From the Herkimer Free Press.
The Indians- Again-- A whitewasher of the fallen cabinet and falling administration has recently been occupying the columns of the mason's 'Friend', in untenable attempts to sustain the policy of the two past years, which embraced a deliberate reckless violation of all the treaties with the Choctaw and Cherokee Indians, both before and after the state of Georgia took her place in the confedered Union. Whoever this writer may be, he is not entitled to any answer until he vindicates Georgia and the General Government, not for what he says they have a right to do, but for what they are actually doing. We have said, we say now, and we are prepared to expand upon the topic whenever it becomes necessary, that the right of self government belongs to these Indians; that it has been solemnly and forever guaranteed to them by our nation; and that, too, with the full consent of Georgia, for she did not remonstrate at the time, and never until quite recently took it into her head that her state sovereignty was endangered. Neither she nor the general government have any more right to compel the natives to give up (or sell if that phrase suits better,) their lands, than they have to come into this county and say to the owners of the Mohawk Flats--'Gentlemen, we want your lands; we will give you in exchange large tracts on the Cape Cod shore and pay the expenses of your removal; if you will agree to this well and good, and if not, we shall make such laws as we please for you, and, because you are not Yankees, you shall have no representation in making those laws, and you shall submit to them when they are made.-- How would that suit our old honest German settlers? This however, is not the worst state of the case, as we shall presently show; but it is exactly the case as taken up by the whitewash writer to whom we refer. According to him, Georgia extends her jurisdiction over that people who from time immemorial have been governed by their own laws while within their own proper limits, and they are told by the general government to give up their lands and take in exchange the wilds beyond the Mississippi, which neither they nor we know anything about; which very likely are in the possession of other tribes who will claim a right to them, or which, for aught we know, may be as sterile as the sandy coast. And according to him their dreadful alternative is to go they know not whither, or stay and endure any regulations Georgia may make for them. The cruelty and injustice of this, after the numerous treaties to the contrary, is certainly palpable, and the efforts to defend it are impotent. We shall just turn, however, to a darker side of the picture, which the Friend writer has totally conceded, and when he can justify that, he will then, and not until then, have a claim to be heard as far as he has gone.
The truth is, there is no such alternative as even that pitiful one mentioned above. There is no choice in the matter for the poor Indian. He is not to be permitted to stay on any conditions. He is to be compelled to sell (a curious kind of selling) at any event. Georgia is determined to have the land, whether the owners please to go, or stay and submit to her laws.- True we have been told, in all the smooth sophistry of affected humanity, that Georgia does not want the Indian's land; she only wants him to obey her laws, and if he does not choose to do that he may have a price for his property and go where he can govern himself. But what are the facts in the case? The one we shall mention stands uncontradicted. The Cherokees refuse to sell as yet, and Georgia has passed a law to send surveyors and divide the territory into lots, and these lots are to be put up and disposed of by lottery. Now what does this mean? Does it mean that the Indians can stay upon their lands if they please, only that they will be held amenable to the laws of Georgia? No, the very terms of the case, as presented by the friends and apologists of Georgia oppression, are violated in the outset, and there is no alternative about it. The language of the red man's persecutor is--If you will go, I will give you land somewhere at the west; but go you must, and live or die, your land I will have. Other states, when their population becomes too large for their soil, send their sons and daughters to go like honest men and women and buy land in the western world, from those who are willing to sell it. Not so in this case. The land is taken from those who are not willing to sell, and who are not allowed any voice in prescribing terms, such as price, payment, 'c. And this is what is called humanity! May the possessors of such humanity find a very different standard of mercy, when they stand before the God of the oppressed as well as the oppressor. We asked above how the old settlers of our flats would like a similar treatment to that of the case as made out by the writer in the Friend. We will now vary that a little, and take a parallel to the real case. Let a people, under the patronage of Gen. Jackson, come to them and say--'Well, honest friends, it is true you and your fathers and your grandfathers have lived here on these beautiful Mohawk Flats a long series of years, and your right to the soil is indisputable. But we have become too numerous for the country where we live, and we want your land for our young men and women. Now it happens that we are the strongest, because we have got the President with the United States' army to back us up. Besides, we are Yankees and you are Germans, and so we have no particular regard for your rights, although you may be really much the most respectable people. However, we wish to be very kind and very humane, and so we will compel you to sell your land, and we will give you two acres on Cape Cod for one here. When you get there you can probably get possession of it by buying off the owners or fighting them off. As you of course can have no voice in this humane bargain, we shall not wait for your consent, but tomorrow our surveyors will come on and commence running it out into lots, and if you are not off by the time we want it, we shall very humanly help you off with Uncle Sam's troops. In the mean time, as we have made laws restricting your commerce, conduct, 'c., we wish you to understand that the old laws which you have had a hand in forming are null and void, and our own are now in operation. Indeed, our people are today hanging a man, down at Fort Plain, because he preferred your laws to ours, although it was before he fairly understood the difference. So you see we are in earnest, and the sooner you are off the better.
