Thursday, February 28, 1828
Vol. I, No. 2
Page 2, col. 1b
On "The Report of the Joint Committee on the state of the Republic," in the Legislature of Georgia, on the subject of the Cherokee Lands; purporting to prove the absolute jurisdictional right of the said state to the same.
This document, bearing on its front an imposing form; deserves a passing notice from those, who are vitally interested in the subject of which it treats. The field of argument is always entered, by the Aborigines of America, encumbered with peculiar disadvantages, when compared with those of their white neighbours [sic], who have power and science to sustain them. Impressed with the knowledge of my inadequacy for the task, I enter the list, at the request of a friend, who calculates more on me, than I dare expect to accomplish. But truth is apt to penetrate the gloom, which sometimes surrounds it, and justice will follow after to disperse the black clouds that hang in threatening volumes, over the habitations of peace and innocence.
In the first place, "The Joint Committee" speak of the "momentous subject," they are required to examine, and tell us, they "have bestowed mature and deliberate consideration upon the subject," "and although some of the positions which they feel waranted [sic] in occupying, may at first view appear bold and novel, yet they cherish the hope, that by adverting to the well ascertained and long established laws of nations, those positions will be found abundantly supported." They next, after speaking of their suffering in silence and their moderation and forbearance, propose to discharge their duty, by inquiring, first into the nature and present situation of their claim on the General Government.-- This claim originated and is embraced in a compact of 1802, entered into between the United States and the State of Georgia, which binds the United States, at their own expense, to extinguish for the use of Georgia, all the Indian lands, situated within her chartered limits," as early as the name can be peaceably obtained on reasonable terms." The language of the compact is plain and explicit, as all treaty stipulations should be, and admits of but one construction and this does not impair the Cherokee title; the said compact being the exclusive act of Georgia and the United States. Georgia asserted a claim to a vast extent of country, of itself and Empire, if its extent is considered, then owned and in the possession of formidable and warlike Indians, whose southern frontier bordered on the Spanish Provinces. This claim of Georgia was destitute of lawful foundation, either natural or divine, but existed in a royal Grant of an English Sovereign, who had never seen it; a country, which the proudest and the most daring of his officers had never surveyed.
The United States, acquainted with the instability of savage nations, and calculating on the surrender of their lands, by treaty or otherwise, purchased of Georgia the pre-emption right of all the Indian lands in question to which, as a State, she asserted a claim. Georgia had no right, had she the power, to drive the Indians from those lands, or to purchase them; having previously surrendered her right of making treaties, and of trade, to the United States. Georgia very well knew, that the Cherokees, under the protection of the United States, lived nearest to her jurisdictional limits which rendered their territory the more desirable. They were connected with the United States by treaty, which guaranteed to them their lands. They were in their native and untutored state, and delighted in hunting. The enterprising sons of North Carolina and Virginia had already greatly extended their settlements in their rear; and the Creek war having taken place, in which the Cherokees assisted the United States throughout, and the Creeks having been defeated, their country fell into the hands of the conquerors, the United States, who established the States of Alabama and Mississippi. In consequence of these events, the outlet for game was obstructed by the white population, and the Indians were of course compelled to hunt near home, where the game was destroyed. We are not disposed to attach blame to the United States for these counsequences [sic].
I coincide with the Joint Committee, that the time of the fulfilment [sic] of the promise of the United States was left "indefinite and uncertain"-- This strengthens the construction of the words "reasonable and peaceable terms," which forbids any one to believe, that the promise was absolute and positive. If the Cherokee lands were intended to be obtained "by any means," their probationary existence, for the operation of peaceable inducements, would have been limited, perhaps to this year, 1828, and the fulfilment [sic] of the promise would not have been disposed of in a state of uncertainty as to time. Language explicit and clear would have been used in the compact, that, if the Cherokees refused to yield their country for compensation, they should be "ousted" of possessions, at the point of the bayonet. But Philosophers and Statesmen were parties to the contract, and could not commit themselves into obligations of inhumanity. The Cherokees were their allies, such as they were, by the solemnities [sic] and formalities of treaties sanctioned & ratified by Sages & Patriots of America. If the United States had bound themselves to the extent imputed to them by the "Joint Committee," we may apprehend the language of their promise as the following: "We will extinguish the Indian title to lands in your limits, by any means in our power as early as possible. The laws of Nations do not authorize force, and right does not dwell in the sword; but we will use both, because we are strong now, and independent of England, and are at peace with Europe." Who in these days would think the United States guilty of such a promise, or Georgia so lost to sensibility as to require it!
"We admit," say the Committee, "that after much anxiety and delay, Georgia is about to reap the full benefit of the contract in question, so far as it regards her lands situated within the Creek Nation of Indians. But the manner in which this has been accomplished, compels us to say, we are less indebted to the General Government for the result, than to the exertions of our late able and patriotic Governor." General Gaines officially obtained ample testimonials of "manner" in which the "old Treaty" of the Indian Springs was effected. These documents were called for in the Senate, when the Georgia Senators were opposing the ratification of the new treaty; and what ought to be a little curious, the Georgia Senators were opposed the call. If the "manner" by which the Creek lands have been obtained, reflect credit to the energy and patriotism of the "late Governor," why were these documents suppressed? "I too have been a looker-on in Venice."
Let us now view the consequences of the "manner" in which these lands were obtained. The unfortunate McIntosh, naturally noble, if not deluded, was first seduced into a treaty with money, and with a promise of protection in his ears. At dawn of day, he awoke from his slumbers by the yell of his injured countrymen, his house enveloped in flames and his wives and children mingling their cries with the ascending smoke. Fighting bravely with his musket in hand, he fell at his door, shot down by his once admiring friends, but now his enemies. He was dragged, after death, by the heels to the edge of his yard, and his head shattered to pieces by repeated vollies of rifles, in the presence of his children. This was the consequence of the "manner" of obtaining the lands in question! Two other chiefs shared his fate, with but little less of cruelty. Poor ignorant and unfortunate Chieftains! You deserved a better fate, if you had been under the influence of better counsels.
"And Alabama has been acquired," say the Committee," for the use of the United States, upon "peaceable and reasonable terms," since 1802. This is a mistake as to the former term, however true the latter might be.-- The Creeks having become hostile in that quarter, the Head Chiefs nearest to Georgia were pacific and assisted the United States to conquer the revolters to their power. The Cherokees also were engaged in the war on the part of the United States; and if, at the conclusion of the war, as the "Joint Committee" say, the United S. had the opportunity to prescribe terms to the Cherokees for the surrender of their lands, they would have been guilty of unnatural conduct to their allies and friends.
Complaint is made against the United States, by the Committee, for adding comforts to the Cherokees, and exercising policy calculated to promote their civilization which tends to confirm their attachment to the soil. The policy of adding comforts and promoting civilization originated with Washington's administration, and has been pursued by his successors to the present time. The United States were bound by treaty,* to furnish the Indians with the means of improving them from the condition of hunters to that of tradesmen and farmers, to which the Cherokees have successfully arrived.
(TO BE CONTINUED.)
*The Treaty to which we suppose our correspondent alludes is the Treaty of peace, and friendship entered into between the United States and the Cherokee Nation of Indians, at Holston, in the year 1798, four years previous to the date of the compact with Georgia.