THE CHEROKEE INDIANS
We call the attention of our readers to the elaborate and impartial statement of the relations between the United States and Cherokees appearing in this evening's paper. It is written with clearness and power, and although long, is well entitled to a careful perusal. The American people will now perceive how hardly the gallant tribes composing this nation, and whose friendly relations, with the Federal Government, have always been preserved, are about to be treated by the present Administrations; and how opposite its policy and sentiments are to all the administrations that have preceded it.
The letter of the Indian agent, in the Post of last evening, does not meet the question discussed in the preceding article. It merely repeats the principles advanced in the official letter of the Secretary of War, and does not glance at the express guarantee given by the United States to the Cherokees, of their lands forever. If we do not mistake, this subject will make a deep impression on the public mind in this country and in Europe. N.Y. American
For the N.Y. American
The relations now existing between the government of the United States and the Cherokee Nation, have been rendered well worthy of examination, by the late proceedings at Washington. The ordinary relations between our government and the aboriginal tribes within its boundaries are here modified by treaties, almost coeval with our existence as an independent power, and whose provisions are strongly marked with the enlightened and beneficent spirit, which we claim as peculiarly characteristic of the national policy of the United States towards the original inhabitants of the American continent.
The gradual recession of this extraordinary race of man from the advancing steps of civilization and the disappearance of tribe after tribe from the continent as it became occupied by the descendants of Europeans, leaving only their monuments and their names to indicate that they had been -- had begun to excite a melancholy interest in the public mind, even previous to the American Revolution. The humane felt that this process of destruction, which in some places (as in Cuba and Hispaniola) was caused by the Europeans, was everywhere a consequence of their contiguity; and a natural anxiety was evinced to preserve from extinction a race of men, who, to the vices of savages, united, in an eminent degree, all the noble and exalted qualities of the savage state. Among the English colonists this anxiety was decreased by the responsibility they assumed upon the Declaration of Independence. Previous to that event, a share of the responsibility had rested upon the British government. Upon the colonial government, indeed, had devolved the immediate administration of Indian affairs. In the early period of our history the occupation of their territory took place upon their responsibility; and never, since the earth was given to man, to replenish and cultivate, was a holier and more equitable title obtained to its soil.
In all the colonies, treaties were made with the aboriginal inhabitants, ' their consent obtained for the civilized occupation of the territory within certain limits. Their title, imperfect as it may be admitted it is, when extended over the uncultivated and boundless forest, was fairly purchased, and our ancestors came into possession unstained with the guilt of unauthorized and forcible conquest.- The right which civilized man has to the occupation of a portion of the wilderness, to the exclusion of the wandering savage, was in no instance solely relied on; and never was it asserted in the history of either colonial or independent British America, that the aboriginal had no title to the soil. This doctrine was confined to the Ovandos and Sepulvedac of Spain; and while the horrible cruelties, which grew out of the carrying this principle into practice in violation of the rights of the natives driven to resistance by all the feelings of insulted and outraged nature, have elevated these men to pre-eminence in the annals of crime, the moderation and equity, which characterized the conduct of our ancestors, have made us recur with pride to the names of Carver, Winthrop, Williams, Baltimore, and Penn, as men worthy of being the founders of a free nation. These enlightened patriots of humanity came to this continent to establish institutions for the preservation of civil and religious freedom, and they knew that their work could not be permanent if its foundations were laid in unjust and violent conquests, and demented with the blood of the native inhabitants.
More, however, was required of them than abstaining from injustice. As civilized men, and as Christians, they were bound to extend the benefits of their superior knowledge to the Indians. The preservation of the savage from extinction, and his advancement in the scale of creation, depended, in a great degree, upon the conduct of his civilized neighbors. This duty was rendered more imperative, by the unauthorized wrongs to which the aboriginal were subjected by individual rapacity, provoking, as they frequently did, contests, were, from the hard necessity of the case, the Indian, though not always the aggressor, was invariably the sufferer. Whilst the British government claimed the sovereignty over the country, an adequate excuse was perhaps offered for not adopting any general plan for the improvement and civilization of the aboriginal. Individual efforts were not wanting, and the names of Elliott and Brainerd alone are sufficient to rescue our ancestors from the charge of indifference on this important point.
