It is a good Friday indeed.
Yesterday, David Barton and I were on the Paul Edwards radio program, although at different times. Mr. Barton did not want to be on the show at the same time, so he went first and responded to my series on Jefferson and then I followed.
The podcast is here (April 20 show) which contains the entire program (start at about 1:23:23 for both segments).
During the program, Barton said that the difference in our views on the Kaskaskia tribe treaty was related to semantics. He believed that federal funds being used for the subsidy of a priest was significant even though the funds were given to a sovereign nation. However, I maintain that it is simply misleading to say that Jefferson approved funds to evangelize the tribe when the tribe was already predominantly Catholic.
Then Barton said that I might be unaware that Jefferson also approved assistance to the Moravians “to propagate the Gospel among the Heathen.” I was aware of this situation and want to report some of what I found.
The story of the Christian Indians in Ohio is a long one and quite involved. I am going to describe the situation as briefly as possible. Let me start at the end. In 1823, Indian converts to Christianity affiliated with the United Brethren church ceded three tracts of land to the government. You can see a copy of the Schedule of Indian Land Cessions here. Note the information regarding the “Moravian or Christian Indians.” The information is also archived on the Library of Congress website.
Date: March 3, 1823
Where or how concluded: Act of Congress.
Reference: Statutes at Large, Volume III, page 749.
Tribe: Moravian or Christian Indians.
Description of cession or reservation: Congress, by the provisions of this act, appropriated $1,000 with which to purchase and extinguish the Indian title to three tracts of land, containing 4,000 acres each, lying on Muskingum river, in Tuscarawas county, Ohio. These tracts were as follows:
1. One tract of 4,000 acres at Shoenbrun
2. One tract of 4,000 acres at Gnadenhutten
3. One tract of 4,000 acres at Salem
Historical data and remarks: An ordinance of Congress of Sept. 3, 1788, set apart three tracts of 4,000 acres each at Shoenbrun, Gnadenhutten, and Salem, on Muskingum river, for the Society of United Brethren, to be used in propagating the gospel among the heathen. By act of Congress approved June 1, 1796, provision was made for surveying and patenting these tracts to the society in question, in trust for the benefit of the Christian Indians. Under the provisions of the act of Mar. 3, 1823, Lewis Cass was appointed to negotiate for the relinquishment of the title to the U. S. This he secured and transmitted the relinquishment of both the society and the Indians to the War Department, under date of Nov. 19, 1823, and by act of May 26, 1824, Congress made provision for the disposition of the lands.
At first glance, it does appear that the government in 1788 set apart land in Ohio “to be used in propagating the gospel among the heathen” by the Society of United Brethren. Indeed, the government did authorize land to Indian converts of missionaries from the United Brethren church. However, this initially was done for the purpose of returning them to land which rightfully belonged to them.
One can read the full history of the Delaware tribe converts here. Essentially, the United Brethren church had a long history of mission work among various tribes in Pennsylvania, much of it conducted by David Zeisberger. Facing a need to move his work westward, Zeisberger and some of his converts traveled to what is now eastern Ohio, near New Philadelphia in 1772. The Brethren mission was successful in that other settlements of native converts were established. However, they soon became embroiled in conflicts with the Americans and the British during the Revolutionary War. While the mission communities wanted to remain neutral, both sides along with other Indian tribes distrusted the “Christian Indians” as they came to be called. The situation was so bad that by 1781, the settlers were relocated near Sandusky.
In 1782, some of the Indians returned to Gnadenhutten, Then, in March, a group of Pennsylvania militiamen attacked the mission at Gnadenhutton, killing all men, women and children. The residents of the mission were unarmed and taken captive by stealth, in a particularly gruesome atrocity.
United Brethren John Ettwein wrote Congress in 1783, just after the Revolutionary War ended asking for an investigation into the massacre and for assistance in securing the Indian survivors rights to their land near Gnadenhutten. There were several letters between Ettwein and Secretary of the Congress, Charles Thomson. Here is a 1784 letter from Thomson to Ettwein:
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 21 October 1, 1783 – October 31, 1784
Charles Thomson to John Ettwein
Sir, Annapolis 7 April 1784
I received by last post your letter of the 4 of March, and have to inform you that agreeably to my promise I laid your Memorial before Congress on the first of November last. It was then read and referred to a Committee, who reported thereon the 31 of March.(1) I presume the unsettled state of Congress and the want of a full representation rendered it in their opinion unnecessary to report sooner. The report is favourable. It has been read and now lies before Congress for their determination but at what time they will take it up I cannot say. It might not be amiss to write to some of the delegates of Pensylvania or of any other state you may be acquainted with and engage them to bring it forward.(2) You may rest assured I shall as far as in my power favour the cause of those unhappy people and most heartily wish your laudable endeavours to promote their spiritual and temporal Welfare may be crowned with success. I am, Sir, Your obedt humble Servt.
