Sectional Aspect of the Seminole War

Sectionalism has long been present in American life. Before the American Revolution there were, on the eastern coast of North America, thirteen separate colonies. As colonies they were connected with England, but in their relations to each other they were separate and independent units. Moreover they were, to a certain extent, alien to one another in race, religion and political affinities. For example, the inhabitants of some of the New England colonies were descended from that group of Englishmen who were Puritan in their religion and Roundhead in their politics. The Dutch left definite traces of their stock in New York and New Jersey, and the Quakers gave a certain character to Pennsylvania. The Cavaliers made an imprint on the social life of the Virginians, while in Maryland the Catholics were most prominent.

With the winning of the Revolutionary War, however, these earlier differences were soon buried deep under a rising spirit of nationalism. But in the process of time other diversities were created by climate, education, industrial pursuits, social and economic institutions, and government. [1]W. C. Fowler, Sectional Controversy (New York, 1868), p. 2. The federal constitution was yet in its infancy when the greatest of all sectional disagreements, that over slavery, first appeared. The resultant animosity between the North and South ran its course in due time and left on the nation the horrors of a sectional war.

Of considerable importance in this struggle was the relationship between the Negro slave and the native Indian. The Indian had long been a source of constant worry to all sections of the nation where he resided. Though the status of the Negro had been rather well determined, that of the Indian had been from the beginning of our government an indefinite one. The various tribes were considered as quasi-foreign nations with whom treaties were made by the government, yet over whom it acted as a responsible guardian; hence, there was no basis for determining relationship between the Indian and the Negro, and very little between the Indian and the white. [2]Great Debates in American History, M. M. Miller, ed., (New York, 1913), p. 237. The complication of Indian and Negro trouble presented a special problem to the southern whites; it is in this connection that the Indian helped in widening the chasm between the North and the South.

Even before the settlement of Georgia there was controversy over land titles in the section south of the Savannah River. This dispute led to a similar misunderstanding between the English and Spanish over the question of slavery. Both Indian and Negro slavery was common among the English settlers in South Carolina. By 1700 the city of Charleston maintained markets in which slaves of both races were sold, and it was estimated that of the nine thousand five hundred and eighty inhabitants of South Carolina, two thousand nine hundred were Negro slaves and one thousand four hundred were Indian slaves. [3]Laurence Foster, Negro-Indian Relationship in the Southeast (Philadelphia, 1935), p. 19. South of the Savannah River lay the very alluring Spanish territory. To the slaves that section meant freedom, and it was not long before the Indian slaves began to escape to the Florida territory, where, under the Spanish crown, they found protection. The blacks soon learned the lesson taught by their red friends and began to escape into the free lands. The Spanish crown made no attempt to return the exiles to their owners, and all efforts of the Carolina colonists to repossess their runaway property were futile. Over a period of years this problem became a serious one, one that proved difficult to handle.

In 1733 the territory south of the Savannah River was settled by James Edward Oglethorpe and was given the name of Georgia in honor of King George II of England. This land had always been considered free from slavery by the Creeks, who originally inhabited it. The Georgia colonists followed the same custom and prohibited both Indian and Negro servitude with the following statement made soon after their arrival: “To show the world that we are not influenced by any contracted or interested motive, but by a general philanthropy for all mankind of whatever climate, language or complexion, we hereby declare our abhorrence of slavery in America.” [4]J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 4. Thus South Carolina’s problem of runaway slaves remained unsolved. She was anxious to see a slave colony established in Georgia since it would mean a protection for her against the slave exodus.

Georgia did not maintain her policy of freedom very long, however, for she soon began to rationalize upon the grounds that slavery would help to Christianize the heathen Indian. The Trustees approved a petition of the colonists, in 1749, urging that slavery be allowed, and by doing so shifted the problem of runaway slaves from South Carolina to Georgia. [5]W. B. Stevens, A History of Georgia, (New York, 1847), I, 312. South Carolina’s hopes had at last been fulfilled. Georgia now faced the unpleasantness which accompanied the fleeing of dissatisfied slaves.

