Important Autographs and Manuscripts from The Raab Collection
Not too many of America's early leaders distinguished themselves by their conduct toward America's natives. Chief Justice John Marshall was an exception. Marshall's court would hand down several decisions protecting Indian rights to their native lands, decisions that President Jackson would essentially ignore. Another opponent of this unfair treatment was New Jersey Congressman Thomas Frelinghuysen. At one point, Frelinghuysen had given a six-hour speech in Congress attempting to soften the Indian Removal Act of 1830 with provisions to protect them. Frelinghuysen evidently sent a copy of his speech to Marshall, and the latter responded with his compliments. States Marshall, "The subject has always appeared to me to affect the honor, the faith and the character of our country. The cause of these oppressed people has been most ably though unsuccessfully sustained. 'Defeat in such a cause is far above the triumphs of unrighteous power.'" The quote mentioned at the end of Marshall's letter came from Frelinghuysen's speech. Item 39. $15,000
Some of the less noble actions towards America's natives are reflected in this letter from John Eaton, Secretary of War, to President Andrew Jackson. Eaton had been contacted by some major church groups wishing to learn more about the government's views toward the Indians. Eaton considered it important "to get the clergy on the side of the government in this Indian business..." He recommended that Jackson send the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to their meeting. Eaton then repeats Jackson's official position that removal of the Indians was strictly for their own good (as opposed to freeing up more land for White settlers). He wanted to make sure the church leaders believed that the government plan "is not to oppress but to preserve those Indians..." and "make them civilized..." That's a bit ironic as many people considered Jackson himself as somewhat less than civilized. Item 41. $4,500.
Not every matter that required Jackson's attention was quite so momentous. In item 42, Jackson writes his Acting Secretary of War in response to a request he received from Massachusetts' governor to borrow some surveying tools. Jackson authorizes the lending, but makes clear that they are to be returned in good order or the Governor will have to bear the cost of replacing them. Says Raab of this document, "It seems nothing short of incredible that the time of both the President of the United States and the Secretary of War would be consumed in maters so trivial as the lending of tools." Today they would be consumed with more important things, like fund raising. $1,500.
Speaking of more presidential matters, here's a letter from Warren Harding to Al Jolson. Harding is to the presidency what Jolson was to music. Jolson had campaigned for Harding in 1920 and helped bring attention to the candidate, sort of the way Bruce Springsteen did for John Kerry (okay, comparing Jolson to Springsteen is a bit of a stretch). In this 1921 response to Jolson, Harding states, "If I can be helpful in promoting your work in an entirely becoming and consistent way I will be more than glad to do so." The president promoting the singer? Isn't that backwards? Is this an appropriate role for a president anyway? Is this "normalcy?" The part about this boring president doing the promoting in a "becoming way" assures that it would have been totally useless in gaining the attention of a public looking for excitement. Jolson would have done better to get the promoting capabilities of Tanya Harding instead of Warren. Item 76. $1,600.