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June 13 1812: Report on Indian Hostilities

On June 13 1812, Representative McKee tabled in the House of Representatives the report of his committee investigating  the "agency the subjects of the British government may have had in exciting the Indians on the western frontier". The report had been prepared as a result of President Madison's message to Congress of June 1, 1812. Madison's message had referred to the role of British traders and garrisons in encouraging attacks on the frontiers. The widespread fear of these attacks played an important role in exciting Americans to war. The day before the report was tabled, Thomas Jefferson, the sage of the Enlightenment and someone who had written on the nobility of the first nations, is also writing that a conquest of Canada "secures our women and children forever from the tomahawk and scalping knife, by removing those who excite them". The House's report concludes that the British had been very generous in providing provisions to various tribes at Fort Malden. The report concludes from this that "it is difficult to account for this extraordinary liberality, on any other ground than that of an intention to attach the Indians to the British cause, in the event of a war with the United States."  The committee's recommendation is that the President call out the militia "to march against and disperse the armed combination under the prophet" referring to Tecumseh's brother, who was believed to be the main Indian leader. The full report is reproduced below. 

REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS, RELATIVE TO EXCITEMENTS, ON THE PART OF BRITISH SUBJECTS, OF THE INDIANS, TO COMMIT HOSTILITY AGAINST THE UNITED STATES, AND TO THE EVIDENCE OF SUCH HOSTILITY PRIOR TO THE LATE CAMPAIGN ON THE WABASH. JUNE 13, 1812. REPORT. 

The committee, to whom was referred so much of the President's message as relates to Indian affairs, report: That the attention of the committee has been directed to the following inquiries: 1st. Whether any, and what agency the subjects of the British government may have had in exciting the Indians on the western frontier, to hostilities against the United States. 2d. The evidence of such hostility, on the part of the Indian tribes, prior to the late campaign on the Wabash. 3d. The orders by which the campaign was authorized and carried on. The committee have obtained all the evidence within their power relative to these several inquiries. The documents accompanying the President's message to Congress, of the 11th instant, contain all and some additional evidence to what had been obtained by the committee, in relation to the first inquiry. Those documents afford evidence as conclusive as the nature of the case can well be supposed to admit of, that the supply of Indian goods furnished at fort Malden, and distributed during the last year by the British agents, in Upper Canada, to the Indian tribes, were more abundant than usual; and it is difficult to account for this extraordinary liberality, on any other ground than that of an intention to attach the Indians to the British cause, in the event of a war with the United States. That the Indian tribes should put to hazard the large annuities which they have been so long in the habit of receiving from the United States; that they should relinquish supplies so necessary to their comfort, if not to their existence, by a hostile conduct, in the absence of all other evidence, is not the least convincing proof that some agency has been employed to stimulate the savages to hostilities; and having pursued a course of conduct which must lead to a forfeiture of those advantages, renders it at least probable that they had assurances of receiving an equivalent elsewhere. Additional presents, consisting of arms and ammunition, given at a time when there is evidence that the British were apprized of the hostile disposition of the Indians, accompanied with the speeches addressed to them, exciting disaffection, are of too decisive a character to leave doubt on the subject. With regard to the second subject of inquiry, the committee are of opinion that the evidence accompanying this report, together with the official communication made to the Executive, by the British government, affords such evidence of the hostile views and intentions of the Indians, as to render it the duty of the President of the United States to use the necessary means of protecting the frontiers from the attack with which they were threatened. Accordingly, in pursuance of the provisions of the act of Congress, entitled "An act for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions," the Executive ordered the fourth regiment of infantry, with one company of riflemen, under the command of colonel Boyd, from Pittsburgh to Vincennes, subject to the farther orders of governour Harrison, who was authorized, with this force and such additional number of companies from the militia as should be deemed necessary, to establish a new post on the Wabash, and to march against and disperse the armed combination under the prophet. These considerations, together with the documents, are respectfully submitted.


Notes
The image is from the site of  U.S. History Images  which can be found here.

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