During the latter part of the eighteenth century there was an upheaval among the strong Creek tribes in Georgia, resulting in a definite split among these Indians. Chief Seacoffe led the rebellious Creek faction across the Georgia-Florida border and settled in northern Spanish territory; here they began to make a nation for themselves. They were called the Seminoles, the name being taken from the Indian word Simanola, meaning “runaway.” [6]Great Debates in American History, M. M. Miller, ed., (New York, 1913), p. 238. Other smaller tribes joined them, and by 1800 North Florida was appropriately known as the land of the Seminoles. Throughout large areas of the vast wilderness these treacherous Indians were peaceable among themselves, but extremely warlike when antagonized by outside forces. The Florida Seminoles and the Georgia Creeks did not mix; that was a fact known in all the Indian lands. The Seminoles were incorporated with the Spanish in Florida; they enjoyed the same privileges as the rest of the population, were entitled to land where it was unoccupied, and were protected by the Spanish crown. [7]J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 3. Spain apparently was not greatly concerned about her citizenry in Florida; in fact, the territory had become a rendezvous for pirates, filibusters and renegade Indians. Such conditions were not at all pleasing to their neighbors in Georgia.

By 1815 slavery was a part of the agricultural set-up in Georgia: large slaveholding was absolutely essential to large landholding. To the southern planter the slave represented part of his fortune, and his slaves were as important as his barns, his horses, his farming implements, or his land. But the abolitionists could not see slavery in that light. Centered in the North this group was quite critical of the southern slaveholders. It was in this way that sectionalism over slavery began to take form early in the nineteenth century. Little did it seem that the Seminoles in Florida could further the antagonism between the North and South, but when the Georgia plantation owners began pressing the recapture of their Negro slaves over in the Seminole land, the North showed resentment. The abolitionists contended that the Negro deserved his freedom if he could get it, but the Georgia planters could not sit idly by and see their slaves find freedom among the Indians in Florida. [8]Asa Martin, History of the United States (New York, 1931), p. 306.

The Seminole land was very inviting to the Negro slaves. The Indians themselves were instrumental in helping the slaves effect escapes. In groups of two, three or four the Negroes could easily be transported across the border. Some were enslaved by the more influential of the Indians after arriving in Florida, but were usually given their freedom after a short period of work. The Indians who owned slaves were exceedingly kind to them, and there existed a feeling of brotherhood between the two races. The Negroes enslaved by the Indians were permitted to live together, have their own homes, till their own fields, raise their own herds, and enjoy existence, with very little to pay in exchange. They enjoyed a great deal of freedom, and preferred Indian owners to white owners. [9]Laurence Foster, Negro-Indian Relationship in the Southeast (Philadelphia, 1935), p. 21.

Some of the Indians intermarried with the Negro exiles, thereby strengthening the ties of their friendship. Many of the runaway slaves became rich cultivating the lands given them by the Spanish government. They manifested much judgment in the selection of their lands for cultivation -locating their principal settlements on the rich bottoms lying along the Appalachicola and the Sewanee Rivers. It is believed that the Negroes taught the Indians how to improve their farming and how to select that part of the land which was best adapted to agriculture. They also advised them in their councils. It may be safe to say that the slaves served as advisers to the Indians in many of their activities.

With such conditions existing so near in Florida, thousands of dissatisfied slaves in Georgia longed for the time that they might enjoy such freedom and happiness as did those Negroes who had already escaped. Occasionally a Negro would be recaptured and brought back to his plantation home; he scattered glowing tales among the other Negroes about freedom in the Seminole land.

