Ichabod Bartlett - Osceola
[From the Herald of Freedom of January 1839; Miscellaneous Writings, p.p 56-59]
A truly radical statement on the nature of the white man and the genocide of the American Indian.
Anti-Slavery engagements prevented our earlier noticing to our readers the opening lecture before the Concord Lyceum, by Ichabod Bartlett. It was on the very important subject of our country's treatment of the aboriginal inhabitants of this land. A subject, on which we would think it very difficult for any American to be eloquent - but an American Indian. Our white men have acted a part towards their red countrymen, which we should think would embarrass their flights of fancy.
From the landing of our fathers, up tot he last Indian ouster civilization and christianity (such as they were) have been crowding upon the Indian, and hunting him as a beast of. Every advantage has been taken of his unacquaintance with the roguery of refined life. He has been circumvented, overreached, cheated, and called meantime a savage, all the way from the pilgrim-landing to the "father of waters," across which his mournful canoe now bears the remants of his the mighty forest nations. He has been all the way and all the time hunched by our republicanism, while that has been blustering about our justice and magnanimity, and his perfidy - because his tomahawk did not always outbear the patience of Job. We have thrust him over the Mississippi. Civilization and christianity are buildings steamboats to follow on, and root him from his wilderness there. And although he is promised a permanent home and hunting ground, and smoke will scarce have curled above his new-built wig-wam, before our enterprise will hunch him farther, till he disappears, or is driven to turn his despairing canoe out on the shoreless Pacific. The church will see that he has a scattered missionary after him, meanwhile, and the monthly concert will be entertained with the geography of his wanderimngs . But not an effort will be made (none has been) to reform the white man of that character which makes it impossible for the Indian to live with him. The cheapest mode of repentence for the American church with regard to the Indian and the Negro seems to be to 'remove' one "by treaty" toward the illitable susnset, and to "colonize' the other, (as fast as they become free) "with their own consent." on the oblivious shores of Western Africa![i]
But to the lecture. The orator spoke of "Osceola, or rather of his countrymen." He depicted, with great power, and we presume historical accuracy, the wrongs of the Indians - which is the history of the Indians, with the excepton of those, who chanced to fall into the hands of the "fanatical" Quakers, Penn. With the keen sarcasm and eloquent denuciation, which distinguish the lecturer in his pleadings for his more fortunate clients than the "Indian chief," he exposed the treachery, the baseness, the duplicity, the tyranny, the savage cruelty, the more than savage - the republican and civilized - barbarity of this country. He paid some merited compliments to the learned law-officers of this great republic, for their official opinions, as counsel, advising this mighty nation on the legal effect of some of their processes to "extinguish Indian titles" to country and to home and hearthstone. We wish these cabinet officers had been present. But their clients were, and it may not well become parties to abuse their ingenious counsel.
We do not attempt a complimentary notice to this lecture. We felt mortified and humbled through the whole of its delivery, eloquent, powerful, graceful and forcible as it wass. We felt that a few such finely drawn laments was all the relief the country promised the wretched Indian. The generous and indignant orator would say, we presume, i asked what could be done for the Indian, that nothing could be done; that he must retire; that he could not be civilized; that he was irrecoverably a savage, and that he must retire before, or be trodden beneath, the inevitable westward movement of civilization. He would not say the white man must recognize the brotherhood of the savage, and respect his human rights and endure his aboriginal customs and habits of life here on the land. He would treat him honorably, to be sure, and keep faith with him, and he respects and admires the heroism, the unbowing independence, the savage and forest poetry of his character. he spoke with enthusiasm of the bravery of the chiefs, and the wild native eloquence of their orators. He quoted largely from their half-civilized writers, even. But would he say that the policy of William Penn should be observed towards them - the principles of non-resisting, unarmed peace, of primitive christianity, which would immediately abolish our Indian-phobia, and give them place in the American human family? We think not.He does not hold to the immediate abolition of negro slavery - that might national iniquity and shame, before which the wrongs of the Indian dwell into insignificancy. We have trespassed on the Indian. We have enslaved the Negro. We have defrauded the Indian. We have extinguished the Negro. But we cannot pursue the theme here.
The lecture was "denunciatory. The lecturer used "harsh language." he called the white people "miscreants and caitiffs," and othe names of homely, old-fashioned severity. He did not style them southern brethren, or northern brethren. He did not call the Indians savages and Indian dogs, inferior race, that could not live or rise among white men, that must be sent to their own appropriate country, the woods." He did not palliate our conduct in the least, but denounced it worse than ever Garrison did the conduct of slaveholders. We refer the denouncers of abolitionists to this authority for calling things by their right names. And we call upon the learned and eloquent lecturer, to demand of his white countrymen justice and humanity for the remaining Indians - that they invite and help and help them back in their native soil and their homes, and that the national treasures be expended in reforming, in this behalf, the wicked scorn and haughtiness of the white man, amid which the Indian can't live in safety or peace - instead of spending it in miserable politics, or more miserable preparations for civilized quarrelling with other nations by land or sea. We call on him to advocate a national love of the Indian as a man, to gather associations in his behalf, like ours for the more deeply-wronged and insulted negro, and we call on him further to enlist in the cause of his colored countrymen and brethren, sprung with himself from one stock, of one kindred, of one brotherhood, of one destiny. We ask him in the name of humanity, why he, an eloquent advocate, stands coldly and more than silently by, while those of feebler powers are breasting the storm of a most savage and brute public sentiment, which is crushing to the dust and mire the colored man and his uncolored friends.
Nathaniel Peabody Rogers