Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen? -- Another Lie from H. Res. 888
Chris Rodda printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Feb 21, 2008 at 12:41:08 AM EST
In my last post on H. Res. 888, I vowed to debunk another one of this resolution's many historical fictions every time it gets more co-sponsors. Well, it seems that ten more of our historically challenged representatives have just added their names to this abomination, bringing the current total, as of February 19, to seventy-two, so it's time to do some more debunking.

When I first began debunking the seventy-five "Whereases" used by Congressman and history revisionist Randy Forbes to justify his resolution "Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as 'American Religious History Week' for the appreciation of and education on America's history of religious faith," I didn't have the footnoted version. So, in my initial post, without Forbes's footnote (number 7 in his document), but knowing the sources typically cited by other history revisionists for the same claim, I made an assumption about the following "Whereas."

"Whereas throughout the American Founding, Congress frequently appropriated money for missionaries and for religious instruction, a practice that Congress repeated for decades after the passage of the Constitution and the First Amendment;"

My assumption -- that the best Mr. Forbes would be able to do to make it appear that he could support this claim would be to misconstrue a few provisions from Indian treaties -- was correct. Mr. Forbes's lengthy footnote for this "Whereas" lists sixteen separate sources, nine of them related to Indian treaties. These nine, for the reasons I explained in my first post, do not support Mr. Forbes's claim. The other seven, while making Mr. Forbes appear to have lots of examples, all relate to the same single land grant -- a land grant for a particular group of Indians that, due mainly to the titles of the legislation regarding or mentioning it, has spawned a number of popular revisionist lies. Far from this being an appropriation for missionary work, the trustees of this land grant, when accused of mismanaging the trust, had to prove to a Senate committee that they weren't using the proceeds from the land for missionary work.

In my book, I devote an entire chapter to the real history of this often lied about land grant, so, once again, because my work for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (my day job) isn't leaving me much time to write, I'm just going to post the whole chapter, as I did when Chuck Norris was spewing lies about the Treaty of Tripoli and our early government's dealings with Muslim states. (See "Treaties with the Barbary States" Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

This is a pretty long chapter, so I'm going to post it in two parts.

Chapter Four of Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History

Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen?

As mentioned at the end of chapter two, in the companion book to the Religion and the Founding of the American Republic Exhibit, James H. Hutson, Chief of the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress, follows his comments about the Northwest Ordinance with what he describes as "a little noticed action two weeks later" in which Congress offered "financial support to a church." This little noticed action, used by Hutson as an example of "Congress's broad program to promote religion," was a land grant which, for reasons that had nothing to do with religion, was put in trust in the name of a society of Moravian missionaries by the Continental Congress.

According to Hutson:

"In response to a plea from Bishop John Ettwein (1721-1802), Congress voted, July 27, 1787, that ten thousand acres on the Muskingum River in the present state of Ohio 'be set apart and the property thereof be vested in the Moravian Brethren...or a society of the said Brethren for civilizing the Indians and promoting Christianity.'"

Hutson uses this story to vindicate the Continental Congress for neglecting to provide financial support for churches in the Northwest Ordinance, claiming that "rhetorical encouragement for religion was all that was possible on that occasion." He follows this claim with a misleading version of the Moravian land grant story, presenting this as evidence that the omission of financial support for churches in the Northwest Ordinance didn't mean that Congress was opposed to the government financially supporting them.

Because the real story of the Moravian land grant spans four decades, it is sometimes used, as by Hutson, to create lies about the Continental Congress, but it is also used for lies about later Congresses and several presidents. In the majority of religious right American history books it is used for a lie about Thomas Jefferson, and almost always follows the story about the Kaskaskia Indian treaty. This lie is based solely on the titles of certain acts signed by Jefferson. Besides the fact that none of these acts actually had anything to do with this land grant, the grant, as already mentioned, didn't even have anything to do with religion in the first place.

