Note: This edition of the Phoenix is printed in four columns only.
From the American Spectator
ELOQUENT, IMPRESSIVE, AND JUST.
The Society for commemorating the landing of WILLIAM PENN, celebrated the 148th Anniversary of that memorable event on the 25th ult. in great splendor, in Philadelphia. Among the many excellent speeches delivered on the occasion, was the one which we extract on the condition of the Aborigines of this country. Mr. BERRIEN, United States' Attorney, having been invited to attend the Anniversary, sent with an apology for his absence, the following as a toast for the occasion:
'The Freeman of Pennsylvania-successors of William Penn, and legitimate Lords Proprietary of his woodland domain. Before the advance of civilization, the red man of the forest has retired from the graves of his ancestors. Is it the dictate of humanity to deplore the result?'
Mr. INGERSOLL having read the above, eloquently observed-
'If this inquiry be directed to the condition of Pennsylvania alone, it is susceptible of a ready answer. But if it seek, in the conduct and example of William Penn, a sanction for proceedings which are contemplated elsewhere, we who are here present are obliged to demur to the analogy. Taking up the question hypothetically in the latter sense, and apologizing to the distinguished gentleman who has proposed it, if I have mistaken his meaning, I propose to give it a moment's consideration, it is now for the first time distinctly put to Pennsylvania, by a representative of those who are pursuing a course of policy, of which the justice and humanity are open to scrutiny before the tribunal of the civilized world. It is natural that, in collecting opinions upon a delicate question, they should turn, not without solicitude, to the descendants of William Penn. He felt, like his great prototype Columbus, and unlike Columbus, he transmitted to his posterity a deep and devoted interest in the concerns of the original inhabitants of the country, of which the one was the intrepid discoverer, and the other a humane and wise lawgiver. The 'woodland domain' has been fairly and lawfully acquired by them. But they are called on, in effect, now to say, whether it is not humane to compel the scattered remnants of the children of the forest to quit the graves of their ancestors, and follow the course of the setting sun- they know not whither-but far beyond where he seems, from their present abodes, to sink into the bosom of the distant waters!
If by humanity, be meant a policy disavowed by justice, it must be received with hesitation, however, palatable may be its exercise, or profitable its results. While humanity continues to act under the guidance of steady and uniform principles, it will be, in all probability, faultless in its impulses. But, the humanity which turns aside from justice, must be uncertain in its origin, and capricious in its movements, and must vary in its direction, as well as force, exactly as interest leads, or passion drives. If the measure proposed be sanctioned by no usage, founded in no right, opposed by treaties, and at war with will understood and long established principles, it must be not merely a questionable, but a perverted humanity, that can thus suggest a violation of laws, human and divine.
'The idea is, in effect, to take their lands from the Indians, without paying them. Not indirect and avowed terms, but to withdraw the protection of the General Government, pledged by solemn treaties and leave them to the mercy of the States, who may choose to become the possessors of them, by fair means or foul. This is rank injustice, and it would be admitted everywhere to be so, did it stand alone! The necessity of a purchase has now been too long and too invariably recognized and acted on to admit a doubt. It was perhaps first introduced as a part of the wise and honest policy of William Penn. It has been always adopted since, by royal proclamation, by legislative decrees, by executive orders and instructions, and by the unwearying conduct of every State that has had occasion to succeed to the occupancy of the Indians. It is as firmly rooted as the foundation of their native hills.
'But the humanity which is supposed to cover the proceeding, consists in the offer of a supposed equivalent, in extensive hunting grounds beyond the Western Mountains. This unjust humanity,however, this humane injustice, declines to make parties to the exchange those who are mainly interested in it. It contemplates a novel kind of contract, which is voluntary upon the one side, and involuntary upon the other. 'The whole tide of national feeling,' we are assured, 'sets, in one strong and unbroken current, against a removal.' They are opposed to it from the bottom of their hearts. They cling to their habitations with a firmness proportioned to the strength of their convictions of the clearness of their existing rights, and the enormity of their threatened wrongs.
'If neither justice nor consent sustains the plea of humanity, perhaps there may be kindness in the manner of effecting the removal, which softens the severity of the thing itself. Turn to the statute book, and you will see the tender mercies for which they are indebted. Arguments of persuasion are there inscribed with an iron and relentless hand. Their laws, and ordinances are declared null and void. They are not permitted to testify against the whites, and are therefore condemned to be the victims of the most atrocious crimes. Even those who venture to counsel or advise them for their good, are branded with infamy, and loaded with chains. A whole nation is outlawed. Cut off thus from mutual protection, and fellowship with others, the door opened wide to admit every species of assailants, through their prejudices or their crimes, the finger of scorn pointed at their dwellings, the consolations of friendship denied access to their bosoms, their worst passions fomented: and the last best relief of suffering man, the bright beams of hope, extinguished--the injustice of the measure is exceeded by the cruelty which accompanies its infliction.
