Article Title: "Two full pages. A House of Representatives committee report, defeated, exonerating Jackson's occupation of Florida and upholding his execution of British subjects Arbuthnot and Ambrister as 'foreign incendiaries.' "
Author:
Published in: Connecticut Courant
Place of Publication: Hartford, CT
Publication Date: 1/26/1819




CONGRESS.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Tuesday, January 12.
SEMINOLE WAR, c.
Continued from our last.
COUNTER REPORT.
Mr. Johnson, of Kentucky, also of the military committee, submitted a paper drawn up in the shape of a report by that committee, which by a majority of one vote, that committee had refused to accept, and said paper was read as follows :
THE Committee, to whom was referred so much of the President's Message as relates to the Seminole War, and the proceedings in the trial of Alexander Arbuthnot and Robert C. Ambrister, Report
That, Gen. Jackson, in a short, though sanguinary war, with the Creek nation of Indians, brought them to terms of peace ; and in the summer of 1814, a treaty concluded with them, wherein they ceded to the United States a territory embracing several millions of acres of land ; the effect of this cession was, the cutting off the Indian establishments between the settlements of the U. States in Georgia and Alabama, and the Spanish territory. This object being obtained, future peace and safety to our citizens in that quarter, were confidently anticipated ; but, contrary to these just expectations, it was discovered that a hostile disposition was still entertained by the Seminoles tribe of that nation, aided by fugitive negroes, and instigated by foreign incendiaries. It having been represented to the government, that murders had been committed on our defenceless citizens, Gen. Gaines was ordered, in the summer of 1817, with a considerable force to take a station in that section, for their protection. Gen Gaines was directed to keep within the territorial limits of the United States, and abstain from every attempt to cross the Florida line ; but to demand of the Indians the perpetrators of the crimes thus committed, in order that punishment might be inflicted upon the guilty, without involving the innocent, and without a general rupture with these deluded savages. The fact of such murders having been ascertained, attended with aggravating circumstances of rapine and cruelty, Gen. Gaines, in conformity with his orders, made the demand. The savages through the deceptive representations of foreign incendiaries, were led to believe that the strength of the United States was not sufficient to subdue them ; or if their own forces were incompetent to sustain the conflict, they would receive assistance from the British.These promises, made by these unauthorised agents, were predicated upon a pretence, that the United States had bound themselves, by the treaty of Ghent, to restore the lands which the Indians had ceded, previously to that treaty, at Fort Jackson ; and that the British government would enforce its observance. Under this influence, they not only refused the murders, but repeated their massacres whenever opportunity afforded ; and, to evade the arm of justice, took refuge across the line, in Florida. In this state of affairs, in November, 1817, Lt. Scott, of the United States army, under Gen. Gaines, with 47 persons, men, women, and children, in a boat on the Apalachicola river, about a mile below the junction of the Flint and the Chatahochie, was surprised by an ambuscade of Indians, fired upon, and the whole detachment killed and taken by the Indians, except six men, who escaped by flight, (one of whom was wounded.) Those who were taken alive, were wantonly murdered by the ferocious savages, who took the little children, and dashed out their brains against the side of the boat, and butchered all the helpless females except one, who was afterwards retaken. Gen. Gaines was not yet authorised to cross into Floridas, to enforce a compliance with his demand for the delivery of the murderers, while the Indians were collecting in large numbers upon the line, which they seemed to think a perfect safe guard, and from which they continued their predatory incursions, as opportunity permitted. A letter from the secretary of war, of the 9th Dec. 1817, authorised Gen. Gaines, in case the state of things should continue, and it should become impossible, by any other means, to prevent their depredations, to exercise a sound discretion as to crossing the Florida line, to break up their establishment ; and, on the 16th of the same month, the secretary of war, by letter, directed to Gen. Gaines, fully authorised him to cross the line, and attack the Indians within the Spanish territory, should they still refuse to make reparation for depredations already committedunless they should shelter themselves under a Spanish fort, in which case he was directed to notify the department.
Intelligence being received by the war department of the massacre of Lt. Scott and his companions, Gen. Jackson was directed, by letter of the 26th December, 1817, to repair to Fort Scott, and take command of the forces in that quarter ; with authority, in case he should deem it necessary, to call upon the executives of the adjacent states for such additional force as he should deem requisite ; in which he was referred to the previous orders given to Gen. Gaines, and directed to concentrate his forces, and adopt the measures necessary to terminate a conflict, which had been avoided from considerations of humanity, but which had now become indispensable from the settled hostility of the savage enemy. In January following, the secretary of war, in a letter to Gen. Gaines, says, " The honor of the United States requires, that the war with the Seminoles should be terminated speedily, and with exemplary punishment for hostilities so unprovoked." Under these orders, and in this critical state of affairs, Gen. Jackson, with that zeal and promptness which have ever marked his career, repaired to the post assigned, and assumed the command. The necessity of crossing the line into Florida, was no longer a subject of doubt. A large force of Indians and negroes was making that territory their refuge , and the Spanish authority was either too weak or too indifferent to restrain them ; and to comply with orders given him from the department of war, he penetrated immediately into the Seminole towns, driving the enemy before him, and reduced them to ashes. In the council house of the king of the Mickasukians, more than 50 fresh scalps, and in an adjacent house upwards of 300 old scalps, of all ages and sexes, were found ; and in the centre of the public square a red pole was erected, crowned with scalps, known by the hair to have belonged to the companions of Lt. Scott.
To inflict merited punishment upon this barbarians, and to prevent a repetition of these massacres, by bringing the war to a speedy and successful termination, he pursued his march to St. Marks, when he found in corroboration of previous information, that the Indians and negroes had demanded the surrender of that post to them ; and that the Spanish garrison, according to the Commandant's own concession, was too weak to support it. Here he ascertained that the enemy had been supplied with the means of carrying on the war, from the commandant of the post ; the foreign incendiaries, instigating the savages, had free communication with the fort for carrying on their intrigues ; councils of war were permitted by the commandant to be held by the chiefs and warriors within his own quarters ; the Spanish store houses were appropriated to the use of the hostile party, and actually filled with goods belonging to them ; munitions of war were furnished them, and property, known to have been plundered from our citizens, purchased from them by the commandant, while he professed friendship to the U. S.Gen. Jackson, therefore, had no hesitation to demand of the commandant of St. Marks the surrender of that post, that it might be garrisoned with an American force ; and, when the Spanish officer hesitated to deliver it, he entered the fort by force, though without bloodshed, the enemy having fled, and the garrison being too weak to make opposition. Convinced of the necessity of rapid movements, in order to the ultimate success of the expedition, he immediately marched his force to Suwaney, seized upon the stores of the enemy, and burnt their villages.