According to William Federer, in his book America's God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations:

"President Thomas Jefferson also extended, three times, a 1787 act of Congress in which special lands were designated:
For the sole use of Christian Indians and the Moravian Brethren missionaries for civilizing the Indians and promoting Christianity."

It is unclear exactly what Federer is quoting here in his "Encyclopedia of Quotations," but it is not a 1787 act of Congress. This act, (a resolution of the Continental Congress), can be found on page 133.

According to Mark Beliles, in the introduction to his version of the Jefferson Bible:

"On April 26, 1802, Jefferson signed into law the Act of Congress which assisted the Society of the United Brethren 'for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen' in the Northwest territory."

The first thing that needs to be understood about any mention of The Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen in any act of Congress or other official document is that this was the legal name of an incorporated society. Every act of Congress referring to this society, whatever its purpose, contains the words "propagating the Gospel among the Heathen" because it was part of the society's name, not because the government was propagating the Gospel. Mark Beliles, like many Liars for Jesus, puts only the words "propagating the Gospel among the Heathen" in quotation marks to make it appear that this was the purpose of the act. Others take advantage of a convenient printing error to achieve this effect. In the title of one of the several acts related to this land trust, a comma was mistakenly inserted in the society's name after the word "Brethren," inadvertently giving the impression that what followed the comma was the purpose of the act. This, of course, is the act that most religious right authors choose to quote.

Although the United Brethren were a religious society, and their purpose was to propagate the Gospel, Congress's reason for putting a land grant in their name had nothing to do with religion. It was done to protect the land granted to a group of Indians.

At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, a declaration of Congress promised that any Indians who did not aid the British would have "all the lands they held confirmed and secured to them"(1) when the war was over. In the years following the war, the United Brethren, concerned that a particular group of Indians, who not only remained neutral throughout the war, but had been both displaced by the British and attacked by American militiamen, might lose the lands they were entitled to. Because these Indians were unable to return at this time to claim the land themselves, the United Brethren petitioned the Continental Congress on their behalf. Congress agreed that these Indians had a right to the land, but, in order to secure their claim, the land had to be put in someone's name. The solution that Congress agreed to was that the United Brethren form an incorporated society to hold the land in trust.

The Indians involved in this story, who, for reasons explained later, were referred to by Congress as the "Christian Indians," were permanently settled in 1772 by the great council of the Delaware nation on land along the Muskingum River, in what is now Ohio. With the help of Moravian missionaries, these Indians, numbering about three hundred and seventy at that time, built three settlements, Gnadenhutten, Schoenbrun, and Salem, which became thriving agricultural communities.

Shortly after settling on the Muskingum, the Christian Indians adopted a constitution of sorts, laying down the rules that everyone had to follow in order to live at their settlements. In 1778, although the Delaware nation was still officially neutral in the war, many Delawares were attaching themselves to other tribes, joining the fight on the British side. That year, at their annual public meeting, the mostly Delaware Christian Indians voted to add the following articles to their constitution.

19. No man inclining to go to war -- which is the shedding of blood -- can remain among us.

20. Whosoever purchases goods or articles of warriors, knowing at the time that such have been stolen or plundered, must leave us. We look upon this as giving encouragement to murder and theft.(2)

Throughout the war, the Christian Indians and their Moravian missionaries, suspected of spying for the Americans, were harassed by British Indian allies. In August 1781, a group of British Indians, led by a British Indian agent, broke up their settlements. The Christian Indians were forcibly moved to Sandusky, more than a hundred miles from their settlements, and left there with no food or supplies. The Moravians were taken to Detroit for questioning. The following spring, nearly a third of the Christian Indians were murdered -- not by the British, but by American militiamen.

In February 1782, some of the Christian Indians returned to their settlements to gather whatever food and supplies they could find to take back to Sandusky. Shortly after the Christian Indians returned, another band of Indians from Sandusky attacked a frontier family, killing a woman and taking her children captive. Under the guise of pursuing the Indians who attacked this family, several hundred Pennsylvania militiamen,(3) commanded by Lieutenant Colonel David Williamson, headed straight for the Christian Indian settlements. Upon hearing of Williamson's plan, Colonel John Gibson, the temporary commander at Fort Pitt, immediately dispatched messengers to warn the Indians, but they arrived too late.

