October 1783 Philadelphia, Pa.
Following the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the Confederation Congress of the United States began discussing the issue of the Native American tribes living in the coveted lands north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi. In this treaty, Great Britain had ceded all of these lands to the United States. The Confederation Congress organized a committee to look into these “Indian Affairs” and suggest a policy on how to deal with them. Congress knew the tribes who once fought against the Americans were now disposed toward peace with the newly formed nation. However, this inclination toward peace was largely influenced by the belief that the tribes would retain all of their lands in the Ohio and Wabash country. The British had told them this was so. Congress realized that once the tribes were told their lands no longer belonged to them and were forfeited, the tribes would doubtless put up a fight. While Congress discussed the need for compassion and friendship on one hand, the specter of new lands to be purchased and sold at huge profits provided the hidden impetus in their policy-making. Congress wanted to establish a clear boundary of what belonged to the United States for settlement, and what lands would be set aside where the tribes would be
“allowed” to reside and hunt. Settlement by Whites would be prohibited in those areas. Congress believed that giving the tribes some lands to live and hunt on should keep them quieted for a while. Congress realized it wouldn’t be long before they would inform the tribes to quit all of the land. The findings and recommendations of the appointed committee resulted in the Ordinance of October 15, 1783. This ordinance was one of the most aggressive and devastating land grabs ever enacted by the United States.
“As I sit here in my favorite tavern sipping my ale, having just finished my diner of ruffled grouse and potatoes, my mind can think of nothing else but land, and the fortunes to be made . The land of which I speak, in particular, lies in what they call the Ohio country. It is land that is inhabited by savages such as the Shawnee, Delaware, and Wyandot tribes. I was speaking with my friend Mr. Hawkins just this afternoon who told me that I might soon become a wealthy man, being that I am a speculator who buys and sells lands for profit. It seems Hawkins was on a committee appointed by the Confederation Congress to make recommendations about how to deal with the tribes that fought against us in the recent war. From what Hawkins says, the members of Congress wanted to “pull a veil over the past,” and forget about the attacks upon our settlements made by these hostiles. Congress is going to send a committee to these tribes and inform them that their lands are forfeit because the British have lost the war. I know these Indians will be in a tizzy when they hear this. But, they were warned that if they joined the war on the side of the British, should the British loose, their lands are forfeited. I know the Indian tribes won’t see it that way because they never, ever lost a battle against us. I’m sure they will not understand, and you can rest assured they will fight. But Congress says they will set boundaries as to which land the American’s will settle on, and which land the tribes may remain and hunt on. To keep the peace, the committees are even going to offer a generous sum of money to the tribes to ‘purchase’ the land form them which they think they own. All this just to keep the peace. As for me, i;m fine with keeping the peace and getting on with it. But if these savages cause a problem, I say just wipe’em all out and take what is ours. Once the Congress finishes giving away land it promised as payment to soldiers, the rest will be up for sale. And buy it I will. And sell it for huge profit I will, and these tribes be damned. They were warned, and that’s that.”
Robert K. Seymour, Citizen and Speculator