Thomas Paine on Christian Missionaries
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE SOCIETY, STYLING ITSELF
THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY
The New York Gazette of the sixteenth (August) contains the following article - "On Tuesday, a committee of the Missionary Society, consisting chiefly of distinguished Clergymen, had an interview, at the City Hotel, with the chiefs of the Osage tribe of Indians, now in this city (New York) to whom they presented a Bible, together with an address, the object of which was to inform them that this good book contained the will and laws of the GREAT SPIRIT."
It is to be hoped some humane person will, on account of our people on the frontiers, as well as of the Indians, undeceive them with respect to the present the missionaries have made them, and which they call a good book, containing, they say, the will and laws of the GREAT SPIRIT. Can those missionaries suppose that the assassination of men, women and children, and sucking infants, related in the books ascribed to Moses, Joshua, etc., and blasphemously said to be done by the command of the Lord, the Great Spirit, can be edifying to our Indian neighbors, or advantageous to us?
Is not the Bible warfare the same kind of warfare as the Indians themselves carry on, that of indiscriminate destruction, and against which humanity shudders? Can the horrid examples and vulgar obscenity with which the Bible abounds improve the morals or civilize the manners of the Indians? Will they learn sobriety and decency from drunken Noah and beastly Lot; or will their daughters be edified by the example of Lot's daughters?
Will the prisoners they take in war be treated the better by their knowing the horrid story of Samuel's hewing Agag in pieces like a block of wood, or David's putting them under harrows of iron?
Will not the shocking accounts of the destruction of the Canaanites, when the Israelites invaded their country, suggest the idea that we may serve them in the same manner, or the accounts stir them up to do the like to our people on the frontiers, and then justify the assassination by the Bible the missionaries have given them? Will those missionary societies never leave off doing mischief?
In the accounts which this missionary committee give of the interview, they make the chief of the Indians to say, that, "as neither he nor his people could read it, he begged that some good white man might be sent to instruct them."
It is necessary the general Government keep a strict eye over those missionary societies, who, under the pretense of instructing the Indians, send spies into their country to find out the best lands. No society should be permitted to have intercourse with the Indian tribes, nor send any person among them, but with the knowledge and consent of the Government.
The present Administration [Jefferson's] has brought the Indians into a good disposition, and is improving them in the moral and civil comforts of life; but if these self-created societies be suffered to interfere, and send their speculating missionaries among them, the laudable object of government will be defeated. Priests, we know, are not remarkable for doing anything gratis; they have in general some scheme in everything they do, either to impose on the ignorant, or derange the operations of government.
A FRIEND TO THE INDIANS - Thomas Paine
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Click here to read the actual survey. (It's in PDF)
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