That is an exact picture of the real state of the case. The hanging part is a fair parallel to the case of the execution of the Indian Tassels, which cannot be forgotten by our readers. If we have clothed the picture in such language as to bring it home to the heart and feelings of our independent friends, who respect and abominate wrong, we have attained our object. We have not exaggerated a whit, and here we defy contradiction. As to the writer in the Friend, we are not undertaking to answer what he has said; that is needless while he confines himself to a partial view. Our object is to turn the picture all round, and let the public see every side of it. He has given one side only. It is proper to add, that, whatever more we may have to say upon this subject, it is not likely we shall take any further notice of him. We have little inclination to discourse with one who regards the solemn faith of our nation,
'Light as a puff of empty air!'
From the Christian Advocate and Journal.
Without pretending to decide at all on the justice or injustice, propriety or impropriety of the laws of Georgia in relation to the Indians, or in the course pursued by the general government towards them--or of expressing an opinion on the expediency of their removal west of the Mississippi, we do say without hesitation and most unqualifiedly, that the conduct of the authorities of the state of Georgia toward the missionaries stationed among the Cherokee Indians, and toward the Indians themselves, so far as they have come under a similar operation of these authorities, is a barbarous outrage upon the civil and religious rights of the citizens of these United States. We speak of course on the presumption that the facts have been truly detailed and if not true, why are they not contradicted?
Has it come to this? Is a missionary, peaceably pursuing his calling, for no other crime alleged than a refusal, from conscientious motives, to take an oath of allegiance to a particular state, to be suddenly apprehended, bound with chains and incarcerated in a prison? After being thus chained, is he to be driven like a wild beast through the streets? Are these inquisitorial transactions to be tolerated in a Christian land, a land of boasted freedom, in the nineteenth century! Then may we bid farewell to free institutions. Then may we sing a requiem over the grave of our constitutional rights and privileges,-and go home and wrap ourselves up in the mantle of deep mourning for the death of our ancestral inheritance--civil, political, and religious. Our fathers fought, bled, suffered, and died in vain!
But the story must not be told--at least we must not utter a complaint, for fear of giving offence! Indeed we do not wish to give offence needlessly to anyone. But if we were to 'hold our peace,' on such an occasion, 'the stones would cry out against us' and condemn us for our pusillanimity.
Neither let these remarks be construed into an opposition or prejudice against the South. As far as we know our own hearts, in the discharge of our duty, we know neither the south, north, east or west. If such conduct as we are deprecating were witnessed in our own state, or even in our own city, if we are not totally blinded by partiality we would not be among the last to anathematize it. If such outrages are to be committed upon the rights of our citizens, and the press, because it is a religious press, must be muzzled in regard to them, then are we transported back into the ages of barbarism, or into the darker age of inquisitorial cruelty and civil despotism,--so dark that not even the ray of truth is permitted to disclose the horrid deeds which may be perpetrated.
