and Indians' Advocate
Wednesday, February 24, 1830
Vol. II, no. 45
Page 1, col. 1b-3a
Col. Trumbull.- We copy the following letter from this gentleman, not only as a measure of justice to him, but also on account of the information it contains, which will be new to most of our readers, and interesting to all of them. It will be seen that Col. Trumbull is not a "mere painter," but that he has served, and with distinguished honor too, in the field, during the Revolutionary War, and in the councils of our country since that period. Our respect for his services should not be lessened because they were rendered during the most trying period of our history; not should his high reputation as an artist deprive him of any of his rights as a citizen, or subject to him to the sneers of our rulers if he exercises those rights.-National Journal.
From the New York American.
New York, 20th Jan. 1830.
To the Editor of the American:- May I beg the favor of you to publish in your paper the following copy of a letter which I have thought it my duty to address to the Honorable Mr. Wilde in Congress, the original of which I sent to him by the mail two days ago; and which I now wish to make public in consequence of the publicity of his attack.
After having devoted ten of the best years of my life, in very early youth and in middle age, to the active service of my country; and having employed the intervals of military and political occupations in acquiring an elegant art, for the very purpose of preserving through its means the memory of the great events and illustrious men of the Revolution, I did hope to enjoy some repose during the fragment of a life which can remain to a man who has passed its ordinary limits. It appears cruel towards me, and disgraceful to themselves, that so many men in Congress should have continued to teaze [sic] me with a repetition of paltry personal squibs. They may rest assured that however painful the task may be, yet, so long as my intellect and my hand are spared, I shall never fail to return an answer.
New York, January 16th, 1830
Honorable Mr. Wilde in Congress:
Sir:- In the newspapers of the day I observe a sketch of the debate which took place in the House of Representatives on the 11th instant, on the subject of the memorial from this city, relating to the Cherokee Indians, and which was signed by me as Chairman of the meeting. I am very much obliged to you for the favorable terms in which you spoke of me as an artist; but when you recommend to "the painter to stick to his pallete [sic]," you perhaps were not aware that I had not been always not merely, a Painter.
You might not know that in August, 1775, I was appointed an Aid-de-Camp to General Washington, and I am the oldest of the few survivors who had that honor.
You might not know that in July, 1776, I was appointed Adjutant General of the Northern Department with the rank of Colonel, under the command of General Gates: and that, of course I am now one of the oldest surviving Colonels of the Revolutionary Army.
You might not know that in 1794, I attended Mr. Jay as his Secretary, in his very important though unpopular, embassy to England.
And probably you do not know the triumphant result of the 7th article of the Treaty then negotiated by him, relating to the subject of "irregular or illegal captures."
The papers relating to the subject were deposited by the American Commissioners in the Department of State in 1804. It did not suit the policy of the Government at that time, to give publicity to a result which was so favorable to the commercial part of the nation, and so honorable to Mr. Jay; and as those papers perished when Washington was burnt, it is probable that you are not accurately acquainted with the facts: I beg leave to state them to you.
The Commission to which was referred the subject "of irregular of illegal captures," was composed of five members. Mr. Gore and Mr. Pinkney on the part of the United States, Dr. Nichols and Dr. Swaby (two of her most eminent civilians) on the part of Great Britain; and I was the fifth Commissioner representing both nations. This Commission was clothed with authority paramount to all Courts of Prize of both nations; it was very natural for the two Commissioners of each party to think their own Government generally right; and such was the fact on all important questions-of course all such questions remained to be decided, and were decided by the fifth Commissioner.
In very many cases, the decisions of the courts of both nations were overruled by us, and reversed; and the Government of Great Britain actually and faithfully paid under our awards, to citizens of the United States, more than ten millions of dollars.
It is not to be supposed that I hazarded such a course in such society
during seven years in the city of London, and supported my decisions by written
opinions without having devoted some time to the study of the law of nations.
If you had known these facts, perhaps you would not have thought it so extraordinary that "the Painter" should now risk an opinion on a question which he regards as one strictly of international law.
I reason thus:- By the Constitution of the United States, treaties are the supreme law of the land; obligatory not merely on all individuals, but on all States which compose the nation.
The power of making treaties is vested exclusively in the President and Senate.
Many treaties have been made between the Presidents and Senates in the United States and the Cherokee Nation.
A treaty can be annulled only by the consent of both contracting parties, or by the violent and lawless conduct of one.
The Cherokee Nation, one of the parties in this case, far from giving their consent to a dissolution of existing treaties, earnestly insist upon their fulfillment.
Therefore, the present attempt to set aside these treaties, by an act of the Government of the United States, or their supineness or, connivance, does appear to me to be a direct and most unfair appeal to the law of the strongest!- a principle which I am very reluctant to see acted upon by the Government of my country, in this or any case.
Thus thinking, and presuming that I am a free citizen of a free country, I cannot be persuaded that I have acted improperly in expressing my opinion on this important subject, to the representatives of the Nation: and I presume that every gentleman who took part in the memorial in question, will most cordially subscribe to these opinions.
Permit me to add, for the information of Mr. Thompson, and whomsoever, that the meeting, of which I had the high honor to act as Chairman, was not held in a grog-shop, but in the most spacious hall in this city, which was literally filled by the most respectable of its inhabitants.
I am &c. &c.