Addressed to Benevolent Ladies of the United States
The present crisis in the affairs of the Indian Nations in the United States, demands the immediate and interested attention of all who make any claims to benevolence or humanity. The calamities now hanging over them, threaten not only these relics of an interesting race, but if there is a Being who avenges the wrongs of the oppressed, are causes of alarm to our whole country.
The following are the facts of the case. This continent was once possessed only by the Indians, and earliest accounts represent them as a race, numerous, warlike and powerful.--When our forefathers sought refuge from oppression on these shores, this people supplied their necessities, and ministered to their comfort; and though some of them, when they saw the white man continually encroaching upon their land, fought bravely for their existence and their country, yet often too, the Indian has shed his blood to protect and sustain our infant nation.
As we have risen in greatness and glory, the Indian nations have faded away. Their proud and powerful tribes are gone, their noble Sachems and mighty warriors are heard of no more and it is said the Indian often comes to the borders of his limited retreat, to gaze on the beautiful country no longer his own, and to cry with bitterness at the remembrance of past greatness and power.
Ever since the existence of this nation, our general government, pursuing the course, alike of policy and benevolence, have acknowledged these people, as free and independent nations, and has protected them in the quiet possession of their lands. In repeated treaties with the Indians, the United States, by the hands of the most distinguished statesmen, after purchasing the greater part of their best lands, have promised them 'to continue the guaranty of the remainder of their country FOREVER.' And so strictly has government guarded the Indian's right to his lands, that even to go on to their boundaries to survey the land, subjects to heavy fines and imprisonment.
Our government also, with parental care, has persuaded the Indians to forsake their savage life, and to adopt the habits and pursuits of civilized nations, while the charities of Christians, and the labors of missionaries have sent to them the blessings of the gospel to purify and enlighten. The laws and regular forms of a civilized government are instituted; their simple and beautiful language, by the remarkable ingenuity of one of their race, has become a written language with its own peculiar alphabet, and by the printing press, is sending forth among these people, the principles of knowledge, and liberty, and religion. Their fields are beginning to smile with the labors of the husbandman; their villages are busy with the toils of the mechanic and the artisan; schools are rising in their hamlets, and the temple of the living God is seen among their forests.
Nor are we to think of these people only as naked and wandering savages. The various grades of intellect and refinement exist among them as among us; and those who visit their chieftains, and families of the higher class, speak with wonder and admiration of their dignified propriety, nobleness of appearance, and refined characteristics as often exhibited in both sexes. Among them are men fitted by native talents, to shine among the statesmen of any land, and who have received no inferior degree of cultivation. Among them also, are those who by honest industry, have assembled around them most of the comforts, and many of the elegancies of life.
But the lands of this people are claimed to be embraced within the limits of some of our Southern States, and as they are fertile and valuable, they are demanded by the whites as their own possessions, and efforts are making to dispossess the Indians of their native soil. And such is the singular state of concurring circumstances, that it has become almost a certainty, that these people are to have their lands torn from them, and to be driven into western wilds and to final annihilation, unless the feelings of a humane and Christian nation shall be aroused to prevent the unhallowed sacrifice.
Unless our general government interfere to protect these nations, as by solemn and oft-repeated treaties they are bound to do, nothing can save them. The states which surround them are taking such measures as will speedily drive them from their country, and cause their final extinction.
By enactments recently passed in some of these states, it is decided that the laws of these states shall be extended over the Indian territory in the course of the next year, (1830). And the following specimen of their laws will show what will be the fate of the Indian when they take effect.
'Art. 8. All laws, usages and customs, made, established, and in force in the said territory, by the said Cherokee Indians, be, and are hereby, on and after the first day of June 1830, declared null and void.
'Art. 9. No Indian, or descendant of Indians, residing within the Creek or Cherokee Nations of Indians, shall be deemed a competent witness, or a party to any suit, in any court created by the constitution, or laws of this state, to which a white man may be a party.'
If these laws are permitted to take effect, the Indians are no longer independent nations, but are slaves, at the sovereign disposal of the whites, who will legislate for them. Their land will be divided up among those who are seeking it; their cattle may be driven off; their persons and their property abused; even their wives and children could be murdered before their eyes, and no Indian might approach a court of justice to testify of wrongs received. Should those who seek the Indian lands, be deterred from such open violence, other as ready and as effectual could be adopted. Should their lands be divided among the whites, the Indian cannot be surrounded by their settlements. He has a spirit of freedom and nobility, and cannot consent to be trod down, reviled and scorned. He would fly to the ends of the earth to avoid the humiliation and ruin. Or should some portion of this race remain, still bound to their native soil, intoxication is a scourge the white man has well learned to wield. Now, by the Indian laws, whiskey is seized and destroyed on their lands; but, then, when all their laws 'become null and void,' it would be brought to every man's door, and be presented to his lips.
