The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To John Newton Stickney
4 April 1874
[MS in Finney Papers, Box 7]
John Newton Stickney (1818-1893) was one of the most prominent and respected citizens of Stockville, Connecticut. Originally from Maine, he had gone to Stockville in 1846 where he ran a paper mill. Subsequently he was involved in many other business ventures, and was a leader in projects for the improvement of the town. From 1872 he owned the Tolland County Journal with his son, Frank H. Stickney. He had been a deacon of the First Congregational Church in Rockville since 1849, and was its organist for 12 years. (See Rockville Journal [March 2, 1893], p. 1, and [March 9, 1893], p. 1; and George S. Brookes, Cascades and Courage [Rockville: T. F. Rady, 1955], pp. 93, 101, 138; with acknowledgments to Denise J. Stankovics, Reference Librarian at The Rockville Public Library.)
Finney received the following letter from Stickney:
Rockville, Conn., 30th March 1874
Rev. and Dear Sir:-
I have often thought of that pleasant call Rev. Mr. Willard & I made on you in Oberlin, last fall, on our way home from the meeting of the Am. Board.
Mr. Willard agreed with me, that your suggestions respecting the policy of our government in its treatment of the Indians, ought to be published to the world, & I have often thought of asking you to put your views on paper for me to publish. I now write to ask if you will kindly consent to do so? If your health will admit, I trust you will consent to do so.
As a member of the National Council, I recall your address in the 2d. Church on the descent of the Spirit, & your remarks to the great congregation in the 1st. Church at the celebration of the Lord's supper, with lively interest.
I trust you may be spared to employ your vigorous tongue and pen, if the Lord will, to some extent at least, for a while longer.
With great respect and affection, I will only add, that I remain
Yours in the hopes & faith of the blessed gospel,
J. N. Stickney.
Finney's reply is in the handwriting of Rebecca Finney:
Oberlin April 4th 1874.
J. N. Stickney Esq.
Dear Brother, You ask me to give
you my views of the policy of our government in their treatment
of the Indians. I reply in a few words, that I regard that policy
as a perfect snare, both to the government, and the Indians.
It must ever prove so, until that policy is radically
changed. The first error of our government in the matter consists
in assuming that the Indians of right owned this country.
The fact is, they never acquired any exclusive title to it.
God gave the earth to mankind on condition that they
would replenish and subdue it. The savage races found
upon this continent had never done this. They were merely
roving hunters, and really acquired no higher title to lands
over which they roamed, than they did to those parts of the ocean
and the lakes over which they paddled their canoes. The
truth is, they had fulfilled none of the appropriate con-
ditions of ownership. In western phrase, they were not even
"squatters," but mere predatory bands, having "no certain
dwelling place." Some few of them, here and there, after
a fashion, cultivated a little land. But as a whole, the
country was covered over with a multitude of tribes
of mere hunters, failing entirely to fulfill the Divinely
appointed conditions of ownership. It is absurd for our
government to regard such tribes as independent nationalities
and make treaties with them as such. The governmental
policy of treating these wandering tribes, as independent
nationalities, within a great nation, and making
treaties with them, only to be broken, has involved
our nation in great guilt, and begotten in the
breast of the Indian, a sense of unspeakable wrong.
As against the march of christian civilization, those
wandering tribes had no just title whatever, to this country.
They should have been treated as a conquered people, and subjected
at once, and forever, to the laws of this country. They should
have had, both our protection and control. It is true,
that the first colonies that landed on these shores,
were unable to treat the savages as a conquered
people. But at the earliest practicable period,
this doctrine should have been promulged, &
a consistent policy pursued with them all.
They should long ago, have been made citizens.
This, they greatly needed. But, instead of this, we have allowed
them to make war on each other as independent nations,
and on us. We have acknowledged their right to the soil,
and still have driven them from it, whenever it
suited our convenience. We have promised to
pay them for their lands, and through our agents
have cheated them out of it. We have failed to
extend to them the benefits of our legislation and
protection, and matters have grown worse and
worse, between us and them. When will our nation
perceive that from the beginning they have acted
on a false principle in admitting them to be
rightful owners of the soil? When will they learn to treat
them as a subjugated people, and require them to obey
our laws and accept our civilization? I have understood
that the English people have treated their Indians as a
conquered people, and have had comparatively little
trouble with them. Perhaps the views herein expressed, will
shock many of your readers, but I do not think
the Indians will ever get justice, or mercy from our
government, until the policy herein indicated, is pursued.
This has been for many years my view of the subject. I express
it in the fewest words. I plead for the good of the Indians,
Stickney was a corporate member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. "The honor of the American Board and its work were dear to him as the apple of his eye" and it received the largest of his public bequests in his will. According to Rev. Mr. Dingwall, who preached his funeral sermon: "One of his dear and respected friends has told me that during the forty-six years of their acquaintance he never failed to attend the annual meeting of the American Board no matter how remote it was from his home ..." ("John Newton Stickney" Rockville Journal [March 9, 1893], p. 1).
The rest of the manuscript is missing.