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Attorney General responds to legal inquiry made by Secretary at War

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Source Name Image(s)
CollectionNew-York Historical Society: Henry O'Reilly Collection view image
Document Information
Date June 16, 1795
Author Name William Bradford (primary)
Recipient Name Henry Knox (primary)
Summary Document, discusses state claims on Indian lands; discusses State rights and Federal government; informs re Constitutional powers; discusses Congress; discusses United States Constitution.
Document Format Copy of document
Document Notes [not available]
Content Notes [not available]
Related Persons/Groups William Bradford; Secretary at War; Attorney General;
Related Places United States; State of New York; ;
Keywords reserved to themselves and their posterity forever for their own use & culiltvation but not to be sold or in any other manner disposed of to others certain tracts of their said lands; free right of hunting & fishing; secure to the state of New York the right of preemption; claims to them cannot be extinguished but by a treaty holden under the authority of the United States; laws of Congress; expressly enacted that no purchase or grant of lands or of any title or claims thereto from any indians or nation or tribe of indians within the bounds of the United States; validity in law or equity unless the same be made by a treaty or conventions entered into pursuant to the constitution; misdemeanor in any persons not employed under the authority of the United States in negotiating such treaty or conventions directly or indirectly; purchase of any lands; documents submitted to the attorney general; treaties made by the State of New York with the Oneidas, Onandagas and Cayugas previous to the present constitution of the United States those nations ceded all their lands to the people of New York; Constitution of the United States; Congress has power to regulate commerce with the Indian tribes; attorney general has the honour of stating his opinion upon the question propounded by the Secy of War; whether the state of New York has a right to purchase from the Six Nations or any of them the lands claimed by those nations and situate between the acknowledged boundaries of that state without the intervention of the General government; ;
Key Phrases [not available]
Transcription

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The Attorney General has the honour of stating his opinion upon the question propounded to him by the Secy of War, Viz, Whether the State of New York has a right to purchase from the Six Nations or any of them the lands claimed by those nations and situate within the acknowledged boundaries of that State, without the intervention of the general government.
By the Constitution of the United States, Congress has power to regulate commerce with the Indian Tribes, and by the act of 1 March 1793, it is expressly enacted, That no purchase or grant of lands, or of any title or claim thereto, from any Indians or nation or tribe of Indians, within the bounds of the United States, shall be of any validity in Law or equity, unless the same be made by a treaty or convention entered into pursuant to the institutions, that it shall be a misdemeanor in any person not employed under the authority of the United States in negotiating such Treaty or convention directly
or indirectly to treat with any such Indians, nation, or tribe of Indians, for the title or purchase of any lands by them held or claimed &c.
The language of this act is too express to admit of any doubt upon the question unless there be something in the circumstances of the case under consideration to take it out of the general prohibition of the law.
Nothing of this kind appears on the documents submitted to the Attorney General. It is true, that by treaties made by the State of New York with the Oneidas, Onondagas and Cayugas, previous to the present Constitution of the United States, those nations ceded all their lands to the people of New York, but reserved to themselves and their posterity forever for their own use & cultivations, but not to be sold, leased or in any other manner disposed of to others, certain tracts of their said lands with the free right of hunting & fishing &c. So far therefore as respects the lands thus reserved the treaties do not operate further than
to secure to the State of New York the right of preemption, but subject to this right they are still the lands of those nations, and their claims to them it is conceived cannot be extinguished but by a treaty holden under the authority of the United States, and in the manner prescribed by the laws of Congress.
June 16 - 1795}