When Williamson and his men appeared at the settlements on March 7, the Indians, having no reason to fear Americans, believed the story that they had come to help. The militiamen told the Indians that because the British, their common enemy, had caused them to be in their current situation, they had been sent to take them to Fort Pitt to get supplies. Prior to their removal by the British, these Indians had been supplying Fort Pitt with corn and beef, so this offer of help did not seem strange at all. To keep the Indians from becoming suspicious as they were gathered into two houses in Gnadenhutten, the militiamen kept up constant discussions about religion, between themselves and with the Indians, and claimed that the Moravians from Bethlehem would be expecting them at Fort Pitt.

Once the Indians were rounded up, the men in one house and the women and children in another, the militiamen turned on them, accusing them of stealing horses, aiding the enemy, and other crimes. The officers then had their men vote on whether to kill them on the spot or take them to Fort Pitt as prisoners. All but eighteen of the several hundred militiamen voted to kill them. On March 8, ninety-six unarmed Indians -- sixty-two adults and thirty-four children -- were murdered. Strangely enough, Colonel Williamson, the leader of the expedition, was one of the eighteen to vote against the killing, but either did not or could not stop it.

All of the Indians who were in Salem and Gnadenhutten were killed, except for two boys who managed to escape, one by hiding, and one by playing dead until the militiamen left. Those who were at Schoenbrun, however, were able to get away. A messenger sent from Sandusky by one of the Moravians, on his way from Schoenbrun to Gnadenhutten, came across the body of an Indian boy who had been murdered the day before by the approaching militiamen. The messenger returned to Schoenbrun to warn the others, who had been visited by the militiamen and were preparing to go to Gnadenhutten.

When the British heard about the 1782 massacre, they were appalled by the actions of the Pennsylvania militiamen. The British had driven the Christian Indians from their settlements the year before because they were suspected of spying for the Americans, and their settlements were in a strategic location to do this. Their Indian agent had been instructed only to move the Indians, but not to physically harm them. After the massacre, Major Arent Schuyler DePeyster, the British commander at Detroit, decided to protect the remaining Christian Indians. DePeyster, the same officer who had questioned and released the Moravians in 1781, helped David Zeisberger, one of the missionaries he had questioned, set up a temporary settlement for the remaining Indians. An empty British army barracks was turned over to Zeisberger while DePeyster negotiated with the Chippewa to lease some of their land north of Detroit to the Moravians. Zeisberger gathered as many of the remaining Christian Indians as he could find, and built the town of New Gnadenhutten on the leased land, where they stayed from 1782 until 1786. It was during this time that the United Brethren, represented by Bishop John Ettwein, first petitioned Congress on the Indians' behalf.

In October 1783, six months after the end of hostilities with Great Britain was officially declared, Bishop Ettwein personally delivered a memorial to Charles Thomson, the Secretary of Congress.(4) Ettwein made two requests in this memorial. First, he wanted an investigation of the 1782 massacre. This had been promised by Congress, as well as the assemblies of both Pennsylvania and Virginia, but, as far as he knew, had never been carried out. Second, he wanted to ensure that the remaining Christian Indians, although temporarily displaced, would not lose the legal right to their land. This memorial was referred to a committee, but no immediate action was taken on it.

In March 1784, Bishop Ettwein wrote to Thomas Mifflin, the President of Congress, to see if anything was being done.(5) On March 31, 1784, Bishop Ettwein's 1783 memorial was favorably reported on by the committee.

