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[282]

Chapter 28: savage slavery.

To own a batch of Negroes was the aim of every Creek and Seminole chief. Negroes, like squaws, were evidence of his wealth and rank; more grateful in his eyes than squaws, as being a property which he held in common with the Whites. In ,early days he had lived in Georgia or Carolina, where the society was divided into free men and bondmen. He and his brethren of the tribe were free, and only the less martial and more dusky race were bond. Acquainted with the Pale men's ways, he paid them the moral tribute of walking in their steps, but, with the instinct of a savage, he only bought his slaves when he could not carry them off by stealth.

When a Creek or Seminole chief was driven by the White planters from his hunting-grounds in .282 [283] Georgia and Tennessee, he took the Negroes in his camp along with him, compelling them to share the misery of his long march, and brave the perils of his new and distant home.

Such ills as fell on the Red savage fell with sevenfold fiury on his slave. A Negro was no better in an Indian's eyes than a mule. In rain and wind he had to lie outside the tent. When game ran short he had to feed on garbage and to starve. All base and menial offices were thrust on him. A squaw is seldom kind to any creature weaker than herself, and every Negro slave was governed by a squaw. With gibe and curse she sent him to his task; with pinch and cuff she lashed him to his yoke. Herself a beast of burden, she had no compassion for the servile drudge who, bought or stolen like herself, could hardly say his lot was heavier than her own. She made him moil and sweat. In her poetic idiom he had to march in his sleep, and bruise his feet against flint and rock. If he rebelled in either word or glance, a cudgel made him leap and grin. If he returned the blow a hatchet sliced his poll. A White man rarely killed his slave. A Redskin, when his anger rose, [284] would slay his Negro just as readily as he brained and scalped his foe.

Yet such is the fecundity of men in servitude, that the Negroes grew in numbers under all their wrongs; and that so rapidly that in twenty or twenty-five years they promised to out-count their savage owners. No attempts were made to breed them, as in Carolina and Virginia, for the markets. Young and pretty Negresses were swept into the wigwam; old and ugly women, whether Black or Red, were handed over to these dusky swains. Yet while the hunters brought plenty of food into the camps, the Negro race increased in all the Indian nations. When war broke out, the Seminoles had a thousand slaves; the Cherokees and Chickasaws had each about fifteen hundred slaves; the Creeks and Choctaws had each about three thousand slaves.

In these Red nations there were less than fourteen thousand full-blooded Indians to ten thousand Negro slaves. The Indians were fading fast, the Negroes were increasing fast.

These Negroes were a danger and a curse to each of the five Red nations. A sentiment was growing up on every side, which the Redskins were [285] unable to repulse by tomahawk and scalping-knife. Kansas, their immediate neighbour on the north, was Free Soil. The settlements in their rear were rising into Free States. From time to time Free Soilers came into their hunting-grounds, sniffing the air, glancing at the slaves, and threatening the savages with a war of liberation.

Long before war broke out, such chiefs as Jack Ross, White Catcher, and Lucy Mouse were exercised in mind about “the great institution of African slavery.” From Richmond and New Orleans they heard that one object of the North was to annul this institution in the Indian lands, to make these Indian lands Free Soil, and in the end to plant free cities on the site of Indian camps. Catcher and Mouse talked big, and Ross, an older and shrewder chief, advised his braves to secretly whet their knives.

War came. The solution of a great and difficult social problem was committed to the sword. Then Jefferson Davis sent an agent to the Indian lodges, with the object of exciting Creek and Choctaw fears, and drawing the Indian chiefs into a league with the Confederate States.

Albert Pike, this agent, was in figure and repute [286] adapted for his work. A man of portly frame and rosy face, he wore a veil of silver hair, which hung about his neck in clouds; giving him the jovial look of youth combined with the aspect of a sage. A clerk, a poet, an attorney, a scout, a trapper, a school teacher, a cavalry officer, a journalist-Pike had tried all trades and seen the world on many sides. In riding hard, in drinking deep, in talking big, few men were equal to Albert Pike. Some verses from his pen have won repute, even in England, notably his Ode to the Mocking Bird and his Hymns to the Gods. Having spent some years of his life on the Red River and the Arkansas, he knew the Light Horse and the Pin League, and was a master in all the arts and artifices necessary for the seduction of savage tribes.

Riding from camp to camp, Pike told the warriors that the old Union under which they had lived was gone; gone like the old Indian League of the Six Nations, never to be renewed on earth. The flag was rent to shreds, the flagstaff snapt in two. The gentry of the South could never again join hands with the hucksters of the North. He bade them. choose their side. Slavery, he said, was the cornerstone [287] of the new Confederacy; and pointing to a group of Negro slaves, he asked them whether they would not cast in their lot with the planters of Georgia and Louisiana, rather than with the traders of Boston and New York. “ You may have had some cause in former times to rail against the planters,” he remarked, “but in this new war your interests and your destinies are inseparably connected with those of the South. The war is one of Northern cupidity and fanaticism against African slavery, commercial freedom, and political liberty.”

To gain his ends, Pike had recourse to other means. Cavour had the merit of seeing that his countrymen wanted two good things — a common banner and a cheap cigar. His offer of Italian Unity might have failed without the “ Cavour” cigar at five cents. So with Albert Pike. When argument failed him with the Redskins, Pike threw his whisky-flask into the scale.

No want is so imperious to the Indian as a free market for intoxicating drink. A right to buy and sell slaves affected a few chiefs only, while a right to buy and sell ardent spirits is the desire of every man and woman in the Indian camps. [288]

By offering to secure the Indians free trade in slaves and whisky, Albert Pike secured a great majority of voices for the South.

Opothleyolo, a Creek chief, tried to stem the tide, believing that this Slave Commissioner was drawing his people into a snare — that is to say, into a conflict with the stronger power. He spent his eloquence in vain. A cry of “ Slaves and Whisky” filled his camp; and when the chief withdrew to Bushey Creek, near Verdigris River, he was followed by a cloud of warriors yelling for free trade in slaves and whisky, and was driven to fall back for safety on the White settlements of Kansas.

Article ninety-seven of the treaty of alliance signed by Jack Ross on behalf of the Cherokee nation, and by Albert Pike on behalf of the Confederate States, contains this clause:

“ It is hereby declared and agreed that the Institution of Slavery in the said nation is legal, and has existed from time immemorial; that slaves are taken and esteemed to be personal property; that the title to slaves and other property having its origin in the said Nation shall be determined by the laws and customs thereof; and that the slaves and [289] other personal property of every person domiciled in said Nation shall pass and bU distributed, at his or her death, in accordance with the laws and customs of the said Nation, which may be proved like foreign laws, usages, and customs, and shall everywhere be held binding within the scope of their operation.”

Even from the pen of Albert Pike such passages come as a surprise. Slavery in the Indian nation legal! Why, the Indians had no code, and slavery had never been sanctioned by a public Act. Slavery existing among Red men from time immemorial! Why, slavery was absolutely unknown to any Indian tribe in the days of Ross's grandfather.

No such falsehoods were inserted by Confederate agents in the Acts which from their nature must be read in Europe. Davis was extremely cautious in his words. He spoke of slavery as a fact-but only as a fact. Stephens, a bolder man, advancing from the sphere of facts into that of principles, asserted that Negro slavery “was based on a great physical, philosophical, and moral truth” ; but Stephens never ventured to proclaim that Negro slavery had existed [290] from time immemorial on the American continent. In fact, this fervid orator, convinced that the rule proposed by him had no historical basis, actually announced his theory of the corner-stone as a “new truth,” the latest “development of time,” which his Government was “the first to write on a national flag.”

Inspired by love of drink and lust of slaves, five thousand Indian warriors, armed with knife and hatchet, rallied to the flag set up by Pike, who dropt his civil rank as Indian Commissioner, and put on hat and feather, lace and sword, as General Pike. Two armies, acting under Curtis and Van Dorn, were on the frontier — an army of the North under Curtis, an army of the South under Van Dorn. By orders from the War Office in Richmond, Pike led his warriors to the aid of Von Dorn, which movement threw a touch of comedy into the fierce and indecisive battle of Pea Ridge.

So long as the Redskins lolled on parade they liked their business well. Their pay was high, their food good, and Pike was not too pressing on the score of drill. Whisky was plentiful in camp. But when the enemy drew near and opened his big guns, [291] these children of the forest broke and ran. Brave as they are in fight, the Indian cannot face the roar and wrack of serious war. They made a rush; but, met with volleys, they recoiled. All sounds and sights were new to them. Hardly one Indian in ten had heard a cannon fired. Not one Indian in fifty had seen a rocket. Shells appeared to them shooting-stars. Their whoop could not be heard for noise; their foes could not be seen for smoke. Even when they dodged behind oaks and pines they were not safe. Shells burst among the trees, and splinters crashed about their heads. What could these children of the forest do but crouch on the ground, cover their bodies with sand and stones, and wait until the night came down?

At dusk they stole into the field, and passing through the sleeping soldiers, scalped the dying and the dead, and carried off their trophies to the camp. These were the only blows the Indians ever struck for the possession of their Negro slaves.

Next day the scalpless men pvere found by burying-parties, and a cry rose up from both American camps against employment of such savages. Curtis sent a message to Van Dorn, and to avoid [292] retaliation, the Confederate General was obliged to, order his Ied contingent to go home.

Pike lost his lace and feathers, and his Creek and Cherokee warriors had to stand aside, solaced by whisky, till the White men who were quarrelling among themselves over Black rights and wrongs, had settled under the walls of Richmond whether a Redskin living on the Arkansas should, or should not, continue to hold his Black brother in a state of servitude.

When Richmond fell the slaves in fifty Indian camps were free.

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