1853 - George Manypenny commences 2nd Removal Era

Indian Commissioner George Manypenny

        Indian Commissioner George Manypenny arrived with altruistic reverence for Indian rights.  Of the Kansas/Nebraska Act, he told Congress that "the rights of person or property now pertaining to the Indians in said Territories" were inviolate, and that all lands held by Indians could "constitute no part of the [new] Territories… until ceded by treaty or otherwise," as was stipulated in the treaty between France and the United States in 1803 ceding the Louisiana Territory to the Americans.

        But within two years, Manypenny would do a complete about face on Indian rights.  He reports to Congress in 1856 that he successfully negotiated numerous treaties of cession: "Since the 4th of March, 1853, fifty-two treaties with various Indian tribes have been entered into…the quantity of land acquired by these treaties…is about one hundred and seventy-four millions of acres…in no former equal period of our history have so many treaties been made, or such vast accessions of land obtained."

         Manypenny was strongly influenced by Thomas "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick's criticisms of the Removal Era.   He also adopted D.D. Mitchell's solution to the Indian question in the West by promoting a program of land allotment in severalty in the territories.  But Manypenny neglected to observe two of Mitchell's stipulations; 1) that any land deeded to Indians could not be estranged from the titleholder for 50 years, and 2) that each Indian who acquired a section of land should be made a citizen of the U.S.

         Unfortunately, the program faltered.  The emigrant population, already struggling to accommodate black men, had no sympathy for the Indian.

         In his annual report to Congress in 1856, Manypenny advised lawmakers that Indian Policy on the whole needed to be reworked.  The unsettled conditions in the new Territories had resulted in serious harm to the Indians: "Trespasses and depredations of every conceivable kind have been committed on the Indians…they have been personally maltreated, their property stolen, their timber destroyed, their possession encroached upon, and diverse other wrongs and injuries done to them…their rights and interests seem thus far to have been entirely lost sight of and disregarded by their neighbors."

         As was its custom regarding the protection of Indian lands and resources, Congress did nothing.


(for more on Commissioner Manypenny, click here)