James Monroe

Special Message

January 27, 1825

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

Being deeply impressed with the opinion that the removal of the Indian tribes from the lands which they now occupy within the limits of the several States and Territories to the country lying westward and northward thereof, within our acknowledged boundaries, is of very high importance to our Union, and may be accomplished on conditions and in a manner to promote the interest and happiness of those tribes, the attention of the Government has been long drawn with great solicitude to the object. For the removal of the tribes within the limits of the State of Georgia the motive has been peculiarly strong, arising from the compact with that State whereby the United States are bound to extinguish the Indian title to the lands within it whenever it may be done peaceably and on reasonable conditions. In the fulfillment of this compact, I have thought that the United States should act with a generous spirit; that they should omit nothing which should comport with a liberal construction of the instrument and likewise be in accordance with the just rights of those tribes. From the view which I have taken of the subject I am satisfied that in the discharge of these important duties in regard to both the parties alluded to the United States will have to encounter no conflicting interests with either. On the contrary, that the removal of the tribes from the territory which they now inhabit to that which was designated in the message at the commencement of the session, which would accomplish the object for Georgia, under a well-digested plan for their government and civilization, which should be agreeable to themselves, would not only shield them from impending ruin, but promote their welfare and happiness. Experience has clearly demonstrated that in their present state it is impossible to incorporate them in such masses, in any form whatever, into our system. It has also demonstrated with equal certainty that without a timely anticipation of and provision against the dangers to which they are exposed, under causes which it will be difficult, if not impossible, to control, their degradation and extermination will be inevitable.

The great object to be accomplished is the removal of these tribes to the territory designated on conditions which shall be satisfactory to themselves and honorable to the United States. This can be done only by conveying to each tribe a good title to an adequate portion of land to which it may consent to remove, and by providing for it there a system of internal government which shall protect their property from invasion, and, by the regular progress of improvement and civilization, prevent that degeneracy which has generally marked the transition from the one to the other state.

I transmit herewith a report from the Secretary of War, which presents the best estimate which can be formed, from the documents in that Department, of the number of Indians within our States and Territories and of the amount of lands held by the several tribes within each; of the state of the country lying northward and westward thereof, within our acknowledged boundaries; of the parts to which the Indian title has already been extinguished, and of the conditions on which other parts, in an amount which may be adequate to the object contemplated, may be obtained. By this report it appears that the Indian title has already been extinguished to extensive tracts in that quarter, and that other portions may be acquired to the extent desired on very moderate conditions. Satisfied I also am that the removal proposed is not only practicable, but that the advantages attending it to the Indians may be made so apparent to them that all the tribes, even those most opposed, may be induced to accede to it at no very distant day.

The digest of such a government, with the consent of the Indians, which should be endowed with sufficient power to meet all the objects contemplated--to connect the several tribes together in a bond of amity and preserve order in each; to prevent intrusions on their property; to teach them by regular instruction the arts of civilized life and make them a civilized people--is an object of very high importance. It is the powerful consideration which we have to offer to these tribes as an inducement to relinquish the lands on which they now reside and to remove to those which are designated. It is not doubted that this arrangement will present considerations of sufficient force to surmount all their prejudice in favor of the soil of their nativity, however strong they may be. Their elders have sufficient intelligence to discern the certain progress of events in the present train, and sufficient virtue, by yielding to momentary sacrifices, to protect their families and posterity from inevitable destruction. They will also perceive that they may thus attain an elevation to which as communities they could not otherwise aspire.

To the United States the proposed arrangement offers many important advantages in addition to those which have been already enumerated. By the establishment of such a government over these tribes with their consent we become in reality their benefactors. The relation of conflicting interests which has heretofore existed between them and our frontier settlements will cease. There will be no more wars between them and the United States. Adopting such a government, their movement will be in harmony with us, and its good effect be felt throughout the whole extent of our territory to the Pacific. It may fairly be presumed that, through the agency of such a government, the condition of all the tribes inhabiting that vast region may be essentially improved; that permanent peace may be preserved with them, and our commerce be much extended.

With a view to this important object I recommend it to Congress to adopt, by solemn declaration, certain fundamental principles in accord with those above suggested, as the basis of such arrangements as may be entered into with the several tribes, to the strict observance of which the faith of the nation shall be pledged. I recommend it also to Congress to provide by law for the appointment of a suitable number of commissioners who shall, under the direction of the President, be authorized to visit and explain to the several tribes the objects of the Government, and to make with them, according to their instructions, such arrangements as shall be best calculated to carry those objects into effect.

A negotiation is now depending with the Creek Nation for the cession of lands held by it within the limits of Georgia, and with a reasonable prospect of success. It is presumed. however, that the result will not be known during the present session of Congress. To give effect to this negotiation and to the negotiations which it is proposed to hold with all the other tribes within the limits of the several States and Territories on the principles and for the purposes stated, it is recommended that an adequate appropriation be now made by Congress.


James Monroe, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/206975

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