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Title pageAbout the Book

Cooper, Thomas.

Strictures Addressed to James Madison on the Celebrated Report of William H. Crawford, Recommending the Inter-Marriage of Americans with the Indian Tribes.

Philadelphia: Printed by Jesper Harding, 1824.



As President James Monroe completed his second term in 1824, political positioning amongst his possible successors grew more active and bitter. Several powerful candidates had emerged both from inside and outside the Cabinet. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, and Secretary of the Treasurer William H. Crawford, together with General Andrew Jackson, now sitting in the Senate, were all interested in succeeding Monroe. The consequence of this was an increase in self-serving attacks on administration policies. Crawford's supporters in the Senate, for example, impeded Adams' foreign policy, while both Crawford's and Calhoun's efforts to uphold existing treaties with the Native American tribes drew fire from the Jackson faction.

Thomas Cooper, the famous legal and scientific scholar who was now president of the University of South Carolina, entered the struggle with a pamphlet that reprinted a series of letters he had published eight years earlier under the pseudonym "Americanus" while a professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. The letters had been a response to then Secretary of War Crawford's 1816 Indian Report to the President recommending an alternative to the options of expulsion or extermination that others had advocated. Crawford's solution was to promote land-ownership in private farming holdings among the tribes; failing this, a government encouragement of "intermarriage between them and the whites" should take place so as to assimilate and "civilize" the Indians. Crawford's report had unfortunately concluded with the non sequitur that with this project complete, "the natives of our forests in the great American family of freemen" would prove more in the interest of the nation than the continued reception of "fugitives of the old world." Cooper, as one of those "fugitives," was enraged and responded with five letters, addressed to President Madison and published in the Democratic Press in April 1816. These five letters, together with a satirical letter Cooper also wrote at the time, were published with a preface that made clear Cooper's intention to frustrate Crawford's presidential ambitions.

Cooper's preface exemplifies the objections of those who are not native born being relegated behind the "savage" in value to the nation. The author of this project must certainly be stopped from becoming the chief executive since "there is no conceiving to what extent his ambition and want of principle, would carry him if placed in the Chair of State...."

Letter No. 1 (April 10, 1816) consists of a set of questions to the President that he says he will develop in later letters. These include a strongly worded attack on the character of the American "savages" and those who would despoil with intermarriage "the finest portion of the human race in form, figure, and capacity."

Letter No. 2 (April 13, 1816) begins on a satirical note describing the ways that, on reflection, the habits of the "savage Indians" resemble those of many members of Congress. In addition, native dancing could revivify stale society habits. Cooper then, more seriously, reveals his own colors with comments concerning the national bank that, he imagines, will receive the support of newly enfranchised tribes. He then goes on to attack Crawford's ignorance, citing his unsuccessful sojourn as minister to Paris. He then states flatly that one "cannot make an Indian a white man, either outside or within" and says that no southerner would admit a black man to such a political role in society. All such efforts have failed over the past century and a half; they are doomed. The "indolent and idle" Indian must make way.

Letter No. 3 (April 16, 1816) again states the impossibility of civilizing either red or black men, emphasizing that the "animal configurations and propensities are different." Cooper fears for the "national physiognomy" and a permanent disfigurement of "strange, wild, forbidding, doubtful features" on the faces of thousands of Americans. Government would have to bribe or force such intermarriage; it will never take place by choice.

Letter No. 4 (April __, 1816) is a lengthy attack upon Crawford for what Cooper perceives as his "anti-foreign" attitudes. Cooper says those "foreigners" include half of Americans and ninety percent of the forebears of the rest. He asks how Crawford can denigrate the contributions of an entire list of foreign-born Revolutionary War generals, from Gates to Steuben. He concludes with his own proposition that immigrants, in fact, begin as stronger Americans than native-born citizens because they made a choice, rather than that of the chance involved in the native infant's birth.

Letter No. 5 (April 30, 1816) is an explicit attack upon Crawford's intelligence and integrity. Cooper outlines his antagonist's career in most unflattering terms, especially his service in Paris. He is confident that the people will never elect such a man as president.

Cooper appends his collection of letters with a mock letter written from a poor spinster of "Maidenhead, New Jersey" to Crawford asking for his consideration in the new scheme of intermarriage since Indians "though rather alarming sort of husbands, are certainly better than no husbands at all."

Cooper's strident and hateful attacks on this question are undoubtedly offensive to most Americans at the start of the twenty-first century. They do, sadly, reflect the racial views of most white citizens of his time. One suspects, though, that Cooper, who had written against slavery, was more incensed by the attack on immigrants and foreigners that Crawford's unfortunate, and perhaps careless, afterthought threw into the debate. Cooper himself had suffered under the Alien and Sedition Acts and saw the danger of such policies, in both foreign and domestic affairs. Crawford had clearly won Cooper's undying enmity.

Crawford had narrowly lost the presidential nomination in 1816, and from then on he seemed the natural choice to follow Monroe in 1824. As events unfolded, though, Cooper's efforts to hamper Crawford's campaign were hardly required. In 1823 Crawford suffered a paralyzing stroke that also crippled his candidacy. He continued to run, however, and gained a small portion of the vote in the famous 1824 election that saw John Quincy Adams ultimately defeat the popular vote winner, Andrew Jackson. As for Indian policy, with the election of Jackson to the presidency in 1828, respect for existing treaties gave way in 1830 to the notorious Indian Removal Act and the "Trail of Tears."

Researched and authored by John Osborne, Ph. D.


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