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Special Message

January 18, 1853

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

I have the honor herewith to transmit a report from the Secretary of the Interior, from which it appears that the efforts of that Department to induce the Indians remaining in Florida to migrate to the country assigned to their tribe west of the Mississippi have been entirely unsuccessful. The only alternative that now remains is either to compel them by force to comply with the treaty made with the tribe in May, 1832, by which they agreed to migrate within three years from that date, or allow the arrangement made with them in 1842, referred to in the Secretary's report, by which they were permitted to remain in the temporary occupancy of a portion of the peninsula until the Government should see fit to remove them, to continue.

It can not be denied that the withholding so large a portion of her territory from settlement is a source of injury to the State of Florida; and although, ever since the arrangement above referred to, the Indians have manifested a desire to remain at peace with the whites, the presence of a people who may at any time and upon any real or fancied provocation be driven to acts of hostility is a source of constant anxiety and alarm to the inhabitants on that border.

There can be no doubt, also, that the welfare of the Indians would be promoted by their removal from a territory where frequent collisions between them and their more powerful neighbors are daily becoming more inevitable.

On the other hand, there is every reason to believe that any manifestation of a design to remove them by force or to take possession of the territory allotted to them would be immediately retaliated by acts of cruelty on the defenseless inhabitants.

The number of Indians now remaining in the State is, it is true, very inconsiderable (not exceeding, it is believed, 500), but owing to the extent of the country occupied by them and its adaptation to their peculiar mode of warfare, a force very disproportioned to their numbers would be necessary to capture them, or even to protect the white settlements from their incursions. The military force now stationed in that State would be inadequate to these objects, and if it should be determined to enforce their removal or to survey the territory allotted to them some addition to it would be necessary, as the Government has but a small force available for that service. Additional appropriations for the support of the Army would also, in that event, be necessary.

For these reasons I have deemed it proper to submit the whole matter to Congress, for such action as they may deem best.


Millard Fillmore, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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