M & S Rare Books
|M & S Library Number: 23876|
Red Jacket's Probable Last Speech of Accomodation
(INDIANS). LIVINGSTON, JOHN H. A Sermon, Delivered Before the New-York Missionary Society, at Their Annual Meeting, April 3, 1804. To which are added, an Appendix, the Annual Report of the Directors, and Other Papers Relating to American Missions. New York: T. & J. Swords, 1804. 1st ed. 8vo. 96 [of 97] pp. Removed, some spotting. Sound. Very good. $450.00
S & S 6663 (three copies). Sabin 41630. Among other matter in the Appendix, on pp. 89-91, is an account of the speech delivered by Red Jacket, "a Sachem of the Seneca Nation of Indians, in Council with the principal Sachems of the Seneca, Onondaga, and Cayuga Nations, to the Rev. Elkanah Holmes, Missionary to the North-Western Indians."
A measured and begrudging speech, in which Red Jacket slyly acknowledges that if the Indian were better educated in the ways of white man, the white man would less often deceive him!
Red Jacket begins his speech with the observation that his forefathers did not lay "hold of the Gospel and the customs of the white people" because they "inhabited a tract of country sufficiently extensive to render them independent of the white people."
He notes that customs differ, and that "[w]e agree to yours, but are not content to forget some of our own customs..."
Red Jacket discusses the doubt many among the whites have whether Indians will adopt the Gospel, and he acknowledges that all may not, concluding only "that all will listen."
He points out that in an effort of accomodation, the Senecas have given up a young chief to the charge of the missionaries for purposes of education in the ways of the white man, so that "he may be capable of transacting our public business equal to the white man."
Red Jacket observes that most in attendance are old, and they will not leave off all of their ancient customs. He cannot speak for the children; they must decide for themselves.
The conclusion of the speech echoes the beginning: "You would not like to have us deprive you of any of your customs; how would you feel if we were to insist on your leaving off your customs and adopt ours?"
Born around 1758, it was said in his youth Red Jacket followed the line of political expediency in attaining a position of leadership among the great chiefs, currying favor with the whites at the same time he opposed Indian leadership that compromised and reached accomodation with the white man. However, as Robert A. Warner wrote in DAB, by 1791, "...with his position as a great chief among the Iroquois assured, he matured more statesmanlike policies. Peace with the United States became his aim and avoidance of the toils of a British diplomacy. Vainly, he fought to maintain the independence and authority of his people. In 1801 he protested at Washington against the Pennsylvania frontiersmen and in 1821, in the case of Tommy Jemmy, valiantly but unsuccessfully strove to preserve the right of separate Iroquois customs and jurisdiction. He vainly sought in the council on the Sandusky River in 1816 to arouse the tribes to united but peaceful resistance to land sales and encroachments.
"....By 1805 he set his face inflexibly against all change in language, creed, or blood. Most of all he eloquently opposed the establishment of missions and the activities of missionaries."
In his biography of Red Jacket, the journalist W.L. Stone reported: "In the summer of 1805, a young missionary named Cram was sent into the country of the Six Nations by the Evangelical Missionary Society of Massachusetts. His design was to plant a missionary station among the Senecas, and a council of their chiefs was convoked at Buffalo creek to hear his propositions."
Red Jacket responded with a brief synopsis of previous relations between the Senecas and the white man, declaring that the white man first came in small numbers to be free to enjoy their own religion unhindred, and found the Indians to be friends: "They found friends and not enemies....We gave them corn and meat; they gave us poison [rum] in return....You have got our country, but are not satisfied; you want to force your religion upon us....You say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white men differ so much about it?...We are told that your religion was given to your forefathers, and has been handed down from father to son. We also have a religion, which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us their children....We never quarrel about religion. The Great Spirit has made us all, but he has made a great difference between his white and red children. He has given us different complexions and different customs. To you he has given the arts. To these he has not opened our eyes...why may we not conclude that he has given us a different religion according to our understanding? The Great Spirit does right. He knows what is best for his children; we are satisfied. We do not wish to destroy your religion, or take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own."
The apparent accomodation of this April 1804 speech was not to be long-lived. Within a year the effort, modest as it clearly was to be, was ended.