In an attempt to check the number of escaping slaves, the southern land owners sought help from the federal government. As early as the Revolutionary War era, the Council of Safety of the Colony of Georgia sent to Congress a communication asking that a large force of continental troops be sent to aid in that capacity. By this it is evident that Georgia considered the problem one of national scope. [10]Laurence Foster, Negro-Indian Relationship in the Southeast (Philadelphia, 1935), p. 21. Such demands usually met with disapproval from Congress. After all, a representative from Massachusetts or New York could not be expected to approve a money bill which included funds to help bring back to Georgia a runaway slave.

The whites had early resorted to making treaties with the Indians for peaceful agreements, especially with the Creeks, but the latter had convenient memories when it came to forgetting what a treaty included. In 1783, the authorities of Georgia met with the Creek leaders at Augusta and entered into a treaty, whereby the Indians were to return to the whites such Negro slaves as were in their territory. Sometime later, however, the Indians denied ever having made such an agreement. Since nothing was actually accomplished, the Confederation Congress, in 1785, sent a group of three commissioners to Georgia to investigate the trouble between the State and the Creek tribes. In the meantime, the governor of Georgia appointed a committee to meet with the commission chosen by the Congress. The national and state deputations called for a representation from the Creeks to enter into a treaty. When only two representatives of the hundred Creek towns appeared, the delegates sent by the Congress immediately withdrew, and accused the Spanish government of keeping the Creeks (and the Seminoles as well) uninterested in making peace with the whites. Nevertheless the Georgia delegation remained and made an agreement with the Creeks, the principle of which, they hoped, would apply to the Seminoles also. The eighth article of this Treaty of Galphinton provided, that “the Indians shall restore all the negroes, horses and other property, that are or may hereafter be among them, belonging to the citizens of this state, or to any other person whatever, to such person as the governor shall appoint.” [11]J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 7.

When Washington became President of the United States in 1789, he earnestly hoped to make peace between the Indians and whites. A treaty was completed in New York with the Indians, which provided for the return of the Negro fugitives with their property at the expiration of a given time. The Creeks again acted for the Seminoles. In Georgia the Indians respected the treaty to some degree, but the Florida Indians completely disregarded the agreement. An attempt on the part of the federal government in 1792 to negotiate directly with the Spanish authorities for the return of the Negroes proved futile. The slaveholders in Georgia grew impatient. At times armed forces were sent into Florida territory for the purpose of capturing slaves, but such expeditions were usually unsuccessful. [12]Laurence Foster, Negro-Indian Relationship in the Southeast (Philadelphia, 1935), p. 23.

The Seminoles joined the British in the War of 1812, and continued to give trouble to the southern states. At the close of the war, the British attempted to free as many American slaves as possible by assisting them to escape. Lieutenant Ed Nichols of the British forces got together a great number of exiled Negroes and Indians in north Florida and furnished them with arms and munitions. [13]John Bach McMaster, History of the People of the United States (New York, 1895), IV, 430. An old British fort near the mouth of the Appalachicola River was rebuilt under the direction of Nichols and given to Garcia, black leader of that vicinity. The fort with its armament and supplies became a stronghold for the Negroes. This act was considered very unfriendly on the part of the British. Outside aid had assisted the runaway Negroes to display their freedom at Georgia’s front door.

Having gained considerable confidence in themselves, the Negroes, aided by the Seminoles, began to harry the surrounding country, doing much damage to property. John Bach McMaster, History of the People of the United States (New York, 1895), IV, 431.)) General Gaines of the United States Army was stationed at that time in south Georgia, and it became his duty to intervene and restore order. With the aid of a handful of volunteers and a few friendly Indians, he captured the fort and dispersed the Negroes. This aggressive action on the part of the American government ruffled the feelings of the Seminoles. John Spencer Bassett, Life of Andrew Jackson (New York, 1911),1,238.)) The Spanish were irked over the move too, as were the British officials, who had turned the fort over to the Negroes.

Aggression continued in Florida, and General Clinch was sent to aid Gaines in putting down further disturbances. President Monroe and the Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, seemed willing to lend all the aid that was necessary to protect southern interests. The Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun, was distinguished for his ideas on slavery, and since this conflict had been entered upon for the support of that institution, it may be supposed that he exerted his utmost energies for its vigorous prosecution. [14]J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 49.

