SUFFERINGS OF THE CREEKS.
Copy of a letter to Mr. John Ridge, from a gentleman in Troup County, Georgia, dated May 25th 1831.
Sir:- I received yours dated Washington City 18 March. I called a meeting of the Creeks and had it interpreted to them, and then gave them my opinion in relation to the decision.
At the meeting of all the Nation; on the return of the two deputations, they addressed a letter to the President, giving strong reasons why they did not wish to remove, also begging for an answer to their several inquiries in relation to the whites moving into their country, and the payment of the annuity. They also represented the several murders that have taken place on the frontier of the red people by the Georgians.--In the course of the three last months there have been twenty Indians killed on the frontier of Georgia by the whites! They hunt them and shoot them as if they were so many wild hogs!!
The Creek Chief who was sued in Shelba County for stopping the road cutters was fined in a Judgement of one thousand dollars, as I have just understood. They promised to give me notice of the Court, but failed-therefore I was not present at the trial.
The other day I received a letter from Opoth-yo-ho-lo, Tuckabattchee Micco and James Boy, stating the fact of the Judgment and inquiring if I could do anything for them. I shall employ some Attorney and make an attempt to remove the case.
General Coffee has paid the Creeks another visit, but as yet, I have not particularly understood his business, but it is believed his object is to ascertain how many wish to emigrate. He is now among the upper towns.
14th June, 1831
Sir,- The state of Georgia as a Government, I presume, would not issue orders to murder these Indians, but the cruel policy of Gen. Jackson and of that state, has a powerful influence on the wicked and profligate, to exercise their inhuman ferocity on the now defenseless Cherokees and Creeks. Who are now the savage people? Who heathen? and who are the pagans? Can the world, I mean the honest portion of it, denominate these nations by such epithets, while our people are unresistantly suffering in their trials?
I have often wondered at the iron nerves of these states who attempt to eject the Indians by force of circumstances from the lands of their fathers. No pity or shame seem to dwell in their minds but go on with the accomplishment of their designs as if we were Wolves or Tigers or the Boa Constrictor. I know the Chiefs of this nation, their feelings and the feelings of the people. They look, if they do look in vain, to the people of the United States to see their sufferings, and heal their wounds by enforcing the laws and treaties in their behalf. If they read the opinion of the Supreme Court and respect it, the will compel their servants, the President and Congress to grant us justice. If not the act of robbery must transpire, for Gen. Jackson shall never say he has effected a treaty from the Cherokee Nation by his policy.
Our readers, perhaps, will be startled at the information of murders contained in the foregoing letter. Can it be possible that the poor Creeks are reduced to such sufferings, and can civilized people be guilty of such barbarous acts? We wish for the honor of humanity we could say, no. But we are compelled to admit what otherwise we are loath to believe. The author of the letter, whose name is in our possession, we understand is a highly respectable ' intelligent gentleman, residing in the neighborhood of where these transactions have taken place. He must be supposed to know what is going on near him; ' as his letter is a private one, not written for the purpose of publication, he could have no object in stating things which had no foundation. Besides, the fact of the Chiefs complaining on the subject to the President of the United States shows that there have been murders, or at least the Creeks believed and were confident that there were murders committed on some of their countrymen by the whites. This is not all, however, which has convinced
us. About a month since we were informed of these same savage acts, but as our information was not sufficiently authenticated we have heretofore said nothing about it. But we can no longer refrain-we must do our duty and expose the blackest feature in the oppression of the Indians.
The reader, will naturally inquire, 'what can be the object of the whites in thus treating the Indians?' We will state what we suppose to be the object. From all accounts that we can hear, the Creeks are in a wretched condition owing to the scarcity of provisions among them. In addition to the drought which ruined their crops the last summer, the Government by its faithless conduct towards them, cut short their means of subsistence. Every person who has paid any attention to the progress of Indian affairs is well acquainted with the circumstances. Under the inducements held out by the United States to those who would emigrate to the West of the Mississippi, a large portion of the Creeks agreed to remove and made preparations accordingly. Expecting to be supported agreeably to the provision of the Indian Bill they neglected to plant their corn. After the time of planting had passed away, and when these poor Creeks were prepared to go to the west of the Mississippi, a communication from their great father arrived, informing them that no portion of the Creek Nation could be removed at the expense of the Government unless the whole tribe agreed to go. The is what we call faithless conduct of the Government, and this is the origin of the present distresses of the Creeks. It is to be traced to the fountainhead.
Such being the wretched condition of these people, their means of subsistence cut off, partly by the Executive of the United States, pursued by famine, it is presumable that some individuals among them as among all other people, have been guilty of taking property belonging to the white people. For this they are pursued with vengeance by those who have extended their civilized and Christian laws over them-laws which do not allow punishment, as Mr. Eaton say, [See below] until the criminal is convicted in a court of justice. We suppose then, the object of the whites in killing the Indians, in the manner stated, must be to take satisfaction for property stolen. That this is the case we have reason to believe from the following information communicated to us sometime since by an intelligent gentleman:
A white man residing on the frontier of the Creek Nation, while riding through the woods found a small company of Indians barbecuing one of his cattle. He returned to his house and collected a few of his neighbors, who, with their guns, went and charged upon the Indians. They shot two or three and dispersed the rest!