Having thus far effected his object, Gen. Jackson considered the war at an end. St. Marks being garrisoned by an American force, the Indian towns at Mickasuky and Suwaney destroyed ; the two Indian chiefs, who had been the prime movers and leaders of the savages, on of whom had commanded the party that murdered Lieut. Scott and his companions, and the two principal foreign instigators, Arbuthnot and Ambrister, being taken and executed, Gen. Jackson ordered the Georgia militia to be discharged, and was preparing himself to return to Tennessee.But he soon learned, that the Indians and negroes were collecting in the companies west of the Apalachicola, which would render it necessary for him to send a detachment to scour the country in that quarter. While preparing for this object, he learned, that the Indians were admitted by the Governor of Pensacola, and enjoyed free access to that townthat they were collecting in large numbers, 500 being in Pensacola on the 15th of April, many of whom were known to be hostile, and had just escaped from the pursuit of our troops ; that the enemy were furnished with ammunition and supplies, and received intelligence of the movement of our forces, from that place ; that a number of them sallied out, and murdered 18 of our citizens, settlers upon the Alabama, and were immediately received by the Governor and by him transported across the bay, that they might elude the pursuit.
These facts being ascertained by Gen. Jackson from unquestionable authority, he immediately took up his line of march toward Pensacola, at the head of a detachment of about 1200 men, for the purpose of counteracting the views of the enemy, and to execute his orders from the War Department, by terminating the war speedily and with exemplary punishment for hostilities so unprovoked. On the 10th May, he crossed the Apalachicola at the Ocheese village, with the view of scouring the country west of that river ; and, on the 23d of the same month, he received a communication from the Governor of West Florida, protesting against his entrance into that province, commanding him to retire from it, and declaring that he would repel force by force, provided he should not obey. This communication, together with the evident indications of hostility in the Governor, who had been well advised of the object of Gen. Jackson's operations, determined the measures which he pursued. Accordingly, he marched directly to Pensacola, and with but the shadow of opposition took possession of that place the following day, the Governor having fled to Fort Carlos de Barrancas ; which post, after a feeble resistance, was also surrendered to Gen. Jackson on the 28th ; by which the Indians and fugitive negroes were effectually deprived of all possible means of continuing their depredations, or screening themselves from the arm of justice. Thus gloriously terminated the Seminole war ; a war reluctantly entered into, but urged by dire necessity, to protect from the tomahawk and scalping knife of the most ruthless savages our peaceful frontier settlers, who, from decrepit age to helpless infancy, for more than two years, had been exposed to their crueltiesa war in which our citizens and soldiers, with their usual fortitude and valor under their preserving and determined commander, endured long and difficult marches submitted to painful privations, subdued a brave and merciless enemy, without suffering one defeat, or betraying a solitary mark of dismay to tarnish the lustre of their country's glory.A variety of circumstances convinced Gen. Jackson that the savages had commenced this war, and persisted in their barbarities, under the influence of some foreign incendiaries, more criminal than the uncivilized natives.Alexander Arbuthnot, who avowed himself a British subject and resided among the savages as an Indian trader, was taken at St. Marks, to which place he had withdrawn as danger approached, and was living as an inmate in the family of the commandant :
It appearing that he had been a zealous advocate, for the pretended rights of the savages, and in this respect the successor of the notorious Col. Nichols, of the British colonial marines, in the late war with Great Britain, that he had repeatedly written in their behalf to the Spanish governor of St. Augustine, the governor of the Bahamas, the British minister in the U. States, and to col. Nichols, endeavoring to procure aid from both those governments against the United States ; that he had repeatedly advised the Indians not to comply with the treaty of Fort Jackson, assuring them that the lands ceded to the United States by them in 1814 were to be restored by virtue of the treaty of peace with Great Britain ; general Jackson ordered him to be tried by a court martial, consisting of 13 respectable officers, with major gen. Gaines, President. The court was directed to decide upon the fact of his guilt, or innocence ; and if guilty, what punishment should be inflicted. Upon satisfactory testimony, he was convicted of inciting and stirring up the hostile Creeks to war against the United States and her citizens ; and of aiding, abetting and comforting the enemy, supplying them with the means of war, and by the court sentenced to be hung. Robert C. Ambrister, late a Lieutenant of the British marine corps, and with the hostile Indians and fugitive negroes the successors of Woodbine, of notorious memory, was taken near the mouth of Suwaney river. It being well known that he had been a leader and commander of the hostile Indians ; and fugitive slaves, Gen. Jackson also directed him to be tried by the same court martial. Upon satisfactory evidence, he was convicted of having aided and comforted the enemy, supplying them with the means of war by giving them intelligence of the movements and operations of the army of the United States and by sending the Indians and negroes to meet and fight against them ; and upon his own confession, as well as the clearest evidence of having led and commanded the lower Creeks in carrying on the war against the United States, was by the Court sentenced to be shot. One of the members requesting a reconsideration of the sentence, it was agreed to ; and on a revision, the court sentenced him to receive 50 stripes on his bare back, and be confined with a ball and chain to hard labor for 12 calendar months. Gen. Jackson approved the sentence in this case of Arbuthnot ; and in the case of Ambrister, he disapproved the reconsideration, and confirmed the first sentenced. They were both executed accordingly. In relation to this transactions, questions of the first magnitude present themselves, which the committee have deemed it their duty to investigate. Was Gen. Jackson justifiable, after marching his army across the line, into the territory of Spain, in taking possession, by force of arms, of the Spanish posts, St. Marks and Pensacola ? Had he the right to punish Alexander Arbuthnot, and Robert C. Ambrister ?
From the facts submitted, it is perfectly evident that the Spanish authorities in Florida did not retain that neutral character which was necessary to render it territory sacred ; but, by their own acts, either of hostility or imbecility, they made that territory the seat of war, independent of the solemn obligations of treaty, whereby Spain engaged to keep the Indians within her territory at peace with the U. States ; no principle is more firmly established by the laws of nations, than this, that a nation at war has the right to pursue the hostile army into the territory of a neutral nation, and to make that territory the seat of war, when either the weakness or partiality of the neutral nation shall suffer, the belligerent army, retreating into its territory, there to rally, collect strength, and provide supplies, to enable them to renew the conflict, and specially when munitions of war shall be supplied, either by the citizens or authorities of the neutral nation.
But, in the consideration of this subject, it should never be forgotten that Spain was bound, by the solemn stipulation of treaty with the U. States, herself to have fought these battles, or, if too weak to have done so, at least to have made common cause with the United States against these lawless tribes of savages. The United States have never recognized the Indians, within her territorial limits, as nations absolutely independent ; hence it has never been considered the duty of the Executive, when they have been guilty of murders and depredations upon our citizens, either in the plundering parties, or in the more formidable aspect of Indian armies, to order against them the military force of the country, or call into service the militia, as the case may require, to check their barbarities, and to punish their crimes.
