Article Title: Debate on the Seminole War. Long speech by Poindexter in the House, again vindicating Jackson, and also reviewing aspects of British activity in Florida under Col. Nichols during the War of 1812.
Author:
Published in: National Intelligencer
Place of Publication: Washington, DC
Publication Date: 3/30/1819




DEBATE ON THE SEMINOLE WAR
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
CONTINUED.
MR. POINDEXTER addressed the chair as follows :
I rise, Mr. chairman, under the influence of peculiar sensibility, to offer my sentiments on the subject before the committee. We are called upon to disrobe a veteran soldier of the well-earned laurels which encircle his brow, to tarnish his fame by severe reproaches, and hand down his name to posterity, as the vielator of the sacred instrument which constitutes the charter of our liberties, and of the benevolent dictates of humanity, by which this nation had ever been characterized and distinguished. Were the sacrifice of this highly meritorious citizen the only evil with which the proposed resolutions are fraught, I should derive some consolation from the reflection, that there is a redeeming spirit in the intelligence and patriotism of the great body of the people, capable of shielding him against the deleterious consequences meditated by the propositions on your table. But there is another, and a more serious aspect, in which the adoption of these resolutions must be viewed; the direct and infallible tendency which they involve, of enfeebling the arm of this government, in our pending negotiation with Spain ; of putting ourselves in the wrong, and the Spanish monarch in the right, on the interesting and delicate points which have so long agitated and endangered the peace of the two countries. I wish not to be understood as attributing to honorable gentlemen, who advocate the measure, such motives : they are, doubtless, actuated alone by a sense of duty. I speak of the effects which our proceedings are calculated to produce, without intending to cast the slightest imputation on those who entertain different opinions. Sir, do we not know with what delight and satisfaction the minister of Spain looks on the efforts which are made on this floor to inculpate the Executive of the United States, for having committed against not to the unlimited extent for which gentlemen have con- his immaculate master an act of hostility, in the entrance into Florida, and the temporary occupation of St. Marks and Pensacola ? With what avidity and pleasure he peruses the able and eloquent arguments delivered in the popular branch of the government, in support of the weighty allegations which he has already exhibited of the hostile and unwarrantable conduct of the commander of our army, during the late campaign against the Seminole Indians ? And, sir, whatever may be the purity of intention, which I shall not presume to question, on the part of gentlemen who censure the course pursued by the commanding general, this debate will afford a valuable fund, on which Spain will not fail to draw, on all future occasions, to shew that the pacific relations which she has endeavored to maintain have been violated, without an adequate cause, by the United States. Shall we put it in her power to make this declaration to the civilized world, and establish the fact by a reference to the journal of the House of Representatives ? I hope and believe we shall not. Sir, the nature of our free institutions imperiously requires that, on all questions touching controversies with foreign powers, every department of this government should act in concert, and present to the opposite party one undivided, impenetrable front. The observance of this rule accords with every dictate of patriotism; and is the basis on which alone we can preserve a proper respect for our rights among the great family of nations. Internal divisions are often fatal to the liberties of the people ; they never fail to inflict a deep wound on the national character ; the lustre and purity of which it is our primary duty to preserve unsullied, to the latest posterity. Can it be necessary to call to the recollection of the committee the peculiar and delicate posture of our relations with Spain ? A protracted and difficult negotiation, on the subject of boundary and spoliations, is still progressing between the Secretary of State and their accredited minister, at this place; the result is yet extremely doubtful ; it may, and I trust will, eventuate in a treaty satisfactory to the parties, on all the points in contest ; but if Spain should continue to reject the moderate and reasonable demands of this government, the indisputable rights of this nation must and will be asserted and vindicated by a solemn appeal to arms. I ask, if, in such a crisis, it is either wise or prudent to pronounce, in the face of the world, that we have been the aggressors, and that war in its most offensive and exceptionable sense has been already commenced by general Jackson, under the sanction of the President of the United States ? I hazard nothing in affirming that such a departure from the established usages of nations is without a parallel in the political history of any country, ancient or modern. Under whatever circumstances danger may threaten us from abroad, it is from this House that the energies of the people are to be aroused and put in motion ; it is our province to sound the alarm, and give the impulse which stimulate every portion of the Union to a simultaneous manly exertion of its physical strength, to avenge the insulted honor and violated interests of our country. We are the legitimate organ of public sentiment ; and it is incumbent on us to animate and cherish a spirit of resistance to foreign encroachments among our constituents, by urging the justice of our cause, and the necessity of their vigorous co-operation in support of the constituted authorities, who are responsible to them, for the faithful execution of the high and important duties with which they are entrusted. These are the means by which we shall perpetuate our republican form of government, and transmit its blessings to future generations. But we are required on the present occasion to forget the wrongs of which we have so long and so justly complained ; to abandon, for a while, the lofty attitude of patriotism, and to tell the American people, in anticipation of a rupture with Spain, that it is a war of aggression on the part of their chief Executive Magistrate, commenced in Florida without proper authority ; that the Spanish government can consider it in no other light, than premeditated, offensive war, made on them with a view of extending the territorial limits of the United States. The expression of these opinions, by this body, must cast a shade over the American name, which no lapse of time can obliterate ; and, while we nerve the arm of the enemy, we that approach the contest with an open denunciation against the President, who is charged with its prosecution to a speedy and favorable termination. He is denied the cheering consolation of Union, in the government over which he has been called to preside, at a period of national peril, when every man ought to be invited to rally around the standard of his country. Sir, how is this most novel and extraordinary aberration from the legislative functions of the House attempted to be explained and justified ? By gloomy pictures of a violated constitution ; pathetic appeals to humanity, in favor of a barbarous and unrelenting foe; and lamentations over the blighted honor and magnanimity of the nation. I, too, am a conservator of the constitution ; I venerate that stupendous fabric of human wisdom ; I love my country, and will endeavor to rescue it from the odious imputations which have been so freely cast on it in the progress of this discussion. I admonish gentlemen, who manifest such ardent zeal to fortify the powers of this House against military usurpations, that they do not suffer that zeal to precipitate them into an error equally repugnant to a sound construction of the constitution. The report of the committee on military affairs, taken in connection with the amendments proposed by the honorable member from Georgia, (Mr. Cobb) may be classed under two general divisions. 1st. Resolutions of censure, on the conduct of general Jackson, in Florida, for a violation of the orders of the President, and of the constitution ; and for the unlawful execution of the incendiaries Arbuthnot and Ambrister. 2d. Instructions to the committee to prepare and report two several bills, the object of which is to divest this nation of some of the most essential attributes of sovereignty. I shall pass over the latter branch of this subject without observation ; believing, as I do, notwithstanding the high respect which I entertain for the mover, that it is not seriously the intention of honorable gentlemen, by an act of legislation, to abrogate the rights of this nation, founded on the universal law of nature, and of nations. Self-denial, though sometimes an amiable quality in an individual member of society, when applied to the whole community, renders it obnoxious to insult and oppressions, and is a voluntary degradation, below the rank of other sovereignties, to which no American ought ever to submit. Neutral rights, and the usages of war, are already well established, and understood by all civilized powers ; and it is not to be presumed that the interpolations which are proposed would be reciprocated, and constitute the basis of new principles of public law ; we may prostrate our own dignity, and paralyze the energizes of our country ; but we shall find no nation so pusillanimous as to follow our disinterested example. Considering, therefore, these propositions, as merely nominal, intended only to enlarge the group, and give diversity to the picture, I shall leave them without further animadversion, and proceed to investigate the resolutions leveled at the fame, the honor, and reputation, of general Andrew Jackson ; and, through him, at the President, under whose orders he acted, and by whom he has been sustained and vindicated. Sir, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of every tribunal, whether
legislative or judicial, to examine, with
caution and circumspection, into its jurisdiction and powers, on every question brought before it for adjudication ; and this rule ought more particularly to be observed in cases involving personal rights and interests, where the party to be affected by the decision is not permitted to answer in his own defence. I ask, then, sir, has the House of Representatives, as a distinct and separate branch of Congress, the constitutional power to institute an enquiry into the conduct of a military officer, and to sentence him to be cashiered, suspended, or censured ? I demand a satisfactory and explicit response to this interrogatory, founded on a reference to the constitution itself, and not on the undefined notions of expediency, in which gentlemen may indulge ; and if it be not given, as I am very sure it cannot, we shall become the violators of that fair fabric of liberty, and erect a precedent more dangerous in its tendency, than the multiplied infractions which have been so vehemently alleged against general Jackson, admitting them all the force and latitude which the most enthusiastic censor could desire. Sir, it is high time to bring back this debate to first principles, and to test our jurisdiction over this case, by a recurrence to the government of which we are a component part. Let us pluck the beam from our own eyes, before we seek to expel the mote which gentlemen seem to have discovered in the vision of general Jackson. The sages and patriots who established the foundation of this republic have, with a wisdom and forecast bordering on inspiration, carefully marked and distributed the powers delegated in the constitution to the federal government among the several departments, legislative, executive, and judiciary. No principle is better settled, or more generally conceded, than that the powers properly belonging to one of these departments ought not to be directly administered by either of the others. The violation of this maxim leads, by inevitable results, to the downfall of our republican institutions, and the consolidation of all power in that branch which shall possess the strongest influence over the public mind. Upon the independent exercise of the powers confided to each department, uncontrolled, directly or indirectly, by the encroachment of either, depends the security of life, liberty, and property, and the stability of that constitution which are the pride of our country and the admiration of mankind. The honorable gentleman from Georgia has adverted to the opinions of the immortal author of the letters of Publius, the late chief magistrate of the United States ; and the honorable speaker has also invited our attention to that great constitutional lawyer. They triumphantly ask, what he would say on the present question, were he a member of this House ? I will not follow the example of these gentlemen, by substituting declamation for historical truth, or vague surmises, and assumed premises, for record evidence ; but, while I accord to the distinguished statesman and patriot, whose exertions so eminently contributed to the establishment of this government, and whose exposition of its fundamental principles cannot be too highly appreciated, all the merit of a useful life, devoted to the public service, guided by wisdom, virtue, and integrity; I appeal, with pleasure and confidence, to his able pen, in support of the position which I have advanced, and which I deem an important point in the case under consideration. In the view taken by Mr. Madison, of the ' meaning of the maxim which requires a separation of the departments of power,' he repels the arguments of the opponents to the adoption of the constitution, founded on the apprehension of Executive supremacy over the legislative and judiciary, which, it was contended, would ultimately render that branch the sole depository of power, and subject the people of this country to the despotic will of a single individual. Comparing the powers delegated to the Executive, with those granted to the legislature, and the probable danger of an assumption by either of the function appertaining to the other, he says, ' in a government where numerous and extensive prerogatives are placed in the hands of a hereditary monarch, the Executive department is very justly regarded as the source of danger, and watched with all the jealousy which a zeal for liberty ought to inspire. In a democracy, where a multitude of people exercise in person the legislative functions, and are continually exposed, by their incapacity for regular deliberation and concerted measures, to the ambitious intrigues of their Executive magistrates, tyranny may well be apprehended, on some favorable emergency, to start up in the same quarter. But, in a representative republic, where the Executive magistracy is carefully limited, both in the extent and duration of its power, and where the legislative power is exercised by an assembly, which is inspired, by a supposed influence over the people, with an intrepid confidence in its own strength, which is sufficiently numerous to feel all the passions which actuate a multitude, yet not so numerous to be incapable of pursuing the objects of its passions, by means which reason prescribes; it is against the enterprizing ambition of this department, that the people ought to indulge all their jealousy, and exhaust all their precaution.
The legislative department derives superiority in our government from other circumstances. Its constitutional powers being at once more extensive, and less susceptible of precise limits, it can, with the greater facility, mask, under complicated and indirect measures, the encroachments which it makes on the co-ordinate departments. ' The correctness of the reasoning and predictions of this great and good man, who is called by the honorable speaker the father of the constitution, has been often demonstrated in the practical operations of this body, and never more forcibly than on the present occasion. Scarcely a session of Congress passes without some effort to enlarge the scope of our powers, by construction or analogy ; and unless these systematic advances in this House, to crush the co-ordinate departments, by an unlimited exercise of authority over all subjects involving the general welfare, be resisted, with firmness and perseverance, they will, at no distinct period, eventuate in the destruction of those salutary checks and balances, so essential to the duration of our happy form of government, and to the security of civil and political liberty. I deprecate every measure calculated to establish a precedent, which, in its effects, may lead to such dangerous consequences. An enlightened statesman has said that the concentrating all the powers of government in the legislative body is of the very essence of despotism ; and it is no alleviation, that these powers will be exercised by a plurality of hands, and not by a single one. ' An elective despotism was not the government we fought for ; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.'
Sir, whenever these principles shall cease to be respected by the councils of this country, I shall consider the grand experiment which we have made in the administration of a government of limited powers, founded on a written instrument, in which they are specified and defined, as altogether abortive, and as affording strong proof of the regal maximthat man in incapable of self-government. If honorable gentlemen mean any thing by the reverence which they profess to feel for the constitution, I conjure them to look to its provisions, and forbear to adopt a measure in direct violation both of its letter and spirit. By article 2d. section 2. it is provided that " The President shall be commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into actual service;" and by the 8th section of the 1st article, Congress is vested with power to " make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces. " Congress has long since fulfilled this duty : rules and articles of war have been sanctioned, and have continued to govern the army, from its organization, up to the present time ; in these, the great principles of subordination and responsibility are graduated and established, from the commander in chief, down to the most petty officer and common soldier. The President is placed by his country at the head of its physical force, " to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrection, and repel invasion ;" he is the ultimate tribunal to decide all questions touching the operations of the army, and the conduct of the officers who compose it. If there be any power, clearly and exclusively belonging to the Executive, it is that which appertains to the government of the army and navy of the United States. Our whole system of laws recognizes it ; and until this extraordinary attempt to erect the House of Representatives into a court martial, with a view to cast an indelible stain on the character of general Jackson, without a fair and impartial trial, in which he might confront his accusers, and be heard in his defence, no instance can be shewn, since the foundation of the government, where the President has been interrupted in the full exercise of his legitimate authority over the military officers under his command. The abuse of this power, or improper direction and application of the public force, by the chief magistrate, or by any subordinate officer, with his privity and assent, in a manner, or for the accomplishment of objects, dangerous to the liberties of the people, or subversive of the laws and constitution of the Union, will find a ready and suitable corrective in this House, by an application of its power to originate impeachment against the President, Vice President, and all civil officers, for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. In this sense only can we be regarded as the grand inquest of the nation, and tended. The power to impeach the President is expressly delegated ; all other civil officers are liable to the same scrutiny, and the total omission, in the article of the military department, is, to my mind, conclusive evidence that they were never intended to be subject to the control of Congress, except in the usual course of legislation, under the power to raise and support armies. And this opinion is strengthened by the clause of the constitution to which I have referred, directing Congress to provide for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces. The principle of official responsibility is to be found in every page of the constitution ; not a vague, uncertain responsibility, but that which is unequivocal, certain, and definite. We are answerable, at stated periods, to the people by whom we have respectively been chosen. The President is accountable to the nation at large, at the expiration of his term of service ; and, in the mean time, we hold a salutary check over his ambition, if he evince such a disposition, by means of impeachment. In like manner, the whole civil department may be punished for a wanton prostitution of their official functions. The military and naval officers who command our army and navy are responsible directly to the Executive, who is their chief, and, through him, indirectly, to the representatives of the people. Every link in the chain is essential to the beauty and symmetry of the whole ; and, if preserved unbroken, affords the most ample security against any usurpation of power without a prompt and efficient remedy to detect and restrain it. It is now proposed to make this House the focus of every power granted to the federal government ; to mount the ramparts which separate the departments, and compel every man who holds a commission to bow with submission to the gigantic strength of this numerous assembly. Those whom we cannot impeach we will censure, and record their names as fit objects for the scorn and detestation of posterity. Already we hold the purse and the sword of the nation. All legislation must receive our concurrence, in connexion with the President and Senate, before it has the force and effect of law. The treaty-making power may be controlled by us, where an appropriation is required to fulfill the contractthe judiciary is at our feet, both in respect to the extent of its jurisdiction and the liability of its members to the summary process of impeachmentthe President and heads of departments, foreign ministers, and the whole catalogue of civil officers, stand in awe of our frowns, and may be crushed by the weight of our authority. I ask, then, sir, if the officers of the army and navy are rendered subservient to us, as a censorial, inquisitorial body, whether it will not amount to the " very definition of despotism. " Yes, sir, we shall, if these resolutions pass, bear testimony of the soundness of the political axiom, that it is " against this department that the people ought to indulge all their jealousy, and exhaust all their precautions. " But the constitution, in this respect, has received a construction almost contemporaneously with its adoption. As early as the year 1792, a resolution was submitted, by a distinguished member from Virginia, in the House of Representatives, requesting the President to institute an enquiry into the causes of the defeat of the army under the command of Maj. Gen. St. Clair. The agitation produced by that momentous disaster seemed to demand an investigation of the conduct of the commanding general. A great public calamity is always calculated to awaken feelings which, for a moment, usurp the empire of reason, and lead to excesses which sober reflection would condemn. It was not, therefore, wonderful, that a man of the soundest intellect, and most enlightened understanding, should have felt it his duty to call the attention of the President to a subject so deeply interesting to the country, and to request an enquiry into the causes of that signal and unfortunate defeat. The proposition was fully discussed, and finally rejected by a large majority, on the ground that it was an unwarrantable interference with the constitutional functions of the chief magistrate. The substance of the debate may be found in the newspapers of that day ; and among those who objected to the measure are the names of Madison, Ames, Baldwin, and many others who participated in the formation of the constitution, and who were, consequently, better qualified to give to it a sound interpretation. A committee was subsequently appointed to enquire into the expenditure of the public money in that campaign, and other subjects of a general nature, connected with the legislative duties of Congress. Again ; in the year 1810, a committee was raised to enquire into the conduct of Gen. James Wilkinson, in relation to a variety of charges which had been publicly made against him : they were authorized to send for persons and papers. The general was notified of their sittings, allowed to attend in person before them, to cross-examine the witnesses, to confront his accusers, to exhibit evidence in his defence, and make such explanations as he might think necessary to a vindication of his conduct. The committee, after a very laborious investigation, simply reported the facts to the House, who resolved, that the same be transmitted to the President of the United States. No opinion was expressed or intimated, as to the guilt or innocence of the general ; no request was made of the President to institute a court martial, but he was left to the exercise of his own discretion, unbiased by the slightest indication of the impression which the development had made on the House of Representatives. The result, we all know, was, that a general court martial was immediately convened, and Gen. Wilkinson was honorably acquitted ; both principle and precedent, therefore, combine in recommending a rejection of these resolutions which claim for this House a power, not merely to request another department to perform a particular duty, but assume the right to adjudicate the case, and sentence an officer to irretrievable infamy, without a hearing, and without appeal, save only to his God and the purity of his own conscience. Permit me, sir, to present to the view of the committee some of the unavoidable consequence which will flow from this premature and unauthorized proceeding. We announce to the President, and to the nation, that Gen. Jackson, in the prosecution of the Seminole war, has violated his orders and broken the constitution of his country, and that, in the trial and execution of Arbuthnot and Ambrister, he has been guilty of the horrid crime of official murder. We, on the part of the whole people, become the informers, and thereby impose on the