Now what will the civilized world say to these acts? What will the honest and humane part of Georgia say to the acts of their citizens? Where are the benefits to be derived from the extension of civilized laws over the Indians? and where is that justice which is to be meted out equally to the white and red man? Every good man, and indeed every man who has any regard for the honor of his country must be astonished and weep in view of these events. It cannot be disguised-they are all the effects of the policy pursued towards the Indians. The Government has withdrawn the protection promised in treaties, which has heretofore been the stay and support of the Indians, and the states have passed laws which indirectly sanction all the evils which are now taking place.- By these laws Indian testimony is not allowed, and therefore, as has already been the case, the red man may be shot down with impunity.
It would appear from the foregoing letter that the President is about to take advantage of the condition of the Creeks. After refusing to remove a portion of them who had made preparation for that purpose, he has sent an agent to ascertain how many will now agree to go. It is hoped, perhaps, that about this time the entire people have become so wretched that they can easily be induced to emigrate.
For all the sufferings the Creeks are now enduring the only consolation which they have from their great father is contained in the letter of the Secretary of War which we publish below.- It is a wretched consolation.
25th June 1831.
SIR- The enclosed was brought to be for perusal by a distinguished Chief of the Creek Nation. It is an answer to the complaint of that Nation to the chief magistrate of the United States, who, you will perceive, is denominated by John H. Eaton, the great father of the Muscoga Nation. He may most properly perhaps be denominated their 'Great Step-father'. The construction of Jefferson, and all other Presidents before Gen. Jackson, and the Hon. Judges of the Supreme Court, has no influence upon the present President's reading of the treaties and laws of the United States. As the Creek Chief said, 'Gen. Jackson can do and think as he pleases and he will do and think for himself.'
Your respectfully, I. S.
FORT MITCHELL ALABAMA.
June 2d 1831
To Little Doctor.
The following communication from the Department of War was received, read, and explained to most of the chiefs of this section, and was left with me to send you the true copy which I now proceed to copy for your perusal.
(A TRUE COPY)
DEPARTMENT OF WAR
April 16th 1831
To the red men of the Muscoga Nation of Indians.
Dr. Brothers. - Your talk of the 8th April has been received and submitted to the consideration of your great father. He will gladly learn and to the extent that he is not able to relieve the distresses of which you complain. He well Knows how unpleasant is your situation and greatly annoying it must be to be intruded upon by the whites, and the quiet of your homes thus disturbed.
Repeatedly you have been told that there were no means at the disposal of the government by which to prevent many of these inconveniences of which you complain; you are within the limits of Alabama which is an independent state and which is not answerable to your great father for the exercise of her jurisdiction over the people who reside within her limits. If a red man contracts a debt by the laws of the state he is made answerable and must pay it. If a crime be committed, his guilt or innocence must be ascertained before a court or justice be done.- The same rules apply to the white as well as to the red man. Heretofore our Indians have been permitted to abide by their own laws and to punish the offenders as they pleased. The reason of this was, that none of the states had extended over the whites their laws. Now it is different. Georgia has made her laws to reach over the Cherokees, Alabama has extended hers over your people, and the State of Mississippi has done the same to Choctaws and Chickasaws who reside within her limits, your great father cannot prevent it and if you will continue where you are, resolved not to unite with your brethren on the Arkansas, you can do so. But bear in mind that you must and will be subjected to the laws of the State.
The country your nation possesses west of the Mississippi River you say is not healthy. This surely is not correct. All the accounts we have here are opposed to your statement. The agent Colonel Campbell left here a few days ago. He has resided there two years and his representation of the character and soil is altogether favorable. Many of your people too, as you well know, speak highly of the exchange and could not be induced to return. Stock of all kind ' abundant crops are the fruit of their industry. At a distance from the white man they receive the protection of their great father, and compared to what they were a happy people. Join them and the rest of you will be happy also. But at the places you are and under the government of Alabama you cannot be so. Of these matters, however you are to judge. You have been spoken to in candor and as brothers advised to you best interest. If you will not listen to our admonition the misfortunes and troubles which may arise to you hereafter must be charged only yourselves, and to the interested advisers who beset you with their mischievous counsels.
Respecting the claims you have presented, they shortly will be examined into when you shall be advised of the result by Mr. Hamilton who has the charge of the Indian bureau.
Your friend and Brother.
(signed) JNO. H. EATON.
We had marked several passages in the above letter of Mr. Eaton, upon which we thought of offering some remarks, but the limits of our sheet will not allow us to proceed much further. We can say a few words only upon the closing part of the letter.
It seems, in the view of Mr. Eaton, it is not enough that the General Government should violate its pledges of protection to the Indians-that it should expose them to all the oppression they are now enduring from the States-that they should see their property wrested from them for various pretenses-that their persons should be exposed to the insults of bad and unprincipled white men-that they should be butchered and hunted through the woods as if they were wild beasts of prey-it is not enough that all this should happen to the Indians, but they must be insulted by a high officer of the Government, by being told that they must ascribe all their misfortunes to themselves! Let anything happen-let the sufferings of the Indians be increased fourfold--let the states come in hostile array to take possession of the Indian lands by force- let those who will not passively yield their patrimonial rights be cut off as traitors-all, never the less, will be ascribed to them, and the Government of the United States, the President and his officers and the people of the U. States will be guiltless! The Honorable Secretary must have very crude notions of morality indeed if such are his views. But he is mistaken. As unpalatable as the truth of the case may be, yet it is a fearful truth to those who are in power, that the misfortunes and troubles which the Indians have been compelled to endure will be charged to the authors of those evil- to those who for party purposes, have overlooked the demands of justice, and sacrificed, at the shrine of self-interest, the rights of a weak people and the honor of a great republic.