Imágenes de páginas

In 1721, a revolution was effected by the people, who shook off their obedience to the proprietors, and declared their dependence immediately on the crown. The king, however, purchased the title of those who were disposed to sell. One of them, Lord Carteret, surrendered his interest in the government, but retained his title to the soil. That title was respected till the Revolution, when it was forfeited by the laws of war.

§ 22. "Further proofs of the extent to which this principle has been recognized will be found in the history of the wars, negotiations, and treaties which the different nations claiming territory in America have carried on, and held with each other. The contests between the cabinets of Versailles and Madrid respecting the territory on the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico were fierce and bloody; and continued until the establishment of a Bourbon on the throne of Spain produced such amicable dispositions in the two crowns as to suspend or terminate them. Betweeen France and Great Britain, whose discoveries, as well as settlements, were nearly contemporaneous, contests for the country actually covered by the Indians began as soon as their settlements approached each other, and were continued until finally settled, in the year 1763, by the treaty of Paris.

§ 23. "Each nation had granted and partially settled the country denominated by the French Acadie and by the English Nova Scotia. By the 12th article of the treaty of Utrecht, made in 1703, his most Christian Majesty ceded to the Queen of Great Britain all Nova Scotia, or Acadie, with its ancient boundaries.' A great part of the ceded territory was in possession of the Indians, and the extent of the cession could not be adjusted by the commissioners to whom it was to be referred. The treaty of

[ocr errors]

Aix la Chapelle, which was made on the principle of the status ante bellum, did not remove this subject of controversy. Commissioners for its adjustment were appointed, whose very able and elaborate, though unsuccessful arguments in favor of the title of their respective sovereigns show how entirely each relied on the title given by discovery to lands remaining in the possession of Indians.

§ 24. "After the termination of this fruitless discussion, the subject was transferred to Europe, and taken up by the cabinets of Versailles and London. This controversy embraced not only the boundaries of New England, Nova Scotia, and that part of

Canada which adjoined those colonies, but embraced our whole Western country also. France contended, not only that the St. Lawrence was to be considered as the centre of Canada, but that the Ohio was within that colony. She founded this claim on discovery, and on having used that river for the transportation of troops in a war with some Southern Indians. This river was comprehended in the chartered limits of Virginia; but, though the right of England to a reasonable extent of country, in virtue of her discovery of the sea-coast, and of the settlements she made on it, was not to be questioned, her claim of all the lands to the Pacific Ocean, because she had discovered the country washed by the Atlantic, might, without derogating from the principle recognized by all, be deemed extravagant. It interfered, too, with the claims of France founded on the same principle. She therefore sought to strengthen her original title to the lands in controversy, by insisting that it had been acknowledged by France in the 15th article of the treaty of Utrecht. The dispute respecting the construction of that article has no tendency to impair the principle, that discovery gave a title to lands still remaining in the possession of the Indians. Whichever title prevailed, it was still a title to lands occupied by the Indians, whose right of occupancy neither controverted, and neither had then extinguished.

25. "These conflicting claims produced a long and bloody war, which was terminated by the conquest of the whole country east of the Mississippi. In the treaty of 1763, France ceded and guaranteed to Great Britain all Nova Scotia, or Acadie, and Canada, with their dependencies; and it was agreed, that the boundaries between the territories of the two nations in America should be irrevocably fixed by a line drawn from the source of the Mississippi, through the middle of that river and the lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain, to the sea. This treaty expressly cedes, and has always been understood to cede, the whole country on the English side of the dividing line between the two nations, although a great and valuable part of it was occupied by the Indians. Great Britain, on her part, surrendered to France all her pretensions to the country west of the Mississippi. It has never been supposed that she surrendered nothing, although she was not in actual possession of a foot of land. She surrendered all right to acquire the country; and any after attempt to pur

chase it from the Indians would have been considered and treated as an invasion of the territories of France.

§ 26. "By the 20th article of the same treaty, Spain ceded Florida, with its dependencies, and all the country she claimed east or southeast of the Mississippi, to Great Britain. Great part of this territory also was in possession of the Indians.

§ 27. "By a secret treaty, which was executed about the same time, France ceded Louisiana to Spain; and Spain has since retroceded the same country to France. At the time both of its cession and retrocession, it was occupied chiefly by the Indians.

§ 28. "Thus, all the nations of Europe who have acquired territory on this continent have asserted in themselves, and have recognized in others, the exclusive right of the discovery to appropriate the lands occupied by the Indians. Have the American States rejected or adopted this principle?