In accordance with this principle, the Executive has ever acted since the commencement of the present government. Repeated and bloody depredations upon out southern frontier, in which peaceful husbandmen, defenceless women, and innocent children were made the victims of savage ferocity, not only rendered it necessary to put in operation the military force of the nation ; but the sheltering of the Indians beyond the limits of the United States, gave occasion for the orders of gen. Jackson, to pursue them beyond these limits. If Spain regards the Indians in the same light, it was a duty no less incumbent upon her by the laws of nations, than by treaty, to have repressed their lawless depredations ; and, in her agents failing to do so, if, through neglect, they made themselves parties in the war ; or if through weakness, they forfeited the right of sovereignty in that territory where they failed to maintain it.But, if Spain regards the Indians as communities absolutely independent, then the territory, by right of occupancy, belonged to the Indians, and not to Spain, and the invasion was of the enemy's territory. Had the commandant of the Spanish post at St. Marks done his duty, in withholding from the enemy supplies, and in denying them a refuge within the reach of his own fort, the necessity of interrupting his garrison would not have existed ; nor is it presumed that any attempt would have been made by Gen. Jackson to possess himself of that post. And it is also presumed that his orders to respect the Spanish posts were predicated upon this supposed state of things. But, as the object of the entrance into Florida, was the reduction of the Indian forceto bring the Seminole war to a speedy and successful termination, which was exhausting the blood, and the treasure of the nation, it was a duty which he owed to his country to effect that object. Any result short of this would have only increased the evils which it was his duty to correct ; and this could not be effected while Spanish fortifications were appropriated to their defence, and yet regarded as sacred by him.To have retired with his forces, under such a combination of circumstances, which would have confirmed the erroneous impression entertained by the Indians and by the Spanish authorities, of the sacred character of these places of refuge and of succour to our ferocious enemy, would have perpetuated the war, and given it the character of permanency, which the honor of the U. States required should be speedily concluded, and with the most exemplary punishment. The commandant at St. Mark, himself acknowledged that his command was at the mercy of the Indians and Negroes ; he ought, therefore, to have hailed the approach of Gen. Jackson, with his American forces as a deliverer, and to have co-operated with him in the common cause, when he was assured that the object was a military occupation, for the express purpose of putting an end to the Seminole war, and not for conquest. But the facts present this subject yet in a much stronger light to the committee. The Indians received not only shelter, but comforts and munitions, and all the facilities for carrying on the war, which a Spanish army could have received from this post. Did this conduct, on the part of the Spanish commandant, result from a hostile disposition ; if so, he became a party in the war. Or was it the effect of imbecility, as his professions of great friendship would imply ? If so, the act of garrisoning St. Marks with an American force, bears no character of hostility to Spain, but was warranted by the law of nationsby the treaty with Spain, and by the fist law of natureself protection. Had the Governor of West-Florida maintained the neutral character which was confidently expected, and which it was his duty to have done, the Seminole war had here ended, and our flag would not have unfurled in that territory. The Indian establishments at Mickasuky and Suwaney broken uptheir villages burnt their supplies cut offSt. Marks occupied by our troops, their power in East-Florida was entirely annihilated.
In the firm conviction that the war was ended, Gen. Jackson had ordered the Georgia militia to be disbanded, and was upon the point of returning himself, with the Tennessee and Kentucky volunteers, when he learned that the object of the campaign was not yet entirely accomplished.
The vanquished enemy, crossing into West-Florida, where the authorities of Spain proved as imbecile as in the eastern province, renewed their depredations, by their incursions into the adjoining territory of the United States, and committing murderers upon our frontier settlers. Every circumstance, which not only justified the act, but which rendered it an imperious duty for him to enter the Spanish territory of East Florida, was equally applicable to the act of his crossing the Apalachicola, to break down the power of the enemy in West-Florida. But the conduct of the Governor, taken in connection with the circumstances which induced the entrance into Pensacola, rendered its occupancy by General Jackson, if possible, yet more palpably necessary, than that of St. Marks. Well apprised of General Jackson's object, that he had not entered the Florida in hostility to Spain, but to do that which Spain was bound to do, both by treaty and by the laws of nations, to give security to our own citizens, within our own territory, by destroying the power of the savage foe, the Governor of Pensacola, in equal violations of the laws, of neutrality and of humanity, succoured those enemies, supplied them with munitions of war, sheltered and conveyed from the hand of justice those of them, who were returning from the bloody prey ; and when General Jackson was executing the righteous mandates of an injured and indignant nation upon them, the Governor commanded him to depart from the territory, threatening to oppose force by force, should he not comply. Thus circumstanced, what should General Jackson have done ? Should he have been induced, by the unprovoked and gasconading menaces of a foreign Governor, to retrace his steps ? Or should he have remained stationary, until he could, have despatched a messenger to the Executive, for instructions how to act. This would have ill become an American general, whose movements were sanctioned by the sacred laws of nature and of nations, and by the solemn stipulations of the foreign prince, as well as by the authority of his own government.
Should he have left it in quiet possession of a savage foe ? This, would have defeated the whole object of the war. There was but one course, in the opinion the honor of the nation, and the safety of its frontier citizens. The governor of West-Florida, by his own act, had become a party with the savages in the waror had at least, by his imbecility, forfeited the right of sovereignty within the territory ; and the occupancy of the Spanish posts in that province, by General Jackson was in the opinion of the committee, a sacred duty which he owed to himself, to his army, to the government, and to his country. While this nation scrupulously regards the dictates of justice, in her intercourse with all nations, civilized and savage, it is a duty which she owes to her own character and to the safety of her citizens, to assert her rights and avenge her wrongs. In relation to these movements, it appears to your committee, that the executive has sanctioned the act of general Jackson, in the occupancy of those posts, by requiring that condition, which the laws of nations and the treaty with Spain justify, in order to the restoration of St. Marks ; and if Pensacola is not held subject to the same condition, this does not imply a relinquishment of the right, but should be regarded as the evidence of an amicable disposition towards Spain.
The committee now enter upon the other point ; that of the trial and execution of the foreign instigators, Arbuthnot and Ambristera subject of more delicacy and tenderness, as it involves the lives liberties of individuals ; yet of equal magnitude, and, in the opinion of the committee, of equal clearness. In ancient times, when barbarism more generally prevailed, and even polished nations seemed unconscious, of the ties of humanity which ought ever to bind the whole family of manhood in tenderness and affection, the practice obtained, of putting to death the soldiers and even the citizens of a vanquished energy, by the sword, and even by the public executioner, or of holding prisoners of war in slavery for life, and entailing bondage upon their posterity. But the progress of civilization, aided by the benign influence of christianity, has, in modern days, produced a radical change, highly honorable to the civilized world.
