their ratification I would respectfully refer to the accompanying communication from Superintendent Beale, whose remarks on this point appear to me to be reasonable and just. I entirely concur with him in opinion that a rejection of the treaties without the adoption of precautionary measures guarding against a general outbreak on the part of the Indians would be hazardous and unwise.
The papers heretofore and now communicated contain, I believe, all the facts within my knowledge calculated to elucidate the merits of the treaties. In considering this important and perplexing question it should not be forgotten that our Indian affairs in California, like everything else pertaining to that country, are in an extraordinary and anomalous condition.
Those entrusted with their management have had to contend with manifold embarrassments and difficulties.' That they have made mistakes or fallen into errors is by no means a matter of surprise; it would be strange if they had not. Their conduct in some respects has been improper; I allude particularly to their making contracts for fulfilling treaties in advance of their ratification.
In this they certainly acted without authority, but it is equally certain that they did not act without precedent. How far precedent and the pressure of the circumstances by which they were surrounded should excuse their unauthorized proceedings it is difficult, without more perfect information than I possess, to determine; nor is it material to the present inquiry, as the merits of the treaties cannot be affected hy the subsequent action of the agents by whom they were negotiated.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
L. LEA, Commissioner.
Hon. A. H. H. Stuart,
Secretary of the Interior.
Report of E. F. Beale, Esq., Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the State of California