Today, on Washington’s birthday, I thought it would be a good time to talk about a law he once signed, called the Nonintercourse Act. No, this law didn’t have anything to do with cold showers or salt peter rationing. But it did have to do with protecting Indians from being taken advantage of in real estate deals.
This is how the Nonintercourse Act reads:
That no sale of lands made by Indians, or any nation or tribe of Indians within the United States, shall be valid to any person or persons, or to any state, whether having the right of preemption to such lands or not, unless the same shall be made and duly executed at some public treaty, held under the authority of the United States.
So, basically, this means that land sales involving Indians are void unless first approved by the Federal government. And in a nutshell, the Nonintercourse Act is why we're here today fighting a casino.
Washington was grateful for the support the Indians had given him in the Revolutionary War. They'd served in his armies and even turned the tide in an important battle with the British Navy. And George, in return, wanted tribes protected against unscrupulous land deals, and felt that the Federal Government was the one to do it.
But then… Washington hadn’t had a lot of experience with the Federal Government at that point. No one had. The newly minted United States of America was a brave new world.
In the years to come, the Federal Government would prove an undependable guardian of Indian tribes, from stripping them of their lands in the 19th century, to granting them unprecedented privileges when it came to gaming in the 20th.
And so, it occurs to me that old George would have been rolling in his Mount Vernon tomb for the last 200 years if he’d had any idea at how Native American history would actually play out.
Because, though he sought to protect Indians – Washington would never have envisioned them or anyone else exploiting their sovereign status to saturate the nation with casinos.
George had some pretty strong feelings about gambling. Not only did he outlaw it in his armies, he wrote this formidable admonition to his nephew in 1783.
Jeez – George sounds just like CasinoFacts! Same stuff, different era.
The last thing I shall mention, is first of importance and that is, to avoid gaming. This is a vice which is productive of every possible evil, equally injurious to the morals and health of its votaries. It is the child of avarice, the brother of inequity, and father of mischief. It has been the ruin of many worthy families; the loss of many a man's honor; and the cause of suicide. To all those who enter the list, it is equally fascinating; the successful gamester pushes his good fortune till it is overtaken by a reverse; the losing gamester, in hopes of retrieving past misfortunes, goes on from bad to worse; till grown desperate, he pushes at everything; and loses his all. In a word, few gain by this abominable practice (the profit, if any, being diffused) while thousands are injured.
And so, today, I’d like us all to take a moment to reflect on the vision our founding fathers must once have had for the Great Experiment which became this great nation.
Would their blueprints have included glass towers of greed springing up out of cornfields and forests, in neighborhoods, near schools, in small towns and big cities and everywhere in between?
Would they have recommended gambling revenue as a foundation on which to build a strong fiscal structure?
And would they have considered the outright promotion and legitimization of "this abomidable practice" by elected officials as evidence of a sound democracy?
But there's no need to wonder. Just take a dollar bill out of your wallet and look at the face staring up at you.
The buck stops there.