Upon the assumption of independence, however, the whole responsibility, devolved upon those who founded the American Government. A wide field was opened for the exercise of all the noble and exhaulted qualities which distinguish those who administer the government for the benefit of society, from those who usurp it for themselves. By settling among the aboriginal and by elevating their country to the rank of an independent nation, our ancestors charged themselves with all the responsibilities, which grew out of the relations existing between educated and civilized Christians, and the ignorant and savage heathen who surrounded them.
A principle had, indeed, been adopted by all Christendom, which vested, so far as European consent could vest, the sovereignty of the country in the first European nations. This gave to the United States, upon the acquisition of their Independence, the sovereignty, within certain limits, as against any adverse European claimant. This was but a qualified sovereignty. It was a right of sovereignty as against foreign nations, and the government also assumed authority to prevent the American citizens from interfering with the territory in possession of the Indians, which, upon the extinguishment of the aboriginal title, it claimed as public property. It did not, however, claim the right to appropriate the soil, without the consent of the aboriginal inhabitants. The Indians were not subjected by any right of conquest; and the abominable doctrine of the ancient Papal Church, that the property and persons of the heathen were the lawful prey of Christians, had been long rejected, as one of the maxims of a barbarous age. The Indians were, therefore, to be treated as a separate and independent people, governed by their own customs and laws, and occupying their own territory. All interference with them, on the part of the whites, was regulated by treaty, ' whole territory was to be acquired only by compact. Such were the principles adopted by the government of the United States, at its formation, in regard to the aboriginal. They had been generally conformed to by the Colonial governments; but the national sanction then given to them, was of a more deliberate and solemn character. At the same time, they undertook the fulfilment of the duties growing out of the superior relations in which they stood. In the moment of impending peril, at the commencement of their desperate struggle with the mother country, when they knew that years of suffering and trial must be endured before the attainment of self-government, they forgot not their obligations towards the aboriginal; but deliberately adopted, as a part of their national policy, a plan to improve their condition. They exhorted them to stand aloof during the approaching conflict.
An Indian department was organized, to be administered by commissioners, and in the same year when the Declaration of Independence received the sanction of Congress, resolutions were also adopted providing for the protection and improvement of the Indians, and recommending measures for the propagation of the gospel, and the cultivation of the civil arts among them. As philanthropists and as patriots, watchful over the national character, they sought to rescue the aboriginal from extinction, ' to elevate him to the rank of civilized man. Whilst they were laying the foundations of the American republic, they were not regardless of the untutored savage within its limits. They intended, if possible, to raise him to an equality with themselves, and at all events, to show to the world, in case of his extinction, that they had no participation in hastening that unhappy result. With this view, provisions were made regulating the Indian trade, and a deliberate scheme of policy adopted for their gradual improvement and civilization. Treaties were made with the principal tribes, defining the boundaries between their territory and that belonging to the whites; and the United States agreed to furnish at their expense the principal tribes with domestic animals, implements of husbandry, blacksmiths, and in some instances, 'suitable persons to teach them to make fences, cultivate the earth, and such of the domestic arts as are adapted to their situation.' The object of these treaties cannot be misunderstood. It was an offer on the part of the national government to the aboriginal of civilization. It was a manifestation of one of the most glorious attributes of superior intelligence, and breathed the purest spirit of a religion, which proclaims peace on earth good will among men.
This offer was accepted on the part of the Indians. Amidst all the degradation which had attended their intercourse with the white, they had always manifested an earnest wish to preserve their race from extinction, and to pertake of the improvement of their civilized brethren.
Upon this footing matters stood at the commencement of the independent existence of the Republic. The whites claimed sovereignty over the whole territory, to the exclusion of foreign nations, but did not assume to exercise any of its rights over the Indians. The tribes were treated as distinct and independent; and the boundaries between the respective territories of two parties, were marked out by treaty. Congress, under the old Confederation, did not presume to extend its jurisdiction over the territory which the Indians had reserved to themselves; and it strenuously denied that the State Governments had any right to interfere with Indian affairs. The United States were also seeking to civilize the Indians, and to render them a stationary people, depending for subsistence on the cultivation of the soil. All this, however, was attempted by the moral influence of precept ' example.
It must be borne in mind, that, in establishing these relations, the white man was the lawgiver, and the Indian acceded to them, because he was made to believe that they would result to his benefit.
It was implied that they would ultimately eventuate in the establishment of the aboriginal, as a civilized community, within the territory secured to the tribes by treaty. On no other supposition can the national government escape from the imputation of holding out deceptive expectations to the Indians.