The next year, in the land ordinance of May 20, 1785, Congress included, among the various reservations in the Northwest Territory for military service and other purposes, a provision reserving the Christian Indians' land. Congress had no way of knowing at this time that it would later become necessary to put the Indians' land in someone else's name, so the United Brethren were not mentioned in the 1785 ordinance. At this point, the society's only involvement was that of petitioning Congress on the Indians' behalf. In the ordinance, however, Congress did need to designate in some way who the land was being reserved for. Having nothing more specific than Bishop Ettwein's description -- "the Christian Indians now on Huron River or such trustees as they shall appoint"(6) -- Congress, in the ordinance and subsequent documents, just called them the Christian Indians. The following was the provision in the 1785 ordinance reserving the Christian Indians' land.

And be it further Ordained, That the towns of 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 judgment of the Geographer, be sufficient for them to cultivate.(7)

All this 1785 provision did was reserve the Christian Indians' land from the lands that could be sold under the ordinance. This alone did not reserve the land forever. It only meant that Congress, for the time being, was promising not to sell it to anyone else. If the Indians did not take the steps necessary to legally take possession their land, Congress, after a reasonable amount of time, might assume they didn't want it and extinguish their claim. In fact, this almost happened a few years later, when Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, having information that the remaining Christian Indians had moved to Canada, listed their reservation in a report as unclaimed land that could be sold.

In 1786, after receiving the news that Congress had reserved their land, Zeisberger and the Christians Indians started making their way home. Many of these Indians did not want to return to the site of the 1782 massacre, but the Chippewa, who considered the lease negotiated by Major DePeyster to have expired when the war ended, had already been asking them to leave for some time.

The Christian Indians crossed Lake Erie to the mouth of the Cuyahoga in the spring of 1786, but, because the ongoing Northwest Indian War(8) made this the most dangerous time of year to travel, they stopped ten miles down the river to wait out the summer in an abandoned Ottawa village. It was here, about seventy-five miles north of their former settlements, that the Christian Indians encountered the problem that led Congress to put their land in trust with the United Brethren.

By 1786, land in the area of the Christian Indians' settlements was in great demand, and white settlers wanted to be able to buy the land reserved by Congress. Some of these settlers figured that if they could keep the Indians away long enough, Congress would extinguish their claim and offer their land for sale. The settlers' plan was to make the Indians afraid to return, and Congress inadvertently played right into their hands.

Upon being informed by Bishop Ettwein in August 1786 that the Indians were at the Ottawa village and planning to return to their land in the fall, Congress passed the following resolution.

Resolved, That the secretary at war give orders to lieutenant-colonel Harmar, that he signify to the Moravian Indians, lately come from the river Huron to Cuyahoga, that it affords pleasure to Congress to hear of their arrival, and that they have permission to return to their former settlement on the Muskingum, where they may be assured of the friendship and protection of the United States; and that lieutenant colonel Harmar supply the said Indians, after their arrival at Muskingum, with a quantity of Indian corn, not exceeding five hundred bushels, out of the public stores on the Ohio, and deliver the same to them at fort Mcintosh, as soon after next Christmas as the same may be procured; and that he furnish the said Indians with twenty Indian axes, twenty corn hoes, and one hundred blankets; and that the board of treasury and Secretary at War take order to carry the above into effect.(9)

The white settlers, through local Delaware Indians, had already sent warnings to the Christian Indians, telling them that the militiamen who murdered their friends intended to finish the job if they returned. The resolution of Congress, of course, sounded just like what the militiamen had said in 1782 to trick their friends and family members into gathering in Gnadenhutten. The remaining Christian Indians were easily convinced that the soldiers from Fort McIntosh were also trying to trick them. At the end of the summer, they did not continue south to their land, but instead went sixty miles to the west and built their next temporary settlement, New Salem.

When Congress found out why the Indians were not returning, they decided that the best way to solve the problem was to permanently take the Indians' land off the market by putting the deed to it in someone's name. Once this was done, the white settlers would know they had no chance of getting this land, no matter how long they kept the Indians away. This is why Congress put the land in trust with the United Brethren.

Many years later, when the Senate was investigating allegations that the United Brethren had mismanaged this trust, C.G. Hueffel, then president of the society's board of directors, submitted a report on the history and present condition of the Christian Indians and their land grant. The following, from that report, was Hueffel's explanation of the events of 1786.