RC (PBMCA: Ettwein Papers).
1 For the committee report on Ettwein’s October 31, 1783, memorial to Congress on the plight of the Moravian Indians in the aftermath of the Gnadenhutten massacre of March 1782, see Committee of Congress Draft Resolve, March 31, 1784. Ettwein’s.
It is clear that the United Brethren petitioned Congress to repair the situation and provide relief to the Christian converts of these settlements. Eventually, that is exactly what Congress did. On July 27 1787, Congress resolved to set aside 10,000 acres along the Muskingum River for them and named the Brethren as those who would hold the trust (Congress finally made the trust law in 1796). In July of 1787, the Brethren had not organized in such a way that they could manage the trust, so the document referred to a society which had already been engaged in promoting Christianity among the natives. The document stated
Whereas the United States in Congress Assembled have by their ordinance passed the 20th May 1785 among other things Ordained “that the Towns Gnadenhutten, Schoenbrun and Salem on the Muskingum and so much of the lands adjoining to the said Towns with the buildings and improvements thereon shall be reserved for the sole use of the Christian Indians who were formerly settled there, or the remains of that society, as may in the judgement of the Geographer be sufficient for them to cultivate”.
Resolved That the board of treasury except and reserve out of any Contract they may make for the tract described in the report of the Committee which on the 23d instant was referred to the said board to take order, a quantity of land around and adjoining each of the before mentioned Towns amounting in the whole to ten thousand acres, and that the property of the said reserved land be vested in the Moravian Brethern at Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, or a society of the said Brethern for civilizing the Indians and promoting Christianity, in trust, and for the uses expressed as above in the said Ordinance, including Killbuck and his descendants, and the Nephew and descendants of the late Captain white Eyes, Delaware Chiefs who have distinguished themselves as friends to the cause of America.
Later that same year, in September, The Society of the United Brethren for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen was organized in order to further their mission and to act as the holder of the trust. From a history of the society:
In the year 1787 an event took place, which seems to promise much for the future service of the mission among the Indians. A society called The Society of the United Brethren for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen, in imitation of the Society for the furtherance of the Gospel established by the Brethren in England forty-six years ago. This society consists of all the elders and ministers of the congregations of the United Brethren ia North America and many other members chosen at their request and with the consent of the Society. They held their first meeting on the 21st of September 1787 at Bethlehem inPennsylvania, and February 27,1788, this society was declared and constituted a body politic and corporate by the state of Pennsylvania.
What about Jefferson?
The Society was referred to in future legislation which makes it seem as though the federal government continued to support evangelization of the Delaware. As I demonstrated, however, the actual purpose of the government intervention was to protect the property rights of the Bethren converts, a group which had been brutalized by the Pennsylvania militia. The Gnadenhutten massacre required a just and reparative response.
Eventually, Thomas Jefferson signed reauthorizations of this act (which also included regulations for military land) which is source of the claims that Jefferson authorized Christian evangelization of the Indians. For instance, he signed this bill which contained the Society’s name and for all the world makes it seem as though Jefferson was supporting the Brethren’s evangelism. However, if you review the bill, there is nothing in it about Indians or religion, beyond the title of the bill. The first bill accomplished two purposes, one relating to military land, the other relating to the Delaware tribe. Once the reparations were accomplished, the bill retained the same name but the content was about the military land tracts. Read it and see. The title of the bill retained the reference to the Society but no additional funds were authorized for religious purposes.
So when Barton says that Jefferson signed bills authorizing the “propagation of the gospel to the heathen,” he is not telling the whole story. Some might think this is a minor point. However, I am really troubled that Barton did not tell the whole story of the Gnadenhutten massacre and the real purpose of the involvement of the federal government with the United Brethren and the Christian Indians. By making these bills about Jefferson and his alleged support for religion, Barton minimizes an atrocity committed against native people. When one examines this episode in context, it is clear that the federal government did not simply decide to give money to the United Brethren in order for them to “propagate the gospel among the heathen.” The federal government gave a trust to a group of people who organized as “The Society of the United Brethren for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen” for the purpose of helping the brutalized Indians return and keep rights to their lands. If there had not been a displacement, or an atrocity, there would have been no need for federal involvement in this case.
