Strictures Addressed to James Madison
on the Celebrated Report of William H. Crawford, Recommending the Inter-Marriage
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
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
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."