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John Quincy Adams: Special Message
John
John Quincy Adams
Special Message
January 31, 1826
Messages and Papers of the Presidents
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams
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To the Senate of the United States:

I transmit herewith to the Senate, for their consideration and advice with regard to its ratification, a treaty concluded by the Secretary of War, duly authorized thereto, with the chiefs and headmen of the Creek Nation, deputed by them, and now in this city.

It has been agreed upon, and is presented to the consideration of the Senate as a substitute for the treaty signed at the Indian Springs on the 12th of February last. The circumstances under which this received on the 3d of March last your advice and consent to its ratification are known to you. It was transmitted to me from the Senate on the 5th of March, and ratified in full confidence yielded to the advice and consent of the Senate, under a firm belief, rounded on the journal of the commissioners of the United States and on the express statements in the letter of one of them of the 16th of February to the then Secretary of War, that it had been concluded with a large majority of the chiefs of the Creek Nation and with a reasonable prospect of immediate acquiescence by the remainder.

This expectation has not merely been disappointed. The first measures for carrying the treaty into execution had scarcely been taken when the two principal chiefs who had signed it fell victims to the exasperation of the great mass of the nation, and their families and dependents, far from being able to execute the engagements on their part, fled for life, safety, and subsistence from the territories which they had assumed to cede, to our own. Yet, in this fugitive condition, and while subsisting on the bounty of the United States, they have been found advancing pretensions to receive exclusively to themselves the whole of the sums stipulated by the commissioners of the United States in payment for all the lands of the Creek Nation which were ceded by the terms of the treaty. And they have claimed the stipulation of the eighth article, that the United States would "protect the emigrating party against the encroachments, hostilities, and impositions of the whites and of all others," as an engagement by which the United States were bound to become the instruments of their vengeance and to inflict upon the majority of the Creek Nation the punishment of Indian retribution to gratify the vindictive fury of an impotent and helpless minority of their own tribe.

In this state of things the question is not whether the treaty of the 12th of February last shall or shall not be executed. So far as the United States were or could be bound by it I have been anxiously desirous of carrying it into execution. But, like other treaties, its fulfillment depends upon the will not of one but of both the parties to it. The parties on the face of the treaty are the United States and the Creek Nation, and however desirous one of them may be to give it effect, this wish must prove abortive while the other party refuses to perform its stipulations and disavows its obligations. By the refusal of the Creek Nation to perform their part of the treaty the United States are absolved from all its engagements on their part, and the alternative left them is either to resort to measures of war to secure by force the advantages stipulated to them in the treaty or to attempt the adjustment of the interest by a new compact. In the preference dictated by the nature of our institutions and by the sentiments of justice and humanity which the occasion requires for measures of peace the treaty herewith transmitted has been concluded, and is submitted to the decision of the Senate. After exhausting every effort in our power to obtain the acquiescence of the Creek Nation to the treaty of the 12th of February, I entertained for some time the hope that their assent might at least have been given to a new treaty, by which all their lands within the State of Georgia should have been ceded. This has also proved impracticable, and although the excepted portion is of comparatively small amount and importance, I have assented to its exception so far as to place it before the Senate only from a conviction that between it and a resort to the forcible expulsion of the Creeks from their habitations and lands within the State of Georgia there was no middle term.

The deputation with which this treaty has been concluded consists of the principal chiefs of the nation--able not only to negotiate but to carry into effect the stipulations to which they have agreed. There is a deputation also here from the small party which undertook to contract for the whole nation at the treaty of the 12th of February, but the number of which, according to the information collected by General Gaines, does not exceed 400. They represent themselves, indeed, to be far more numerous, but whatever their number may be their interests have been provided for in the treaty now submitted. Their subscriptions to it would also have been received but for unreasonable pretensions raised by them after all the arrangements of the treaty had been agreed upon and it was actually signed. Whatever their merits may have been in the facility with which they ceded all the lands of their nation within the State of Georgia, their utter inability to perform the engagements which they so readily contracted and the exorbitancy of their demands when compared with the inefficiency of their own means of performance leave them with no claims upon the United States other than of impartial and rigorous justice.

In referring to the impressions under which I ratified the treaty of the 12th of February last, I do not deem it necessary to decide upon the propriety of the manner in which it was negotiated. Deeply regretting the criminations and recriminations to which these events have given rise, I believe the public interest will best be consulted by discarding them altogether from the discussion of the subject. The great body of the Creek Nation inflexibly refuse to acknowledge or to execute that treaty. Upon this ground it will be set aside, should the Senate advise and consent to the ratification of that now communicated, without looking back to the means by which the other was effected. And in the adjustment of the terms of the present treaty I have been peculiarly anxious to dispense a measure of great liberality to both parties of the Creek Nation, rather than to extort from them a bargain of which the advantages on our part could only be purchased by hardship on theirs.

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS.



Citation: John Quincy Adams: "Special Message," January 31, 1826. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=66615.
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