On a representation of their distressed condition, laid before Congress by Bishop Ettwein, through the instrumentality of Charles Thompson, Esq., Secretary of Congress, that honorable body passed a resolution, directing Lieutenant Colonel Harmar to furnish the Indians at Fort McIntosh with five hundred bushels of Indian corn, one hundred blankets, and other necessaries. Unfortunately, this benevolence of Congress could not be carried into effect, notwithstanding the active friendship of the gentlemen concerned, as it proved impossible to bring on the Christian Indians far enough; the reports which reached them of the threats of the murderers of their friends intending to complete their destruction filling their minds with the utmost apprehension. It was believed that these threats were uttered in hopes of thereby preventing the return of the Christian Indians upon their land, and thus extinguishing the reservation thereof in the ordinance of May 20, 1785, as by this time these lands began to be an object of cupidity.

Representations of these impediments thrown in the way of the Christian Indians having again been submitted to Congress, together with an exposition of the nature of the fears operating upon these persecuted sufferers, that honorable body, in order at once to cut off all hopes of the aforementioned unprincipled persons of ever acquiring the lands, even if they should succeed, by their threats, in preventing the return of the Christian Indians, determined, by an ordinance dated 27th July, 1787, "that the property of ten thousand acres, adjoining to the former settlements of the Christian Indians, should be vested in the Moravian Brethren at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, or a society of the said Brethren, for civilizing the Indians and promoting Christianity, in trust, and for the uses expressed in the ordinance of May 20, 1785, including Killbuck and his descendants, and the nephew and descendants of the late Captain White-eyes, Delaware chiefs, who have distinguished themselves as friends of the cause of America."(10)

The "ordinance" of July 27, 1787 referred to by Hueffel was actually a resolution, attached to Congress's authorization for the Board of Treasury to complete Ohio Company land sale. Because the land reserved for the Indians land fell within the boundaries of the lands being purchased by the Ohio Company, it needed to be excluded from the purchase in their contract.

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 Brethren at Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, or a society of the said Brethren 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.(11)

Because they were now defining the Christian Indians' reservation for the purpose of excluding it in an actual contract, Congress had to be more specific about the amount of land being reserved than they had been in the ordinance of 1785. At this point, they decided that the amount of land described in that ordinance as "sufficient for them to cultivate" would be ten thousand acres.

In this resolution, Congress also named two individuals, Killbuck and the nephew of Captain White Eyes, as having a claim in the reservation. These were two Delaware chiefs who, at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, tried to keep the Delaware nation at peace with the United States. Both were commissioned as Lieutenant Colonels,(12) and later awarded land grants in the same amount as other officers of this rank for their military service. Captain White Eyes was killed in November 1778 while serving as a guide for American troops in Pennsylvania,(13) so his grant went to his nephew.(14) Killbuck remained on the American side when the Delaware, in reaction to Congress's failure to supply the clothing, tools, and weapons promised in a September 1778 treaty, joined the war on the side of the British.

Because of his actions during the war, it was not safe for Killbuck to return to the Delaware. When he heard about the reservation made for the Christian Indians, he requested that, for the protection of his and Captain White Eyes's families, Congress include them in this grant, allowing them to settle on land adjoining the Moravian community. Killbuck had previously lived with the Christian Indians, and Captain White Eyes had been on the Delaware council that first settled the Christian Indians on this land in 1772, so there were no objections to this arrangement from either side.

The July 27, 1787 resolution of Congress is often quoted in religious right American history books, chosen because it contains the words "promoting Christianity." John Eidsmoe, in his book Christianity and the Constitution, not only quotes this resolution, but implies that there were two separate land grants, one for the use of Christian Indians, and another for the Moravians. He also omits the word "the" before Christian Indians, and all other words indicating that Congress was referring to a specific group known as "the Christian Indians," giving the impression that land was granted to Christian Indians in general.