Then feeble, dispirited, scorned and oppressed, what shadow of hope that this fiery temptation would not waste and destroy them, till desolation take its fill.
But it is said that our government has provided a refuge for them beyond the Mississippi, where they may retreat and be protected. But let the simple matter of fact be stated, and this seems but solemn mockery. The Indians have never been subject to any man. They consist of different free born, independent tribes. They are attached to their native soil, and have again and again refused to relinquish it. They know that they have a perfect natural right to it, and that the government of the United States by many treaties have solemnly promised to protect them in their lawful possession of it. They know they have rights as independent nations and distinct communities, and in this character can make the most forcible appeals both to the justice and the magnanimity of the United States.
But they are required to give up their national character and rights, and become wandering emigrants. A small tract of wild and uncultivated land has been apportioned to them principally beyond the Arkansas; a territory found by examination to be deficient both in wood and water, which are articles of indispensable necessity to emigrants and from whence the Indians who have been persuaded to depart, are returning with dissatisfied complaints. To this wild and unpromising resort, it is proposed to remove 60,000 people of all ages, sexes, and condition; to break up all their existing social, political and religious associations; to expose them to the hunger, nakedness, sickness and distress of a long and fatiguing journey, through unfrequented wilds; to crowd into this narrow space different tribes, speaking divers languages, and accustomed to different habits of life; and to place them under the government of white agents, to be appointed by government.-- Here, they are expected to take up their residence, with no other hope than that when they have made their lands valuable by cultivation, they again must be driven into still more distant wilds; for if our government cannot fulfil its treaties and protect them now, well they know it could not do it then. Is the thing possible, that these 60,000 Indians can thus be stripped of all they hold dear on earth, and in direct violation of oft repeated treaties, and yet quietly and unresistingly submit to such oppression and robbery? Does not the very statement show, that in effecting this wicked project, the 'voice of our brothers' blood' would cry unto God from this guilty land?
It appears then, that measures are fast ripening, which, if put in execution, are to exterminate the Indians. If they remain where they are, and the laws of the different states are permitted to be extended over them, and their lands divided among the whites, intoxication, quarrels, and unrestrained oppressions will soon change them to vagabonds and ensure their final extinction. Should they be driven to the west, a fate no less cruel awaits them there, where they lose even the last sad hope of reposing from their oppressions in the sepulchers of their fathers, and beneath their native soil.
But why should this deed of infamy and shame be perpetrated before the nations of the earth and in the face of high Heaven? are the people who claim the Indian's country in need of land? They have more than they can possibly occupy, for a hundred years to come. Has not our government power to prevent this deed? If our government has not power to fulfil its treaties, it would be a most humiliating fact thus to be exposed before the nations of the earth. But our President is empowered by the constitution to issue his proclamation forbidding any such encroachment as are threatened, and if this is disregarded, he has power by his sole authority, to command, the whole military force of our nation, to protect and sustain the Indian in his rights.
Can any difficulty or danger arise from allowing this small remnant of a singular and peculiar race to exist in the midst of us? Why should they not stand, the cherished relic of antiquity, protected and sustained in their rights, and becoming a free and christian people, under their own laws and government? Can the millions of our nation, fear any evil from their numbers or their power? Can anything be feared but that their helplessness should be made the prey of the avaricious and the unprincipled?
But they are beginning to be oppressed and threatened, and when they have looked for protection and help, it has been refused. already we begin to hear them lamenting, that they must leave their home, their country, the land of their fathers, and all that is dearest to them on earth. At a late Indian council, after having been told by the agent of our government, that they no longer could be protected, the head chieftain thus replies in the language of sorrow and reproach.
'We do not wish to sell our lands and remove. This land our Great Father above gave us. We stand on it. We stood on it before the white man came to the edge of the American land. We stand on it still. It belongs to us. It belongs to no one in any place but ourselves. Our land is no borrowed land. White men came and sat down here and there and everywhere around us. When they wished to buy land of us, we have had good councils together. The white man always said 'the land is yours-it is yours.' We have always been true friends of the American people. We have not spoiled the least thing belonging to an American. Although it has been thus, a very different talk is now sent us. We are told that the King of Mississippi is about to extend his laws over us. We are distressed. Our hands are not strong. We are a small people; we do not know much. The Kind of Mississippi has strong arms, many warriors, and much knowledge. He is about to lay his laws upon us; we are distressed.