For an even more detailed account of the story see Chris Rodda’s book, Liars for Jesus. Since I started this series, several readers have referred me to her book. I resisted reviewing it until today because I wanted to do my own research. I did however, consult her chapter on the Brethren and found it corresponds to what I found but reports much more detail and background.
You can also catch the audio in a blog post at Right Wing Watch which reported on the Paul Edwards program as well.
Next (probably next week), what was Jefferson’s role in church services at the US Capitol?
Yesterday, I addressed David Barton’s claim that Thomas Jefferson authorized funds to evangelize the Kaskaskia Indian tribe. What he actually did was sign a treaty which provided funds to the tribe to help build a church and help fund the services of a Catholic priest for a brief period. The 200 or so Kaskaskia Indians were already predominantly Catholic and the funds amounted to part of a transaction in exchange for their land.
Today, I want to examine the claim by David Barton that Thomas Jefferson was so religious that he included mention of Jesus as Christ in government documents. Specifically, Barton points to the document to the left and says there is significance in the phrase, “In the Year of Our Lord Christ.” (click the image to enlarge it)
On his Wallbuilders site, Barton explains what he sees as the significance of the appellation:
Following is an original document in our possession, signed by Thomas Jefferson on September 24, 1807. This document is permission for a ship called the Herschel to proceed on its journey to the port of London. The interesting characteristic of this document is the use of the phrase “in the year of our Lord Christ.” Many official documents say “in the year of our Lord,” but we have found very few that include the word “Christ.” However, this is the explicitly Christian language that President Thomas Jefferson chose to use in official public presidential documents.
You can click the document to see the portion Barton has placed on his website. The English part is not completely visible, while the Dutch component is. I have enlarged the section which contains the phrase in question.
Jefferson did indeed sign this sea letter allowing safe passage for the Herschel to travel to London. However, Jefferson did not choose the “explicitly Christian language” in this document.
As is obvious from the document, this is a form which was preprinted with writing added based on the specific situation. This particular form was required by the Treaty with Holland of 1782 to be used as a kind of passport – called a sea letter – to allow safe passage of ships from an American port to the port of an enemy; more about that to come. See the image below which describes the form as the “form of the Passport which shall be given to ships and vessels in consequence of the 25th article of this treaty:”
This particular image comes from a book titled Reports of Cases Argued and Decided by the United States Supreme Court, compiled by a New York lawyers group in 1882. The treaty referred to here was signed with Holland in 1782, the same year Holland became the second nation, after the French, to recognize the independence of the fledgling United States. England had declared war with Holland in 1780.
By 1807, Holland was essentially controlled by the French who were at war with England. For an American ship to sail to London, the sea letter displayed by Barton was necessary for safe passage. The treaty specified that
Art. 10. The merchant ships of either of the parties, coming from the port of an enemy, or from their own, or a neutral port, may navigate freely towards any port of an enemy of the other ally; thev shall be, nevertheless, held, whenever” it shall be required, to exhibit, as well upon the high seas as in the ports, their sea-letters and other documents, described in the twenty-fifth article, stating expressly, that their effects are not of the number of those which are prohibited, as contraband: and not 35*] *having any contraband goods for an enemy’s port, they may freely, and without hindrance, pursue their voyage toward the port of an enemy. Nevertheless, it shall not be required to examine the papers of vessels convoyed by vessels of war, but credence shall be given to the word of the officer who shall conduct the convoy.
Art. 11. If, by exhibiting the sea-letters, and other documents, described more particularly in the twenty-fifth article of this treaty… (my emphasis)
Note the phrases in bold print. When moving toward the port of an enemy, the ship was to have a sea letter. The form of the sea letter was prescribed by treaty to contain the language it did. Now compare the Herschel sea letter with the form prescribed by treaty in the image below:
The language is the same. Jefferson was bound by treaty to use this form and did not choose to use this “explicitly Christian language.” John Adams is credited with negotiating the treaty but given the frequency of the phrase in other French treaties and documents of the era, my assumption is that the language was considered standard. Many early Canadian documents also used the phrase, but I doubt Mr. Barton would make the same religious attributions to the signers of those documents that he does in the case of Jefferson.
