9. The Evidence

Now, we do know that Grant did veto a hide hunting bill that was passed in Congress. Congress passed a bill to outlaw hide-hunting in the territories, and Ulysses S. Grant killed it with a pocket veto. We don't know exactly why he did that, although, since Grant was a strong advocate of the economic policy of laissez faire, which most of the members of the Republican party advocated in the 19th century, there are good grounds to assume that he vetoed that bill because he thought it would be undue interference with a western economy. But we don't know. That one bears some closer investigation.

We also know that the Secretary of the Interior, Columbus Delano, made a statement at one point. As he put it, he "should not be disappointed if the outcome of the buffalo hunt eventually was that it made the Plains Indians willing to go onto reservations." But as I, and other historians have pointed out, saying that you wouldn't be disappointed in the outcome of something is not, by any stretch, the same thing as saying that we have a policy that this is what we want to happen.

And I guess that probably the final bit of interesting evidence that we have about this one is that the hide-hunters in the United States were able to kill off the buffalo almost entirely, but it took them almost five years longer than it took hunters—mostly Metis and Indian hunters—in Canada, to wipe out the Canadian herds, and no one has ever argued that Canada had an unofficial policy to wipe out the buffalo. The buffalo disappeared in Canada because of the market, because of drought, because of competition from horses, because of all those factors that I mentioned.

And I think the herds disappeared in the United States for the same reason. I don't think it was necessary for there to have been a secret policy.