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Message to the Senate Responding to the Resolution Regarding Indian Barbarities in the State of Minnesota

December 11, 1862

To the Senate of the United States:

In compliance with your resolution of December 5, 1862, requesting the President "to furnish the Senate with all information in his possession touching the late Indian barbarities in the State of Minnesota, and also the evidence in his possession upon which some of the principal actors and headmen were tried and condemned to death," I have the honor to state that on receipt of said resolution I transmitted the same to the Secretary of the Interior, accompanied by a note a copy of which is herewith inclosed, marked A, and in response to which I received through that Department a letter of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, a copy of which is herewith inclosed, marked B.

I further state that on the 8th day of November last I received a long telegraphic dispatch from Major-General Pope, at St. Paul, Minn., simply announcing the names of the persons sentenced to be hanged. I immediately telegraphed to have transcripts of the records in all the cases forwarded to me, which transcripts, however, did not reach me until two or three days before the present meeting of Congress. Meantime I received, through telegraphic dispatches and otherwise, appeals in behalf of the condemned, appeals for their execution, and expressions of opinion as to proper policy in regard to them and to the Indians generally in that vicinity, none of which, as I understand, falls within the scope of your inquiry. After the arrival of the transcripts of records, but before I had sufficient opportunity to examine them, I received a joint letter from one of the Senators and two of the Representatives from Minnesota, which contains some statements of fact not found in the records of the trials, and for which reason I herewith transmit a copy, marked C. I also, for the same reason, inclose a printed memorial of the citizens of St. Paul addressed to me and forwarded with the letter aforesaid.

Anxious to not act with so much clemency as to encourage another outbreak on the one hand, nor with so much severity as to be real cruelty on the other, I caused a careful examination of the records of trials to be made, in view of first ordering the execution of such as had been proved guilty of violating females. Contrary to my expectations, only two of this class were found. I then directed a further examination, and a classification of all who were proven to have participated in massacres , as distinguished from participation in battles. This class numbered forty, and included the two convicted of female violation. One of the number is strongly recommended by the commission which tried them for commutation to ten years' imprisonment. I have ordered the other thirty-nine to be executed on Friday, the 19th instant. The order was dispatched from here on Monday, the 8th instant, by a messenger to General Sibley, and a copy of which order is herewith transmitted, marked D.

An abstract of the evidence as to the forty is herewith inclosed, marked E.

To avoid the immense amount of copying, I lay before the Senate the original transcripts of the records of trials as received by me. This is as full and complete a response to the resolution as it is in my power to make.


DECEMBER 11, 1862.

Abraham Lincoln, Message to the Senate Responding to the Resolution Regarding Indian Barbarities in the State of Minnesota Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/202731

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