Next: Did Jefferson approve church services in the Capitol and order the Marine Band to play for them?
UPDATE: For more information about Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President, go to GettingJeffersonRight.com.
Recently, I have been writing about the First Amendment. In the process, I have been reading much about the religious views of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Madison, all firm defenders of freedom of conscience. Jefferson is particularly interesting given claims made about him by historical document collector David Barton. Barton runs an organization called Wallbuilders, dedicated to finding God’s hand in American history.
Over the next several days, I plan to examine some of these claims. Given the blog format the examination will be brief but I hope sufficient to demonstrate that what is being claimed by Mr. Barton about Jefferson is often misleading. Barton has made several claims about Jefferson in a variety of places but I will use a recent audio file from his WallbuildersLive site as a springboard. On his April 11 podcast, Barton said:
And then there’s Thomas Jefferson. Not only did Jefferson recommend that the great seal of the US depict a Bible story and include the word God in the national motto, but as President, Jefferson negotiated treaties with the Indians in which he included direct federal funding to pay for Christian missionaries to evangelize the Indians. And these treaties were ratified by the US Senate. Furthermore, Jefferson closed Presidential documents with the appellation, “In the Year of Our Lord Christ,” thus invoking Jesus Christ into official government documents.
You know I have a lot of fun with Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin, because people think they know those two, but you take those two, and they are clearly the least religious of the signers of the Declaration. And by using their original documents, they look like a couple of radical right, Bible thumping evangelicals. And they’re the least religious, And I’ll give you a great example. We moved into the US Capitol in 1800, November of 1800. And when we moved in, one of the first acts of Congress was to approve the use of the Capitol as a church building. You can find that in the records of Congress, Dec 4 1800. Now, who did that? You had the head of the Senate and the head of the House, the speaker of the House was John Trumpbell, the president of the Senate who approved that was Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson approves church in the Capitol? Yep, he went there as Vice President, he went to the church at the Capitol for 8 years as President, and as President of the US, he’s going to church, and this is recorded in all sorts of members of Congress, their records, their diaries, because they went to church at the Capitol too. And so, Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States, thinks, you know I think I can help the worship services at this new church at the Capitol, they met in the Hall of the House of Representatives, so Jefferson ordered the Marine Corp band to come play for the worship services, in the church services at the US Capitol. The worship band is the Marine Corp Band? Pretty good worship band. Thomas Jefferson did that. I thought he wanted separation of church and state. If you read his letter on separation of church and state, he said separation of church and state, he makes it very clear, separation of church and state will keep the government from stopping a public religious activity.
We’re not going to learn about what Jefferson actually did cause we’ve got a couple of his phrases where we can say he didn’t like religion. So we’re not going to look at the fact that in 1803, Thomas Jefferson, President of the US, signer of the Declaration, did a treaty with Kaskaskia Indians, where that he gave federal funds to send missionaries to the Indians, ratified by the US Senate. Now, I don’t know anybody on the radical religious right that would be comfortable with doing that today but Thomas Jefferson did. It was not a problem for him. So we look at the guys today and we look only what appears to be their non-religious or anti-religious side, and we think that is who they are…And You look at the rest of Jefferson and he would make most Christians today look embarrassingly shallow and yet Jefferson still had questions about the divinity of Christ and still so much further in promoting Christian principles.
The principle claims I plan to examine are that Jefferson:
- signed a treaty which provided federal funds to evangelize the Kaskaskia Indians
- closed Presidential documents with the statement: “In the Year of Our Lord Christ,” thus setting out Jefferson’s belief in Jesus as Christ.
- approved holding church in the US Capitol and ordered the Marine Band to play for the worship service.
- merely had questions about the divinity of Christ. In fact, he looks like a “radical right, Bible thumping” evangelical when one examines the original documents.
First, did Jefferson enter into “a treaty with Kaskaskia Indians, where that he gave federal funds to send missionaries to the Indians?”
When I first heard that claim, I thought I would find evidence that Jefferson authorized funds to give to a church organization or denomination for the purpose of sending missionaries to an unchurched tribe. The phrasing of Mr. Barton makes it sound like the government paid missionaries to spread Christianity and make converts.
I did not find that.
In 1803, a treaty was signed with the Kaskaskia tribe which contained the following reference to religion. This is the only treaty I can find in 1803 with the Kaskaskia tribe.