§ 29. "By the treaty which concluded the war of our Revolution, Great Britain relinquished all claim, not only to the government, but to the 'propriety and territorial rights of the United States,' whose boundaries were fixed in the second article. By this treaty, the powers of government, and the right to soil, which had previously been in Great Britain, passed definitively to these States. We had before taken possession of them, by declaring independence; but neither the declaration of independence, nor the treaty confirming it, could give us more than that which we before possessed, or to which Great Britain was before entitled. It has never been doubted, that either the United States or the several States had a clear title to all the lands within the boundary lines described in the treaty, subject only to the Indian right of occupancy, and that the exclusive power to extinguish that right was vested in that government which might constitutionally exercise it.

§ 30. "Virginia, particularly, within whose chartered limits the land in controversy lay, passed an act, in the year 1779, declaring her 'exclusive right of pre-emption from the Indians of all the lands within the limits of her own chartered territory, and that no persons whatsoever have, or ever had, a right to purchase any lands within the same from any Indian nation, except only persons duly authorized to make such purchase, formerly for the use and benefit of the colony, and lately for the Commonwealth.' The act then proceeds to annul all deeds made by Indians to individuals for the private use of the purchasers.

§ 31. "Without ascribing to this act the power of annulling vested rights, or admitting it to countervail the testimony furnished by the marginal note opposite to the title of the law forbidding purchases from the Indians, in the revisals of the Virginia statutes, stating that law to be repealed, it may safely be considered as an unequivocal affirmance, on the part of Virginia, of the broad principle, which had always been maintained, that the exclusive right to purchase from the Indians resided in the government.

§ 32. "In pursuance of the same idea, Virginia proceeded, at the same session, to open her land-office for the sale of that country which now constitutes Kentucky, a country every acre of which was then claimed and possessed by Indians, who maintained their title with as much persevering courage as was ever manifested by any people.

§ 33. "The States having within their chartered limits different portions of territory covered by Indians, ceded that territory, generally, to the United States, on conditions expressed in their deeds. of cession, which demonstrate the opinion, that they ceded the soil as well as jurisdiction, and that in doing so, they granted a productive fund to the government of the Union. The lands in controversy lay within the chartered limits of Virginia, and were ceded with the whole country northwest of the river Ohio. This grant contained reservations and stipulations, which could only be made by the owners of the soil; and concluded with a stipulation, that all the lands in the ceded territory, not reserved, should be considered as a common fund, for the use and benefit of such of the United States as have become, or shall become, members of the confederation,' &c., ' according to their usual respective proportions in the general charge and expenditure, and shall be faithfully and bona fide disposed of for that purpose, and for no other use or purpose whatsoever.' The ceded territory was occupied by numerous and warlike tribes of Indians; but the exclusive right of the United States to extinguish their title, and to grant the soil, has never, we believe, been doubted.

§ 34. "After these States became independent, a controversy subsisted between them and Spain respecting boundary. By the treaty of 1795, this controversy was adjusted, and Spain ceded to the United States the territory in question. This territory, though claimed by both nations, was chiefly in the actual occupation of Indians.

§ 35. "The magnificent purchase of Louisiana was the purchase from France of a country almost entirely occupied by numerous tribes of Indians, who are in fact independent. Yet, any attempt of others to intrude into that country would be considered as an aggression which would justify war.

§ 36. "Our late acquisitions from Spain are of the same character; and the negotiations which preceded those acquisitions recognize and elucidate the principle which has been received as the foundation of all European title in America.

§ 37. "The United States, then, have unequivocally acceded to that great and broad rule by which its civilized inhabitants now hold this country. They hold, and assert in themselves, the title by which it was acquired. They maintain, as all others have maintained, that discovery gave an exclusive right to extinguish the Indian title of occupancy, either by purchase or by conquest; and gave also a right to such a degree of sovereignty as the circumstances of the people would allow them to exercise.

§ 38. "The power now possessed by the government of the United States to grant lands resided, while we were colonies, in the crown or its grantees. The validity of the titles given by either has never been questioned in our courts. It has been exercised uniformly over territory in possession of the Indians. The existence of this power must negative the existence of any right which may conflict with and control it. An absolute title to lands cannot exist, at the same time, in different persons, or in different governments. An absolute must be an exclusive title, or at least a title which excludes all others not compatible with it. All our institutions recognize the absolute title of the crown, subject only to the Indian right of occupancy, and recognize the absolute title of the crown to extinguish that right. This is incompatible with an absolute and complete title in the Indians."

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »