British Empire
Living in the British empire - North America
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  simplifiedl transcript - source1  
Extract from a government report written in 1836 commenting on relations between the British and the Native Americans
(Catalogue ref: T 64/393)
[We should stop giving presents to Native Americans because:]
1. We should save around 4,000 a year.
2. According to common international law, having lost all power over and interest in the United States, there appears to be no reason why we should continue to make annual payments to any people who live there.
3. It is almost an act of hostility for the British Government to continue to give guns and ammunition to the Indians of the United States, as the two groups are now involved in civil war.
4. A lot of the presents which we give to the Indians are soon afterwards to be seen displayed for sale by the shopkeepers of the United States, who often get them almost for nothing.

In reply to the first point (that by stopping the presents we should save 4,000 a year), it may be said that of all the money ever spent by the British Government, there is perhaps no amount we should regret less than that given to the natives of America. It has bought us the blessing of their race. They love us. They have shed their blood for us and they would do so again. They look upon us as the only just and merciful Europeans. Their attachment to our sovereign amounts almost to worship: "When we see the sun rise in the east," said a warrior to me at the Great Council at the Manatoulin Island, "it is our custom to say to our young men, there is our Great Father; he warms us, he clothes us, he gives us all we desire."

There can be no doubt that up to the present we have acted well towards the Indians. What that is basically worth is not so easy to decide, as every man will perhaps value it differently. However, its moral value, whatever that may be, should be subtracted from the cost we complain about. We cannot enjoy both benefits; if we save the latter [if we save money by stopping the giving of gifts] we must lose the former [we must lose the moral benefit of treating the Indians well].

In reply to the second point (that according to common international law, having lost all power over and interest in the United States, there appears to be no reason why we should continue to make annual payments to any people who live there), it must be remembered that in our wars with the Americans we gladly used the services of the Indians, and we always promised we would never desert them. In these promises we made no conditions about where they lived. When the tribes joined us, we never asked them where they came from. At the end of the war, when their surviving warriors left us, we never told them where they should go.

People will ask, in what way were our promises made? It is difficult to answer this question, as it involves the character of the Indian race.

An Indian's word, when it is formally promised, is one of the strongest moral guarantees on Earth. Like the rainbow, it beams unbroken when all beneath is threatened with total destruction. ......

To the third and fourth points I have nothing to say. I think the Americans have reason for the resentment they feel at the British Government interfering by arming their Indians, with whom they are at war, with English guns and ammunition. I also cannot deny that a great many of the presents we give to the American Indians end up as a tribute which we pay each year to the shopkeepers of the United States
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