Cherokee Phoenix

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Published January, 15, 1831

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From the Journal of Humanity

The President's Message excludes a variety of Temperance articles, and would have excluded news, had there been any. The favors of some correspondents are also necessarily deferred. The length of the Message render some abridgement necessary: but we have endeavored to retain so much as to give a fair and adequate statement of the President's views on the more important topics. For the convenience of reference we have placed the different parts of it under appropriate heads. The number of prominent disputed points of national policy introduced renders it a document of uncommon importance and interest.

We need not say that on one subject of vital interest the President expresses views which we regard as altogether false, and the appearance of which in a document of this kind is especially to be deplored. It is worthy of remark, that in the whole course of his observations on Indian affairs, the topic of the obligation of treaties is carefully avoided. Indeed, those who advocate the policy of the Administration towards the Indians, do not pretend that it can be pursued without violating Indian Treaties. The reader will mark what we say. It is conceded by our opponents that the claims of Georgia, and Alabama, and Mississippi, to jurisdiction over the Indians within their conventional limits, (which claims the Administration asserts to be valid) involve a violation of treaties with those Indians.

We have neither leisure nor inclination just now to follow the course of the President's remarks, (which seem to us to be full of errors): we only observe that he has not any where touched the real point at issue. On that point we will say a few words.

The Constitution of the United States declares treaties to be part of the supreme law of the land. From the nature of a treaty, neither party to it can disregard any of its provisions without forfeiting its good faith. Now, is what we call a treaty with the Indians, really such, according to the meaning of the term in the constitution, and the diplomatic intercourse of nations? We answer, yes; and for the following reasons.

1. Because from its title; it purports to be such. The world treaty is used without any explanation or limitation, and is therefore to be understood in its ordinary sense.

2. Because it has the form of a treaty -- the same form, essentially, as treaties with Great Britain, France, etc.

3. Because it is negotiated like a treaty,--in due form, and by the highest functionaries of the governments concerned, or their authorized agents.

4. Because it is ratified like a treaty.

5. Because, if it is a compact unknown to our constitution and laws. The Constitution does not give the President power, 'by and with the advice and consent of the Senate', to make any other compacts than treaties. If therefore our compacts with the Indians be not treaties, our Presidents and Senates, from Washington downward, have all been habitually and systematically violating the Constitution. Credat Judaus!

6. Because it is called a treaty, without any explanation of the term, wherever it is mentioned in our public documents and records. These documents furnish no evidence that the word has been used in one sense in reference to a compact with France, and in another and entirely different sense, when a similar compact with the Cherokees is mentioned.

7. Because, from all these and other circumstances, and from the absence of all evidence to the contrary, it is clear that both parties have from the first and uniformly understood it to be a treaty, in the proper and well known sense of the term.

But were all this of no weight, yet if the compact under consideration has been legally made and sanctioned, it would be strange logic to conclude, because it is not a treaty, that we are therefore not bound it! Suppose I were to refuse to pay a note of hand, on the plea that it is not a bond?

So long, then, as the Indians insist on our abiding by these compacts, we must do so, or forfeit our good faith. It is a naked question of right.