The good faith, hitherto manifested by the federal authorities, conclusively shows, that this was the result which was desired. The first section of the act making an annual appropriation for the civilizations of the adjoining tribes, affords a memorable proof of the sincerity of its intentions: 'For the purpose of providing against the further decline and final extinction of the Indian tribes adjoining the frontier settlements, and of introducing among them the habits and arts of civilized life, the President of the United States is authorized, when he shall judge improvement practicable, and that the means of instruction can be introduced with their own consent, to employ capable persons, of good moral character, to instruct them in the mode of agriculture, suited to their situation, and for teaching their children' 'c.
The talk of Mr. Madison to the Indians, in 1812, affords another proof of its sincerity; and, as the manifesto of the American government, we shall submit a part of the document to the public:
'I have a further advice of my Red children. You see how the country of the eighteen fires is filled with people. They increase like the corn they put into the ground. They all have good houses to shelter them from all weathers, good clothes suitable to all seasons; and as for food, of all sorts, you see they have enough and to spare. No man, woman, or child, of the eighteen fires, ever perished of hunger. Compare all this with the condition of the Red people. They are scattered here and there in handfulls. Their lodges are cold, leak, and smoky. They have hard fare, and often not enough of it.
'Why this mighty difference? The reason, my Red children, is plain. The white people breed cattle and sheep. They spin and weave. Their heads and their hands make all the elements and productions of nature useful to them.
'It is in your power to be like them. The ground that feeds one lodge by hunting, would feed a great band by the plough ' the hoe. The Great Spirit has given you, like your white brethren, good heads to contrive, and strong arms, and active bodies. Use them like your white brethren of the eighteen fires, and like them, your little sparks will grow into great fires. You will be well fed, dwell in good houses, and enjoy the happiness for which you, like them, were created. These are the words of your father to his red children. The Great Spirit who is the father of us all, approves them. Let them pass through the ear into the heart. Carry them home to your people; and as long as you remember this visit to your father of the eighteen fires, remember these are his last and best words to you!'
The beneficent policy which is here so simply, but beautifully recommended, has partially succeeded with many tribes. In the Cherokee Nation, however it has produced the most triumphant results -- results which established the practicability of civilizing the Indians. It has been the good fortune of the Cherokees to have had born among them some great men. Of these, Charles Hicks, lately a chief, stood pre-eminent. Under his guiding counsels, and aided by the policy of the national government, they have outstripped the other tribes in the march of improvement. They seek to be a people, and to maintain, by law and good government, the security of persons and the rights of property. That they have made great advances in civilization, is generally understood; but, in order to present an exact picture of their condition, the following account, extracted from a letter of David Brown, resident in the tribe, dated September 2d, 1826, and published among the official documents of the government, is here inserted:
'Horses are plenty, and are used for servile purposes among them. Numerous flocks of sheep, goats, and swine, cover the valleys and hills. The natives carry on considerable trade with the adjoining States, and some of them export cotton, in boats, to New-Orleans. Apple and peach orchards are quite common; and gardens are cultivated and much attention paid to them. Butter and cheese are seen on Cherokee tables. There are many public roads in the nation, and houses of entertainment kept by the natives. Numerous and flourishing villages are seen in every section of the country. Cotton and woolen cloths are manufactured here. Blankets of various dimensions, manufactured by Cherokee hands, are very common. Almost every family in the nation grows cotton for its own consumption. Industry and commercial enterprise are extending themselves in every part. Nearly all the merchants in the nation are native Cherokees. Agricultural pursuits engage the chief attention people. Different branches in mechanics are pursued. The population is rapidly increasing. In the year 1819, the Cherokees, east of the Mississippi, were estimated at 10,000 souls. In 1825, they amounted to 13,563 native citizens; besides 220 white, and 1,277 slaves.'
They have also established a Constitution whose provisions are better calculated, as it is expressed in preamble, to 'establish justice, ensure tranquility, promote the common welfare, and secure to ourselves and posterity the blessings of liberty,' than many of the more elaborate contrivances of their European brethren. The government is representative in its form, ' is divided into executive, legislative and judicial departments. The trial by jury is established; and the particular provisions of the Constitution, while they are calculated to accustom the Cherokees to the principles of our system of jurisprudence, and peculiarly well adapted to the anomalous condition in which the nation is placed. The whole is well suited to secure to the tribe the improvements already made, and to stimulate them to further advance in civilization.
[To be concluded in our next.]