President, as commander in chief of the army, the
indispensable obligation to adopt one of two alternativeseither to dismiss from the service that officer, under our denunciations, or to assemble a regular court martial to investigate these charges, according to the forms prescribed in the laws enacted for the government of the army of the United States. The latter course, being the one best adapted to the attainment of justice, would, in all probability, be pursued. He details a court martial, composed of high-minded military men ; charges and specifications are exhibited ; and the general, for the first time, is allowed to answer to themguilty or not guilty. He is put on his trial, and, at the very threshhold, he is informed, that he has already been found guilty by the highest tribunal in the Unionthe Representatives of the American people. He, nevertheless, proceeds in his defence, and is ultimately convicted, and cashiered. Would not history record such a conviction as the result of our prejudication of the case ? Would not the whole world attribute the downfall of this man to the monstrous persecution and flagrant injustice of that ungrateful country which he has so nobly defended ? Yes, sir, to the latest posterity, we should be regarded as having passed an ex parte decree of condemnation which the court martial were bound to register, to secure themselves from similar animadversion. But let us suppose that, unawed by the imposing dictum which we shall have pronounced, the court martial acquit the general of the several charges and specifications on which he has been arrested. We should then have the military of the country arrayed against this body : we, acting under the solemn obligation of our oaths, declare, that Gen. Jackson has been guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors ; we are unable to tear from him his epaulettes ; and, when tried by his peers, our opinions are scouted, and he is maintained in the high rank form which we would have degraded him. In such a controversy, the only arbiter is force. Sir, take either horn of the dilemma, and we have abundant reason to shun the consequences which must follow the adoption of the proposed resolutions.
(Speech continued on the second page.)
DEBATE ON THE SEMINOLE WAR
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
MR. POINDEXTER'S SPEECH
CONTINUED.
Our total inability to enforce the will of the majority demonstrates most clearly the absence of the right to express that will ; for, whatever any branch of the government can constitutionally decide, the means necessary to carry its decision into execution can never be withheld or questioned. Sir, I have been not a little amused at the evasive contortions of honorable gentlemen, who, to avoid the perplexing difficulties by which they are enveloped, gravely affirm, that neither the report of the military committee, nor the resolutions respecting the seizure of the posts of St. Marks and Pensacola, and fortress of Barancas, contain a censure of Gen. Jackson; that they are harmless, inoffensive expressions of opinion, upon the passing events relating to the state of the Union. I put it to those gentlemenfor the argument has been resorted to by all who have spokenwhether, if I were to address either of them in conversation, and say, in the language of the propositions before the committee, " Sir, you have violated the constitution of the United States, and, of course, you are perjured. You have sentenced to death, and executed, two of your fellow-men, without a fair trial, and contrary to all law, human and divine ; consequently, your hands are stained with their blood," would they calmly reply, that my expressions conveyed no censure on them, and were not repugnant to their feelings or character, nor inconsistent with contemporaneous assurances of my high respect and consideration ? Committee sense revolts at conclusions so ridiculous, drawn from such premises. Add to this the express charge of a violation of orders, which the President, it seems, is not competent to determine for himself, and I may venture to defy ant gentleman to cover a military officer with more odious epithets, or more vindictive censure. No man, however elevated his station, can withstand the overwhelming force of such an assault on his reputation, coming from this august body, after mature and solemn deliberation. The exalted mind of Gen. Jackson would prefer even death to this fatal blow, aimed at that which is more dear to him than lifehis well-earned fame and irreproachable honor. Sir, the immortal Washington was charged with a violation of the constitution, in drawing money from the treasury to pay the militia who served in the campaign against the insurgents in 1794, without an appropriation made by law ; but at that day the secret of our power to censure had not been discovered, and the transaction passed with out animadversion. It has remained for us to put in motion this new engine of inquisitorial crimination, and to wield it against a man whose arm was never extended but in defending the liberty and safety of his country against the complicated enemies by whom it has been assailed, and whose pure and unblemished patriotism, combined with his invincible valor, fortitude, and perseverance, have shed over his brow a resplendent ray of glory which neither clouds or tempests can obscure, so long as virtue shall predominate over the envious and malignant passions of the human heart. Yes, sir ! We are importuned to execrate the bloody deeds of the Seminole war, to chaunt requiems over the tombs of Arbuthnot and Ambritser, and to mourn over the wreck of our fallen constitutionand, in an instant, as if by enchantment, the horrid picture vanishes from our affrighted imaginations, and eludes even the grasp of keen-eyed malice ; and we hear the moral integrity and innocence of all these transactions announced form the same lips which utter their condemnation. The motives and intentions of Gen. Jackson are eulogized and applauded by his most inveterate accusers. All the errors ascribed to him, and for which honorable gentlemen are prepared to immolate his character, and render his name, hitherto so dear to his countrymen, odious and detestable, are attributed to the impetuous ardor of his zeal to promote the general good, and give peace and security to our defenceless frontier.
He fills a space in the public eye, and commands a portion of the affection and confidence of his fellow citizens, too copious and extensive to be tolerated by the sharp-sighted politician, whose splendid eloquence fades and evaporate before the sunshine of renown lighted up by the unparalleled achievements of the conqueror of the veterans of Wellington. These modern casuists endeavor to magnify an unintentional violation of the constitution into a crime of the blackest enormity, which can neither be extenuated or forgiven. Are they willing to have their names specified on the journal as culprits at the bar of an offended people, stamped with infamy and disgrace, if at any time they have, with the best intentions, given a vote, which on a review of the subject, was found to conflict with some provision of the constitution ? What member of this house can say, with certainty, that he has on all occasions, construed the constitution correctly ? And who among us would be satisfied to stake all his hopes and prospects on the issue of an investigation, which, disregarding all respect for the purity of the motive, should seek only to discover an inadvertent error, resulting from a defect of judgment in the attainment of objects identified with the best interests of the nation ? Sir, if I mistake not, the honorable Speaker, and several other gentlemen, who have manifested great solicitude, and displayed a torrent of eloquence to urge the expediency of passing the proposed censure on the conduct of Gen. Jackson, and who unhesitatingly admit the innocence of his intentions, would be placed in an unpleasant situation, by the operation of the rule which they are anxious to prescribe in this case. A few short years past, these honorable gentlemen were the champions who resisted the renewal of the charter of the old bank of the United States. At that day they held the original act of incorporation to be a usurpation of power, not delegated to Congress by the constitution, and to their exertions we were indebted for the downfall of that institution. The same distinguished members, at a subsequent period, acting under the high obligations of duty, and the solemnity of their oaths to support the constitution of the United States, aided and assisted in establishing the mammoth bank, which now threatens to sweep with the besom of destruction every other moneyed institution in the nation into the gulph of ruin and bankruptcy. It will not be pretended that both these opposite opinions were correct ; and yet I should be very sorry either to impugn the motives which actuated those gentlemen in the instance referred to, or to pass a censure on their conduct for an unintentional violation of the constitution, calculated to withdraw from them the confidence of their constituents. There was a time, Mr. Chairman, when the republican phalanx in every quarter of the Union regarded the specification of powers in the constitution as the limitation of the grant, within which every department ought to be strictly confined. But at this day we are told, that this literal construction of the instrument is too narrow for the expanded views of an American statesmanmere "water-gruel," insipid to the palate, and requiring the addition of a little fuel to give it energy and action to conduct this nation to the high destinies which await it. No power can be called for by an existing exigency, or a favorite system of policy, which, according to the doctrines now advanced, may not be found necessary and proper to carry into effect some one of the specified powers in the constitution. The flexible character of man, and the frailty of human nature, afford an ample apology for these oscillations, and wretched indeed would be our situation if crime consisted in error, unaccompanied by the pre-existing will to perpetrate it. No man who respects his feelings or his character would accept a public trust on such conditions. As well might we censure the Supreme Court for having given a decision which we deemed contrary to the constitution, and where no corruption could be alleged against the Judges who pronounced it ; which is an essential ingredient to constitute an offense for which a judicial officer liable to impeachment. In such a case our censure might be retorted by an attachment for contempt, and the honorable Speaker, representing the majesty of this house, would be compelled to answer the charge by purgation or otherwise, as the wisdom of the house should direct. I mention this to shew the absurdity and inefficiency of every attempt to transcend the powers secured to us by the constitution. Sir, I am sick to loathing of this incongruous, novel, and impotent effort to wound the sensibility of a hero, who has sacrificed whatever of health or fortune he possessed, and staked his life in common with the soldier by whose side he fought, that our exposed and unprotected frontier might once more repose in peace and tranquility, undisturbed by the midnight yell of the merciless savage.
The hero of New Orleans wanted not a petty Indian war to satiate his ambition, or add fresh laurels to the wreath already bequeathed to him by his country. It was a war of hardships, fatigues and privations, in which for him he had nothing to hope but the consolation of having accomplished the object for which he took the field, and of receiving the approbation of the President, to whom alone he was responsible for all the incidents of the campaign in which he participated. Of this reward, so well merited, and so freely bestowed, we now seek to rob, by fulminating resolutions and vindictive eloquence, against what honorable gentlemen are pleased to call a patriotic unintentional violation of the constitution.
The committee then rose, reported progress, and asked leave to sit again ; and the House adjourned. On the following day,
Mr. POINDEXTER resumed his argument.Mr. Chairman, I wish it to be distinctly understood, that the view which I had the honor to take of this subject on yesterday, was not intended to shield the conduct of Gen. Jackson from the strictest scrutiny. Even before this unconstitutional court, unheard and undefended, he fears not the penetrating touch of the most rigid investigation. He asks no palliatives, no exemption from responsibility. He needs only that protection which justice, sternly administrated, affords to every virtuous man in the community. The argument was directed to the judgment of the house, in reference to its own legitimate powers, as a separate branch of the National Legislature. These consist of the right to judge of the elections and returns of our own members ; to determine the rules of our own proceedings ; to punish members for disorderly behavior ; and, with the concurrence of two thirds, to expel a member ; and they are all the ultimate powers of the House of Representatives. Allow me, sir, in closing my remarks on this point, to call the attention of the committee to an opinion which fell from the venerable George Clinton a short time before he took a final leave of this world, and was deposited among the tombs of the fallen heroes and patriots, who, with him, had achieved the independence of their country. Placed in the chair of the Senate of the United States, he was required, by an equal division of that body, to give a casting vote on the question touching the power of Congress to incorporate a National Bank. It will be recollected that he negatived that proposition, and in support of his vote advanced the reasoning by which he was influenced, which he concluded with the following judicious and pertinent admonition : " In the course of a long life, I have found that government is not to be strengthened by an assumption of doubtful powers, but by a wise and energetic execution of those which are incontestable ; the former never fails to produce suspicion and distrust, whilst the latter inspires respect and confidence." The sentiment is worthy of the head and the heart which dictated it, and if properly improved will constitute a rich legacy from that inflexible patriot to those who may follow in the path of legislation. I earnestly recommend it to the favorable consideration of this body
Mr. Poindexter continued. I now, sir, said he, proceed to the topics already discussed with such distinguished ability. Perhaps I shall be guilty of a useless trespass on the patience of the committee in attempting to give them a further examination. The causes and origin of the Seminole war, its prosecution and final terminations, have resounded in our ears until every feeling is paralized, and all the avenues to conviction are closed, by the frost of cold indifference, or the fatal spell of unconquerable prejudice. Under such discouraging circumstances, I enter with diffidence on the task of exploring the ground over which so many have trodden before me. Urged on, however, by a sense of duty and of the important results which may flow from the decision to be pronounced on these interesting subjects, I claim the indulgence of the committee while I submit my opinions in relation to the principles and facts involved in them. The causes of this war stand first in the order of the discussion : upon a clear understanding of these materially depends the justification of the conduct observed in the prosecution of the war. Many of the rights which appertain to a belligerent in a defensive, cannot be claimed in an offensive, war, and this is more particularly the case in respect to that which is now the subject of consideration. The honorable Speaker, aware of the necessity of affixing the guilt of the contest on the United States to sustain his conclusions, has labored to excite our commiseration for the poor, degraded, half-starved, persecuted Seminoles, while he charges the people of Georgia with robberies and murders on their innocent, unoffending neighbors ; who, in their own defence, were compelled to take up arms and retaliate the injustice which had been practised against them. To these outrages, and the acquisition of Indian lands by the treaty of Fort Jackson, combined with the dictatorial terms of that treaty, I understood the honorable gentleman to attribute the war which has produced so much excitement in this House. Sir, I apprehend no gentleman on this floor is better acquainted with the origin of this war than the honorable member from Georgia who opened this debate ; and if he is willing to admit the charge of robbery and murder made on his constituentsbe it so. For one, I can only say, that no satisfactory evidence has been adduced of the fact, and I am therefore bound to controvert it.
[The Speaker explained : He meant only to express his fears that such was the fact, without intending to use the strong language which Mr. P. had ascribed to him. ]
Mr. P. proceeded : Sir, I have the speech of the honorable gentleman before me ; it contains not only the substance of this charge on the people of Georgia, but it refers, in extenso, to a paper signed by the chiefs of ten towns, addressed to the commanding officer at Fort Hawkins, specifying their grievances and the wrongs committed on them by the Georgians, for which they demanded an atonement. This paper the honorable gentlemen has characterized as an artless tale, told in language pathetic and feeling, which carried internal evidence of, at least, the belief of the authors of it that they were writing the truth. It complains, that the " white people carried off all the red people's cattle, and still continued to do so ; that the whites first begun ; that, three years since, the whites killed three Indians, and, since that, three others ; that the whites stole their horses, and all they had, and killed three more Indians ; to which they have since added six more." Satisfaction is said to have been taken for all except three of the Indians alleged to have been murdered by the whites. From this summary of the paper referred to in support of the argument of the honorable Speaker, and the weight which he has attached to it, I think it must be manifest that I have not misconceived or misstated his premises. And I repeat that it is not for me to interfere between the honorable gentleman from Georgia, whose constituents have been thus implicated, and his honorable friend, who imputes to them such disgraceful conduct. But, sir, I cannot forbear to notice this " artless tale of truth," which is the sole evidence of the outrages complained of, and on which so high an eulogium has been pronounced.Whence came this manifesto ? Sir, it emanated from the pen of that infamous foreigner, Arbuthnot ; it is one of the multitudes of crimes which he expiated on the gallows, and is second only in impudence and falsehood to the famous proclamation of his predecessor, Col. Nichols. Its style is artful and insinuating ; its import pregnant with all the horrid deeds excited and consummated by the mischiefmeditating hand of that monster whose fate is so deeply deplored within these walls. And is the testimony of this man, the avowed enemy of the United States ; the instigator of Indian hostilities, by means of intrigue and seduction ; whose occupation was misrepresentation and deception, to draw the unlettered savage into the vortex of impending ruin ; whose mind was the dark abode of vice, in all its hideous deformity, worthy of the panegyric which it has received, and of the confidence reposed in it by the honorable Speaker ? Shall we dishonor the American name upon his authority, masked by the nominal signature of Ten Towns, the dupes of his insidious policy, who knew no more of this " pathetic and feeling narrativethis simple tale of truth," than he thought proper to communicate to them ? No, Sir, I trust we shall not. We must look to other and more respectable sources, for the concatenation of events which resulted in the Seminole war : to these I shall presently call the attention of the committee. But the treaty of Fort Jackson falls under the severe denunciation of the honorable Speaker, and the war is said to have had its origin in the imperious, haughty, and dictatorial spirit of that instrument. Let us advert, for a moment, to the history of this transaction, and bottom our reasoning on facts, and we shall be less liable to the errors inseparable from a superficial view of any subject. The Creek Indians, towards whom the United States had, for more than twenty years, observed the most pacific policy, stimulating them to industry and agricultural pursuits, and inculcating on their minds the benefits of civilization, seized on the first favorable opportunity which offered, when we were contending for our existence, as a sovereign and independent nation, against the undivided strength of Great Britain, to take up arms against us and make a common cause with the enemy ; actuated to this measure, no doubt, by British and Spanish counselors, and supplied, as we know, with the means of carrying on the war at Pensacola. While they were in our power, weak and unprotected, we cherished and fed them ; we introduced, among them implements of husbandry, taught them to cultivate the soil, and the use of the wheel and the loom. We respected their territory, and prohibited all intrusion upon it. When they found us hard pressed, by the most powerful nation in Europe, we asked not their assistance, but advised them to stay at home and remain in peace ; we told them not to fight on either side. But the demon of foreign seduction came among them ; false hopes were infused into their minds ; promises of British aid were made to them; the prophttic delusion of invincibility nerved the warrior's arm, and the tomahawk and scalping knife were raised against their benefactors; wielded with