From the New York Observer
Washington, April 19, 1830
Dear Sir- To the information contained in my last, I have little to add this week except that Mr. Frelinghuysen was succeeded on the Indian question by Mr. M'Kinley, of Alabama, who took the opposite side of the question with considerable appearance of argument, but whose inferiority to his predecessor in debate was palpable to all. He possesses, however, a quality always commendatory-the appearance of sincerity.- A voice of unwonted harshness or rather hoarseness impairs his elocution. He served to prepare the way for Mr. Forsyth, who debates well even on the wrong side. He has an air of much courtesy, dresses with peculiar neatness, and between his head, which is quite grey, and the rest of his person, which is more youthful, there seems a struggle for the mastery. In this debate he exhibited much coolness of manner, and a kind of confidence of success which probably arose from his knowledge of the views of the President and a majority of the Senate. I was sorry to hear him call the Indians repeatedly, 'these poor devils'. it was language unbecoming a dignified Senator, and orator of pure speech, or a man of delicacy. He affected much contempt of them, and their laws. Among all the subjects of ridicule, however, which he sought he could find only two old and state laws of the Cherokees, which he introduced to discredit their ability in making laws. These he introduced for the sake of deriding what had been called their civilization. Mr. Sprague happily answered him by summarily declaring that the gentleman had himself brought forward the most cogent argument to prove their civilization when he introduced to the Senate of the United States two printed volumes of their laws.
Nothing could exceed the argument of Mr. Sprague for clearness, connectedness, and conclusiveness. As a Senator remarked to me, it was like a chain of mathematical evidence.- The general features of this gentleman's countenance resemble those of Mr. Webster, though they are less prominent and striking. He has (probably insensibly) caught something of his manner. Nor is he so very far from him in logical acumen, but he is rather too slow in the impassioned parts of his delivery; thus detracting from the power which would otherwise accompany the effusion of his animated thoughts. He had truth and justice on his side, and well did he vindicate their honor. If I mistake not, no speech on this question in either House will appear better in print to the meditative mind of one sitting down to be instructed. The keen bright eye of Sprague is no deceitful image of his mind. He must rise high and have influence. Though not, I believe, professedly a religious man, he is strictly moral, and perhaps, may be called 'almost a Christian.' I was pleased with his very reverent allusions to the Supreme Being, so different from the reckless manner of most Southern and Western speakers, who use the name of God, as a Roman would the name of Jupiter. Mr. S. had the advantage of Mr. Frelinghuysen in his-may I term it- strong ordo-the masterly arrangement of his arguments, presenting every consecutive part and the crowning whole in a manner that could not be mended.
Mr. Webster was seen to take notes during a part of Mr. Forsyth's speech, but a severe cold has occasioned his frequent absence since the commencement of the debate. Perhaps he will sum up.
'William Penn' is seen sitting among the spectators, taking notes of the speeches.
An attempt has been made to bring forward the question in the House, but without success.
The funeral of Alexander Smyth, late of Virginia, was attended to-day. His body reposes among the distinguished dead, (alas! no more distinguished,) where Gerry, Pinkney, Howell, Gaillard, and others lie, to await the summons of the Great Archangel.
From the American Spectator
The Indian Question-Mr. Sprague.
Washington, April 20, 1830
MY ESTEEMED FRIEND: Pursuant to your request, I will now commence our correspondence. Without apologies or promises that my letter will be filled with erudite or interesting subjects, discussed in a sage-like manner, I will write to you on matters and things in general, on whatever is transpiring in our great Capitol, or indeed, on any thing under the sun that interests me.
To your inquiries I would reply, the subject which at present is occupying our Senate, is the Indian Question.- This mode of expression you may not understand. Situated as you are in a retired village, and unacquainted with the intricate arts of hypocrisy and double dealing, you may think it strange for one to call the appeal of the Cherokees a question. You would rather say a hint to remind the legislators of the United States that the Cherokees will now avail themselves of their plighted promises. But, incredible as it is, the assembled wisdom of our nation are gravely deliberating on the question, Shall we fulfil what we have sworn to perform? Shall we prove ourselves honest men, or the veriest departers (sic) from truth that ever inhabited our planet?
I had the pleasure on Saturday of hearing Mr. Sprague, of Maine, take a part in this present debate. He had indeed the aids of humanity, justice, and religion, to support his arguments; but never was a cause more eloquently advocated. Mr. Sprague is indisputably an orator in the best sense os the term. He is a man of mild temperament. Calm and deliberate in his ordinary method of speaking, I did not think he could be so roused as he was on Saturday. But when I perceived his eye lit up with a new fire; his actions almost vehement; his voice expressive of the deepest feeling, the conviction was irresistable (sic). I said, it is the influence of a holy cause upon a high and noble mind, that has produced this energy. In every appearance before the public, Mr. Sprague has been characterized by eloquence and good taste. On Saturday, however, he seemed to excel even himself. His reasoning was most logical and conclusive. He took up the arguments of his opponents, one by one; and in a gentle, manly manner showed them to be mere 'trifles light as air.'- Throughout his whole speech there could be found no weak places, or a single point, which is a fair controversy would have been objectionable.- Mr. Sprague has many resources, and he brought them all to bear on this subject. Experience, observation, modern history, ancient lore, Biblical record, all contributed to strengthen ' illustrate the sentiments he was expressing. Some portions of his speech were specimens of the keenest satire. There was no coarseness; he wounded his adversary most deeply, but it was with a polished weapon; not as an assailant, or in a revengeful spirit, but simply as a necessary self-defence.- The natural right and legal claim of the Indians to their own land, were made perfectly clear to every candid mind. After he had brought forward the usages, the laws, the best feelings of mankind, in favor of the Indian cause, Mr. S. finally made the most successful appeal to the sanctions of religion. He carried the cruel persecutors of this unfortunate people to a higher tribunal; he reminded them of that day of reckoning, of whose realities they must take a part, and that just Judge, with whom cruelty and injustice will meet their due and awful reward. Thus did Mr. Sprague prove himself the eloquent defender of the oppressed Indians. How this debate will terminate I know not. I have been told that there is not enough of righteousness in our land to protect the injured- that the oppressor will triumph. O, my country! can it be- must thou be thus disgraced? Shall thy peaceful borders be disturbed with the tear of anguish, the cries of distress, calling for aid, and there be found none to succor? Unworthy of thee as are too many of thy sons, still whilst thou has a Sprague and a Frelinghuysen to lift up their voices in behalf of justice and humanity, thou shalt not be without honor; iniquity and oppression shall not go on with impunity, and undisturbed in their desolating career.
Adieu- Yours, 'c.
R. T. Y.