These quotes about Indians from American leaders span from the 1750s to 1817.
Benjamin Franklin, from his autobiography, 1750s
“If it be the design of Providence to extirpate these Savages in order to make room for cultivators of the Earth, it seems not improbable that rum may be the appointed means.”
Benjamin Franklin Joseph-Siffrein Duplessis
Orders of George Washington to General John Sullivan, May 31, 1779
“The immediate objectives are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible. It will be essential to ruin their crops in the ground and prevent their planting more.”
Governor William Henry Harrison, of the Indiana Territory (1800-1812) while defending displacement of the Indians
“Is one of the fairest portions of the globe to remain in a state of nature, the haunt of a few wretched savages, when it seems destined by the Creator to give support to a large population and to be the seat of civilization?”
William Henry Harrison daguerreotype.
John Quincy Adams, 1802, when rationalizing territorial imperatives as God’s will
“What is the right of the huntsman to the forest of a thousand miles over which he has accidentally ranged in quest of prey? Shall the fields and vallies, which a beneficent God has formed to teem with the life of innumerable multitudes, be condemned to everlasting barrenness?”
Library of Congress
John Quincy Adams
President Thomas Jefferson, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, December 29, 1813
“This unfortunate race, whom we had been taking so much pains to save and to civilize, have by their unexpected desertion and ferocious barbarities justified extermination and now await our decision on their fate.”
Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale in 1800.
James Monroe, in a letter to Andrew Jackson, October 5, 1817
“The hunter or savage state requires a greater extent of territory to sustain it, than is compatible with the progress and just claims of civilized life, and must yield to it. Nothing is more certain, than, if the Indian tribes do not abandon that state, and become civilized, that they will decline, and become extinct. The hunter state, tho maintain’d by warlike spirits, presents but a feeble resistance to the more dense, compact, and powerful population of civilized man.”
Portrait of James Monroe, 1819.
This story was originally published July 10, 2013.