According to Eidsmoe:

"In 1787, another act of Congress ordained special lands 'for the sole use of Christian Indians' and reserved lands for the Moravian Brethren 'for civilizing the Indians and promoting Christianity.'"

The reason for this particular wording in the 1787 resolution was that Congress did not yet know what the Moravians were going to call their society. In order for Congress to convey the Indians' land to them, the Moravians, or a society of them, had to be incorporated. While Bishop Ettwein was in Pennsylvania taking care of this, Congress had to proceed with the Ohio Company contract. Congress assumed that the Moravians were going to name their society something similar to the names of the many other Indian missionary societies of the time, which were all called something to the effect of societies "for civilizing the Indians and promoting Christianity." This, along with the description of the Indians, was specific enough to leave no question as to who they were referring to in the 1787 resolution. In the September 3, 1788 act conveying the land to the society, it was clarified in two places that the society described in the 1787 resolution and "The Society of the United Brethren for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen" were one and the same.(15)

As mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, most religious right authors attribute the United Brethren land trust to Thomas Jefferson, in an attempt to turn the president who was least likely to grant land to a religious society into the one who did. There is no truth whatsoever to this claim. It is a lie based on a 1796 act for creating the United States Military District, and locating and surveying the military land grants within this district. Because of a 1795 decision to confirm the trust created by the Continental Congress, the surveying of the Christian Indians' land was tagged onto this act. This was just a matter of expediency, due to the fact that the Christian Indian's land grant fell within the boundaries of the Military District, and needed to be reserved from it. By confirming that this land had been appropriated by the Continental Congress in one section of the act, and then excluding from the military district any lands previously appropriated in another section of the same act, Congress killed two birds with one stone.

This act of 1796 was, of course, signed by George Washington, not Thomas Jefferson. The lie about Jefferson is created by using the titles of the later acts amending this act that were signed by him. According to the act of 1796, the deadline to register and locate military land grants was January 1, 1800. This time limit was extended once by John Adams, and three times by Thomas Jefferson. By the time of these extensions, however, the section in the original act regarding the Christian Indians' land grant was a dead letter. Everything ordered to be done in this section had been carried out by 1798, and the parts of the original act that were later extended had not applied to this land grant to begin with.

The following is the section regarding the Christian Indians' land from the act of 1796.

Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That the said surveyor general be, and he is hereby, required to cause to be surveyed three several tracts of land, containing four thousand acres each, at Schoenbrun, Gnadenhutten, and Salem; being the tracts formerly set apart, by an ordinance of Congress of the third of September, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, for the society of United Brethren for propagating the gospel among the heathen; and to issue a patent or patents for the said three tracts to the said society, in trust, for the uses and purposes in the ordinance set forth.(16)

Because this section was tagged onto the military land grant act, the name of the United Brethren's society appeared in the act's title. The original 1796 act was called An Act regulating the grants of land appropriated for Military services, and for the Society of the United Brethren, for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen.(17) The extensions of this act, although containing nothing that applied to the United Brethren's trust, still had the name of the society in their titles. This is simply because they were acts amending the original act. In April 1802, the act extending Adams's 1799 extension of the act of 1796 was called An Act in addition to an act, intituled "An act, in addition to an act regulating the grants of land appropriated for military services, and for the society of the United Brethren for Propagating the gospel Among the Heathen."(18) The next extension, in March 1803, was called An act to revive and continue in force an Act in addition to an act, intituled "An act, in addition to an act regulating the grants of land appropriated for military services, and for the Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen," and for other purposes.(19) The titles of these acts are the sole basis of the religious right claim that Thomas Jefferson granted land to religious societies.

Many Liars for Jesus, in addition to lying about the purpose of these acts, imply that the United Brethren land trust originated with Jefferson by making vague statements like the following.

According to David Barton, in his book Original Intent:

"...Jefferson signed into law three separate acts setting aside government land for the sole use of Christian missionaries to evangelize the Indians and others."