'Colonel Ward, (the agent) knows we have just begun to build new houses and make new fields, and to purchase iron and set up blacksmiths shops with our annuity. We have some schools, we have begun to learn, and we have begun to embrace the gospel. We are like an infant so high, (here the chief bowed and extended his hand as low as his knee,) who has just begun to walk. So it is with us. We have just begun to rise and go.- And our great Father who sits in the white house says to us- Unless you go yonder (pointing to the west) the white man will extend his laws over you. We do not say his words are lies.- we believe they are true. We respect them as sacred. But we are distressed. Oh that our great Father would love us! Oh that the King of Mississippi would love us!'
It cannot but seem a matter of grief and astonishment, that such facts exist in this country; in a nation blessed with wealth, and power, and laws, and religion; and whose possessions reach from ocean to ocean. But humiliating as is the reflection, the Indian must perish unless their destruction can be averted by a most decided and energetic expression of the wishes and feelings of a christian nation addressed to the Congress now assembling and which is soon to decide their doom.
Have not then the females of this country some duties devolving upon them in relation to this helpless race? They are protected from the blinding influence of party spirit, and the aspirates of political violence. They have nothing to do with any struggle for power nor any right to dictate the decisions of those that rule over them. But they may feel for the distressed, they may stretch out the supplicating hand for them, and by their prayers strive to avert the calamities that are impending over them. It may be, that female petitioners can lawfully be heard, even by the highest rulers of our land. Why may we not approach and supplicate that we and our dearest friends may be saved from the awful curses denounced on all who oppress the poor and needy, by Him, whose anger is to be dreaded more than the wrath of man; 'who can blast us with the breath of his nostrils,' and scatter our hopes like chaff before the storm. It may be, this will be forbidden; yet still we remember the Jewish princess, who being sent to supplicate for a nation's life, was thus reproved for hesitating even when death stared her in the way.- 'If thou altogether hold thy peace at this time, then shall deliverance arise from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed;' and who knoweth whether thou are come to the kingdom for such a cause as this?
To woman, it is given to administer the sweet charities of life, and to sway the empire of affection; and to her it may also be said, 'who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a cause as this?'
In the days of chivalry, at the female voice, thousands of lances would have been laid in rest to protect the helpless and oppressed. But these are days of literature, refinement, charity, and religion; and may we not appeal to nobler champions, than chivalry could boast? Will the liberal and refined, those who are delighted with the charms of eloquence and poetry; those who love the legends of romance and the records of antiquity; those who celebrate and admire the stern virtues of Roman warriors and patriots; will these permit such a race to be swept from the earth?- a nation who have emerged from the deepest shades of antiquity; whose story, and whose wild and interesting traits are becoming the theme of the poet and novelist; who command a native eloquence unequaled for pathos and sublimity; whose stern fortitude and unbending courage, exceed the Roman renown? Will the naturalist, who laments the extinction of the mammoth race of the forest, allow this singular and interesting species of the human race to cease from the earth? Will those who boast of liberty, and feel their breasts throb at the name of freedom and their country, will they permit the free and noble Indian to be driven from his native land, or to crouch and perish under the scourge of oppression? And those whose hearts thrill at the magic sound of home, and turn with delightful remembrance to the woods and valleys of their childhood and youth, will they allow this helpless race to be forced for ever from such blessed scenes, and to look back upon them with hopeless regret and despair? You who gather the youthful group around your fireside and rejoice in their future hopes and joys, will you forget that the poor Indian loves his children too, and would as bitterly mourn over all their blasted hopes? And, while surrounded by such treasured blessings, ponder with dread and awe these fearful words of Him, who thus forbids the violence, and records the malediction of those who either as individuals, or as nations shall oppress the needy and helpless.
'Thou shalt not vex the stranger nor oppress him, for ye were strangers in the land. If thou afflict them, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; and my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.'
P. S. Should the facts alluded to in the preceding be doubted, they can be fully substantiated by consulting the communications signed 'William Penn,' and the statements made and signed by many of the most distinguished philanthropists of our country, which are to be found in the recent numbers of our public prints.
This communication was written and sent abroad solely by the female hand. Let every woman who peruses it, exert that influence in society, which falls within her lawful province and endeavor by every suitable expedient to interest the feelings of her friends, relatives and acquaintances, in behalf of this people, that are ready to perish. A few weeks must decide this interesting and important question, and after that time, sympathy and regret will all be in vain.