'Compare this course of treatment with that adopted by William Penn, when Indian wrongs were measured by no other standard; and Indian rights redressed by no other appeal, than, that provided for the white man--when no invitations were given to 'win upon them in the line of their own prejudices,' to their own destruction--when none were permitted to minister to their evil propensities, which, they share with the rest of mankind:---but penalties were inflicted for leading them into temptation, and they received especial and paternal protection from the wiles of their more sagacious neighbors.
'We are still at fault in our searches to detect the lurking humanity of the contemplated proceedings.
'But perhaps, the end--though in violation of justice, treaties, and established laws--in opposition to the wishes of one of the parties--in manner cruel as in principle without excuse--perhaps the end will vindicate the motive, and sanctify the means. Is a separation from the white man a measure of humanity towards the Indians? Who created the contact and who rendered it disastrous?--- Did the Indian leave his forests to seek the white man, or did the white man cross the waters and penetrate the wilds, to force himself upon the happy retreats of the Indians? Has the contamination of the savage infected, with barbarous habits, the sons of Europe? Or has the evil communication of European manners corrupted the simplicity, without enlightening the ignorance of the savage? If authentic history be not all a fable, they were, for the most part, a guileless, generous, confiding, people; given, fatally given, as it seems to hospitality--amiable and grateful in the extreme--firm in their friendships, and not inexorable in their hate. They seem to have been providentially blessed with many of the gospel virtues, without having been visited by the glad tidings of its name. If these virtues have indeed been exchanged for opposite qualities, it is because of an association which the natives neither desired nor sought. Feeble, then, is the pretext for their removal, founded in the suppose corruption occasioned by those who insist upon a separation.
'But possible they will be happier elsewhere. Their fancied heaven is perhaps beyond the hills, or on the borders of the distant waters. There their boundless desires may expand without restraint. There they may roam at pleasure over interminable plains, unmolested by the vicinity of the white man. Will it really conduce to present or future happiness to be withdrawn from the light of civilization and a knowledge of the living God? To be restored to primeval habits, with an exposure to all the imputed horrors of savage life? If, as Christians, we could believe it; if, as citizens of a happy country, living under the benign influence of mild and equal laws, we could admit the moral propriety of the course proposed, still there are natural difficulties which are absolutely insuperable. You must teach them to forget the lessons of civilization which you have taught them. You must give back their comparative purity, with their absolute ignorance. You must re-invigorate the sinews which you have deprived of strength, and replace the courage and activity that would pursue and delight in the gigantic pastimes of the wilderness.
'Suppose them however, removed, and happy: engaged like their ancestors in the occupations, and breathing like them the atmosphere of a state of nature: stripped of the garb with which civilization had clothed them, and yet happily blind to the consciousness of their own nakedness, what security is there against the farther encroachments of the white man?- Wherever temptation leads, cupidity will follow: and as casuists have discovered a new species of humanity in the removal beyond the mountains, future casuists will find a newer still in a removal beyond the waters.
'Besides, these are no longer savages. The propensities for the life designed for them, have vanished with their capacity to enjoy it. They have, if official reports be credited, every thing which can distinguish them as civilized men. They have schools, and churches, and printing presses; government and laws. They are herdsmen, agriculturists, mechanics, 'c. They have attained the last glorious test which marks the broad line between civilized and savage life--respect for the female character, tenderness for the female person, and a proper separation of their pursuits. They are not, as Lord Chatham once expressed it, 'the cannibal savage thirsting for blood, torturing murdering; devouring, drinking the blood of his mangled victims.' It will be remembered that the burst of eloquence to which I have alluded was uttered in reply to a similar plea in the name of humanity. Every succeeding President has proclaimed their improvement in the arts of civilized life. Ancient customs have been abolished. We are distinctly informed, 'that it may be doubted whether any considerable portions of the civilized world present specimens of equal improvement' in the same space of time.'* The question is whether these men, 'our brethren by every tie that can sanctify human nature,' shall be deprived of what they have, and driven by force or fraud--as some of their ancestors were by the blood hounds of the Spaniards--among unknown regions, not to seek their original habits, for we have deprived them of their practical hardihood, and dexterity, but to suffer, and languish, and die, and have their race and name exterminated and forgotten. Their clergy has been well expressed in a recent production of a Northern poet:--
The doom's Indian leaves behind no trace
To save his own or serve another race:
Nor lofty pile, nor glowing page,
Shall link him to a future age.
His heraldry is but a broken bow,
His history-but a tale of wrongs and wo (sic).'
'I will ask leave to conclude, with requesting you to receive as a toast,
'The learned, eloquent and accomplished Attorney General of the United States.'
*Rev. Mr. Kingsbury's letter to Col. M'Kenny, 8th February, 1830, as to the Choctaws.