The annuity heretofore given by the United States to the said tribe shall be increased to one thousand dollars, which is to be paid to them either in money, merchandise, provisions or domestic animals, at the option of the said tribe: and when the said annuity or any part thereof is paid in merchandise, it is to be delivered to them either at Vincennes, Fort Massac or Kaskaskia, and the first cost of the goods in the sea-port where they may be procured is alone to be charged to the said tribe free from the cost of transportation, or any other contingent expense. Whenever the said tribe may choose to receive money, provisions or domestic animals for the whole or in part of the said annuity, the same shall be delivered at the town of Kaskaskia. The United States will also cause to be built a house suitable for the accommodation of the chief of the said tribe, and will enclose for their use a field not exceeding one hundred acres with a good and sufficient fence. And whereas, The greater part of the said tribe have been baptised and received into the Catholic church to which they are much attached, the United States will give annually for seven years one hundred dollars towards the support of a priest of that religion, who will engage to perform for the said tribe the duties of his office and also to instruct as many of their children as possible in the rudiments of literature. And the United States will further give the sum of three hundred dollars to assist the said tribe in the erection of a church. The stipulations made in this and the preceding article, together with the sum of five hundred and eighty dollars, which is now paid or assured to be paid for the said tribe for the purpose of procuring some necessary articles, and to relieve them from debts which they have heretofore contracted, is considered as a full and ample compensation for the relinquishment made to the United States in the first article.
The United States gave money toward a church building and provided a stipend for a priest to continue work already begun, which included both religious and non-religious duties.
The Kaskaskia were already Catholic converts. Nothing is said directly about evangelizing, and is an inference. Nothing in the treaty required the priest to attempt to make converts. He certainly could have involved himself in numerous other pastoral duties to the already converted, in addition to his duties teaching literature. Apparently the funds were paid to the tribe for the listed purposes.
One reason why this treaty is important to those who want the government to establish Christianity as the nation’s religion is because funds were paid for religious purposes. However, it is very important to remember that the Indian tribes were considered sovereign nations. This treaty provides money for another, albeit very small nation of people, to pursue religious ends of their choosing. This is not the same as awarding money to a state government for the purpose of paying ministers. Some state governments debated those kind of proposals but eventually all of those initiatives were defeated.
In addition, it appears that Barton wants to make Jefferson look more evangelical than he was. He attempts to compare Jefferson’s action in signing the treaty to today’s evangelicals who would not be comfortable with such an arrangement, thus casting Jefferson as one who was willing to mesh political policy with religious practice.
In fact, the Kaskaskia tribe turned to Catholicism via the ministry of Father Marquette in the mid-1600s. By the time they signed the treaty with the United States, there were only about 200 members of the tribe. The United States government recognized their allegiances and responded accordingly. What Jefferson allowed was an acknowledgement of the practices of Kaskaskia tribe rather than an effort to convert them with government money.
Next: Did Jefferson sign official documents with the appellation, “In the Year of Our Lord Christ?”
Previously: Was the Jefferson Bible an evangelism tool?
UPDATE: Photos of the protests…
The Ugandan government is cracking down on peaceful protests by arresting opposition leaders, including some who opposed President Museveni in the recent February election.
KASANGATI, Uganda — Police in Uganda battled protesters for the third time in a week and again arrested the country’s top opposition politician on Monday, and the Red Cross said one protester died after being tear gassed.
Police arrested Kizza Besigye and about a dozen members of parliament while trying to walk to work. Police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba said Besigye was arrested for trying to hold a political demonstration.
Besigye was arrested twice last week while trying to walk to work to protest the high cost of gas and food. Last week violence broke out during his second attempt and he was shot in the hand by police.
Besigye took second place in Uganda’s February presidential election to President Yoweri Museveni. A leader in Besigye’s political party, the Forum for Democracy, said Monday’s arrest was unfair.
“He has a right to walk if he wishes so,” Ann Mugisha said.
High fuel and food prices are blamed for the unrest.
Armed security personnel were out in force in Kampala, Uganda’s capital. But a member of parliament and a coordinator of the walk to work, Mathias Mpuuga, said the walks would continue despite the response from security forces.
“We will continue to walk to our places of work as a sign of solidarity with common Ugandans who are suffering from high fuel and food prices,” said Mpuuga.
The price of maize in Uganda has risen 114 percent over the last year, according to a World Bank report released last week.