all the fury of savage barbarity, rendered still more ferocious by the influence of superstition and fanatacism. Such was their ingratitude, and such the return for our magnanimity ! The bloody contest ensued. The massacre at Duck River, at Fort. Mims, and the butchery of our frontier inhabitants, without regard to age, sex, or condition, will long be remembered by the afflicted friends and relatives who survive the unfortunate victims, whose innocent blood stained the guilty hand of the inexorable savage. The melancholy story of their wrongs will be handed down to the latest generations. I hope they will not be forgotten by their country. At this momentous crisis, Jackson sprung from the retirement in which his vigorous mind had been permitted to slumber, and contemplate, not without emotions of painful regret, the disasters which marked the progress of our armies. He took the field, at the head of the hardy and intrepid sons of Tennesseehis faithful companions in arms. They penetrated the swamps and the forces, enduring, with manly fortitude, every hardship and privation which the most vivid imagination can conceive, or human language portray. The God of battles was on their side ; victory attended their steps ;they conquered. The vanquished enemy dispersed : a part of them fled into Florida, to throw themselves under British protection, and the residue surrendered to the mercy of the conquering general. And the articles of capitulation, signed on the 9th of August 1814, has been called a treaty ; a chef d'auvre in diplomacy, cruel and insulting in its terms, to a miserable, fallen foe ; derogatory to the national character, and the main cause of the recent war with the Seminoles. I have yet to learn, that the subjugation of one tribe of Indians, and the terms of their submission, is justifiable cause of war, on the part of another, and a distinct tribe. But, independent of this objection to the ground assumed by the honorable Speaker, I contend there is nothing in these articles of capitulation either unreasonable or incompatible with the sound morality which, it seems, so eminently distinguished the commissions at Ghent. Let it be remembered, that a conquering general, in the field, asks nothing of the enemy as a matter of courtesy. His business is to demand justice, and enforce compliance at the point of the bayonet. And what are the conditions on which Gen. Jackson agreed to receive the submission of an enemy who had made on the United States an unprovoked war, in aid of a contemplated blow to be struck by Great Britain, on the great emporium of our western commerce ? He demands " an equivalent for all expenses incurred in prosecuting the war to its final termination ; that the Creek nation abandon all intercourse with the British and Spanish posts, those infernal fiends who had excited them to war ; that they acknowledge the right of the United States to establish military posts and trading houses, and open roads, within their territory, and to the free navigation of their waters ; that they surrender the property taken from citizens of the United States and friendly Indians, in return for which, the property of those who submitted was to be restored ; and that the instigators of the war, whether foreigners or prophets, if found within their territory, should be captured and surrendered. The United States voluntarily undertake to maintain those deluded, infatuated people, until they shall be enabled to support themselves by their own labor." Sir, I will thank any gentleman to designate which of these stipulations he would have omitted. Are they all essential to a permanent peace and a just indemnification for the injuries we had sustained from these red allies of Great Britain ? Yes, sir ; nor could Gen. Jackson have done less, in the faithful performance of his duty ; and less could not have been expected by a conquered tribe of Indians under similar circumstances.
The frequent use of the word " demand," which has given so much offence, corresponded precisely with the nature of the transaction, which was purely military, purporting on its face to be " articles of agreement and capitulation," bearing no resemblance to a formal treaty entered into by the mutual consent of two independent sovereignties. I can perceive nothing on the face of this capitulation, either in form or substance which is inconsistent with a proper respect for our own safety, or incompatible with national honor. The right to make roads and establish trading houses and military posts on the lands reserved to the Creeks, to which exception has been taken, as a high-handed, arbitrary measure, is universal among all the Indian tribes within our limits. I do not believe it was ever before questioned or complained of. But we are told that this compact was not entered into by a majority of the Creek nation; that it is not binding on them ; and the territory acquired under it reverts, under the stipulation contained in the 9th article of the treaty of Ghent. So said Col. Nichols, and Arbuthnot ; and so said Lord Castlereagh, until our vigilant enlightened minister then resident in London satisfied him that the treaty did not embrace the case. England, the only power in Europe interested in the question, has abandoned her objections to our title, but they are renewed on this floor, doubtless for the sole object of promoting the interests of the United States ! Sir, all that we gained during the late arduous struggle with Great Britain, except the glory of our land and naval victories, was this little indemnity from a domestic enemy, who made war on us without the slightest apology. And I ask, if it accords with the " expanded views of an American statesman" to throw the weight of his reasoning and opinions against the fair claim of the United States to a tract of country so dearly purchased with the best blood of the nation, and thereby revive doubts of our title already answered to the entire satisfaction of the British cabinet, to whom alone we are bound to answer questions arising under the treaty of peace ? The memorable visit of Nichols, and his red companion, Hillis Hadjo, to England, was made for the express purpose of obtaining the aid of that government in the war, which was then contemplated, to dispossess the United States of the lands ceded by the Creek nation on the 9th of August 1814. Had this debate taken place prior to their departure, they would have been furnished with an interpretation of the treaty of Ghent favorable to their cause, given, too, by one of the American commissioners who negociated it, in this deliberative assembly. With such a paper, coming from such high authority, although not strictly official, they might, indeed, have assumed an imposing attitude with the British ministry. Our difficulties would have thickened around us, and the peace of the Union might have been endangered, without a relinquishment on our part of the lands so necessary to the growing strength and population of our southern states and territories, for the possession of which we were indebted to the valor and patriotism of that man who, for having done too much for his country, is arraigned, as a criminal, at the bar of this House. The treaty of 1790, made at New York, with M'Gillivray, was objected to on the same pretexts now urged to defeat the agreement made at Fort Jackson, in 1814. The Baron De Carondelet, in behalf of the Creek Indians, protested against it as absolutely null and void, because it had not been sanctioned by a majority of the nation. On the recent occasion, Spain is silent, and we are favored with the humane and benevolent interposition of Nichols and Woodbine, Arbuthnot and Ambrister ! I confess, sir, I have no ambition to be found in the ranks with either of these sage and beneficent counsellors : it is enough for me to vindicate the rights of my own country against the attacks of all foreign emissaries, whatever guise they may assume to accomplish their detestable purposes. An honorable gentleman from Pennsylvania, (Mr. Hopkinson,) has said, that every step we have taken, in reference to the unfortunate aborigines, whom we found in possession of the soil over which we have spread our population, has been marked with cruelty and blood ; and the honorable Speaker has informed us, that the friends of legitimacy in Europe make two serious and important charges against this country ; the one is an inordinate spirit of aggrandizement, and the other the treatment which we extend to the Indians. Now, sir, with all the respect which I entertain for those gentlemen, and for the political morality of the friends of legitimacy in Europe, I deny, in their whole extent, the accuracy of these charges ; they are unsupported either by history or the experience of any man living. When did the United States make an offensive war on an Indian tribe ? When did they extend their settlements within the boundary of Indian territory, without a full equivalent, agreed on by treaty, fairly concluded and executed ? I challenge any gentleman to put his finger on that page of history which affords evidence of these facts. And can England or Spain make the same declarations, supported by a retrospect on their past conduct towards the Indian tribes within their territorial limits ? No, sir ! They grant lands for military services, and push their settlement without the smallest respect for Indian boundary. The law of force is the only rule which they recognize as applicable to these people ; and if presents, favors, or privileges, have been occasionally granted to them, they were based in avarice, or intended to stimulate them to the numerous wars which have proved so fatal to them, and which have drenched our extensive frontier in the blood of our citizens. I appeal to every western man, whether, in the long catalogue of Indian hostilities, from the period of the revolution up to the present moment, one instance can be designated in which the war could not be traced to the influence of British agents and traders ? Whether we have not constantly endeavored to withdraw their attention from the art of war ; to cultivate with them the relations of peace and amity ; to civilize them, and ameliorate their condition ? These facts are notorious and indisputable ; they demonstrate, most clearly, the mildness and justice of our policy towards the savage tribes, and leave no foundation for the charges made on this government, either by the legitimates of Europe or the citizens of our own country.
I aver, without the fear of contradiction, that the United States have, on all occasions, without a single exception to the contrary, acted on the defensive in the commencement of every war with our Indian neighbors ; that they have never turned a deaf ear to the voice of conciliation ; and we have abundant evidence that the late Seminole war was of a character similar in all respects to those which preceded it. The finger of British intrigue, and of Spanish duplicity and connivance, are visible, from the very inception of these hostilities to their final termination. I will not detain the committee by entering into a methodical and critical examination of the documents, in the hands of every gentleman ; showing the means employed to excite this war, the preparations made for its prosecution, and the guarantee of ultimate aid from the British government to recover the lands for which the outlawed Creeks contended. They are voluminous, and multifarious ; many of them official, and all leading to the unavoidable conclusion, that nothing short of a restoration of these lands, upon the most humiliating terms, could avert the impending blow. I will endeavor to present a summary of the prominent occurrences, on which I may safely rest the vindication of this government against the charge of aggression. The occupation of a strong military post on the Appalachicola, the asylum of fugitive slaves, of vagabonds, and banditti, of hostile Indians, and of all who would enlist under the English jack, or the bloody flag, is the first certain indication of the approaching rupture. It was the nucleus from which all the subsequent proceedings generated and matured. The government of Spain tacitly acquiesced in this open violation of its neutral territory. Not even the redoubtable Don Jose Masot was heard to complain, except for the seduction and employment of negroes belonging to Spanish subjects, in this tri-colored collection of outlaws and murderers. The demands made on the United States, as the sole condition on which peace could be preserved, and the objects contemplated in the erection of this Negro fort, are specifically announced by that Prince of scoundrels, Col. Edward Nichols, in his several letters to Col. Hawkins, then the Creek agent. This fellow sometimes styles himself " commander of the British forces in the Floridas," and at others " commander of his B. M. forces in the Creek nation. " And on one of his communication is endorsed " on his Britannic majesty's service" ! What forces had Great Britain in the Floridas, or in the Creek nation ? At peace with Spain and the United States, by what authority could that government station a military force within the territories of either ? These extraordinary transactions, it is true, have been verbally disavowed, but they have never been explained in the manner called for by their mischievous tendency, and necessary to exempt the British ministry from the well grounded suspicion of a participation in them. On the 28th of April, 1815, Nichols informed Col. Hawkins that the chiefs had come to a determination " not to permit the least intercourse between their people and those of the United States. They have, in consequence, (said he) ordered them to cease all communication, either directly or indirectly, with the territory or citizens of the U. States." They further warned the citizens of the U. States from entering the territory or communicating, directly or indirectly, with the Creek people ; and they describe their territory to be as it stood in the year 1811. They add their adhesion to the treaty of Ghent, as an independent ally of his Britannic majesty. If a doubt exists as to the intent and meaning of this insolent letter which was itself sufficient cause for hostile operations on our part, it is fully removed by a subsequent letter from the same individual, " commanding his B. M. forces in the Creek nation," dated at the British post on the Appalachicola river, May 12th, 1815. He says" I have ordered them (the Indians) to stand on the defensive, and have sent them a large supply of arms and ammunition, and told them to put to death without mercy any one molesting them. " Again : " They have given their consent to await your answer before they take revenge; but, sir, they are impatient for it, and well armed, as the whole nation now is, and stored with ammunition and provisions, having a strong hold to retire upon in case of a superior force appearing. " He likewise threatens the " good and innocent citizens of the frontier," and admonishes our agent " that they do not find that our citizens are evacuating their lands according to the ninth article of the treaty of Ghent." After this undisguised exposition of their sine qua non, their means of annoyance, their security from attack by a superior force in the " strong hold" which the sagacity of their leader had provided, and their impudent threat of war and vengeance against "the good and innocent citizens on the frontier," what man, whose mind is free from the despotic sway of prejudice, can hesitate as to the settled determination of these Indians to commence hostilities on the United States, whenever they should be ordered to strike, by their good friend Col. Nichols ? To ascertain with certainty how far they might depend on British protection, Nichols and Hillis Hadjo proceeded to London, with the famous address of all the chiefs to their good father King George. This paper, of which Col. Nichols is both the hero and the author, breathes the same spirit of enmity to this country which runs through the whole of his letters and correspondence. In order to recommend themselves to the favor of the king, they assure him that they " have fought and bled for him against the Americans ; that they will truly keep the talks which his chief has given them, if he will be graciously pleased to continue his protection ; that they are determined to cease having any communication with the Americans, and warn them to keep our of their nation. " These talks which they gave a pledge truly to keep, were to " put to death, without mercy, every American who should be found on the lands ceded by the treaty of Fort Jackson. " The deputation was received with every mark of politeness and attention. Hillis Hadjo was honored by the Prince Regent with the rank of Brigadier General in his majesty's service, and presented with a splendid suit of British uniform, together with a rifle, tomahawk and scalping knife, of British manufacture with the royal arms engraven upon each of them. These circumstances attracted the attention of Mr. Adams, our minister there, and several notes were addressed by him to Earl Bathurst, and Lord Castlereagh, on the subject of the unwarrantable proceedings of Nichols, in Florida, and of the address before noticed, which was called a treaty offensive and defensive. To these notes no written reply was furnished ; they carefully avoided a correspondence, in writing, relative to these transactions ; and Lord Bathurst, when pressed by our minister, in a conversation, observed, " to tell you the truth, Col. Nichols is, I believe, a man of activity and spirit, but a very wild fellow. " He sent him word that he had no authority to make a treatyoffensive and defensive with these Indians, and that the government would not make any such treaty. He declined seeing him on that project, but expressed his intention of having an interview with him on the affairs of Florida, generally. This guarded course of conduct, combined with subsequent events, go far to strengthen the belief that the proceedings of Nichols on all the other points were not disapproved, although they could not receive the open approbation of the British cabinet. That war was to be made on the United States by the Indian in Florida, and their white and black allies, is a fact established by such a crowd of testimony, that it would be difficult to select that which would be deemed most conclusive and satisfactory. I will select only one deposition, which is so well supported, and affords such precise information, that I beg leave to read it to the committee.
"The deposition of Samuel Jervais.
Samuel Jervais being duly sworn, states, that he has been a sergeant of marines in the British service for thirteen years past : That, about a month ago, he left Appalachicola, where he had been stationed for several months.That the English colonel Nichols had promised the hostile Indians at that place a supply of arms and ammunition, a large quantity of which had been delivered to them a few days before departure, and after the news of peace between England and the United States being confirmed, had reached Appalachicola : That, among the articles delivered, were, of cannon four 12 pounders, one howitzer, and two cohorns, about 3,000 stand of small arms, and near 3,000 barrels of powder and ball : That the British left with the Indians between three and four hundred negroes, taken from the United States, principally from Louisiana : That the arms and ammunition were for the use of the Indians and negroes, for the purposes, as it was understood, of war with the U. States : That the Indians were assured by the British commander, that, according to the treaty of Ghent, all the lands ceded by the Creeks in treaty with General Jackson were to be restored ; otherwise, the Indians must fight for those lands, and that the British would in a short time assist them.
hisSAML. JERVAIS.mark.Sworn and subscribed to, before me, this 9th May, 1815, at the town of Mobile. L. JUDSON, J. P."
The evidence of this man is substantially sustained by Lt. Loomis, who so gallantly commanded the expedition which blew up the Negro Fort, and with it all the miserable miscreants who had sought refuge within its walls. Besides the letter of Lt. Loomis to Commodore Patterson, I am authorised by a naval officer of high respectability to state, that, at the time this fort was destroyed, there were in it 800 barrels of powder, 3,000 stand of British muskets, packed in cases, equipments complete for 500 dragoons, pistols, cutlasses, and carbines, four 24 pounders, taken from the British frigate Cydnas, with the name of that ship on them, one field piece, mounted, and two 5 1/2 inch brass howitzers. Such were the preparations made for the war, which was suspended only for the arrival of the red chief Hillis Hadjo, and his companion, Col. Nichols. The destruction of this "strong hold," on which the Indians might retire in case of discomfiture, and of the arms and ammunition which had been deposited there, induced Nichols to procrastinate his return to Florida, and to appoint, as his successor in the good work which he had begun, Alexander Arbuthnot, of the island of New Providence. This man made his appearance in Florida, in the character of an English trader, in the year 1817, and simultaneously the war whoop resounded through the forests, and the blood of our citizens began to flow on the borders of Georgia, and the Alabama territory. I shall presently take a closer view of the means resorted to by this infernal missionary to kindle the flame of war and vengeance among the deluded Seminoles and Red Sticks. It is enough, on this part of the argument, to shew that they were successful, and that actual violence was committed on the " good and peaceable inhabitants of the frontier," in conformity with the menace of his predecessor, Nichols ; and that the U. States were compelled to take up arms, and chastise these savages, in their own defence, after repeated efforts to bring them to a sense of justice, and of their own interests, by friendly talks, and pacific remonstrances.
Need I ransack the documents on our files to collect, the evidence of the murders and robbeiers which preceded the determination of this government to commence offensive operations against the Indians in Florida ? They must be fresh in the recollection of every gentleman. They have been so often repeated by my honorable friends, that I will forbear the painful task of recounting them. The cruel massacres of aged mothers and helpless infancy were spread along the whole line of our southern frontier in that quarter. The threatened war soon ripened into full maturity. The murders committed on our unoffending citizens were openly avowed, and justified under the hollow and unfounded pretence of retaliation for similar outrages, alleged to have been practiced by the Georgians, on their people. As early as the 5th of February 1817, the governor of Georgia made a solemn appeal to the general government for the protection of the exposed settlements within the limits of the state over which he presided. He details circumstances calculated to leave no doubt of the hostile spirit of the savages, and of the active preparations which were making, by Woodbine and Nichols, to carry their hellish designs into execution. Scenes of cruelty, at the recital of which humanity shudders, followed in succession, and still the Executive paused, and demanded the punishment only of the offenders. On the 24th of February 1817, fifteen Indian warriors entered the peaceful dwelling of the unfortunate Garret, a citizen of Wayne county, in Georgia ; finding in it only Mrs. Garret, and her two infant children, the eldest of whom was three years old, and the other in its mother's arms, on whom she had bestowed her tender smiles and caresses for the short period of two months. The helpless condition of this family, their natural protector being absent, innocent and unoffending, alike incapable of inflicting or repelling injury and insult, surrounded by a band of armed ruffians, exhibited a picture of human misery, and heart-rending distress, which might well have tamed the ferocity of the most bloody monster, who ever trod the face of the habitable globe. But their cries and entreaties were unavailing ; the unhappy mother was twice shot through the body, stabbed, and scalped, her two babes murdered, her house robbed of all the valuables which it contained, and, to complete the melancholy catastrophe, the lighted torch was applied to the building, where once they enjoyed the sweets of domestic comforts, and where now their mangled and lifeless forms lay prostrate, covered with the warm blood yet streaming from their heartsand the flames which ascended to heaven wafted their spirits into the presence of a just God, while, amidst the devouring elements, their ashes mingled in one common grave. The mild which can contemplate with calm composure deeds of cruelty and barbarity like these, must be destitute of that refined sensibility which ennobles and dignifies our nature in all the social relations of life.