Despite the fact that the North was generally opposed to federal aid being given to an attempt to recapture runaway slaves, there was a universal feeling that the Seminoles and Negroes should be kept from any further destruction of property and life. Hence, when the Fifteenth Congress assembled in December of 1817, the War Department was granted whatever funds the President thought might be required to carry on the war. [15]J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 50. With the help of additional money the administration was able to keep hostilities under way.

General Andrew Jackson, who had defeated the Creeks at the battle of Fort Jackson in 1814, was called upon by the Secretary of War to proceed to Florida for the protection of the southern states. Old Hickory called upon his native state of Tennessee for aid, and was presented with two thousand troops without delay. The trek to Florida was soon under way, with additional men joining the Tennesseans on their march southward. The Creek Indians were sympathetic with Jackson’s cause, and many of them joined the expedition, hoping that they might help inflict a sound defeat on their natural enemies, the Seminoles. By the time Jackson reached Fort Scott, Florida, in January 1817, he had a creditable fighting army to throw against the opposing forces. [16]John Bach McMaster, History of the People of the United States (New York, 1895), IV, 440.

Jackson had been wisely chosen for the mission to Florida. “The growing hostility of the Indians,” he asserted, “must be checked by prompt and energetic measures. Half peace and half war is a state of things which must not exist.” Although not able to strike a sudden or decisive blow, the General had completely overwhelmed his enemies by April, 1818. [17]James Parton, “The First Seminole War” in Great Epochs in American History, F. W. Halsey, ed., (New York, 1919), V, 132. From the very beginning he waged a winning struggle. At first he moved against the Indian towns on Lake Mickasukie, then against those on the river of the same name. In his report of his conquest, he refers to the desperation with which the Negroes fought, because in battle the exiles thought only of victory, preferring death to a return to slavery. Since the Seminoles were soon ready to give up in battle, it was not long before the Negroes were forced to fall back.

Jackson laid waste a great portion of the country around the Withlacoochee and Sewanee Rivers. His army entered the towns, set fire to the buildings, and destroyed property. General Jackson was ruthless in his warfare, but he contended that the Seminoles were deserving of all their punishment. In his attacks he took many prisoners, among whom were three white men – Woolbine, Arbuthnot, and Ambrister. These three were accused of promoting agitation among the Seminoles and were hanged forthwith. Ambrister was a subject of Great Britain and trouble with that country might easily have ensued; as it was, Jackson’s ruthlessness was severely condemned by the English people. People from all over the United States, too, were indignant; the massacre of the Negroes and Indians received wide-spread attention. A strict reprimand came from the administration, which had voted him money for the expedition. [18]J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 44. Sectionalism was evident in the criticisms, but mainly the protests were that the principles of humanitarianism had been violated.

Thus the first Seminole War, which was justified in its beginning, ended in failure, and caused bitter feelings among those most vitally concerned. Florida’s neighbor states wanted to continue the fight to a definite conclusion, but in May, 1818, General Jackson informed his troops that the war was finished, and wrote to the President of the United States asking that the men under his command be permitted to return to their homes. For the next few years very little disturbance was created in Florida, but relations were still not peaceful. In 1823 the Seminoles made a treaty with the State of Georgia in which the Indians again promised to seize and deliver to the agents all runaway slaves. The treaty was nothing more than a gesture, for the Seminoles were encouraging the migration of the black man to this region more than ever before. Many of the Indians had found mates among the Negroes and the mixture of blood streams complicated matters. The new generation had a great deal of influence in Indian affairs. [19]John Bach McMaster, History of the People of the United States (New York, 1895), VI, 330.