Others, although still lying about the purpose of the acts, do mention the earlier acts of the Continental Congress, or that the acts signed by Jefferson were extensions of the act of 1796. The goal of these lies, however, is the same -- to make it appear that Thomas Jefferson approved of government land grants to religious organizations.

John Eidsmoe, following his story about the 1787 resolution, claims:

"This was renewed in 1796 with a new law entitled 'An Act regulating the grants of land appropriated for Military services, and for the Society of the United Brethren, for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen.' Congress extended this act three times during Jefferson's administration and each time he signed the extension into law."

According to Daniel Dreisbach, in his book Real Threat and Mere Shadow:

"The United States government during Washington's administration employed a Christian missionary society and granted it control over vast tracts of land as part of a broader scheme to develop western lands and proselytize and 'civilize' the 'heathen' Indians. The Fifth through Eighth Congresses each reviewed the 'Act,' making some minor alterations and extending the life of the Act as provided for in the original Act of 1796. The last three extensions an April 26, 1802, March 3, 1803, and March 19, 1804, were approved during the administration of President Jefferson. Jefferson, like his predecessors Washington and Adams, signed the Act into law without registering any misgivings concerning the constitutionality of the Act's provisions."

Robert Cord, in his book Separation of Church and State, presents some of the most creative lies about the act of 1796 and its subsequent extensions. Cord begins with the Continental Congress, but omits the circumstances that led them to put the land in trust. According to Cord's story, Congress vested this land in "this newly created evangelical arm of the United Brethren" for no other reason than "to facilitate that these lands be used for the good of the Christian Indians." Nowhere does he mention why it was necessary for Congress to do this.

Cord, cited by Dreisbach as the source of his similar lie, then claims that the United Brethren trust was the equivalent of the federal government paying a religious society to proselytize.

According to Cord:

"Even if this proselytizing arm of the United Brethren was not financially successful -- a matter of no consequence here -- most significant is the fact that, after the adoption of the Establishment of Religion Clause, the United States Government in effect purchased, with grants of land amounting up to 12,000 acres placed in a controlling trust, the services of a religious evangelical order to settle in western U.S. lands to aid the Christian Indians. This action was tantamount to underwriting the maintenance and spreading of Christianity among the Indians...."

Cord then goes out of his way to point out something that would be assumed anyway -- that the United Brethren didn't have to pay for the land grant put in their trust. Cord's sole reason for focusing on the act of 1796 is to place the date of the grant after the ratification of the First Amendment.

According to Cord:

"After the adoption of the federal Constitution in 1788 and the addition in 1791 of the First Amendment with its Establishment of Religion Clause, the Fourth Congress in 1796 enacted at least two 'Land Statutes.' The first, 'An Act providing for the Sale of the Lands of the Unites States, in the territory northwest of the river Ohio, and above the mouth of the Kentucky river," was a comprehensive land enactment which became law on May 18, 1796. This act detailed, among other things, the public lands available for sale by the United States Government, modes of payment, and the method of authorization for granting patents (titles) to the lands purchased. The second law, approved June 1, 1796 and entitled 'An Act regulating the grants of land appropriated for Military services and for the Society of the United Brethren, for propagating the Gospel among the Heathen,' was distinctly different. Like the preceding federal statute, this one detailed the lands to be granted; Section Two, however, provided, in part, that 'the patents for all lands located under the authority of this act, shall be granted...without requiring any fee therefor.'"

Section Two of this act didn't even apply to the United Brethren's trust. With the exception of one section regarding the free navigation of rivers, Section Five was the only section of this act that applied to the Christian Indians' land. Sections One through Four applied only to military land grants. The following is the Section Two provision, with the part omitted by Cord restored.