In consequence of this principle, it follows, that although, when one nation enters into war with another nation, all the citizens of those nations may be considered, in some respects , as enemies of all the citizens of the other ; yet they have not a right, in all cases, when they meet, to act in hostility to each other ; because women, children and all others who are exempted from bearing arms, and those employed in rural and other peaceful occupations, are not the proper objects of hostility ; nor it is admissible to take the lives of those who fall into the power of their enemies, after they, have surrendered because such act is now unauthorized by the law of nations, and ever has been a violation of the laws of humanity. So, when armies meet in the field of battle, the soldier, who lays down his arms and asks for quarters, is entitled to his life: and the same with garrisons and whole armies ; if they offer to capitulate, in cases of great extremity, it is an established principle of the laws of nations, universally acknowledged where civilization prevails, that their lives cannot be justly taken, unless their gross violation of the rules of civilized warfare render it necessary to inflict death as a punishment for their crimes. But death, in such cases, is never the righteous fate of unsuccessful war: much less are peaceable citizens, unarmed, pursuing their lawful avocations, subject to death, or any other acts of hostilities calculated to injure them, either in their persons or effects ; because such citizens do not offer injury. But, from this general principle and universal practice among christian nations, another principle arises, as universally acknowledged and equally consonant to the laws of nature and nations, that when a nation, either savage or civilized, departs from this rules, and grossly violates the laws of nations and of humanity, retaliation, or reprisals, are always justifiable, often useful, and sometimes essentially necessary, to teach the offenders to respect the laws of humanity, and to save the effusion of blood.
In such case, where the guilty persons can be taken and identified, the punishment ought to fall exclusively upon them. Yet reprisals are not, necessarily, even confined to persons of the guilty ; but the laws of war justify the punishment of the offending nation, in any of the persons of the enemy.This nation, ever regarding mercy as her delight, has heretofore abstained from the exercise of this power, though the principle was recognized in the case of Capt. Asgill, in the revolutionary war : and by President Madison, in which it received the sanction of the legislature, in the late war. When at war with the savages, who respect no rule, and are governed by no laws ; whose known mode of warfare is indiscriminate murder of all ages, sexes and conditions, it is a well established principle, that their crimes may be lawfully punished in the persons of any of their people ; and the citizens or subjects of any civilized nation, by engaging in their warfare, either in personal hostility or by instigating, aiding, and abetting them, thereby identifying themselves with the savages, belong to their nation during the continuance of such engagements, and are, by the true and acknowledged principles of the laws of nations, subject to the same treatment. When reprisals shall be made by inflicting retaliatory punishments upon foreigners thus identified with savages, it is justifiable upon the principle of reprisals alone, and not because they become outlaws and pirates : for the laws of nation justify the citizens or subjects of one nation in entering the service of another nation ; and, during such services, they are considered as parts of the nation which they serve, subjects to the same treatment, in all respects, as if they were its natural citizens or subjects.
It was upon this principle, that the Marquis de la Fayette, Barons Steuben and De Kalb, and Gen. Kosciusko, entered the American service in the revolutionary war, which was never considered as a just occasion for war, by Great Britain, against France, Prussia or Poland : nor yet as a cause for regarding them in the character of outlaws and pirates. But, had these distinguished men fallen into the hands of Great Britain, the laws of war would have entitled them to the same tenderness, and subjected them to the same conditions, as native Americans. The same principal is equally applicable to those who enter into the service of the savages.
The universal principle of savage warfare, elicited by their general practice, is that of the most cruel and aggravated murder ; not only of their enemies taken in arms, but also of peaceful unarmed citizens, helpless females, tender infants. If instances have been known wherein they have spared the lives of persons falling into their power, these instances have been too few in number, compared with the massacres which they have committed, desolating whole settlements, and murdering whole garrisons, to give an opposite character to their general practice.
The desolation and ruin of the Wyoming settlement, in the revolutionary war, and the massacres at Fort Mimms and on the river Raisin, in perfect accordance with their general history, from the commencement of our national existence, furnish sufficient demonstration of this fact,
Alexander Arbuthnot was taken as a resident among the savages, with whom he had identified himself, by acting as their agent, exciting them to the war* (* We know of no legal evidence to support this assertion), aiding, abetting, and supplying them with the means of carrying it on. Robert C. Ambrister was taken in their actual service, as a leader and commander of their forces, by which as well as aiding, abetting, comforting, and supplying them, he was also identified with the savages. Agreeably to these principles of the laws of nations, the committee are fully of opinion, that General Jackson, as commander of the army, had the right to exercise upon them the law of retaliation, without the intervention of a court martial. However cautiously this rule should be exercised, and desirable as mercy always is, whenever it can be exercised with safety, this godlike virtue has it bounds, beyond which, its exercise would be a perversion of justice ; and it is presumed, that the repeated murders that have been committed upon our citizens, the many bloody trophies of their cruelties found at Mickasuky, and their persisting in hostility against the repeated warning and threats, which had been held out to them, bore conviction to the mind of General Jackson, that the exercise of the law of relation had become necessary to the future safety of his fellow-citizens.
But he chose to submit the case to the investigation and decision of a court martial, composed of distinguished officers, by whom Alexander Arbuthnot was condemned to be hung, which sentence was confirmed and executed. By the same tribunal Robert C. Ambrister was, in the first instance, condemned to be shot ; but, upon reconsideration they changed the sentence to that of corporal punishment and confinement to hard labor. The reconsideration was disapproved by General Jackson, and the first sentence confirmed and executed. On this last point the committee are of opinion, that it would have been more correct for General Jackson, after submitting the case to a court martial, not only to examine the facts as to his guilt, but to determine the punishment to be inflicted, to have acquiesced in their final only legal decision as a court. But, in this, the committee are satisfied that General Jackson did not transcend the power warranted by the law of retaliationthe prisoner's own confession, and the evidence produced, going to establish the facts which justified its application. And though the principles of national law, involved in this war, would have authorised a more extensive sacrifice, even on the persons of the innocent, yet the committee deem it a matter of great felicitation, that punishment fell upon the guilty alone ; and that the object is effected, with so limited an example of justice. Under this view of the whole subject the committee can discover much which merits applause and little that deserves censure ; and from the incalculable benefits resulting to the nation, from the faithful and distinguished services of General Jackson and the officers and men who served under his command, in terminating finally the Seminole war, are of opinion that they are entitled to the thanks of their country."



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Article Title: "Two full pages. A House of Representatives committee report, defeated, exonerating
Jackson's occupation of Florida and upholding his execution of British subjects Arbuthnot and
Ambrister as 'foreign incendiaries.'"
Author:
Published in: Connecticut Courant
Place of Publication: Hartford, CT
Publication Date: 1/26/1819




CONGRESS.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Tuesday, January 12.
SEMINOLE WAR, c.
Continued from our last.
COUNTER REPORT.
Mr. Johnson, of Kentucky, also of the military committee, submitted a paper drawn up in the shape of
a report by that committee, which by a majority of one vote, that committee had refused to accept,
and said paper was read as follows :
THE Committee, to whom was referred so much of the President's Message as relates to the
Seminole War, and the proceedings in the trial of Alexander Arbuthnot and Robert C. Ambrister,
Report
That, Gen. Jackson, in a short, though sanguinary war, with the Creek nation of Indians, brought them
to terms of peace ; and in the summer of 1814, a treaty concluded with them, wherein they ceded to
the United States a territory embracing several millions of acres of land ; the effect of this cession
was, the cutting off the Indian establishments between the settlements of the U. States in Georgia and
Alabama, and the Spanish territory. This object being obtained, future peace and safety to our
citizens in that quarter, were confidently anticipated ; but, contrary to these just expectations, it was
discovered that a hostile disposition was still entertained by the Seminoles tribe of that nation, aided
by fugitive negroes, and instigated by foreign incendiaries. It having been represented to the
government, that murders had been committed on our defenceless citizens, Gen. Gaines was
ordered, in the summer of 1817, with a considerable force to take a station in that section, for their
protection. Gen Gaines was directed to keep within the territorial limits of the United States, and
abstain from every attempt to cross the Florida line ; but to demand of the Indians the perpetrators of
the crimes thus committed, in order that punishment might be inflicted upon the guilty, without
involving the innocent, and without a general rupture with these deluded savages. The fact of such
murders having been ascertained, attended with aggravating circumstances of rapine and cruelty,
Gen. Gaines, in conformity with his orders, made the demand. The savages through the deceptive
representations of foreign incendiaries, were led to believe that the strength of the United States was
not sufficient to subdue them ; or if their own forces were incompetent to sustain the conflict, they
would receive assistance from the British.These promises, made by these unauthorised agents, were
predicated upon a pretence, that the United States had bound themselves, by the treaty of Ghent, to
restore the lands which the Indians had ceded, previously to that treaty, at Fort Jackson ; and that the
British government would enforce its observance. Under this influence, they not only refused the
murders, but repeated their massacres whenever opportunity afforded ; and, to evade the arm of
justice, took refuge across the line, in Florida. In this state of affairs, in November, 1817, Lt. Scott, of
the United States army, under Gen. Gaines, with 47 persons, men, women, and children, in a boat on
the Apalachicola river, about a mile below the junction of the Flint and the Chatahochie, was surprised
by an ambuscade of Indians, fired upon, and the whole detachment killed and taken by the Indians,
except six men, who escaped by flight, (one of whom was wounded.) Those who were taken alive,
were wantonly murdered by the ferocious savages, who took the little children, and dashed out their






brains against the side of the boat, and butchered all the helpless females except one, who was
afterwards retaken. Gen. Gaines was not yet authorised to cross into Floridas, to enforce a
compliance with his demand for the delivery of the murderers, while the Indians were collecting in
large numbers upon the line, which they seemed to think a perfect safe guard, and from which they
continued their predatory incursions, as opportunity permitted. A letter from the secretary of war, of
the 9th Dec. 1817, authorised Gen. Gaines, in case the state of things should continue, and it should
become impossible, by any other means, to prevent their depredations, to exercise a sound discretion
as to crossing the Florida line, to break up their establishment; and, on the 16th of the same month,
the secretary of war, by letter, directed to Gen. Gaines, fully authorised him to cross the line, and
attack the Indians within the Spanish territory, should they still refuse to make reparation for
depredations already committedunless they should shelter themselves under a Spanish fort, in which
case he was directed to notify the department.
Intelligence being received by the war department of the massacre of Lt. Scott and his companions,
Gen. Jackson was directed, by letter of the 26th December, 1817, to repair to Fort Scott, and take
command of the forces in that quarter; with authority, in case he should deem it necessary, to call
upon the executives of the adjacent states for such additional force as he should deem requisite ; in
which he was referred to the previous orders given to Gen. Gaines, and directed to concentrate his
forces, and adopt the measures necessary to terminate a conflict, which had been avoided from
considerations of humanity, but which had now become indispensable from the settled hostility of the
savage enemy. In January following, the secretary of war, in a letter to Gen. Gaines, says, " The
honor of the United States requires, that the war with the Seminoles should be terminated speedily,
and with exemplary punishment for hostilities so unprovoked." Under these orders, and in this critical
state of affairs, Gen. Jackson, with that zeal and promptness which have ever marked his career,
repaired to the post assigned, and assumed the command. The necessity of crossing the line into
Florida, was no longer a subject of doubt. A large force of Indians and negroes was making that
territory their refuge , and the Spanish authority was either too weak or too indifferent to restrain them
; and to comply with orders given him from the department of war, he penetrated immediately into the
Seminole towns, driving the enemy before him, and reduced them to ashes. In the council house of
the king of the Mickasukians, more than 50 fresh scalps, and in an adjacent house upwards of 300
old scalps, of all ages and sexes, were found ; and in the centre of the public square a red pole was
erected, crowned with scalps, known by the hair to have belonged to the companions of Lt. Scott.
To inflict merited punishment upon this barbarians, and to prevent a repetition of these massacres, by
bringing the war to a speedy and successful termination, he pursued his march to St. Marks, when he
found in corroboration of previous information, that the Indians and negroes had demanded the
surrender of that post to them ; and that the Spanish garrison, according to the Commandant's own
concession, was too weak to support it. Here he ascertained that the enemy had been supplied with
the means of carrying on the war, from the commandant of the post ; the foreign incendiaries,
instigating the savages, had free communication with the fort for carrying on their intrigues ; councils
of war were permitted by the commandant to be held by the chiefs and warriors within his own
quarters ; the Spanish store houses were appropriated to the use of the hostile party, and actually
filled with goods belonging to them ; munitions of war were furnished them, and property, known to
have been plundered from our citizens, purchased from them by the commandant, while he professed
friendship to the U. S.Gen. Jackson, therefore, had no hesitation to demand of the commandant of
St. Marks the surrender of that post, that it might be garrisoned with an American force ; and, when
the Spanish officer hesitated to deliver it, he entered the fort by force, though without bloodshed, the
enemy having fled, and the garrison being too weak to make opposition. Convinced of the necessity
of rapid movements, in order to the ultimate success of the expedition, he immediately marched his
force to Suwaney, seized upon the stores of the enemy, and burnt their villages.
Having thus far effected his object, Gen. Jackson considered the war at an end. St. Marks being
garrisoned by an American force, the Indian towns at Mickasuky and Suwaney destroyed ; the two
Indian chiefs, who had been the prime movers and leaders of the savages, on of whom had
commanded the party that murdered Lieut. Scott and his companions, and the two principal foreign






instigators, Arbuthnot and Ambrister, being taken and executed, Gen. Jackson ordered the Georgia
militia to be discharged, and was preparing himself to return to Tennessee.But he soon learned, that
the Indians and negroes were collecting in the companies west of the Apalachicola, which would
render it necessary for him to send a detachment to scour the country in that quarter. While
preparing for this object, he learned, that the Indians were admitted by the Governor of Pensacola,
and enjoyed free access to that townthat they were collecting in large numbers, 500 being in
Pensacola on the 15th of April, many of whom were known to be hostile, and had just escaped from
the pursuit of our troops ; that the enemy were furnished with ammunition and supplies, and received
intelligence of the movement of our forces, from that place ; that a number of them sallied out, and
murdered 18 of our citizens, settlers upon the Alabama, and were immediately received by the
Governor and by him transported across the bay, that they might elude the pursuit.
These facts being ascertained by Gen. Jackson from unquestionable authority, he immediately took
up his line of march toward Pensacola, at the head of a detachment of about 1200 men, for the
purpose of counteracting the views of the enemy, and to execute his orders from the War Department,
by terminating the war speedily and with exemplary punishment for hostilities so unprovoked. On the
10th May, he crossed the Apalachicola at the Ocheese village, with the view of scouring the country
west of that river; and, on the 23d of the same month, he received a communication from the
Governor of West Florida, protesting against his entrance into that province, commanding him to
retire from it, and declaring that he would repel force by force, provided he should not obey. This
communication, together with the evident indications of hostility in the Governor, who had been well
advised of the object of Gen. Jackson's operations, determined the measures which he pursued.
Accordingly, he marched directly to Pensacola, and with but the shadow of opposition took
possession of that place the following day, the Governor having fled to Fort Carlos de Barrancas;
which post, after a feeble resistance, was also surrendered to Gen. Jackson on the 28th ; by which
the Indians and fugitive negroes were effectually deprived of all possible means of continuing their
depredations, or screening themselves from the arm of justice. Thus gloriously terminated the
Seminole war; a war reluctantly entered into, but urged by dire necessity, to protect from the
tomahawk and scalping knife of the most ruthless savages our peaceful frontier settlers, who, from
decrepit age to helpless infancy, for more than two years, had been exposed to their crueltiesa war in
which our citizens and soldiers, with their usual fortitude and valor under their preserving and
determined commander, endured long and difficult marches submitted to painful privations, subdued
a brave and merciless enemy, without suffering one defeat, or betraying a solitary mark of dismay to
tarnish the lustre of their country's glory.A variety of circumstances convinced Gen. Jackson that the
savages had commenced this war, and persisted in their barbarities, under the influence of some
foreign incendiaries, more criminal than the uncivilized natives.Alexander Arbuthnot, who avowed
himself a British subject and resided among the savages as an Indian trader, was taken at St. Marks,
to which place he had withdrawn as danger approached, and was living as an inmate in the family of
the commandant :
It appearing that he had been a zealous advocate, for the pretended rights of the savages, and in this
respect the successor of the notorious Col. Nichols, of the British colonial marines, in the late war with
Great Britain, that he had repeatedly written in their behalf to the Spanish governor of St. Augustine,
the governor of the Bahamas, the British minister in the U. States, and to col. Nichols, endeavoring to
procure aid from both those governments against the United States ; that he had repeatedly advised
the Indians not to comply with the treaty of Fort Jackson, assuring them that the lands ceded to the
United States by them in 1814 were to be restored by virtue of the treaty of peace with Great Britain;
general Jackson ordered him to be tried by a court martial, consisting of 13 respectable officers, with
major gen. Gaines, President. The court was directed to decide upon the fact of his guilt, or
innocence ; and if guilty, what punishment should be inflicted. Upon satisfactory testimony, he was
convicted of inciting and stirring up the hostile Creeks to war against the United States and her
citizens ; and of aiding, abetting and comforting the enemy, supplying them with the means of war,
and by the court sentenced to be hung. Robert C. Ambrister, late a Lieutenant of the British marine
corps, and with the hostile Indians and fugitive negroes the successors of Woodbine, of notorious






memory, was taken near the mouth of Suwaney river. It being well known that he had been a leader
and commander of the hostile Indians ; and fugitive slaves, Gen. Jackson also directed him to be tried
by the same court martial. Upon satisfactory evidence, he was convicted of having aided and
comforted the enemy, supplying them with the means of war by giving them intelligence of the
movements and operations of the army of the United States and by sending the Indians and negroes
to meet and fight against them ; and upon his own confession, as well as the clearest evidence of
having led and commanded the lower Creeks in carrying on the war against the United States, was by
the Court sentenced to be shot. One of the members requesting a reconsideration of the sentence, it
was agreed to ; and on a revision, the court sentenced him to receive 50 stripes on his bare back,
and be confined with a ball and chain to hard labor for 12 calendar months. Gen. Jackson approved
the sentence in this case of Arbuthnot; and in the case of Ambrister, he disapproved the
reconsideration, and confirmed the first sentenced. They were both executed accordingly. In relation
to this transactions, questions of the first magnitude present themselves, which the committee have
deemed it their duty to investigate. Was Gen. Jackson justifiable, after marching his army across the
line, into the territory of Spain, in taking possession, by force of arms, of the Spanish posts, St. Marks
and Pensacola ? Had he the right to punish Alexander Arbuthnot, and Robert C. Ambrister ?
From the facts submitted, it is perfectly evident that the Spanish authorities in Florida did not retain
that neutral character which was necessary to render it territory sacred ; but, by their own acts, either
of hostility or imbecility, they made that territory the seat of war, independent of the solemn obligations
of treaty, whereby Spain engaged to keep the Indians within her territory at peace with the U. States;
no principle is more firmly established by the laws of nations, than this, that a nation at war has the
right to pursue the hostile army into the territory of a neutral nation, and to make that territory the seat
of war, when either the weakness or partiality of the neutral nation shall suffer, the belligerent army,
retreating into its territory, there to rally, collect strength, and provide supplies, to enable them to
renew the conflict, and specially when munitions of war shall be supplied, either by the citizens or
authorities of the neutral nation.
But, in the consideration of this subject, it should never be forgotten that Spain was bound, by the
solemn stipulation of treaty with the U. States, herself to have fought these battles, or, if too weak to
have done so, at least to have made common cause with the United States against these lawless
tribes of savages. The United States have never recognized the Indians, within her territorial limits, as
nations absolutely independent; hence it has never been considered the duty of the Executive, when
they have been guilty of murders and depredations upon our citizens, either in the plundering parties,
or in the more formidable aspect of Indian armies, to order against them the military force of the
country, or call into service the militia, as the case may require, to check their barbarities, and to
punish their crimes.