In 1832 the Seminoles were urged by the United States government to take up residence on the western lands that had been reserved for them and leave Florida to the whites. Florida was by this time a territory within the United States and the government could speak with authority. The Seminoles half-heartedly agreed to migrate to new homes, but asked for a period of time so that a group of their warriors might spy out the new lands. The delay was granted. A definite treaty for removal was made in 1833 and General Wiley Thompson was sent to Florida by the government to superintend the removal. [20]John Bach McMaster, History of the People of the United States (New York, 1895), VI, 331. He was instructed to guide the Indians westward and to send the exiled slaves back to Georgia, but, when the task of distinguishing between Negroes and Indians began, there was trouble. Who should be sent back to their masters as slaves, and who should be sent as Indians to the West? Governor Duval of Florida pointed out that the Indians could not be moved until the slaves were captured and restored. General Thompson, thereupon, urged that troops be sent to capture the Negroes and escort the Indians on their journey; but the Seminoles balked, contending that the treaty of Fort Moultrie (1823) allowed them twenty years longer, at least, before they would be forced to leave. Many of the Indians wanted to move on without further trouble or argument, but Osceola, a stubborn, half-breed Indian chief, refused to go, and gathered about him a great following of discontented and impatient Indians. His wife was the daughter of a runaway Negress, and Osceola was determined not to be separated from his mate, despite the fact the slave code said “a child of a slave mother was a slave.” [21]John Bach McMaster, History of the People of the United States (New York, 1895), VI, 330.

In an effort to compromise with Osceola, General Clinch suggested, in 1835, that the Seminoles be allowed at least another year, thinking that the Indians would be better prepared to go. The redskins were deceiving in their good humor; seemingly they were making preparations to move peaceably in 1836. President Jackson encouraged their removal. But in January, 1836, five Indian chiefs and five hundred of their followers, all of whom were friendly to the migration, had to flee to Fort Brooke on Tampa Bay for protection from the other hostile Seminoles, who were now determined to fight it out rather than leave Florida. One Indian chief was murdered by his own people because he favored moving. [22]John Bach McMaster, History of the People of the United States (New York, 1895), VI, 331.

There was evidence that Osceola and another of the chiefs, Wild-Cat, had been working secretly among the Indians in an effort to agitate sentiment against migration. Osceola had become a strong and influential leader; many Seminoles had solemnly sworn with him that they would not move westward, and that they would fight to protect their people from separation by the whites.

A long struggle, known as the Florida War, began in 1836 between the Indians and the United States. Intermittent fighting lasted until 1843, at which time the exhausted Indians were forced to take abode west of the Mississippi River. Probably no other individual Indian played as important role in these hostilities as did Osceola, who swore to get vengeance after his wife was captured by General Thompson and returned to a Georgia plantation as a slave. Osceola’s plans were frustrated, however, as he was captured by the whites and sent to prison. His confinement was terminated by a deceitful scheme of his own making in which he promised to lead all his Indians westward if only he were allowed to go free. The chief was released upon good faith by the United States officials, though his real determination in seeking freedom was to slay General Thompson and to lead his race in further war against the whites. The Indians soon scattered throughout the swampy everglade sections of Florida, and, under the leadership of Osceola, held a great portion of eastern Florida against the United States troops. They burned houses, plundered, and menaced white settlements in general. Osceola was trapped a second time and sent to prison, never to be given his freedom again. He died at Fort Moultrie in 1838. His chief assistant, Wild-Cat, continued the hostilities against the whites.

At the outset Florida asked for the immediate aid of Congress; she needed troops and money to carry on a war of this sort. Representative White from that state sponsored such a bill in the House of Representatives. The debate took place on January 6, 1836, when Chairman Cambreleng of the Ways and Means Committee returned the bill to the House. Representative Vinton of Ohio, an antislavery leader, made vigorous protests against the eightythousand-dollar bill, asking in effect, “who started this war, and who will be benefited from it?” Throughout his discussion, the feeling of sectionalism was very evident. [23]“Seminole Hostilities” in Congressional Debates, part 2, Vol. XII, 20th Congress, No. 2138.