And the patents for all lands located under the authority of this act, shall be granted in the manner directed by the before mentioned act, without requiring any fee therefor.(20)

The "before mentioned act" was the act of May 18, 1796 referred to by Cord. This act regarding the sale of lands was passed two weeks prior to the military land grant act, which was passed on June 1. The provision from the June 1 act quoted by Cord meant nothing more than that the surveying and paperwork for military land grants would be carried out in the same manner as specified in the act of May 18 for land that was sold, with the exception that the fees for these services would be waived. Cord, by misquoting the act of June 1 and italicizing certain words, makes it appear as if waiving the fee for issuing the patent meant waiving the cost of the land itself. It didn't. A patent was the piece of paper a purchaser received when their land was paid for in full; a certificate was the piece of paper a purchaser received if they were paying for the land in installments. The following were the fees for these documents, from the May 18 act for the sale of lands.

Sec. 11. And be it further enacted, That the following fees shall be paid for the services done under this act, to the treasurer of the United States, or to the receiver in the western territory, as the case may be; for each certificate for a tract containing a quarter of a township, twenty dollars; for a certificate for a tract containing six hundred and forty acres, six dollars; and for each patent for a quarter of a township, twenty dollars; for a section of six hundred and forty acres, six dollars: And the said fees shall be accounted for by the receivers, respectively.(21)

These fees were what Section Two of the act of June 1 waived for military land grants. In addition to not meaning what Cord implies it meant, this section, as already mentioned, didn't even apply to the Christian Indians' grant. Obviously, since this was a grant that was put in their trust, the United Brethren didn't pay for the land. Cord just invents a different reason for this to fit his story that land was granted to a religious society, and places the date of this grant after the First Amendment by incorporating a completely irrelevant act of 1796.

To be continued...

1. Walter Lowrie, ed., American State Papers: Indian Affairs, vol. 2, (Washington D.C.: Gales and Seaton, 1834), 373.
2. James W. Taylor, History of the State of Ohio, First Period, 1650-1787, (Cincinnati: H.W. Derby & Co., 1854), 234-235.
3. Estimates of the number of militiamen involved in the massacre have varied greatly, ranging from 70 to over 400. The first list, published in the Pennsylvania Archives in 1888, put the number at "at least 160," listing 57 by name. The actual number was probably closer to 300, about 200 of whom can currently be named with some certainty.
4. Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives Microfilm Publication M247, r49, i41, v3, p73.
5. ibid., M247, r94, i78, v8, p409.
6. ibid., M247, r49, i41, v3, p73.
7. John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, vol. 28, (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1933), 381.
8. The Northwest Indian War, between a confederation of Indian tribes and the United States for control of the Northwest Territory, lasted from 1785 to 1795. Often referred to as Little Turtle's War, and known by a variety of other names, it was officially called the Miami Campaign in army records. The war was ended by the Treaty of Greenville, in which the Indian confederation ceded territory that included much of present day Ohio, establishing the boundary line between Indian territory and that open to white settlers.
9. John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, vol. 31, (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1934), 562-563.
10. Walter Lowrie, ed., American State Papers: Indian Affairs, vol. 2, (Washington D.C.: Gales and Seaton, 1834), 373.
11. Roscoe R. Hill, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, vol. 33, (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1936), 429-430.
12. "Captain" was not White Eyes's rank in the army, but the title adopted by the Delaware for members of their council who decided on questions of war.
13. Although the widely accepted story at the time was that Captain White Eyes died of small pox, the truth is that he was murdered by American troops. Colonel George Morgan, a United States Indian commissioner, covered up the murder, keeping the real story secret from all but a handful of members of Congress. The cover up was considered necessary to maintain good relations with the Delaware, whose neutrality in the war, which was largely due to the efforts and influence of Captain White Eyes, was already on very shaky ground.
14. George White Eyes later contested the nephew being named his father's heir, and hired a lawyer to get his family's land separated from the Christian Indians' land and put in his name. On his way to Washington in 1798, however, George, while intoxicated, attacked a white boy in Pennsylvania, and was killed.
15. Roscoe R. Hill, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, vol. 34, (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1937), 485-486.
16. Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, vol. 1, (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1845), 491.
17. ibid., 490.
18. Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, vol. 2, (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1845), 155.
19. ibid., 236.
20. Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, vol. 1, (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1845), 491.
21. ibid., 468.


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