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


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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.