This act alone, independent of the black list which both preceded and followed it, was open, unqualified war on the United States, unless the criminal perpetrators of these crimes, whose enormity resembles more the tales of fiction and romance than the narrative of real, unsophisticated truths, should receive the prompt and condign punishment which they so justly merited. General Gaines, in obedience to instructions, demanded the murderers, and admonished the chiefs and warriors of the consequences which would result from a refusal to comply with his demand. It was not only refused, but fresh outrages, of a similar character, were repeated, until the seizure and indiscriminate massacre of a boat's crew, under the command of Lt. Scott, put an end to all hope of conciliation, and the Secretary of War, by the directions of the President, ordered the commanding general to cross the Florida line, and terminate speedily this war, " with exemplary punishment for hostilities so unprovoked. " The honor of the United States required that every drop of innocent blood which had been so wantonly shed should be washed out by the most ample atonement ; and, to effect this object, General Jackson was directed to assume the immediate command of the forces in that quarter of the southern division.
I trust, sir, I have said enough to satisfy the committee, that, on our part, the war was strictly defensive ; entered into reluctantly, after every reasonable expedient to avert it had been resorted to in vain.
As to the propriety of a formal and legislative declaration of war against an Indian tribe, the idea never before entered the imagination of any man, during all the contests with the aborigines, through which we have waded. Like many other subtleties which have diversified this discussion, it is of modern origin, and may be classed among the numerous discoveries of the present day, which are not exclusively confined to mechanism, but frequently enlarge the scope, and enlighten the path of political science. The answer to this objection, if indeed it deserved one, has been given by several honorable gentlemen, and particularly by my honorable friend from Kentucky, (Colonel Johnson). I shall not attempt to enforce the argument on a point so little entitled to serious consideration, and more especially in this case, where several acts of legislation have recognized the existence of the war, made with a full knowledge of the orders which had been given by the President for its prosecution in a foreign territory. At the last session, no exceptions were taken to these orders, but every man approved the, as properly adapted to the exigency by which they were dictated.
I shall now, sir, consider the questions connected with the prosecution of the war to its final conclusion ; and the occupation of St. Marks and Pensacola, and of the fortress of the Barrancas, by the American army. It I am asked why General Jackson entered the territory of Florida ? I answer, he was ordered to do so by the President of the United States. And with respect to all the subsequent proceedings, it is sufficient for his vindication, that they met the approbation of the same Chief Magistrate, who thereby incurred the responsibility which otherwise would have rested on the General alone. The President in his message at the opening of the present session of Congress justifies the occupation of the posts of St. Marks and Pensacola, and explains the grounds on which they were ordered to be restored to the possession of Spain. He states, " that the commanding general was convinced that he should fail in his object, that he should in effect accomplish nothing, if he did not deprive those savages of the resources on which they had calculated, and of the protection on which they had relied, in making the war." And further, he adds, " in entering Florida, to suppress this combination, no idea was entertained of hostility to Spain, and, however justifiable the commanding general was, in consequence of the misconduct of the Spanish officers, in entering St. Marks and Pensacola, to terminate it, by proving to the savages and their associates, that they should not be protected even there; yet the amicable relations existing between the United States and Spain could not be altered by the act alone " In addition to these views of the Executive, the Secretary of State, in his able letter to Mr. Erving, our Minister at Madrid, instructed him to acquaint the Spanish government that the " President will neither inflict punishment nor pass a censure upon General Jackson, for that conduct, the motives for which were founded in the purest patriotism : of the necessity for which he had the most immediate and effectual means of forming a judgment, and the vindication of which is written in every page of the law of nations, as well as in the first law of nature, self-defence." I have referred to these papers, coming from the Commander in chief of our army, addressed to the Congress of the United States, and, through the accredited Minister at Madrid, to the Spanish government, to counteract the impressions attempted to be made by an unfounded discrimination between the President and General Jackson, in relation to the military operations of the latter in the late Seminole war. I am very sure, the President would disdain to shelter himself from the impending storm, by seeking refuge under the masked battery which honorable gentleman have, with so much ingenuity, erected for his safety and defence. The most scrupulous sense of military honor could not desire a more unequivocal approbation, than is given, by the President, of the conduct of General Jackson in Florida ; they must stand or fall together ; and I consider the foreign effort to separate them deceptive and illusory. If censure falls on the head of one, it lights with equal violence upon that of the other.
The act of crossing the Florida line, to subdue the hostile Indians in that province, appertaining to the dominions of the Spanish monarchy, was a measure, in the execution of which the commanding general did no more than obey the call of his country, and the imperious obligations of duty. If this step was justifiable on principles of public law and the usages of war, the same justification runs through all the operations of the army under the command of General Jackson. Self-defence, that primary law of nature, either covers the whole of these transactions, or it does no afford a vindication of the Executive, in ordering the troops to march into Florida and put a speedy termination to the war. The entry of a belligerent army into a neutral territory, without the consent of the sovereign, is prima facie, a violation of his perfect rights, and amounts to the definition of war de facto. Such an entry, even against the will of the neutral power, may, nevertheless, be made under particular circumstances, and furnish no ground of offence, or cause of war, to the neutral sovereign ; and precisely the same circumstances will justify the temporary seizure of a neutral town or military post. The conduct of the neutral towards the two belligerents must be impartial ; no privilege can be granted to the one which may mot be taken by the other, in the same extent ; and, if refused, force may be resorted to, without affording any just cause of complaint to the neutral who is guilty of such a departure from the rules prescribed to her by the settled law of nations, which require her to give no assistance to either party, where there is no obligation to give it, nor voluntary to furnish troops, arms, ammunitions, or any thing of direct use in war. " For, should she favour one of the parties to the prejudice of the other, she cannot complain of being treated by him as an adherent and confederate of his enemy."Vattel, 332.
The obligations incurred by treaty constitute the only restriction upon the operation of these rules; and I shall presently shew, that, in the late war with the Indians in Florida, Spain was bound in a defensive alliance, quo ad hoc, with the United States, and that, she not only violated her neutral duties, but the most solemn stipulation, by which she was bound to become a party to the war as an ally of the United States. But, let it be admitted, that the colony of Spain on our southern border was in all respects entitled to the immunities of an independent neutral state, and bound only to observe that impartiality which was essential to preserve her pacific relations with this country ; and I contend, that she was guilty of such gross partiality, in supplying the enemy with the means of prosecuting the war, with the privilege of sheltering themselves within their fortified places, and with a ready market for all the property which they robbed and plundered form our citizens, as to have forfeited all claim to the respect due to fair and honorable neutrality, and to have become identified with the enemy, so far as she could, with safety to herself and utility to them, extend her aid and assistance in promoting their hostile operations against the United States. I have already shewn, from evidence which cannot be controverted, that this war was, on our part, purely defensive, and consequently just ; that it was instigated by British emissaries, with the assent and connivance of the local authorities of Spain. Florida was the theatre of the war ; there the enemy concentrated all his forces, and sought the most favorable opportunities of making incursions into our territory ; and, after striking an unexpected blow, again they retire into this asylum where they were promised security and protection. From 1000 to 1200 men, under the command of Hillis hadjo, or the Prophet Francis, were collected and stationed at Spanish Bluff, the former residence of Doyle and Hambly ; these men, we are told by Arbuthnot, were principally Red Sticks, who had fled from the limits of the United States and identified themselves in the war with the Seminoles ; other bodies of men were scattered over the nation, amounting in the whole to more than 2000 warriors. Spain was a passive spectator of the scene, and quietly permitted these fugitives to elude the vigilance of our army, by remaining within her neutral territory. The safety of the United States, therefore, required, that in our own defence, we should carry our arms into the country which was thrown open to our enemy, and from which predatory parties issued to rob and murder our defenceless citizens. In doing so, we were justified by a proper regard for our own interests, and by every principle of public law. Vattel, 345, says ;
" It is certain, that if my neighbor affords a retreat to my enemies when defeated and too much weakened to escape me, and allows them time to recover and watch a favourable opportunity of making second attack on my territories ; this conduct, so prejudicial to my safety and interest, would be incompatible with neutrality. If therefore, my enemy, on suffering a discomfiture retreat into his country, although charity will not allow him to refuse them permission to pass in security ; he is bound to make them continue their march beyond his frontiers as soon as possible, and not suffer them to remain in his territories, on the watch for a convenient opportunity to attack me anew ; otherwise he gives me a right to enter his country in pursuit of them. Such treatment is often experienced by nations that are unable to command respect. Their territories soon become the theatre of wararmies march, encamp, and fight in it, as in a country open to all comers. "
Yes sir, the territory of Florida is emphatically a country " open to all comers. " The British found a hearty welcome there during the late war. The outlawed Creeks receive the right hand of fellowship from Governor Masot, and his retinue of official dignitaries ; fugitive negroes, and banditti, are welcome guests, when associated in arms against the United States ; and I am persuaded, the devil himself would have received holy orders, had he made his appearance at Pensacola in the character of a foe to this country. We alone were excluded from the high privilege of meeting our enemies on that soil which was prostituted to every purpose which could in any manner subserve their views, and contribute to our annoyance. The fortress of Barrancas was peaceably put into the possession of a British and Indian force, in our recent conflict with Great Britain. The negro fort was erected on the Appalachicola, with the avowed intention of war with the United States. The vilest reptiles in creation were collected to carry the nefarious projects of the incendiary Nichols into execution, and not a murmur was heard, either from Pizarro or Mazot, or the Governor General of Havanna. But the moment we send a force to suppress these hostile combinations, Spanish sensibility breaks through the cloud by which it had been concealed. Protests and manifestos proclaim to the world the wrongs committed by this government, in the violation of the territorial sovereignty of the adored Ferdinand. With a full knowledge of this fraudulent neutrality on the part of Spain, and of our rights as a nation, to the means of self-preservation, the President would have been unmindful of the high trust and confidence reposed in him, had he not ordered the army into Florida, to terminate the war, with " exemplary punishment for hostilities so unprovoked." The occupation of the posts of St. Marks and Pensacola, and the fortress of Barrancas, was a necessary means of accomplishing the end for which General Jackson entered the Spanish territory. They rest on the same general principles, and, if a distinction is taken which would justify the one and condemn the other, it must be founded on a diversity of facts, in reference to the facilities and privileges granted by the authorities of Spain to the other belligerent.For there is an universal rule, to which there is no exception, that whatever a neutral power grants or refuses to one of the parties at war, she must in like manner grant or refuse to the other ; and if she departs from this strict line of impartiality, by favoring either to the injury of the other, the injured nation may do herself justice, and take by forcewhat is unjustly denied to her.
Such is the law by which the conduct of all civilized nations is regulated and governed ; it remains only for me to glance at the most prominent points in the evidence to shew its application, and thereby rescue General Jackson form the imputation of having snatched from Congress the power delegated in the constitution to " declare war." I ask then, sir, did the Governors of St. Marks and Pensacola allow the Indians and negroes free access into their fortifications, and supply them with arms and ammunition to carry on the war in which they were engaged with the United States. To establish these facts, with regard to the former, I am perplexed with the difficulty of selecting that part of the testimony which might be deemed least susceptible of doubt or equivocation. The whole volume is full of details shewing the abominable duplicity and perfidy of the treacherous Luengo. St. Marks was the council house of the Indians, in which all their plans of operation were discussed, in concert with the commandant and his friend, Arbuthnot, between whom there existed the most perfect cordiality. St. Marks was, in all respects, substituted for the negro fort, which had been destroyed by the gunboats under the command of Lieutenant Loomis. To that place they retreated, immediately after this disaster befell them, and ever since they have made it the depot of plundered property, known to be so by Luengo himself, who even made contracts with the depredators for the beef, cattle, and other property which they might capture from the people of Georgia. Having been charged by General Jackson, with conduct so contrary to the pacific relations existing between Spain and the United States, Luengo, in his defence, written at Pensacola, on the 18th of May, 1818, more than one month after the occupation of the post by the American troops, when all his powers of prevarication were taxed to exculpate himself from these charges, in reply to the information which had been communicated to the commanding general, that he had supplied the Indians and negroes with munitions of war, states : " I thought that I had convinced him of the contrary in my answer, in which I represented to him, that no one could better remove from his mind any unfavorable impression on this point them Mr. William Hambly, who during his stay here, repeatedly interpreted to me the anxiety of the chiefs to obtain such supplies, and that he could also inform him, that I uniformly counselled them to avoid the destruction which has overtaken them, and which I foresaw from the first." Now, sir, what is the evidence of Mr. Hambly, whose credibility is admitted by the Spanish commandant, and whose situation enabled him to give a full and precise statement of facts ? The letter addressed by him, together with Edward Doyle, to General Jackson, exposes the transactions of St. Marks in so clear a light, that I beg leave to read it to the committee.
Wm. Hambly and E. Doyle, to General Jackson.
Fort Gadsden, 2d May, 1818.
SirWe beg leave to submit to you the following facts : On the 13th December 1817, we were violently torn from our settlement, on the Apalachicola River, by a number of Indians, headed by Chenubby, a chief of the Fowl Town tribe, carried to Mickasuky, and delivered to Kenagee, King of the Mickasukians. Kenagee carried us to the Negro Towns, on the Suwaney, and thence to the Spanish fort St. Marksto the commandant of which he delivered us as prisoners of war, captured under the orders of a Mr. Arbuthnot, reported to us as a British agent. At St. Marks we were treated as prisoners, and not permitted to wander beyond the walls of the garrison. While at that post, the ingress and egress of Indians hostile to the United States was unrestrained ; and several councils were held; at one of which Kenagee, king of the Mickasukians; Francis, or Hillis Hajo ; Hamatulemico, the chief of the Autosses ; and the chief of Kolemies, all of the old Red Stick party ; and Jack Mealy, chief of the Ochewas, were present. When it was reported that these chiefs, and their warriors, were entering fort St. Marks, for the purpose of holding a council, Hambly represented to the commandant the impropriety of permitting such proceedings with the walls of a Spanish fortress, the officer of which was bound to preserve and enforce the treaties existing between the king of Spain and the United States ; he replied to Hambly with some degree of warmth, observing that is was not in his power to prevent it. On the Indians coming into the fort, at their request, we were confined. The council was held in the commandant's quarters. He, the commandant, was present, but strictly forbade the intrusion of any of the officers of the garrison. The Indians were in the habit of driving to fort St. Marks, and disposing of, cattle to the commandant and other Spanish officers. While at that post, three or four droves were brought in, acknowledge by the Indians to have been stolen from the citizens of the United States, and purchased by the Spanish officers. We were present at most of these contracts, and Hambly often referred to as an interpreter between the purchaser and seller. Chenubby, a Fowl Town Indian, once applied to Hambly to mention to the commandant that he was about visiting the frontiers of Georgia, on a plundering expedition, and wished to know whether he would purchase the cattle brought in. A contract was entered into, and Chenubby, some time after, brought in, and disposed of eleven head of cattle to the Spanish commandant of fort St. Marks. These same cattle were those purchased by you, from the commandant, as his private property.
WILLIAM HAMBLY, EDWARD DOYLE.
In support of the statement made by these men, I might refer to many others in the volume of documents which have been printed, on this subject. I will, however, dispense with a detailed view of them, and barely add an extract from the letter of Lieut. Gadsden, whose reputation, as a soldier and a man of honor and veracity, placed him above the reach of suspicion.
J. Gadsden to General Jackson.
Fort Gadsden, May 3d, 1818.
SirIn conversation with the commandant of fort St. Marks on the subject of having that work occupied by an American garrison, I had occasion to notice the aid and comfort that the hostile party of Indians had received, as reported, from him ; that they had free access within the walls of his fort, and that it was well known no small supplies of ammunition had been received from that quarter. In reply, he stated that his conduct had been governed by policy ; the defenceless state of his work, and the weakness of his garrison, compelled him to conciliate the friendship of the Indiansto supply their wantsto grant what he had not the power to deny, and to throw open, with apparent willingness, the gates of his fortress, lest they should be forced by violence ; that he had been repeatedly threatened by Indians and negroes, and that his security depended upon exhibiting an external friendship.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES GADSDEN, Aid-de-Camp.
From the testimony of these respectable witnesses, and many others to whom I think it unnecessary to refer, it is evident that the enemy had the unlimited use of this fort for all the purposes of war ; that their stolen property was received, and contracted for by the commandant, knowing it to be such ; and that they were supplied with arms and ammunition, and every other material, to enable them to continue their aggressions on the unprotected inhabitants of Georgia and the Alabama territory. The only apology offered by the commandant, for his unfriendly and unwarrantable conduct, was, that he had been repeatedly threatened by the Indians and negroes, and that his security depended upon exhibiting an external friendship. It is immaterial whether we take the facts or the excuse, for either, unconnected with the other, will amount to a justification of General Jackson in taking forcible possession of that post. " To conduct prisoners, or convey stores, to a place of safety, are acts of war consequently not to be done in a neutral country, and whoever would permit them would depart from the line of neutrality by favoring one of the parties." Again, " necessity may even authorize the temporary seizure of a neutral town, and putting a garrison therein, with a view to cover ourselves from the enemy, or to prevent the execution of his designs against that town." Vattel, 342-4. The truth is, that our enemy was denied nothing which he asked, and we were refused the humble privilege of putting the place in a state of defence against an enemy who ought to have been considered common to Spain and the United States. In such a case, to have hesitated would have been pusillanimous and disgraceful in the commanding general. Passing from St. Marks to Pensacola, there is no substantial change either of principle of fact. General Jackson, it is true, at the date of his letter to the Secretary of War, from St. Marks, thought the war at an end. His health having been much impaired by the hardships and fatigues of the service in which he was engaged, he had determined to return to Nashville ; but subsequent information, of which we have the most authentic proof, satisfied him that he had not yet affected the object of the campaign. The Indians, deprived of their accustomed resort at St. Marks, flew to Pensacola, where they had always been received with open arms by the Governor. Expedition was fitted out, and massacre committed, by parties of hostile Indians, going directly from that place to the Escambia and Alabama.
(Mr. P.'s speech to be concluded in our next.)