By March of 1836 the State of Florida realized that the eighty thousand dollars would be a mere trifle. If she were to make any showing at all against the Indians, she must have considerably more money from the federal government. On March 10th of that year another bill appeared in the House which called for the appropriation of five hundred thousand dollars. Representative Bond of Ohio immediately objected vigorously. Representative Johnson of Kentucky implied in a lengthy speech that any opposition to the increased appropriation seemed uncalled for. Representative Dunlap of Tennessee attempted to further the cause of the South by suggesting that there be three additional paymasters added to the army and sent to Florida. His remarks, however, only added fuel to the flame. Representatives Mann of New York and Smith of Maine led the protests of the northern representation against further appropriations, while French of Kentucky and White of Florida were the chief spokesmen of the southern delegation. [24]“Seminole Hostilities” in Congressional Debates, part 3, Vol. XII, 20th Congress, 2728. Thus a struggle in Congress developed which had a definite sectional bearing: the Indian war was closely identified with the return of slaves to their masters.

With the war well under way many southerners slipped across the Florida line to regain or buy cheap slaves from the Indians. The whites conceived the plan of buying Negroes from the Seminoles, while the Indians were intoxicated, and selling them to other whites. If they could get an Indian drunk, they could obtain from him a bill of sale for any Negro, whether the Indian had any title to him or not. Attorney-General Felix Grundy voiced the opinion of the North when he said that he “saw no good reason why the white people should be permitted to buy slaves from the Indians.” The whites, ruthlessly anxious to retrieve all lost property, also seized possessions of Indians who owned slaves. [25]J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 95.

The southern states were generous with all the aid and help they could lend in reducing the Seminole power. The brunt of the leadership fell upon General Clinch, General Call, General Gaines, General Dade and General Jesup. Despite the work of these men, all the east Florida section south of St. Augustine was soon in the hands of the Seminoles. Many thriving settlements, including New Smyrna and Palatka, were pillaged and burned by the semi-savage Indian, the inhabitants having to flee to out-of-the-way places for protection. [26]J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 80. In the interior of Florida the exiles were also making advancement. They attacked the stockade at Micanopy, and caused General Clinch to abandon it; however, Generals Pearce and Call soon drove them back on the west coast near Tampa Bay. Colonel Zachary Taylor was in active command. Wild-Cat, the ferocious Seminole chief, was determined to get revenge for the capture of his friend Osceola. He led his forces against Taylor at Okechokee Swamp in 1839 and, after a very bloody battle, withdrew into the interior of the swamp. Taylor was not able to follow him, and the war dragged on in this section, and throughout the state, until all but the last remnant of resistance yielded. The Seminoles soon realized the futility of their effort against the increasing southern army, so they reluctantly consented to move west of the Mississippi River in the latter part of 1842. Even then a few remained in the everglades of southern Florida where their descendants are still found. “Since the surrender of fugitive slaves,” says Bassett, “was the chief question at stake, this long and expensive struggle aroused strong criticism from anti-slavery men of the North who denounced the affair as a slaveholders’ war.” [27]John Spencer Bassett, Short History of the United States (New York, 1926), p. 467.

The newly-developed West took very little stand in the Seminole War, but Thomas Hart Benton, United States Senator from this region, showed the sentiment of his section when he said:

This was one of the most troublesome, expensive, and unmanageable Indian Wars in which the United States had been engaged; and from the length of time it continued, the amount of money it cost, and the difficulty of obtaining results, it became a convenient handle of attack upon the Jackson Administration; and in which party spirit, in pursuit of its object, went the length of injuring both individual and national character. . . . Its origin was charged to the oppressive conduct of the administration – its protracted length to their imbecility, its cost to their extravagance and its defeat to the want of foresight and care. The Indians stood for an innocent and persecuted people. [28]Thomas H. Benton, “The Last Seminole War,” in Great Crises of Our History told by its makers (Chicago, 1925), VI, 225.