In accordance with this principle, the Executive has ever acted since the commencement of the
present government. Repeated and bloody depredations upon out southern frontier, in which
peaceful husbandmen, defenceless women, and innocent children were made the victims of savage
ferocity, not only rendered it necessary to put in operation the military force of the nation ; but the
sheltering of the Indians beyond the limits of the United States, gave occasion for the orders of gen.
Jackson, to pursue them beyond these limits. If Spain regards the Indians in the same light, it was a
duty no less incumbent upon her by the laws of nations, than by treaty, to have repressed their
lawless depredations ; and, in her agents failing to do so, if, through neglect, they made themselves
parties in the war; or if through weakness, they forfeited the right of sovereignty in that territory where
they failed to maintain it. But, if Spain regards the Indians as communities absolutely independent,
then the territory, by right of occupancy, belonged to the Indians, and not to Spain, and the invasion
was of the enemy's territory. Had the commandant of the Spanish post at St. Marks done his duty, in
withholding from the enemy supplies, and in denying them a refuge within the reach of his own fort,
the necessity of interrupting his garrison would not have existed ; nor is it presumed that any attempt
would have been made by Gen. Jackson to possess himself of that post. And it is also presumed that
his orders to respect the Spanish posts were predicated upon this supposed state of things. But, as
the object of the entrance into Florida, was the reduction of the Indian forceto bring the Seminole war






to a speedy and successful termination, which was exhausting the blood, and the treasure of the
nation, it was a duty which he owed to his country to effect that object. Any result short of this would
have only increased the evils which it was his duty to correct; and this could not be effected while
Spanish fortifications were appropriated to their defence, and yet regarded as sacred by him.To have
retired with his forces, under such a combination of circumstances, which would have confirmed the
erroneous impression entertained by the Indians and by the Spanish authorities, of the sacred
character of these places of refuge and of succour to our ferocious enemy, would have perpetuated
the war, and given it the character of permanency, which the honor of the U. States required should
be speedily concluded, and with the most exemplary punishment. The commandant at St. Mark,
himself acknowledged that his command was at the mercy of the Indians and Negroes ; he ought,
therefore, to have hailed the approach of Gen. Jackson, with his American forces as a deliverer, and
to have co-operated with him in the common cause, when he was assured that the object was a
military occupation, for the express purpose of putting an end to the Seminole war, and not for
conquest. But the facts present this subject yet in a much stronger light to the committee. The
Indians received not only shelter, but comforts and munitions, and all the facilities for carrying on the
war, which a Spanish army could have received from this post. Did this conduct, on the part of the
Spanish commandant, result from a hostile disposition ; if so, he became a party in the war. Or was
it the effect of imbecility, as his professions of great friendship would imply ? If so, the act of
garrisoning St. Marks with an American force, bears no character of hostility to Spain, but was
warranted by the law of nationsby the treaty with Spain, and by the fist law of natureself protection.
Had the Governor of West-Florida maintained the neutral character which was confidently expected,
and which it was his duty to have done, the Seminole war had here ended, and our flag would not
have unfurled in that territory. The Indian establishments at Mickasuky and Suwaney broken uptheir
villages burnt their supplies cut offSt. Marks occupied by our troops, their power in East-Florida was
entirely annihilated.
In the firm conviction that the war was ended, Gen. Jackson had ordered the Georgia militia to be
disbanded, and was upon the point of returning himself, with the Tennessee and Kentucky volunteers,
when he learned that the object of the campaign was not yet entirely accomplished.
The vanquished enemy, crossing into West-Florida, where the authorities of Spain proved as imbecile
as in the eastern province, renewed their depredations, by their incursions into the adjoining territory
of the United States, and committing murderers upon our frontier settlers. Every circumstance, which
not only justified the act, but which rendered it an imperious duty for him to enter the Spanish territory
of East Florida, was equally applicable to the act of his crossing the Apalachicola, to break down the
power of the enemy in West-Florida. But the conduct of the Governor, taken in connection with the
circumstances which induced the entrance into Pensacola, rendered its occupancy by General
Jackson, if possible, yet more palpably necessary, than that of St. Marks. Well apprised of General
Jackson's object, that he had not entered the Florida in hostility to Spain, but to do that which Spain
was bound to do, both by treaty and by the laws of nations, to give security to our own citizens, within
our own territory, by destroying the power of the savage foe, the Governor of Pensacola, in equal
violations of the laws, of neutrality and of humanity, succoured those enemies, supplied them with
munitions of war, sheltered and conveyed from the hand of justice those of them, who were returning
from the bloody prey ; and when General Jackson was executing the righteous mandates of an
injured and indignant nation upon them, the Governor commanded him to depart from the territory,
threatening to oppose force by force, should he not comply. Thus circumstanced, what should
General Jackson have done ? Should he have been induced, by the unprovoked and gasconading
menaces of a foreign Governor, to retrace his steps ? Or should he have remained stationary, until he
could, have despatched a messenger to the Executive, for instructions how to act. This would have ill
become an American general, whose movements were sanctioned by the sacred laws of nature and
of nations, and by the solemn stipulations of the foreign prince, as well as by the authority of his own
government.
Should he have left it in quiet possession of a savage foe ? This, would have defeated the whole
object of the war. There was but one course, in the opinion the honor of the nation, and the safety of






its frontier citizens. The governor of West-Florida, by his own act, had become a party with the
savages in the waror had at least, by his imbecility, forfeited the right of sovereignty within the territory
; and the occupancy of the Spanish posts in that province, by General Jackson was in the opinion of
the committee, a sacred duty which he owed to himself, to his army, to the government, and to his
country. While this nation scrupulously regards the dictates of justice, in her intercourse with all
nations, civilized and savage, it is a duty which she owes to her own character and to the safety of her
citizens, to assert her rights and avenge her wrongs. In relation to these movements, it appears to
your committee, that the executive has sanctioned the act of general Jackson, in the occupancy of
those posts, by requiring that condition, which the laws of nations and the treaty with Spain justify, in
order to the restoration of St. Marks ; and if Pensacola is not held subject to the same condition, this
does not imply a relinquishment of the right, but should be regarded as the evidence of an amicable
disposition towards Spain.
The committee now enter upon the other point; that of the trial and execution of the foreign
instigators, Arbuthnot and Ambristera subject of more delicacy and tenderness, as it involves the lives
liberties of individuals ; yet of equal magnitude, and, in the opinion of the committee, of equal
clearness. In ancient times, when barbarism more generally prevailed, and even polished nations
seemed unconscious, of the ties of humanity which ought ever to bind the whole family of manhood in
tenderness and affection, the practice obtained, of putting to death the soldiers and even the citizens
of a vanquished energy, by the sword, and even by the public executioner, or of holding prisoners of
war in slavery for life, and entailing bondage upon their posterity. But the progress of civilization,
aided by the benign influence of christianity, has, in modern days, produced a radical change, highly
honorable to the civilized world.
In consequence of this principle, it follows, that although, when one nation enters into war with
another nation, all the citizens of those nations may be considered, in some respects , as enemies of
all the citizens of the other; yet they have not a right, in all cases, when they meet, to act in hostility to
each other; because women, children and all others who are exempted from bearing arms, and
those employed in rural and other peaceful occupations, are not the proper objects of hostility ; nor it
is admissible to take the lives of those who fall into the power of their enemies, after they, have
surrendered because such act is now unauthorized by the law of nations, and ever has been a
violation of the laws of humanity. So, when armies meet in the field of battle, the soldier, who lays
down his arms and asks for quarters, is entitled to his life: and the same with garrisons and whole
armies ; if they offer to capitulate, in cases of great extremity, it is an established principle of the laws
of nations, universally acknowledged where civilization prevails, that their lives cannot be justly taken,
unless their gross violation of the rules of civilized warfare render it necessary to inflict death as a
punishment for their crimes. But death, in such cases, is never the righteous fate of unsuccessful
war: much less are peaceable citizens, unarmed, pursuing their lawful avocations, subject to death, or
any other acts of hostilities calculated to injure them, either in their persons or effects ; because such
citizens do not offer injury. But, from this general principle and universal practice among christian
nations, another principle arises, as universally acknowledged and equally consonant to the laws of
nature and nations, that when a nation, either savage or civilized, departs from this rules, and grossly
violates the laws of nations and of humanity, retaliation, or reprisals, are always justifiable, often
useful, and sometimes essentially necessary, to teach the offenders to respect the laws of humanity,
and to save the effusion of blood.
In such case, where the guilty persons can be taken and identified, the punishment ought to fall
exclusively upon them. Yet reprisals are not, necessarily, even confined to persons of the guilty ; but
the laws of war justify the punishment of the offending nation, in any of the persons of the enemy.This
nation, ever regarding mercy as her delight, has heretofore abstained from the exercise of this power,
though the principle was recognized in the case of Capt. Asgill, in the revolutionary war : and by
President Madison, in which it received the sanction of the legislature, in the late war. When at war
with the savages, who respect no rule, and are governed by no laws ; whose known mode of warfare
is indiscriminate murder of all ages, sexes and conditions, it is a well established principle, that their
crimes may be lawfully punished in the persons of any of their people ; and the citizens or subjects of






any civilized nation, by engaging in their warfare, either in personal hostility or by instigating, aiding,
and abetting them, thereby identifying themselves with the savages, belong to their nation during the
continuance of such engagements, and are, by the true and acknowledged principles of the laws of
nations, subject to the same treatment. When reprisals shall be made by inflicting retaliatory
punishments upon foreigners thus identified with savages, it is justifiable upon the principle of
reprisals alone, and not because they become outlaws and pirates : for the laws of nation justify the
citizens or subjects of one nation in entering the service of another nation ; and, during such services,
they are considered as parts of the nation which they serve, subjects to the same treatment, in all
respects, as if they were its natural citizens or subjects.
It was upon this principle, that the Marquis de la Fayette, Barons Steuben and De Kalb, and Gen.
Kosciusko, entered the American service in the revolutionary war, which was never considered as a
just occasion for war, by Great Britain, against France, Prussia or Poland : nor yet as a cause for
regarding them in the character of outlaws and pirates. But, had these distinguished men fallen into
the hands of Great Britain, the laws of war would have entitled them to the same tenderness, and
subjected them to the same conditions, as native Americans. The same principal is equally
applicable to those who enter into the service of the savages.
The universal principle of savage warfare, elicited by their general practice, is that of the most cruel
and aggravated murder; not only of their enemies taken in arms, but also of peaceful unarmed
citizens, helpless females, tender infants. If instances have been known wherein they have spared
the lives of persons falling into their power, these instances have been too few in number, compared
with the massacres which they have committed, desolating whole settlements, and murdering whole
garrisons, to give an opposite character to their general practice.
The desolation and ruin of the Wyoming settlement, in the revolutionary war, and the massacres at
Fort Mimms and on the river Raisin, in perfect accordance with their general history, from the
commencement of our national existence, furnish sufficient demonstration of this fact,
Alexander Arbuthnot was taken as a resident among the savages, with whom he had identified
himself, by acting as their agent, exciting them to the war* (* We know of no legal evidence to support
this assertion), aiding, abetting, and supplying them with the means of carrying it on. Robert C.
Ambrister was taken in their actual service, as a leader and commander of their forces, by which as
well as aiding, abetting, comforting, and supplying them, he was also identified with the savages.
Agreeably to these principles of the laws of nations, the committee are fully of opinion, that General
Jackson, as commander of the army, had the right to exercise upon them the law of retaliation,
without the intervention of a court martial. However cautiously this rule should be exercised, and
desirable as mercy always is, whenever it can be exercised with safety, this godlike virtue has it
bounds, beyond which, its exercise would be a perversion of justice ; and it is presumed, that the
repeated murders that have been committed upon our citizens, the many bloody trophies of their
cruelties found at Mickasuky, and their persisting in hostility against the repeated warning and threats,
which had been held out to them, bore conviction to the mind of General Jackson, that the exercise
of the law of relation had become necessary to the future safety of his fellow-citizens.
But he chose to submit the case to the investigation and decision of a court martial, composed of
distinguished officers, by whom Alexander Arbuthnot was condemned to be hung, which sentence
was confirmed and executed. By the same tribunal Robert C. Ambrister was, in the first instance,
condemned to be shot; but, upon reconsideration they changed the sentence to that of corporal
punishment and confinement to hard labor. The reconsideration was disapproved by General
Jackson, and the first sentence confirmed and executed. On this last point the committee are of
opinion, that it would have been more correct for General Jackson, after submitting the case to a court
martial, not only to examine the facts as to his guilt, but to determine the punishment to be inflicted,
to have acquiesced in their final only legal decision as a court. But, in this, the committee are
satisfied that General Jackson did not transcend the power warranted by the law of retaliationthe
prisoner's own confession, and the evidence produced, going to establish the facts which justified its
application. And though the principles of national law, involved in this war, would have authorised a
more extensive sacrifice, even on the persons of the innocent, yet the committee deem it a matter of






great felicitation, that punishment fell upon the guilty alone ; and that the object is effected, with so
limited an example of justice. Under this view of the whole subject the committee can discover much
which merits applause and little that deserves censure ; and from the incalculable benefits resulting to
the nation, from the faithful and distinguished services of General Jackson and the officers and men
who served under his command, in terminating finally the Seminole war, are of opinion that they are
entitled to the thanks of their country."




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