National Intelligencer 3/30/1819 1:2-5; 2:1-5 & 3:1-3
CITATION SEARCH THUMBNAILS PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00002519/00001
 Material Information
Title: National Intelligencer 3/30/1819 1:2-5; 2:1-5 & 3:1-3
Physical Description: Unknown
 Record Information
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 0000000-1
oclc - 747455980
System ID: UF00002519:00001

Full Text


Article Title: Debate on the Seminole War. Long speech by Poindexter in the House, again vindicating
Jackson, and also reviewing aspects of British activity in Florida under Col. Nichols during the War of
1812.
Author:
Published in: National Intelligencer
Place of Publication: Washington, DC
Publication Date: 3/30/1819




DEBATE ON THE SEMINOLE WAR
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
CONTINUED.
MR. POINDEXTER addressed the chair as follows :
I rise, Mr. chairman, under the influence of peculiar sensibility, to offer my sentiments on the subject
before the committee. We are called upon to disrobe a veteran soldier of the well-earned laurels
which encircle his brow, to tarnish his fame by severe reproaches, and hand down his name to
posterity, as the vielator of the sacred instrument which constitutes the charter of our liberties, and of
the benevolent dictates of humanity, by which this nation had ever been characterized and
distinguished. Were the sacrifice of this highly meritorious citizen the only evil with which the
proposed resolutions are fraught, I should derive some consolation from the reflection, that there is a
redeeming spirit in the intelligence and patriotism of the great body of the people, capable of shielding
him against the deleterious consequences meditated by the propositions on your table. But there is
another, and a more serious aspect, in which the adoption of these resolutions must be viewed; the
direct and infallible tendency which they involve, of enfeebling the arm of this government, in our
pending negotiation with Spain ; of putting ourselves in the wrong, and the Spanish monarch in the
right, on the interesting and delicate points which have so long agitated and endangered the peace of
the two countries. I wish not to be understood as attributing to honorable gentlemen, who advocate
the measure, such motives : they are, doubtless, actuated alone by a sense of duty. I speak of the
effects which our proceedings are calculated to produce, without intending to cast the slightest
imputation on those who entertain different opinions. Sir, do we not know with what delight and
satisfaction the minister of Spain looks on the efforts which are made on this floor to inculpate the
Executive of the United States, for having committed against not to the unlimited extent for which
gentlemen have con- his immaculate master an act of hostility, in the entrance into Florida, and the
temporary occupation of St. Marks and Pensacola ? With what avidity and pleasure he peruses the
able and eloquent arguments delivered in the popular branch of the government, in support of the
weighty allegations which he has already exhibited of the hostile and unwarrantable conduct of the
commander of our army, during the late campaign against the Seminole Indians ? And, sir, whatever
may be the purity of intention, which I shall not presume to question, on the part of gentlemen who
censure the course pursued by the commanding general, this debate will afford a valuable fund, on
which Spain will not fail to draw, on all future occasions, to shew that the pacific relations which she
has endeavored to maintain have been violated, without an adequate cause, by the United States.
Shall we put it in her power to make this declaration to the civilized world, and establish the fact by a
reference to the journal of the House of Representatives ? I hope and believe we shall not. Sir, the
nature of our free institutions imperiously requires that, on all questions touching controversies with
foreign powers, every department of this government should act in concert, and present to the
opposite party one undivided, impenetrable front. The observance of this rule accords with every
dictate of patriotism; and is the basis on which alone we can preserve a proper respect for our rights
among the great family of nations. Internal divisions are often fatal to the liberties of the people ; they
never fail to inflict a deep wound on the national character; the lustre and purity of which it is our
primary duty to preserve unsullied, to the latest posterity. Can it be necessary to call to the






recollection of the committee the peculiar and delicate posture of our relations with Spain ? A
protracted and difficult negotiation, on the subject of boundary and spoliations, is still progressing
between the Secretary of State and their accredited minister, at this place; the result is yet extremely
doubtful; it may, and I trust will, eventuate in a treaty satisfactory to the parties, on all the points in
contest; but if Spain should continue to reject the moderate and reasonable demands of this
government, the indisputable rights of this nation must and will be asserted and vindicated by a
solemn appeal to arms. I ask, if, in such a crisis, it is either wise or prudent to pronounce, in the face
of the world, that we have been the aggressors, and that war in its most offensive and exceptionable
sense has been already commenced by general Jackson, under the sanction of the President of the
United States ? I hazard nothing in affirming that such a departure from the established usages of
nations is without a parallel in the political history of any country, ancient or modern. Under whatever
circumstances danger may threaten us from abroad, it is from this House that the energies of the
people are to be aroused and put in motion ; it is our province to sound the alarm, and give the
impulse which stimulate every portion of the Union to a simultaneous manly exertion of its physical
strength, to avenge the insulted honor and violated interests of our country. We are the legitimate
organ of public sentiment; and it is incumbent on us to animate and cherish a spirit of resistance to
foreign encroachments among our constituents, by urging the justice of our cause, and the necessity
of their vigorous co-operation in support of the constituted authorities, who are responsible to them,
for the faithful execution of the high and important duties with which they are entrusted. These are
the means by which we shall perpetuate our republican form of government, and transmit its
blessings to future generations. But we are required on the present occasion to forget the wrongs of
which we have so long and so justly complained ; to abandon, for a while, the lofty attitude of
patriotism, and to tell the American people, in anticipation of a rupture with Spain, that it is a war of
aggression on the part of their chief Executive Magistrate, commenced in Florida without proper
authority ; that the Spanish government can consider it in no other light, than premeditated, offensive
war, made on them with a view of extending the territorial limits of the United States. The expression
of these opinions, by this body, must cast a shade over the American name, which no lapse of time
can obliterate ; and, while we nerve the arm of the enemy, we that approach the contest with an open
denunciation against the President, who is charged with its prosecution to a speedy and favorable
termination. He is denied the cheering consolation of Union, in the government over which he has
been called to preside, at a period of national peril, when every man ought to be invited to rally
around the standard of his country. Sir, how is this most novel and extraordinary aberration from the
legislative functions of the House attempted to be explained and justified ? By gloomy pictures of a
violated constitution ; pathetic appeals to humanity, in favor of a barbarous and unrelenting foe; and
lamentations over the blighted honor and magnanimity of the nation. I, too, am a conservator of the
constitution ; I venerate that stupendous fabric of human wisdom ; I love my country, and will
endeavor to rescue it from the odious imputations which have been so freely cast on it in the progress
of this discussion. I admonish gentlemen, who manifest such ardent zeal to fortify the powers of this
House against military usurpations, that they do not suffer that zeal to precipitate them into an error
equally repugnant to a sound construction of the constitution. The report of the committee on military
affairs, taken in connection with the amendments proposed by the honorable member from Georgia,
(Mr. Cobb) may be classed under two general divisions. 1st. Resolutions of censure, on the conduct
of general Jackson, in Florida, for a violation of the orders of the President, and of the constitution;
and for the unlawful execution of the incendiaries Arbuthnot and Ambrister. 2d. Instructions to the
committee to prepare and report two several bills, the object of which is to divest this nation of some
of the most essential attributes of sovereignty. I shall pass over the latter branch of this subject
without observation ; believing, as I do, notwithstanding the high respect which I entertain for the
mover, that it is not seriously the intention of honorable gentlemen, by an act of legislation, to
abrogate the rights of this nation, founded on the universal law of nature, and of nations. Self-denial,
though sometimes an amiable quality in an individual member of society, when applied to the whole
community, renders it obnoxious to insult and oppressions, and is a voluntary degradation, below the
rank of other sovereignties, to which no American ought ever to submit. Neutral rights, and the






usages of war, are already well established, and understood by all civilized powers ; and it is not to be
presumed that the interpolations which are proposed would be reciprocated, and constitute the basis
of new principles of public law ; we may prostrate our own dignity, and paralyze the energizes of our
country ; but we shall find no nation so pusillanimous as to follow our disinterested example.
Considering, therefore, these propositions, as merely nominal, intended only to enlarge the group,
and give diversity to the picture, I shall leave them without further animadversion, and proceed to
investigate the resolutions leveled at the fame, the honor, and reputation, of general Andrew Jackson;
and, through him, at the President, under whose orders he acted, and by whom he has been
sustained and vindicated. Sir, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of every tribunal, whether
legislative or judicial, to examine, with
caution and circumspection, into its jurisdiction and powers, on every question brought before it for
adjudication ; and this rule ought more particularly to be observed in cases involving personal rights
and interests, where the party to be affected by the decision is not permitted to answer in his own
defence. I ask, then, sir, has the House of Representatives, as a distinct and separate branch of
Congress, the constitutional power to institute an enquiry into the conduct of a military officer, and to
sentence him to be cashiered, suspended, or censured ? I demand a satisfactory and explicit
response to this interrogatory, founded on a reference to the constitution itself, and not on the
undefined notions of expediency, in which gentlemen may indulge ; and if it be not given, as I am very
sure it cannot, we shall become the violators of that fair fabric of liberty, and erect a precedent more
dangerous in its tendency, than the multiplied infractions which have been so vehemently alleged
against general Jackson, admitting them all the force and latitude which the most enthusiastic censor
could desire. Sir, it is high time to bring back this debate to first principles, and to test our jurisdiction
over this case, by a recurrence to the government of which we are a component part. Let us pluck
the beam from our own eyes, before we seek to expel the mote which gentlemen seem to have
discovered in the vision of general Jackson. The sages and patriots who established the foundation
of this republic have, with a wisdom and forecast bordering on inspiration, carefully marked and
distributed the powers delegated in the constitution to the federal government among the several
departments, legislative, executive, and judiciary. No principle is better settled, or more generally
conceded, than that the powers properly belonging to one of these departments ought not to be
directly administered by either of the others. The violation of this maxim leads, by inevitable results,
to the downfall of our republican institutions, and the consolidation of all power in that branch which
shall possess the strongest influence over the public mind. Upon the independent exercise of the
powers confided to each department, uncontrolled, directly or indirectly, by the encroachment of
either, depends the security of life, liberty, and property, and the stability of that constitution which are
the pride of our country and the admiration of mankind. The honorable gentleman from Georgia has
adverted to the opinions of the immortal author of the letters of Publius, the late chief magistrate of
the United States ; and the honorable speaker has also invited our attention to that great
constitutional lawyer. They triumphantly ask, what he would say on the present question, were he a
member of this House ? I will not follow the example of these gentlemen, by substituting declamation
for historical truth, or vague surmises, and assumed premises, for record evidence ; but, while I
accord to the distinguished statesman and patriot, whose exertions so eminently contributed to the
establishment of this government, and whose exposition of its fundamental principles cannot be too
highly appreciated, all the merit of a useful life, devoted to the public service, guided by wisdom,
virtue, and integrity; I appeal, with pleasure and confidence, to his able pen, in support of the position
which I have advanced, and which I deem an important point in the case under consideration. In the
view taken by Mr. Madison, of the ' meaning of the maxim which requires a separation of the
departments of power,' he repels the arguments of the opponents to the adoption of the constitution,
founded on the apprehension of Executive supremacy over the legislative and judiciary, which, it was
contended, would ultimately render that branch the sole depository of power, and subject the people
of this country to the despotic will of a single individual. Comparing the powers delegated to the
Executive, with those granted to the legislature, and the probable danger of an assumption by either
of the function appertaining to the other, he says, ' in a government where numerous and extensive






prerogatives are placed in the hands of a hereditary monarch, the Executive department is very justly
regarded as the source of danger, and watched with all the jealousy which a zeal for liberty ought to
inspire. In a democracy, where a multitude of people exercise in person the legislative functions, and
are continually exposed, by their incapacity for regular deliberation and concerted measures, to the
ambitious intrigues of their Executive magistrates, tyranny may well be apprehended, on some
favorable emergency, to start up in the same quarter. But, in a representative republic, where the
Executive magistracy is carefully limited, both in the extent and duration of its power, and where the
legislative power is exercised by an assembly, which is inspired, by a supposed influence over the
people, with an intrepid confidence in its own strength, which is sufficiently numerous to feel all the
passions which actuate a multitude, yet not so numerous to be incapable of pursuing the objects of its
passions, by means which reason prescribes; it is against the enterprizing ambition of this
department, that the people ought to indulge all their jealousy, and exhaust all their precaution.
The legislative department derives superiority in our government from other circumstances. Its
constitutional powers being at once more extensive, and less susceptible of precise limits, it can, with
the greater facility, mask, under complicated and indirect measures, the encroachments which it
makes on the co-ordinate departments. ' The correctness of the reasoning and predictions of this
great and good man, who is called by the honorable speaker the father of the constitution, has been
often demonstrated in the practical operations of this body, and never more forcibly than on the
present occasion. Scarcely a session of Congress passes without some effort to enlarge the scope
of our powers, by construction or analogy ; and unless these systematic advances in this House, to
crush the co-ordinate departments, by an unlimited exercise of authority over all subjects involving the
general welfare, be resisted, with firmness and perseverance, they will, at no distinct period,
eventuate in the destruction of those salutary checks and balances, so essential to the duration of our
happy form of government, and to the security of civil and political liberty. I deprecate every measure
calculated to establish a precedent, which, in its effects, may lead to such dangerous consequences.
An enlightened statesman has said that the concentrating all the powers of government in the
legislative body is of the very essence of despotism ; and it is no alleviation, that these powers will be
exercised by a plurality of hands, and not by a single one. ' An elective despotism was not the
government we fought for; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which
the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among the several bodies of
magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and
restrained by the others.'
Sir, whenever these principles shall cease to be respected by the councils of this country, I shall
consider the grand experiment which we have made in the administration of a government of limited
powers, founded on a written instrument, in which they are specified and defined, as altogether
abortive, and as affording strong proof of the regal maximthat man in incapable of self-government. If
honorable gentlemen mean any thing by the reverence which they profess to feel for the constitution,
I conjure them to look to its provisions, and forbear to adopt a measure in direct violation both of its
letter and spirit. By article 2d. section 2. it is provided that " The President shall be commander in
chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called
into actual service;" and by the 8th section of the 1st article, Congress is vested with power to " make
rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces. " Congress has long since
fulfilled this duty : rules and articles of war have been sanctioned, and have continued to govern the
army, from its organization, up to the present time ; in these, the great principles of subordination and
responsibility are graduated and established, from the commander in chief, down to the most petty
officer and common soldier. The President is placed by his country at the head of its physical force,"
to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrection, and repel invasion ;" he is the ultimate
tribunal to decide all questions touching the operations of the army, and the conduct of the officers
who compose it. If there be any power, clearly and exclusively belonging to the Executive, it is that
which appertains to the government of the army and navy of the United States. Our whole system of
laws recognizes it ; and until this extraordinary attempt to erect the House of Representatives into a
court martial, with a view to cast an indelible stain on the character of general Jackson, without a fair






and impartial trial, in which he might confront his accusers, and be heard in his defence, no instance
can be shewn, since the foundation of the government, where the President has been interrupted in
the full exercise of his legitimate authority over the military officers under his command. The abuse of
this power, or improper direction and application of the public force, by the chief magistrate, or by any
subordinate officer, with his privity and assent, in a manner, or for the accomplishment of objects,
dangerous to the liberties of the people, or subversive of the laws and constitution of the Union, will
find a ready and suitable corrective in this House, by an application of its power to originate
impeachment against the President, Vice President, and all civil officers, for treason, bribery, or other
high crimes and misdemeanors. In this sense only can we be regarded as the grand inquest of the
nation, and tended. The power to impeach the President is expressly delegated ; all other civil
officers are liable to the same scrutiny, and the total omission, in the article of the military department,
is, to my mind, conclusive evidence that they were never intended to be subject to the control of
Congress, except in the usual course of legislation, under the power to raise and support armies.
And this opinion is strengthened by the clause of the constitution to which I have referred, directing
Congress to provide for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces. The principle of
official responsibility is to be found in every page of the constitution ; not a vague, uncertain
responsibility, but that which is unequivocal, certain, and definite. We are answerable, at stated
periods, to the people by whom we have respectively been chosen. The President is accountable to
the nation at large, at the expiration of his term of service ; and, in the mean time, we hold a salutary
check over his ambition, if he evince such a disposition, by means of impeachment. In like manner,
the whole civil department may be punished for a wanton prostitution of their official functions. The
military and naval officers who command our army and navy are responsible directly to the Executive,
who is their chief, and, through him, indirectly, to the representatives of the people. Every link in the
chain is essential to the beauty and symmetry of the whole ; and, if preserved unbroken, affords the
most ample security against any usurpation of power without a prompt and efficient remedy to detect
and restrain it. It is now proposed to make this House the focus of every power granted to the federal
government ; to mount the ramparts which separate the departments, and compel every man who
holds a commission to bow with submission to the gigantic strength of this numerous assembly.
Those whom we cannot impeach we will censure, and record their names as fit objects for the scorn
and detestation of posterity. Already we hold the purse and the sword of the nation. All legislation
must receive our concurrence, in connexion with the President and Senate, before it has the force and
effect of law. The treaty-making power may be controlled by us, where an appropriation is required
to fulfill the contractthe judiciary is at our feet, both in respect to the extent of its jurisdiction and the
liability of its members to the summary process of impeachmentthe President and heads of
departments, foreign ministers, and the whole catalogue of civil officers, stand in awe of our frowns,
and may be crushed by the weight of our authority. I ask, then, sir, if the officers of the army and navy
are rendered subservient to us, as a censorial, inquisitorial body, whether it will not amount to the"
very definition of despotism. " Yes, sir, we shall, if these resolutions pass, bear testimony of the
soundness of the political axiom, that it is " against this department that the people ought to indulge
all their jealousy, and exhaust all their precautions. " But the constitution, in this respect, has received
a construction almost contemporaneously with its adoption. As early as the year 1792, a resolution
was submitted, by a distinguished member from Virginia, in the House of Representatives, requesting
the President to institute an enquiry into the causes of the defeat of the army under the command of
Maj. Gen. St. Clair. The agitation produced by that momentous disaster seemed to demand an
investigation of the conduct of the commanding general. A great public calamity is always calculated
to awaken feelings which, for a moment, usurp the empire of reason, and lead to excesses which
sober reflection would condemn. It was not, therefore, wonderful, that a man of the soundest intellect,
and most enlightened understanding, should have felt it his duty to call the attention of the President
to a subject so deeply interesting to the country, and to request an enquiry into the causes of that
signal and unfortunate defeat. The proposition was fully discussed, and finally rejected by a large
majority, on the ground that it was an unwarrantable interference with the constitutional functions of
the chief magistrate. The substance of the debate may be found in the newspapers of that day ; and






among those who objected to the measure are the names of Madison, Ames, Baldwin, and many
others who participated in the formation of the constitution, and who were, consequently, better
qualified to give to it a sound interpretation. A committee was subsequently appointed to enquire into
the expenditure of the public money in that campaign, and other subjects of a general nature,
connected with the legislative duties of Congress. Again ; in the year 1810, a committee was raised
to enquire into the conduct of Gen. James Wilkinson, in relation to a variety of charges which had
been publicly made against him : they were authorized to send for persons and papers. The general
was notified of their sittings, allowed to attend in person before them, to cross-examine the witnesses,
to confront his accusers, to exhibit evidence in his defence, and make such explanations as he might
think necessary to a vindication of his conduct. The committee, after a very laborious investigation,
simply reported the facts to the House, who resolved, that the same be transmitted to the President of
the United States. No opinion was expressed or intimated, as to the guilt or innocence of the general
; no request was made of the President to institute a court martial, but he was left to the exercise of
his own discretion, unbiased by the slightest indication of the impression which the development had
made on the House of Representatives. The result, we all know, was, that a general court martial
was immediately convened, and Gen. Wilkinson was honorably acquitted ; both principle and
precedent, therefore, combine in recommending a rejection of these resolutions which claim for this
House a power, not merely to request another department to perform a particular duty, but assume
the right to adjudicate the case, and sentence an officer to irretrievable infamy, without a hearing, and
without appeal, save only to his God and the purity of his own conscience. Permit me, sir, to present
to the view of the committee some of the unavoidable consequence which will flow from this
premature and unauthorized proceeding. We announce to the President, and to the nation, that Gen.
Jackson, in the prosecution of the Seminole war, has violated his orders and broken the constitution
of his country, and that, in the trial and execution of Arbuthnot and Ambrister, he has been guilty of
the horrid crime of official murder. We, on the part of the whole people, become the informers, and
thereby impose on the
President, as commander in chief of the army, the
indispensable obligation to adopt one of two alternativeseither to dismiss from the service that officer,
under our denunciations, or to assemble a regular court martial to investigate these charges,
according to the forms prescribed in the laws enacted for the government of the army of the United
States. The latter course, being the one best adapted to the attainment of justice, would, in all
probability, be pursued. He details a court martial, composed of high-minded military men ; charges
and specifications are exhibited ; and the general, for the first time, is allowed to answer to themguilty
or not guilty. He is put on his trial, and, at the very threshold, he is informed, that he has already
been found guilty by the highest tribunal in the Unionthe Representatives of the American people.
He, nevertheless, proceeds in his defence, and is ultimately convicted, and cashiered. Would not
history record such a conviction as the result of our prejudication of the case ? Would not the whole
world attribute the downfall of this man to the monstrous persecution and flagrant injustice of that
ungrateful country which he has so nobly defended ? Yes, sir, to the latest posterity, we should be
regarded as having passed an ex parte decree of condemnation which the court martial were bound
to register, to secure themselves from similar animadversion. But let us suppose that, unawed by the
imposing dictum which we shall have pronounced, the court martial acquit the general of the several
charges and specifications on which he has been arrested. We should then have the military of the
country arrayed against this body : we, acting under the solemn obligation of our oaths, declare, that
Gen. Jackson has been guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors ; we are unable to tear from him his
epaulettes ; and, when tried by his peers, our opinions are scouted, and he is maintained in the high
rank form which we would have degraded him. In such a controversy, the only arbiter is force. Sir,
take either horn of the dilemma, and we have abundant reason to shun the consequences which must
follow the adoption of the proposed resolutions.
(Speech continued on the second page.)
DEBATE ON THE SEMINOLE WAR
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.