Exaggerated newspaper stories were distributed throughout the anti-slavery sections of the United States, thereby heaping criticism on Jackson’s administration and on the people in the southern states. The charge was made that cries of distress from the Seminoles had reached the ears of the distant North. [29]Sam G. Drake, Indians of North America (New York, 1880), p. 467. The North played up the Indian cause, asserting that the Indians were actually driven out of their own territory just because of the greed of the southerner. Race discrimination became the cry of the day. One biased writer had this to say:

The complaints of the white man are carried, as it were, `on the wings of the wind,’ while that of the poor Indian is drowned in the tempest. A clamor is raised on a frontier, and commissioners are dispatched to buy the Indian’s lands. He is bewildered with the parade, ostentation, and false show of greatness displayed before him. He puts confidence in what the agents of government tell him, and accedes to their wishes. Still he occupies his country-but very soon learns that it is not his,-that he has sold it, and must now leave it forever! He then, for the first time, begins to realize what he had done. He sees too late, that he has done what he had no intention of doing. [30]Sam G. Drake, Indians of North America (New York, 1880), p. 466.

The North was willing to believe such writings, and its sympathy was extended to those who were thus unjustly treated. The writer says further:

It is certainly true that the people of Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama, expressed great satisfaction at the anticipated relief to be realized when the Indians should be sent from their borders beyond the Mississippi. But are not these very Indians set down in the immediate vicinity of other white people? Whence then comes the benefit to the Indians: and whence the benefit to the whites, too, in the end? Look at the case any way, and I see no point of utility gained to either party. But there is a consideration about which I have heard very little said. It is the consideration that the frontier states and territories have but few votes in a presidential election, while those from which the Indians are removed have many. Now how much this adds to the justice of removing Indians I leave my readers to judge. Is it not preposterous in the highest degree to relieve a thousand individuals in Georgia by taking away the Indians from among them, and setting them down in Arkansas, where they can be in the way of but a hundred people? Thus because one state can make more noise than another, its clamors must be hushed at the expense of the other. [31]Sam G. Drake, Indians of North America (New York, 1880), p. 467.

This attitude in regard to the Seminoles’ removal was not taken by the slaveholding element.

The one person who probably showed most interest in the southern Indian was Representative Vinton, of Ohio. He considered the entire project as sheer brutality, and condemned Georgia and Florida for their treatment of the Seminoles. He made a sectional issue out of it in a speech in the House on February 20, 1828. Mr. Vinton accused the South of being envious of the lands the Indians held and of being too prejudiced against the Indians to give them a fair chance. He reiterated that the Indians had not been given any consideration. Again, on April 23rd of the same year, he worked on the emotions of his fellow northerners by contending that the “Indians might be carried to a climate wholly unsuited to them. And they might perish there.” He denied that any of Ohio’s Indians had ever been pushed about by the whites of that section. [32]“Indian Removals” in Congressional Debates, part 2, Vol. IV, 20th Congress, Nos. 1568 and 2481. These speeches, without a doubt, had a great deal to do with the attitude many anti-slavery people took concerning the removal of the Seminoles. It was a good basis on which to heap more criticism as the war dragged on.

All the southern states were as deeply concerned over the outcome of the war as was Florida. It was undoubtedly a trying time for this state, but had it not been for Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana, the Seminoles might have been successful in resisting their forced removal. [33]Niles’ Weekly Register (Baltimore, Md.), February 13, 1836. The stand that the North took against the South stamps that section of the country as being wholly unsympathetic.

After the Indians got scattered throughout the Everglades, it was impossible to make a decisive blow and thereby bring the conflict to a close. Their fighting tactics increased their efficiency considerably after they had retreated to these marshy, wooded sections. The editor of Niles’ Weekly Register continued to assert throughout this period that the war would not last very long. His expectation for an early ending of hostilities became long overdue. [34]Niles’ Weekly Register (Baltimore, Md.), February-May, 1836, passim.

