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The New Nation
Government Policy Toward Native Americans
Wanted: Government Agent

In September 1785, the U.S. Secretary of War and a Congressional Committee recommended to the Congress that a government agent be appointed to help Congress and Native Americans communicate more effectively with one another. A document requesting that Congress consider funding for the agent position follows. Why do you think communication between Native Americans and the government was such a problem? How would the appointment of a government agent help to resolve some of the communication problems? What kind of person do the Secretary of War and the Congressional Committee think would be best suited for the job?

View the original document, from Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.

SEPTEMBER 12th, 1785

THE secretary at war reports, that it may be a subject worthy the attention of Congress, whether it would not be necessary to appoint some confidential person, with a small salary, either resident with the Six Nations, or upon the frontiers nearest to them, to whom they might apply, as the intermediate person between them and Congress. That this appointment would involve a certain expence, but whether it would not be fully compensated by the political good resulting from it, in the management of the Indians, and the prevention of applications to Congress, upon frivolous occasions by unauthorized persons, is a question to be decided by Congress; every party of Indians who may think proper to repair to Congress will expect to be gratified by presents, the custom of visiting will encrease in proportion to the value of the presents and kindness of the treatment they may receive. Your secretary is sensible that the smallest establishment of this nature cannot be made without considerable disbursements, as the agent must possess almost a discretionary power of appropriating the public means in his possession----that the principles of this kind of business, in which it is difficult to obtain fair and accurate vouchers, will require that the most approved integrity and judgment should be united in the agent, which qualities would be a greater security against frauds, than whole quires of apparent vouchers whose goodness cannot be known by any established criterion. At the same time your secretary intimates his opinion of the propriety of this institution, he is sensible that it is only part of a plan which probably the United States may hereafter find necessary to form, which may comprehend the whole system of Indian affairs, but which perhaps may be executed in detail until that period shall arrive.

The Committee to whom was referred a Letter from Mr. KIRKLAND, of the 14th of September, together with its enclosures, submit the following Report:

THAT from the manner of treating the Indians of the Six Nations during their alliance with the British government, and from the assurances made to them that their interest and happiness would be promoted by their late alliance with the United States, it is not only politic, but in the opinion of the committee highly expedient that an agent should be appointed without delay, to reside in the country of the Six Nations, for the purposes stated in a report from the secretary of war, now before Congress.

Should Congress be of this opinion, and proceed to appoint such agent, the committee submit that he be instructed to inform the Oneidas, and also the Cayogon chief, that Congress will preserve inviolate the treaty of fort Stanwix, concluded between their commissioners and the chiefs of the Six Nations, and that the reservations in that treaty in favor of any of the said tribes, will be at all times faithfully regarded by Congress.

That the said agent be farther instructed in answer to the speech of Joseph Brant, to inform that chief, that a treaty will be held in this month at the mouth of the Great Miami, by the commissioners of Congress, with the western Indians; that colonel James Monroe, has left Congress to be present at that treaty, and that it is the desire of Congress that the said chief of the Mohawks should also be there present.

That from the lateness of the season, and the interference which the proposed meeting at Buffaloe creek may have with the treaty at the Great Miami, Congress cannot send any commissioners to attend at the former place, and with that such proposed meeting may not take place.
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View the original document, from Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.