MR. POINDEXTER'S SPEECH
CONTINUED.
Our total inability to enforce the will of the majority demonstrates most clearly the absence of the right
to express that will; for, whatever any branch of the government can constitutionally decide, the
means necessary to carry its decision into execution can never be withheld or questioned. Sir, I have
been not a little amused at the evasive contortions of honorable gentlemen, who, to avoid the
perplexing difficulties by which they are enveloped, gravely affirm, that neither the report of the
military committee, nor the resolutions respecting the seizure of the posts of St. Marks and
Pensacola, and fortress of Barancas, contain a censure of Gen. Jackson; that they are harmless,
inoffensive expressions of opinion, upon the passing events relating to the state of the Union. I put it
to those gentlemenfor the argument has been resorted to by all who have spokenwhether, if I were to
address either of them in conversation, and say, in the language of the propositions before the
committee, " Sir, you have violated the constitution of the United States, and, of course, you are
perjured. You have sentenced to death, and executed, two of your fellow-men, without a fair trial, and
contrary to all law, human and divine ; consequently, your hands are stained with their blood," would
they calmly reply, that my expressions conveyed no censure on them, and were not repugnant to their
feelings or character, nor inconsistent with contemporaneous assurances of my high respect and
consideration ? Committee sense revolts at conclusions so ridiculous, drawn from such premises.
Add to this the express charge of a violation of orders, which the President, it seems, is not
competent to determine for himself, and I may venture to defy ant gentleman to cover a military officer
with more odious epithets, or more vindictive censure. No man, however elevated his station, can
withstand the overwhelming force of such an assault on his reputation, coming from this august body,
after mature and solemn deliberation. The exalted mind of Gen. Jackson would prefer even death to
this fatal blow, aimed at that which is more dear to him than lifehis well-earned fame and
irreproachable honor. Sir, the immortal Washington was charged with a violation of the constitution, in
drawing money from the treasury to pay the militia who served in the campaign against the
insurgents in 1794, without an appropriation made by law ; but at that day the secret of our power to
censure had not been discovered, and the transaction passed with out animadversion. It has
remained for us to put in motion this new engine of inquisitorial crimination, and to wield it against a
man whose arm was never extended but in defending the liberty and safety of his country against the
complicated enemies by whom it has been assailed, and whose pure and unblemished patriotism,
combined with his invincible valor, fortitude, and perseverance, have shed over his brow a resplendent
ray of glory which neither clouds or tempests can obscure, so long as virtue shall predominate over
the envious and malignant passions of the human heart. Yes, sir! We are importuned to execrate the
bloody deeds of the Seminole war, to chaunt requiems over the tombs of Arbuthnot and Ambritser,
and to mourn over the wreck of our fallen constitutionand, in an instant, as if by enchantment, the
horrid picture vanishes from our affrighted imaginations, and eludes even the grasp of keen-eyed
malice ; and we hear the moral integrity and innocence of all these transactions announced form the
same lips which utter their condemnation. The motives and intentions of Gen. Jackson are eulogized
and applauded by his most inveterate accusers. All the errors ascribed to him, and for which
honorable gentlemen are prepared to immolate his character, and render his name, hitherto so dear
to his countrymen, odious and detestable, are attributed to the impetuous ardor of his zeal to promote
the general good, and give peace and security to our defenceless frontier.
He fills a space in the public eye, and commands a portion of the affection and confidence of his
fellow citizens, too copious and extensive to be tolerated by the sharp-sighted politician, whose
splendid eloquence fades and evaporate before the sunshine of renown lighted up by the unparalleled
achievements of the conqueror of the veterans of Wellington. These modern casuists endeavor to
magnify an unintentional violation of the constitution into a crime of the blackest enormity, which can
neither be extenuated or forgiven. Are they willing to have their names specified on the journal as
culprits at the bar of an offended people, stamped with infamy and disgrace, if at any time they have,
with the best intentions, given a vote, which on a review of the subject, was found to conflict with
some provision of the constitution ? What member of this house can say, with certainty, that he has






on all occasions, construed the constitution correctly ? And who among us would be satisfied to
stake all his hopes and prospects on the issue of an investigation, which, disregarding all respect for
the purity of the motive, should seek only to discover an inadvertent error, resulting from a defect of
judgment in the attainment of objects identified with the best interests of the nation ? Sir, if I mistake
not, the honorable Speaker, and several other gentlemen, who have manifested great solicitude, and
displayed a torrent of eloquence to urge the expediency of passing the proposed censure on the
conduct of Gen. Jackson, and who unhesitatingly admit the innocence of his intentions, would be
placed in an unpleasant situation, by the operation of the rule which they are anxious to prescribe in
this case. A few short years past, these honorable gentlemen were the champions who resisted the
renewal of the charter of the old bank of the United States. At that day they held the original act of
incorporation to be a usurpation of power, not delegated to Congress by the constitution, and to their
exertions we were indebted for the downfall of that institution. The same distinguished members, at a
subsequent period, acting under the high obligations of duty, and the solemnity of their oaths to
support the constitution of the United States, aided and assisted in establishing the mammoth bank,
which now threatens to sweep with the besom of destruction every other moneyed institution in the
nation into the gulph of ruin and bankruptcy. It will not be pretended that both these opposite opinions
were correct; and yet I should be very sorry either to impugn the motives which actuated those
gentlemen in the instance referred to, or to pass a censure on their conduct for an unintentional
violation of the constitution, calculated to withdraw from them the confidence of their constituents.
There was a time, Mr. Chairman, when the republican phalanx in every quarter of the Union regarded
the specification of powers in the constitution as the limitation of the grant, within which every
department ought to be strictly confined. But at this day we are told, that this literal construction of
the instrument is too narrow for the expanded views of an American statesmanmere "water-gruel,"
insipid to the palate, and requiring the addition of a little fuel to give it energy and action to conduct
this nation to the high destinies which await it. No power can be called for by an existing exigency, or
a favorite system of policy, which, according to the doctrines now advanced, may not be found
necessary and proper to carry into effect some one of the specified powers in the constitution. The
flexible character of man, and the frailty of human nature, afford an ample apology for these
oscillations, and wretched indeed would be our situation if crime consisted in error, unaccompanied
by the pre-existing will to perpetrate it. No man who respects his feelings or his character would
accept a public trust on such conditions. As well might we censure the Supreme Court for having
given a decision which we deemed contrary to the constitution, and where no corruption could be
alleged against the Judges who pronounced it ; which is an essential ingredient to constitute an
offense for which a judicial officer liable to impeachment. In such a case our censure might be
retorted by an attachment for contempt, and the honorable Speaker, representing the majesty of this
house, would be compelled to answer the charge by purgation or otherwise, as the wisdom of the
house should direct. I mention this to shew the absurdity and inefficiency of every attempt to
transcend the powers secured to us by the constitution. Sir, I am sick to loathing of this incongruous,
novel, and impotent effort to wound the sensibility of a hero, who has sacrificed whatever of health or
fortune he possessed, and staked his life in common with the soldier by whose side he fought, that
our exposed and unprotected frontier might once more repose in peace and tranquility, undisturbed by
the midnight yell of the merciless savage.
The hero of New Orleans wanted not a petty Indian war to satiate his ambition, or add fresh laurels to
the wreath already bequeathed to him by his country. It was a war of hardships, fatigues and
privations, in which for him he had nothing to hope but the consolation of having accomplished the
object for which he took the field, and of receiving the approbation of the President, to whom alone he
was responsible for all the incidents of the campaign in which he participated. Of this reward, so well
merited, and so freely bestowed, we now seek to rob, by fulminating resolutions and vindictive
eloquence, against what honorable gentlemen are pleased to call a patriotic unintentional violation of
the constitution.
The committee then rose, reported progress, and asked leave to sit again ; and the House adjourned.
On the following day,






Mr. POINDEXTER resumed his argument.Mr. Chairman, I wish it to be distinctly understood, that the
view which I had the honor to take of this subject on yesterday, was not intended to shield the conduct
of Gen. Jackson from the strictest scrutiny. Even before this unconstitutional court, unheard and
undefended, he fears not the penetrating touch of the most rigid investigation. He asks no palliatives,
no exemption from responsibility. He needs only that protection which justice, sternly administrated,
affords to every virtuous man in the community. The argument was directed to the judgment of the
house, in reference to its own legitimate powers, as a separate branch of the National Legislature.
These consist of the right to judge of the elections and returns of our own members ; to determine the
rules of our own proceedings ; to punish members for disorderly behavior; and, with the concurrence
of two thirds, to expel a member; and they are all the ultimate powers of the House of
Representatives. Allow me, sir, in closing my remarks on this point, to call the attention of the
committee to an opinion which fell from the venerable George Clinton a short time before he took a
final leave of this world, and was deposited among the tombs of the fallen heroes and patriots, who,
with him, had achieved the independence of their country. Placed in the chair of the Senate of the
United States, he was required, by an equal division of that body, to give a casting vote on the
question touching the power of Congress to incorporate a National Bank. It will be recollected that he
negatived that proposition, and in support of his vote advanced the reasoning by which he was
influenced, which he concluded with the following judicious and pertinent admonition :" In the course
of a long life, I have found that government is not to be strengthened by an assumption of doubtful
powers, but by a wise and energetic execution of those which are incontestable ; the former never
fails to produce suspicion and distrust, whilst the latter inspires respect and confidence." The
sentiment is worthy of the head and the heart which dictated it, and if properly improved will constitute
a rich legacy from that inflexible patriot to those who may follow in the path of legislation. I earnestly
recommend it to the favorable consideration of this body
Mr. Poindexter continued. I now, sir, said he, proceed to the topics already discussed with such
distinguished ability. Perhaps I shall be guilty of a useless trespass on the patience of the committee
in attempting to give them a further examination. The causes and origin of the Seminole war, its
prosecution and final terminations, have resounded in our ears until every feeling is paralized, and all
the avenues to conviction are closed, by the frost of cold indifference, or the fatal spell of
unconquerable prejudice. Under such discouraging circumstances, I enter with diffidence on the task
of exploring the ground over which so many have trodden before me. Urged on, however, by a sense
of duty and of the important results which may flow from the decision to be pronounced on these
interesting subjects, I claim the indulgence of the committee while I submit my opinions in relation to
the principles and facts involved in them. The causes of this war stand first in the order of the
discussion : upon a clear understanding of these materially depends the justification of the conduct
observed in the prosecution of the war. Many of the rights which appertain to a belligerent in a
defensive, cannot be claimed in an offensive, war, and this is more particularly the case in respect to
that which is now the subject of consideration. The honorable Speaker, aware of the necessity of
affixing the guilt of the contest on the United States to sustain his conclusions, has labored to excite
our commiseration for the poor, degraded, half-starved, persecuted Seminoles, while he charges the
people of Georgia with robberies and murders on their innocent, unoffending neighbors ; who, in their
own defence, were compelled to take up arms and retaliate the injustice which had been practised
against them. To these outrages, and the acquisition of Indian lands by the treaty of Fort Jackson,
combined with the dictatorial terms of that treaty, I understood the honorable gentleman to attribute
the war which has produced so much excitement in this House. Sir, I apprehend no gentleman on
this floor is better acquainted with the origin of this war than the honorable member from Georgia who
opened this debate ; and if he is willing to admit the charge of robbery and murder made on his
constituentsbe it so. For one, I can only say, that no satisfactory evidence has been adduced of the
fact, and I am therefore bound to controvert it.
[The Speaker explained : He meant only to express his fears that such was the fact, without intending
to use the strong language which Mr. P. had ascribed to him. ]
Mr. P proceeded : Sir, I have the speech of the honorable gentleman before me ; it contains not only






the substance of this charge on the people of Georgia, but it refers, in extenso, to a paper signed by
the chiefs of ten towns, addressed to the commanding officer at Fort Hawkins, specifying their
grievances and the wrongs committed on them by the Georgians, for which they demanded an
atonement. This paper the honorable gentlemen has characterized as an artless tale, told in
language pathetic and feeling, which carried internal evidence of, at least, the belief of the authors of
it that they were writing the truth. It complains, that the " white people carried off all the red people's
cattle, and still continued to do so ; that the whites first begun ; that, three years since, the whites
killed three Indians, and, since that, three others ; that the whites stole their horses, and all they had,
and killed three more Indians ; to which they have since added six more." Satisfaction is said to have
been taken for all except three of the Indians alleged to have been murdered by the whites. From this
summary of the paper referred to in support of the argument of the honorable Speaker, and the
weight which he has attached to it, I think it must be manifest that I have not misconceived or
misstated his premises. And I repeat that it is not for me to interfere between the honorable
gentleman from Georgia, whose constituents have been thus implicated, and his honorable friend,
who imputes to them such disgraceful conduct. But, sir, I cannot forbear to notice this " artless tale of
truth," which is the sole evidence of the outrages complained of, and on which so high an eulogium
has been pronounced.Whence came this manifesto ? Sir, it emanated from the pen of that infamous
foreigner, Arbuthnot; it is one of the multitudes of crimes which he expiated on the gallows, and is
second only in impudence and falsehood to the famous proclamation of his predecessor, Col. Nichols.
Its style is artful and insinuating ; its import pregnant with all the horrid deeds excited and
consummated by the mischiefmeditating hand of that monster whose fate is so deeply deplored within
these walls. And is the testimony of this man, the avowed enemy of the United States ; the instigator
of Indian hostilities, by means of intrigue and seduction ; whose occupation was misrepresentation
and deception, to draw the unlettered savage into the vortex of impending ruin ; whose mind was the
dark abode of vice, in all its hideous deformity, worthy of the panegyric which it has received, and of
the confidence reposed in it by the honorable Speaker ? Shall we dishonor the American name upon
his authority, masked by the nominal signature of Ten Towns, the dupes of his insidious policy, who
knew no more of this " pathetic and feeling narrativethis simple tale of truth," than he thought proper
to communicate to them ? No, Sir, I trust we shall not. We must look to other and more respectable
sources, for the concatenation of events which resulted in the Seminole war : to these I shall presently
call the attention of the committee. But the treaty of Fort Jackson falls under the severe denunciation
of the honorable Speaker, and the war is said to have had its origin in the imperious, haughty, and
dictatorial spirit of that instrument. Let us advert, for a moment, to the history of this transaction, and
bottom our reasoning on facts, and we shall be less liable to the errors inseparable from a superficial
view of any subject. The Creek Indians, towards whom the United States had, for more than twenty
years, observed the most pacific policy, stimulating them to industry and agricultural pursuits, and
inculcating on their minds the benefits of civilization, seized on the first favorable opportunity which
offered, when we were contending for our existence, as a sovereign and independent nation, against
the undivided strength of Great Britain, to take up arms against us and make a common cause with
the enemy ; actuated to this measure, no doubt, by British and Spanish counselors, and supplied, as
we know, with the means of carrying on the war at Pensacola. While they were in our power, weak
and unprotected, we cherished and fed them ; we introduced, among them implements of husbandry,
taught them to cultivate the soil, and the use of the wheel and the loom. We respected their territory,
and prohibited all intrusion upon it. When they found us hard pressed, by the most powerful nation in
Europe, we asked not their assistance, but advised them to stay at home and remain in peace ; we
told them not to fight on either side. But the demon of foreign seduction came among them ; false
hopes were infused into their minds ; promises of British aid were made to them; the prophttic
delusion of invincibility nerved the warrior's arm, and the tomahawk and scalping knife were raised
against their benefactors; wielded with all the fury of savage barbarity, rendered still more ferocious by
the influence of superstition and fanatacism. Such was their ingratitude, and such the return for our
magnanimity ! The bloody contest ensued. The massacre at Duck River, at Fort. Mims, and the
butchery of our frontier inhabitants, without regard to age, sex, or condition, will long be remembered






by the afflicted friends and relatives who survive the unfortunate victims, whose innocent blood
stained the guilty hand of the inexorable savage. The melancholy story of their wrongs will be handed
down to the latest generations. I hope they will not be forgotten by their country. At this momentous
crisis, Jackson sprung from the retirement in which his vigorous mind had been permitted to slumber,
and contemplate, not without emotions of painful regret, the disasters which marked the progress of
our armies. He took the field, at the head of the hardy and intrepid sons of Tennesseehis faithful
companions in arms. They penetrated the swamps and the forces, enduring, with manly fortitude,
every hardship and privation which the most vivid imagination can conceive, or human language
portray. The God of battles was on their side ; victory attended their steps ;they conquered. The
vanquished enemy dispersed : a part of them fled into Florida, to throw themselves under British
protection, and the residue surrendered to the mercy of the conquering general. And the articles of
capitulation, signed on the 9th of August 1814, has been called a treaty ; a chef d'auvre in diplomacy,
cruel and insulting in its terms, to a miserable, fallen foe ; derogatory to the national character, and
the main cause of the recent war with the Seminoles. I have yet to learn, that the subjugation of one
tribe of Indians, and the terms of their submission, is justifiable cause of war, on the part of another,
and a distinct tribe. But, independent of this objection to the ground assumed by the honorable
Speaker, I contend there is nothing in these articles of capitulation either unreasonable or
incompatible with the sound morality which, it seems, so eminently distinguished the commissions at
Ghent. Let it be remembered, that a conquering general, in the field, asks nothing of the enemy as a
matter of courtesy. His business is to demand justice, and enforce compliance at the point of the
bayonet. And what are the conditions on which Gen. Jackson agreed to receive the submission of an
enemy who had made on the United States an unprovoked war, in aid of a contemplated blow to be
struck by Great Britain, on the great emporium of our western commerce ? He demands " an
equivalent for all expenses incurred in prosecuting the war to its final termination ; that the Creek
nation abandon all intercourse with the British and Spanish posts, those infernal fiends who had
excited them to war; that they acknowledge the right of the United States to establish military posts
and trading houses, and open roads, within their territory, and to the free navigation of their waters ;
that they surrender the property taken from citizens of the United States and friendly Indians, in return
for which, the property of those who submitted was to be restored ; and that the instigators of the
war, whether foreigners or prophets, if found within their territory, should be captured and
surrendered. The United States voluntarily undertake to maintain those deluded, infatuated people,
until they shall be enabled to support themselves by their own labor." Sir, I will thank any gentleman
to designate which of these stipulations he would have omitted. Are they all essential to a permanent
peace and a just indemnification for the injuries we had sustained from these red allies of Great
Britain ? Yes, sir; nor could Gen. Jackson have done less, in the faithful performance of his duty;
and less could not have been expected by a conquered tribe of Indians under similar circumstances.

The frequent use of the word " demand," which has given so much offence, corresponded precisely
with the nature of the transaction, which was purely military, purporting on its face to be " articles of
agreement and capitulation," bearing no resemblance to a formal treaty entered into by the mutual
consent of two independent sovereignties. I can perceive nothing on the face of this capitulation,
either in form or substance which is inconsistent with a proper respect for our own safety, or
incompatible with national honor. The right to make roads and establish trading houses and military
posts on the lands reserved to the Creeks, to which exception has been taken, as a high-handed,
arbitrary measure, is universal among all the Indian tribes within our limits. I do not believe it was
ever before questioned or complained of. But we are told that this compact was not entered into by a
majority of the Creek nation; that it is not binding on them ; and the territory acquired under it reverts,
under the stipulation contained in the 9th article of the treaty of Ghent. So said Col. Nichols, and
Arbuthnot ; and so said Lord Castlereagh, until our vigilant enlightened minister then resident in
London satisfied him that the treaty did not embrace the case. England, the only power in Europe
interested in the question, has abandoned her objections to our title, but they are renewed on this
floor, doubtless for the sole object of promoting the interests of the United States ! Sir, all that we






gained during the late arduous struggle with Great Britain, except the glory of our land and naval
victories, was this little indemnity from a domestic enemy, who made war on us without the slightest
apology. And I ask, if it accords with the " expanded views of an American statesman" to throw the
weight of his reasoning and opinions against the fair claim of the United States to a tract of country so
dearly purchased with the best blood of the nation, and thereby revive doubts of our title already
answered to the entire satisfaction of the British cabinet, to whom alone we are bound to answer
questions arising under the treaty of peace ? The memorable visit of Nichols, and his red companion,
Hillis Hadjo, to England, was made for the express purpose of obtaining the aid of that government in
the war, which was then contemplated, to dispossess the United States of the lands ceded by the
Creek nation on the 9th of August 1814. Had this debate taken place prior to their departure, they
would have been furnished with an interpretation of the treaty of Ghent favorable to their cause, given,
too, by one of the American commissioners who negotiated it, in this deliberative assembly. With
such a paper, coming from such high authority, although not strictly official, they might, indeed, have
assumed an imposing attitude with the British ministry. Our difficulties would have thickened around
us, and the peace of the Union might have been endangered, without a relinquishment on our part of
the lands so necessary to the growing strength and population of our southern states and territories,
for the possession of which we were indebted to the valor and patriotism of that man who, for having
done too much for his country, is arraigned, as a criminal, at the bar of this House. The treaty of
1790, made at New York, with M'Gillivray, was objected to on the same pretexts now urged to defeat
the agreement made at Fort Jackson, in 1814. The Baron De Carondelet, in behalf of the Creek
Indians, protested against it as absolutely null and void, because it had not been sanctioned by a
majority of the nation. On the recent occasion, Spain is silent, and we are favored with the humane
and benevolent interposition of Nichols and Woodbine, Arbuthnot and Ambrister ! I confess, sir, I
have no ambition to be found in the ranks with either of these sage and beneficent counsellors : it is
enough for me to vindicate the rights of my own country against the attacks of all foreign emissaries,
whatever guise they may assume to accomplish their detestable purposes. An honorable gentleman
from Pennsylvania, (Mr. Hopkinson,) has said, that every step we have taken, in reference to the
unfortunate aborigines, whom we found in possession of the soil over which we have spread our
population, has been marked with cruelty and blood ; and the honorable Speaker has informed us,
that the friends of legitimacy in Europe make two serious and important charges against this country;
the one is an inordinate spirit of aggrandizement, and the other the treatment which we extend to the
Indians. Now, sir, with all the respect which I entertain for those gentlemen, and for the political
morality of the friends of legitimacy in Europe, I deny, in their whole extent, the accuracy of these
charges ; they are unsupported either by history or the experience of any man living. When did the
United States make an offensive war on an Indian tribe ? When did they extend their settlements
within the boundary of Indian territory, without a full equivalent, agreed on by treaty, fairly concluded
and executed ? I challenge any gentleman to put his finger on that page of history which affords
evidence of these facts. And can England or Spain make the same declarations, supported by a
retrospect on their past conduct towards the Indian tribes within their territorial limits ? No, sir ! They
grant lands for military services, and push their settlement without the smallest respect for Indian
boundary. The law of force is the only rule which they recognize as applicable to these people ; and if
presents, favors, or privileges, have been occasionally granted to them, they were based in avarice,
or intended to stimulate them to the numerous wars which have proved so fatal to them, and which
have drenched our extensive frontier in the blood of our citizens. I appeal to every western man,
whether, in the long catalogue of Indian hostilities, from the period of the revolution up to the present
moment, one instance can be designated in which the war could not be traced to the influence of
British agents and traders ? Whether we have not constantly endeavored to withdraw their attention
from the art of war ; to cultivate with them the relations of peace and amity ; to civilize them, and
ameliorate their condition ? These facts are notorious and indisputable ; they demonstrate, most
clearly, the mildness and justice of our policy towards the savage tribes, and leave no foundation for
the charges made on this government, either by the legitimates of Europe or the citizens of our own
country.






I aver, without the fear of contradiction, that the United States have, on all occasions, without a single
exception to the contrary, acted on the defensive in the commencement of every war with our Indian
neighbors ; that they have never turned a deaf ear to the voice of conciliation ; and we have abundant
evidence that the late Seminole war was of a character similar in all respects to those which preceded
it. The finger of British intrigue, and of Spanish duplicity and connivance, are visible, from the very
inception of these hostilities to their final termination. I will not detain the committee by entering into a
methodical and critical examination of the documents, in the hands of every gentleman ; showing the
means employed to excite this war, the preparations made for its prosecution, and the guarantee of
ultimate aid from the British government to recover the lands for which the outlawed Creeks
contended. They are voluminous, and multifarious ; many of them official, and all leading to the
unavoidable conclusion, that nothing short of a restoration of these lands, upon the most humiliating
terms, could avert the impending blow. I will endeavor to present a summary of the prominent
occurrences, on which I may safely rest the vindication of this government against the charge of
aggression. The occupation of a strong military post on the Appalachicola, the asylum of fugitive
slaves, of vagabonds, and banditti, of hostile Indians, and of all who would enlist under the English
jack, or the bloody flag, is the first certain indication of the approaching rupture. It was the nucleus
from which all the subsequent proceedings generated and matured. The government of Spain tacitly
acquiesced in this open violation of its neutral territory. Not even the redoubtable Don Jose Masot
was heard to complain, except for the seduction and employment of negroes belonging to Spanish
subjects, in this tri-colored collection of outlaws and murderers. The demands made on the United
States, as the sole condition on which peace could be preserved, and the objects contemplated in the
erection of this Negro fort, are specifically announced by that Prince of scoundrels, Col. Edward
Nichols, in his several letters to Col. Hawkins, then the Creek agent. This fellow sometimes styles
himself" commander of the British forces in the Floridas," and at others " commander of his B. M.
forces in the Creek nation. " And on one of his communication is endorsed " on his Britannic
majesty's service" ! What forces had Great Britain in the Floridas, or in the Creek nation ? At peace
with Spain and the United States, by what authority could that government station a military force
within the territories of either ? These extraordinary transactions, it is true, have been verbally
disavowed, but they have never been explained in the manner called for by their mischievous
tendency, and necessary to exempt the British ministry from the well grounded suspicion of a
participation in them. On the 28th of April, 1815, Nichols informed Col. Hawkins that the chiefs had
come to a determination " not to permit the least intercourse between their people and those of the
United States. They have, in consequence, (said he) ordered them to cease all communication,
either directly or indirectly, with the territory or citizens of the U. States." They further warned the
citizens of the U. States from entering the territory or communicating, directly or indirectly, with the
Creek people ; and they describe their territory to be as it stood in the year 1811. They add their
adhesion to the treaty of Ghent, as an independent ally of his Britannic majesty. If a doubt exists as
to the intent and meaning of this insolent letter which was itself sufficient cause for hostile operations
on our part, it is fully removed by a subsequent letter from the same individual, " commanding his B.
M. forces in the Creek nation," dated at the British post on the Appalachicola river, May 12th, 1815.
He says" I have ordered them (the Indians) to stand on the defensive, and have sent them a large
supply of arms and ammunition, and told them to put to death without mercy any one molesting them.
" Again :" They have given their consent to await your answer before they take revenge; but, sir, they
are impatient for it, and well armed, as the whole nation now is, and stored with ammunition and
provisions, having a strong hold to retire upon in case of a superior force appearing. " He likewise
threatens the " good and innocent citizens of the frontier," and admonishes our agent" that they do
not find that our citizens are evacuating their lands according to the ninth article of the treaty of
Ghent." After this undisguised exposition of their sine qua non, their means of annoyance, their
security from attack by a superior force in the " strong hold" which the sagacity of their leader had
provided, and their impudent threat of war and vengeance against "the good and innocent citizens on
the frontier," what man, whose mind is free from the despotic sway of prejudice, can hesitate as to the
settled determination of these Indians to commence hostilities on the United States, whenever they






should be ordered to strike, by their good friend Col. Nichols ? To ascertain with certainty how far
they might depend on British protection, Nichols and Hillis Hadjo proceeded to London, with the
famous address of all the chiefs to their good father King George. This paper, of which Col. Nichols is
both the hero and the author, breathes the same spirit of enmity to this country which runs through
the whole of his letters and correspondence. In order to recommend themselves to the favor of the
king, they assure him that they " have fought and bled for him against the Americans ; that they will
truly keep the talks which his chief has given them, if he will be graciously pleased to continue his
protection ; that they are determined to cease having any communication with the Americans, and
warn them to keep our of their nation. " These talks which they gave a pledge truly to keep, were to"
put to death, without mercy, every American who should be found on the lands ceded by the treaty of
Fort Jackson. " The deputation was received with every mark of politeness and attention. Hillis Hadjo
was honored by the Prince Regent with the rank of Brigadier General in his majesty's service, and
presented with a splendid suit of British uniform, together with a rifle, tomahawk and scalping knife, of
British manufacture with the royal arms engraven upon each of them. These circumstances attracted
the attention of Mr. Adams, our minister there, and several notes were addressed by him to Earl
Bathurst, and Lord Castlereagh, on the subject of the unwarrantable proceedings of Nichols, in
Florida, and of the address before noticed, which was called a treaty offensive and defensive. To
these notes no written reply was furnished ; they carefully avoided a correspondence, in writing,
relative to these transactions ; and Lord Bathurst, when pressed by our minister, in a conversation,
observed, " to tell you the truth, Col. Nichols is, I believe, a man of activity and spirit, but a very wild
fellow." He sent him word that he had no authority to make a treatyoffensive and defensive with these
Indians, and that the government would not make any such treaty. He declined seeing him on that
project, but expressed his intention of having an interview with him on the affairs of Florida, generally.
This guarded course of conduct, combined with subsequent events, go far to strengthen the belief
that the proceedings of Nichols on all the other points were not disapproved, although they could not
receive the open approbation of the British cabinet. That war was to be made on the United States by
the Indian in Florida, and their white and black allies, is a fact established by such a crowd of
testimony, that it would be difficult to select that which would be deemed most conclusive and
satisfactory. I will select only one deposition, which is so well supported, and affords such precise
information, that I beg leave to read it to the committee.
"The deposition of Samuel Jervais.
Samuel Jervais being duly sworn, states, that he has been a sergeant of marines in the British
service for thirteen years past : That, about a month ago, he left Appalachicola, where he had been
stationed for several months.That the English colonel Nichols had promised the hostile Indians at that
place a supply of arms and ammunition, a large quantity of which had been delivered to them a few
days before departure, and after the news of peace between England and the United States being
confirmed, had reached Appalachicola : That, among the articles delivered, were, of cannon four 12
pounders, one howitzer, and two cohorns, about 3,000 stand of small arms, and near 3,000 barrels of
powder and ball : That the British left with the Indians between three and four hundred negroes, taken
from the United States, principally from Louisiana : That the arms and ammunition were for the use of
the Indians and negroes, for the purposes, as it was understood, of war with the U. States : That the
Indians were assured by the British commander, that, according to the treaty of Ghent, all the lands
ceded by the Creeks in treaty with General Jackson were to be restored ; otherwise, the Indians must
fight for those lands, and that the British would in a short time assist them.
hisSAML. JERVAIS.mark.Sworn and subscribed to, before me, this 9th May, 1815, at the town of
Mobile. L. JUDSON, J. P"
The evidence of this man is substantially sustained by Lt. Loomis, who so gallantly commanded the
expedition which blew up the Negro Fort, and with it all the miserable miscreants who had sought
refuge within its walls. Besides the letter of Lt. Loomis to Commodore Patterson, I am authorised by
a naval officer of high respectability to state, that, at the time this fort was destroyed, there were in it
800 barrels of powder, 3,000 stand of British muskets, packed in cases, equipment complete for 500
dragoons, pistols, cutlasses, and carbines, four 24 pounders, taken from the British frigate Cydnas,






with the name of that ship on them, one field piece, mounted, and two 5 1/2 inch brass howitzers.
Such were the preparations made for the war, which was suspended only for the arrival of the red
chief Hillis Hadjo, and his companion, Col. Nichols. The destruction of this "strong hold," on which the
Indians might retire in case of discomfiture, and of the arms and ammunition which had been
deposited there, induced Nichols to procrastinate his return to Florida, and to appoint, as his
successor in the good work which he had begun, Alexander Arbuthnot, of the island of New
Providence. This man made his appearance in Florida, in the character of an English trader, in the
year 1817, and simultaneously the war whoop resounded through the forests, and the blood of our
citizens began to flow on the borders of Georgia, and the Alabama territory. I shall presently take a
closer view of the means resorted to by this infernal missionary to kindle the flame of war and
vengeance among the deluded Seminoles and Red Sticks. It is enough, on this part of the argument,
to shew that they were successful, and that actual violence was committed on the " good and
peaceable inhabitants of the frontier," in conformity with the menace of his predecessor, Nichols ; and
that the U. States were compelled to take up arms, and chastise these savages, in their own defence,
after repeated efforts to bring them to a sense of justice, and of their own interests, by friendly talks,
and pacific remonstrances.
Need I ransack the documents on our files to collect, the evidence of the murders and robbeiers
which preceded the determination of this government to commence offensive operations against the
Indians in Florida ? They must be fresh in the recollection of every gentleman. They have been so
often repeated by my honorable friends, that I will forbear the painful task of recounting them. The
cruel massacres of aged mothers and helpless infancy were spread along the whole line of our
southern frontier in that quarter. The threatened war soon ripened into full maturity. The murders
committed on our unoffending citizens were openly avowed, and justified under the hollow and
unfounded pretence of retaliation for similar outrages, alleged to have been practiced by the
Georgians, on their people. As early as the 5th of February 1817, the governor of Georgia made a
solemn appeal to the general government for the protection of the exposed settlements within the
limits of the state over which he presided. He details circumstances calculated to leave no doubt of
the hostile spirit of the savages, and of the active preparations which were making, by Woodbine and
Nichols, to carry their hellish designs into execution. Scenes of cruelty, at the recital of which
humanity shudders, followed in succession, and still the Executive paused, and demanded the
punishment only of the offenders. On the 24th of February 1817, fifteen Indian warriors entered the
peaceful dwelling of the unfortunate Garret, a citizen of Wayne county, in Georgia ; finding in it only
Mrs. Garret, and her two infant children, the eldest of whom was three years old, and the other in its
mother's arms, on whom she had bestowed her tender smiles and caresses for the short period of
two months. The helpless condition of this family, their natural protector being absent, innocent and
unoffending, alike incapable of inflicting or repelling injury and insult, surrounded by a band of armed
ruffians, exhibited a picture of human misery, and heart-rending distress, which might well have tamed
the ferocity of the most bloody monster, who ever trod the face of the habitable globe. But their cries
and entreaties were unavailing ; the unhappy mother was twice shot through the body, stabbed, and
scalped, her two babes murdered, her house robbed of all the valuables which it contained, and, to
complete the melancholy catastrophe, the lighted torch was applied to the building, where once they
enjoyed the sweets of domestic comforts, and where now their mangled and lifeless forms lay
prostrate, covered with the warm blood yet streaming from their heartsand the flames which
ascended to heaven wafted their spirits into the presence of a just God, while, amidst the devouring
elements, their ashes mingled in one common grave. The mild which can contemplate with calm
composure deeds of cruelty and barbarity like these, must be destitute of that refined sensibility which
ennobles and dignifies our nature in all the social relations of life.
This act alone, independent of the black list which both preceded and followed it, was open,
unqualified war on the United States, unless the criminal perpetrators of these crimes, whose
enormity resembles more the tales of fiction and romance than the narrative of real, unsophisticated
truths, should receive the prompt and condign punishment which they so justly merited. General
Gaines, in obedience to instructions, demanded the murderers, and admonished the chiefs and






warriors of the consequences which would result from a refusal to comply with his demand. It was
not only refused, but fresh outrages, of a similar character, were repeated, until the seizure and
indiscriminate massacre of a boat's crew, under the command of Lt. Scott, put an end to all hope of
conciliation, and the Secretary of War, by the directions of the President, ordered the commanding
general to cross the Florida line, and terminate speedily this war, " with exemplary punishment for
hostilities so unprovoked. " The honor of the United States required that every drop of innocent blood
which had been so wantonly shed should be washed out by the most ample atonement; and, to
effect this object, General Jackson was directed to assume the immediate command of the forces in
that quarter of the southern division.
I trust, sir, I have said enough to satisfy the committee, that, on our part, the war was strictly defensive
; entered into reluctantly, after every reasonable expedient to avert it had been resorted to in vain.
As to the propriety of a formal and legislative declaration of war against an Indian tribe, the idea never
before entered the imagination of any man, during all the contests with the aborigines, through which
we have waded. Like many other subtleties which have diversified this discussion, it is of modern
origin, and may be classed among the numerous discoveries of the present day, which are not
exclusively confined to mechanism, but frequently enlarge the scope, and enlighten the path of
political science. The answer to this objection, if indeed it deserved one, has been given by several
honorable gentlemen, and particularly by my honorable friend from Kentucky, (Colonel Johnson). I
shall not attempt to enforce the argument on a point so little entitled to serious consideration, and
more especially in this case, where several acts of legislation have recognized the existence of the
war, made with a full knowledge of the orders which had been given by the President for its
prosecution in a foreign territory. At the last session, no exceptions were taken to these orders, but
every man approved the, as properly adapted to the exigency by which they were dictated.
I shall now, sir, consider the questions connected with the prosecution of the war to its final conclusion
; and the occupation of St. Marks and Pensacola, and of the fortress of the Barrancas, by the
American army. It I am asked why General Jackson entered the territory of Florida ? I answer, he
was ordered to do so by the President of the United States. And with respect to all the subsequent
proceedings, it is sufficient for his vindication, that they met the approbation of the same Chief
Magistrate, who thereby incurred the responsibility which otherwise would have rested on the General
alone. The President in his message at the opening of the present session of Congress justifies the
occupation of the posts of St. Marks and Pensacola, and explains the grounds on which they were
ordered to be restored to the possession of Spain. He states, " that the commanding general was
convinced that he should fail in his object, that he should in effect accomplish nothing, if he did not
deprive those savages of the resources on which they had calculated, and of the protection on which
they had relied, in making the war." And further, he adds, " in entering Florida, to suppress this
combination, no idea was entertained of hostility to Spain, and, however justifiable the commanding
general was, in consequence of the misconduct of the Spanish officers, in entering St. Marks and
Pensacola, to terminate it, by proving to the savages and their associates, that they should not be
protected even there; yet the amicable relations existing between the United States and Spain could
not be altered by the act alone " In addition to these views of the Executive, the Secretary of State, in
his able letter to Mr. Erving, our Minister at Madrid, instructed him to acquaint the Spanish
government that the " President will neither inflict punishment nor pass a censure upon General
Jackson, for that conduct, the motives for which were founded in the purest patriotism : of the
necessity for which he had the most immediate and effectual means of forming a judgment, and the
vindication of which is written in every page of the law of nations, as well as in the first law of nature,
self-defence." I have referred to these papers, coming from the Commander in chief of our army,
addressed to the Congress of the United States, and, through the accredited Minister at Madrid, to
the Spanish government, to counteract the impressions attempted to be made by an unfounded
discrimination between the President and General Jackson, in relation to the military operations of the
latter in the late Seminole war. I am very sure, the President would disdain to shelter himself from
the impending storm, by seeking refuge under the masked battery which honorable gentleman have,
with so much ingenuity, erected for his safety and defence. The most scrupulous sense of military






honor could not desire a more unequivocal approbation, than is given, by the President, of the
conduct of General Jackson in Florida ; they must stand or fall together; and I consider the foreign
effort to separate them deceptive and illusory. If censure falls on the head of one, it lights with equal
violence upon that of the other.
The act of crossing the Florida line, to subdue the hostile Indians in that province, appertaining to the
dominions of the Spanish monarchy, was a measure, in the execution of which the commanding
general did no more than obey the call of his country, and the imperious obligations of duty. If this
step was justifiable on principles of public law and the usages of war, the same justification runs
through all the operations of the army under the command of General Jackson. Self-defence, that
primary law of nature, either covers the whole of these transactions, or it does no afford a vindication
of the Executive, in ordering the troops to march into Florida and put a speedy termination to the war.
The entry of a belligerent army into a neutral territory, without the consent of the sovereign, is prima
facie, a violation of his perfect rights, and amounts to the definition of war de facto. Such an entry,
even against the will of the neutral power, may, nevertheless, be made under particular
circumstances, and furnish no ground of offence, or cause of war, to the neutral sovereign ; and
precisely the same circumstances will justify the temporary seizure of a neutral town or military post.
The conduct of the neutral towards the two belligerents must be impartial ; no privilege can be
granted to the one which may mot be taken by the other, in the same extent ; and, if refused, force
may be resorted to, without affording any just cause of complaint to the neutral who is guilty of such a
departure from the rules prescribed to her by the settled law of nations, which require her to give no
assistance to either party, where there is no obligation to give it, nor voluntary to furnish troops, arms,
ammunitions, or any thing of direct use in war. " For, should she favour one of the parties to the
prejudice of the other, she cannot complain of being treated by him as an adherent and confederate
of his enemy."Vattel, 332.
The obligations incurred by treaty constitute the only restriction upon the operation of these rules; and
I shall presently shew, that, in the late war with the Indians in Florida, Spain was bound in a defensive
alliance, quo ad hoc, with the United States, and that, she not only violated her neutral duties, but the
most solemn stipulation, by which she was bound to become a party to the war as an ally of the
United States. But, let it be admitted, that the colony of Spain on our southern border was in all
respects entitled to the immunities of an independent neutral state, and bound only to observe that
impartiality which was essential to preserve her pacific relations with this country ; and I contend, that
she was guilty of such gross partiality, in supplying the enemy with the means of prosecuting the war,
with the privilege of sheltering themselves within their fortified places, and with a ready market for all
the property which they robbed and plundered form our citizens, as to have forfeited all claim to the
respect due to fair and honorable neutrality, and to have become identified with the enemy, so far as
she could, with safety to herself and utility to them, extend her aid and assistance in promoting their
hostile operations against the United States. I have already shewn, from evidence which cannot be
controverted, that this war was, on our part, purely defensive, and consequently just ; that it was
instigated by British emissaries, with the assent and connivance of the local authorities of Spain.
Florida was the theatre of the war; there the enemy concentrated all his forces, and sought the most
favorable opportunities of making incursions into our territory ; and, after striking an unexpected blow,
again they retire into this asylum where they were promised security and protection. From 1000 to
1200 men, under the command of Hillis hadjo, or the Prophet Francis, were collected and stationed at
Spanish Bluff, the former residence of Doyle and Hambly ; these men, we are told by Arbuthnot, were
principally Red Sticks, who had fled from the limits of the United States and identified themselves in
the war with the Seminoles ; other bodies of men were scattered over the nation, amounting in the
whole to more than 2000 warriors. Spain was a passive spectator of the scene, and quietly permitted
these fugitives to elude the vigilance of our army, by remaining within her neutral territory. The safety
of the United States, therefore, required, that in our own defence, we should carry our arms into the
country which was thrown open to our enemy, and from which predatory parties issued to rob and
murder our defenceless citizens. In doing so, we were justified by a proper regard for our own
interests, and by every principle of public law. Vattel, 345, says ;






" It is certain, that if my neighbor affords a retreat to my enemies when defeated and too much
weakened to escape me, and allows them time to recover and watch a favourable opportunity of
making second attack on my territories ; this conduct, so prejudicial to my safety and interest, would
be incompatible with neutrality. If therefore, my enemy, on suffering a discomfiture retreat into his
country, although charity will not allow him to refuse them permission to pass in security ; he is bound
to make them continue their march beyond his frontiers as soon as possible, and not suffer them to
remain in his territories, on the watch for a convenient opportunity to attack me anew ; otherwise he
gives me a right to enter his country in pursuit of them. Such treatment is often experienced by
nations that are unable to command respect. Their territories soon become the theatre of wararmies
march, encamp, and fight in it, as in a country open to all comers. "
Yes sir, the territory of Florida is emphatically a country " open to all comers. " The British found a
hearty welcome there during the late war. The outlawed Creeks receive the right hand of fellowship
from Governor Masot, and his retinue of official dignitaries ; fugitive negroes, and banditti, are
welcome guests, when associated in arms against the United States ; and I am persuaded, the devil
himself would have received holy orders, had he made his appearance at Pensacola in the character
of a foe to this country. We alone were excluded from the high privilege of meeting our enemies on
that soil which was prostituted to every purpose which could in any manner subserve their views, and
contribute to our annoyance. The fortress of Barrancas was peaceably put into the possession of a
British and Indian force, in our recent conflict with Great Britain. The negro fort was erected on the
Appalachicola, with the avowed intention of war with the United States. The vilest reptiles in creation
were collected to carry the nefarious projects of the incendiary Nichols into execution, and not a
murmur was heard, either from Pizarro or Mazot, or the Governor General of Havanna. But the
moment we send a force to suppress these hostile combinations, Spanish sensibility breaks through
the cloud by which it had been concealed. Protests and manifestos proclaim to the world the wrongs
committed by this government, in the violation of the territorial sovereignty of the adored Ferdinand.
With a full knowledge of this fraudulent neutrality on the part of Spain, and of our rights as a nation, to
the means of self-preservation, the President would have been unmindful of the high trust and
confidence reposed in him, had he not ordered the army into Florida, to terminate the war, with "
exemplary punishment for hostilities so unprovoked." The occupation of the posts of St. Marks and
Pensacola, and the fortress of Barrancas, was a necessary means of accomplishing the end for which
General Jackson entered the Spanish territory. They rest on the same general principles, and, if a
distinction is taken which would justify the one and condemn the other, it must be founded on a
diversity of facts, in reference to the facilities and privileges granted by the authorities of Spain to the
other belligerent. For there is an universal rule, to which there is no exception, that whatever a neutral
power grants or refuses to one of the parties at war, she must in like manner grant or refuse to the
other; and if she departs from this strict line of impartiality, by favoring either to the injury of the other,
the injured nation may do herself justice, and take by forcewhat is unjustly denied to her.
Such is the law by which the conduct of all civilized nations is regulated and governed ; it remains
only for me to glance at the most prominent points in the evidence to shew its application, and thereby
rescue General Jackson form the imputation of having snatched from Congress the power delegated
in the constitution to " declare war." I ask then, sir, did the Governors of St. Marks and Pensacola
allow the Indians and negroes free access into their fortifications, and supply them with arms and
ammunition to carry on the war in which they were engaged with the United States. To establish
these facts, with regard to the former, I am perplexed with the difficulty of selecting that part of the
testimony which might be deemed least susceptible of doubt or equivocation. The whole volume is
full of details shewing the abominable duplicity and perfidy of the treacherous Luengo. St. Marks was
the council house of the Indians, in which all their plans of operation were discussed, in concert with
the commandant and his friend, Arbuthnot, between whom there existed the most perfect cordiality.
St. Marks was, in all respects, substituted for the negro fort, which had been destroyed by the
gunboats under the command of Lieutenant Loomis. To that place they retreated, immediately after
this disaster befell them, and ever since they have made it the depot of plundered property, known to
be so by Luengo himself, who even made contracts with the depredators for the beef, cattle, and






other property which they might capture from the people of Georgia. Having been charged by
General Jackson, with conduct so contrary to the pacific relations existing between Spain and the
United States, Luengo, in his defence, written at Pensacola, on the 18th of May, 1818, more than one
month after the occupation of the post by the American troops, when all his powers of prevarication
were taxed to exculpate himself from these charges, in reply to the information which had been
communicated to the commanding general, that he had supplied the Indians and negroes with
munitions of war, states : " I thought that I had convinced him of the contrary in my answer, in which I
represented to him, that no one could better remove from his mind any unfavorable impression on this
point them Mr. William Hambly, who during his stay here, repeatedly interpreted to me the anxiety of
the chiefs to obtain such supplies, and that he could also inform him, that I uniformly counselled them
to avoid the destruction which has overtaken them, and which I foresaw from the first." Now, sir, what
is the evidence of Mr. Hambly, whose credibility is admitted by the Spanish commandant, and whose
situation enabled him to give a full and precise statement of facts ? The letter addressed by him,
together with Edward Doyle, to General Jackson, exposes the transactions of St. Marks in so clear a
light, that I beg leave to read it to the committee.
Wm. Hambly and E. Doyle, to General Jackson.
Fort Gadsden, 2d May, 1818.
SirWe beg leave to submit to you the following facts : On the 13th December 1817, we were violently
torn from our settlement, on the Apalachicola River, by a number of Indians, headed by Chenubby, a
chief of the Fowl Town tribe, carried to Mickasuky, and delivered to Kenagee, King of the
Mickasukians. Kenagee carried us to the Negro Towns, on the Suwaney, and thence to the Spanish
fort St. Marksto the commandant of which he delivered us as prisoners of war, captured under the
orders of a Mr. Arbuthnot, reported to us as a British agent. At St. Marks we were treated as
prisoners, and not permitted to wander beyond the walls of the garrison. While at that post, the
ingress and egress of Indians hostile to the United States was unrestrained ; and several councils
were held; at one of which Kenagee, king of the Mickasukians; Francis, or Hillis Hajo ; Hamatulemico,
the chief of the Autosses ; and the chief of Kolemies, all of the old Red Stick party ; and Jack Mealy,
chief of the Ochewas, were present. When it was reported that these chiefs, and their warriors, were
entering fort St. Marks, for the purpose of holding a council, Hambly represented to the commandant
the impropriety of permitting such proceedings with the walls of a Spanish fortress, the officer of
which was bound to preserve and enforce the treaties existing between the king of Spain and the
United States ; he replied to Hambly with some degree of warmth, observing that is was not in his
power to prevent it. On the Indians coming into the fort, at their request, we were confined. The
council was held in the commandant's quarters. He, the commandant, was present, but strictly
forbade the intrusion of any of the officers of the garrison. The Indians were in the habit of driving to
fort St. Marks, and disposing of, cattle to the commandant and other Spanish officers. While at that
post, three or four droves were brought in, acknowledge by the Indians to have been stolen from the
citizens of the United States, and purchased by the Spanish officers. We were present at most of
these contracts, and Hambly often referred to as an interpreter between the purchaser and seller.
Chenubby, a Fowl Town Indian, once applied to Hambly to mention to the commandant that he was
about visiting the frontiers of Georgia, on a plundering expedition, and wished to know whether he
would purchase the cattle brought in. A contract was entered into, and Chenubby, some time after,
brought in, and disposed of eleven head of cattle to the Spanish commandant of fort St. Marks.
These same cattle were those purchased by you, from the commandant, as his private property.
WILLIAM HAMBLY, EDWARD DOYLE.
In support of the statement made by these men, I might refer to many others in the volume of
documents which have been printed, on this subject. I will, however, dispense with a detailed view of
them, and barely add an extract from the letter of Lieut. Gadsden, whose reputation, as a soldier and
a man of honor and veracity, placed him above the reach of suspicion.
J. Gadsden to General Jackson.
Fort Gadsden, May 3d, 1818.
Sirin conversation with the commandant of fort St. Marks on the subject of having that work occupied






by an American garrison, I had occasion to notice the aid and comfort that the hostile party of Indians
had received, as reported, from him ; that they had free access within the walls of his fort, and that it
was well known no small supplies of ammunition had been received from that quarter. In reply, he
stated that his conduct had been governed by policy ; the defenceless state of his work, and the
weakness of his garrison, compelled him to conciliate the friendship of the Indiansto supply their
wantsto grant what he had not the power to deny, and to throw open, with apparent willingness, the
gates of his fortress, lest they should be forced by violence ; that he had been repeatedly threatened
by Indians and negroes, and that his security depended upon exhibiting an external friendship.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES GADSDEN, Aid-de-Camp.
From the testimony of these respectable witnesses, and many others to whom I think it unnecessary
to refer, it is evident that the enemy had the unlimited use of this fort for all the purposes of war; that
their stolen property was received, and contracted for by the commandant, knowing it to be such ; and
that they were supplied with arms and ammunition, and every other material, to enable them to
continue their aggressions on the unprotected inhabitants of Georgia and the Alabama territory. The
only apology offered by the commandant, for his unfriendly and unwarrantable conduct, was, that he
had been repeatedly threatened by the Indians and negroes, and that his security depended upon
exhibiting an external friendship. It is immaterial whether we take the facts or the excuse, for either,
unconnected with the other, will amount to a justification of General Jackson in taking forcible
possession of that post. " To conduct prisoners, or convey stores, to a place of safety, are acts of war
consequently not to be done in a neutral country, and whoever would permit them would depart from
the line of neutrality by favoring one of the parties." Again, " necessity may even authorize the
temporary seizure of a neutral town, and putting a garrison therein, with a view to cover ourselves
from the enemy, or to prevent the execution of his designs against that town." Vattel, 342-4. The truth
is, that our enemy was denied nothing which he asked, and we were refused the humble privilege of
putting the place in a state of defence against an enemy who ought to have been considered common
to Spain and the United States. In such a case, to have hesitated would have been pusillanimous
and disgraceful in the commanding general. Passing from St. Marks to Pensacola, there is no
substantial change either of principle of fact. General Jackson, it is true, at the date of his letter to the
Secretary of War, from St. Marks, thought the war at an end. His health having been much impaired
by the hardships and fatigues of the service in which he was engaged, he had determined to return to
Nashville ; but subsequent information, of which we have the most authentic proof, satisfied him that
he had not yet affected the object of the campaign. The Indians, deprived of their accustomed resort
at St. Marks, flew to Pensacola, where they had always been received with open arms by the
Governor. Expedition was fitted out, and massacre committed, by parties of hostile Indians, going
directly from that place to the Escambia and Alabama.
(Mr. P's speech to be concluded in our next.)




University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2011 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated May 24, 2011 - - mvs