The “Florida War” was discussed as one of the issues of the presidential campaign of 1840. Though rather farfetched, Josh Giddens believed that “It is quite certain that this war proved one of the principal causes of Mr. Van Buren’s defeat; and, during the pendency of the election, these complaints paralyzed the action of the executive.” [35]J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 275. Speeches were made in Congress criticizing various practices and methods attributed to the southern people in Florida, especially concerning the nation’s money that was squandered there, the policy of attempting to compel the Indians to migrate, and the cruelty forced upon the less fortunate Indian. These speeches were printed in pamphlet form and circulated in vast numbers.

Another event operated to call public attention to the war at this time. William Jay, of New York, published a small book upon the action of our government in regard to slavery. It was a work of much merit and exerted an influence upon the public mind. It was published several years prior to 1840, and attracted attention in most of the free states. [36]J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 275.

The strained feeling between the North and South remained near the breaking point after the close of the war with the Indians in 1842. Other issues growing out of slavery helped to intensify the hatred between the two sections. The long, drawn-out Seminole problem was closed and the Indians were partially removed. Only once more was the question reopened in Congress, and that was in 1852. A bill was brought before the House of Representatives for the collection of claims on a deal that had been made with the Indians by certain individuals. The claimants held the government responsible for the Indian debt. [37]J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 245. Only a debate resulted from the bill; the entire nation was too deeply engrossed over significant issues-issues which were leading rapidly to the breaking point between the North and South in 1861.

S. W. M.


1W. C. Fowler, Sectional Controversy (New York, 1868), p. 2.
2Great Debates in American History, M. M. Miller, ed., (New York, 1913), p. 237.
3Laurence Foster, Negro-Indian Relationship in the Southeast (Philadelphia, 1935), p. 19.
4J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 4.
5W. B. Stevens, A History of Georgia, (New York, 1847), I, 312.
6Great Debates in American History, M. M. Miller, ed., (New York, 1913), p. 238.
7J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 3.
8Asa Martin, History of the United States (New York, 1931), p. 306.
9, 10Laurence Foster, Negro-Indian Relationship in the Southeast (Philadelphia, 1935), p. 21.
11J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 7.
12Laurence Foster, Negro-Indian Relationship in the Southeast (Philadelphia, 1935), p. 23.
13John Bach McMaster, History of the People of the United States (New York, 1895), IV, 430.
14J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 49.
15J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 50.
16John Bach McMaster, History of the People of the United States (New York, 1895), IV, 440.
17James Parton, “The First Seminole War” in Great Epochs in American History, F. W. Halsey, ed., (New York, 1919), V, 132.
18J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 44.
19, 21John Bach McMaster, History of the People of the United States (New York, 1895), VI, 330.
20, 22John Bach McMaster, History of the People of the United States (New York, 1895), VI, 331.
23“Seminole Hostilities” in Congressional Debates, part 2, Vol. XII, 20th Congress, No. 2138.
24“Seminole Hostilities” in Congressional Debates, part 3, Vol. XII, 20th Congress, 2728.
25J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 95.
26J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 80.
27John Spencer Bassett, Short History of the United States (New York, 1926), p. 467.
28Thomas H. Benton, “The Last Seminole War,” in Great Crises of Our History told by its makers (Chicago, 1925), VI, 225.
29, 31Sam G. Drake, Indians of North America (New York, 1880), p. 467.
30Sam G. Drake, Indians of North America (New York, 1880), p. 466.
32“Indian Removals” in Congressional Debates, part 2, Vol. IV, 20th Congress, Nos. 1568 and 2481.
33Niles’ Weekly Register (Baltimore, Md.), February 13, 1836.
34Niles’ Weekly Register (Baltimore, Md.), February-May, 1836, passim.
35, 36J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 275.
37J. R. Giddens, Exiles of Florida (Columbus, 1858), p. 245.

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