On reflection, we think that no unprejudiced mind can attempt to justify such a trespass upon the rights of man; and therefore we trust that its reprobation will be expressed in such universal, loud, and unequivocal language, that it will not be repeated, although we allow that while such a law exists,however oppressive its operation, the missionaries must of necessity either comply with its provisions or suffer its penalty.
Mr. Wright, one of the missionaries among the Choctaws, is in New England, it seems, presenting the claims of that people to the beneficence of the Christian community. The following was communicated for the Vermont Chronicle, by a correspondent at Andover. It cannot fall (sic) to be read with emotion.
I have just now been listening to some statements of Rev. Mr. Wright, of the Choctaw mission, respecting the state of the people of that tribe before the arrival of missionaries among them; the change produced by the gospel, and their present state and prospects. The tribe now consists of 20,000 souls. The mission of the American Board was commenced about thirteen years ago. The Indians seemed than to be sunk in the deepest degradation. They had no idea of any superior being to whom they were accountable, and no name for a deity more appropriate than 'great witch.' They had a tradition that their ancestors were created by a man, when the earth was in a chaotic state, who came down from above, and formed a hill which is situated in the central part of their territory, and which bears evident marks of artificial formation, and there created, or formed from the earth, their forefathers. He then went away and they never saw or heard of him afterwards. They supposed that they should in a future state, enjoy a sensual paradise, those excepted, who had been guilty of some flagrant wickedness. Their dwellings were rudely constructed of poles, by fixing the lower ends in the ground, and uniting them at the top; the crevices between them being filled up with clay or mud. They were filthy in their persons, being often covered, especially in winter, with soot, and wore no clothing, except a single piece of cloth about the waist; that of the females being large enough to extend nearly from the arms to the knees. They sometimes, however, had an additional cloth or skin thrown over their shoulders.
When the gospel was first make (sic) known to them, they said it was good for the white man; but as for them, it was enough if they could go where their fathers had gone. So obstinately fixed in this opinion did they appear, that it was generally supposed by missionaries and others that there was no hope of the conversion of the adult Choctaws. The efforts of the missionaries were therefore directed to the establishment of schools and the instruction of the young.
About three years ago, a great change was affected, not by men, but evidently by the Spirit of God, in the state of feeling among the Choctaws. Deep anxiety for the salvation of the soul, and lively interest in the glad tidings of the gospel, took the place of their former indifference. Those who could not before be persuaded to hear the preaching of the missionaries, now appointed meetings of their own accord, and then sent to the missionaries to come and attend them. These meetings were deeply interesting, and solemn as the subject which occupied the minds of those who attended. The willingness and ability of Christ to save all who would come to him, and the duty of immediately
accepting the offers of the gospel, were the topics most dwelt upon. One of the first converts was a chief, who is distinguished for eloquence, and since his conversion, eminently useful. The number of Choctaws belonging to the mission churches is about 340. They generally honor the gospel by walking worthy of their profession. A majority of the nation are now Christians nominally, i.e. they believe in the truth of Christianity. Six or eight hundred are able to read, and most of them to write, their native language. It was noticeable that those who became anxious for the salvation of their soul, generally began to learn to read immediately. After the revival of religion commenced, the nation advanced rapidly in all the improvements of civilized life. The decent and comfortable house took the place of their miserable wigwams. The strip of cloth about the waist was exchanged for the full and decent dress of the whites. Neatness succeeded to filthiness, and industry to indolence. Labor was no longer regarded as degrading, and fit only for females, who had been compelled to perform all the drudgery. In a word, they were rapidly advancing from their former state of degradation, misery and wickedness, towards the enjoyment of all the blessing of civilized and Christian society
But suddenly a cloud, dark and portentous, shrouded the nation in gloom. A council was called to meet the agents of the United States, and hear proposals for the purchase of their country and their removal beyond the Mississippi. Five or six thousand warriors assembled, and listened to the proposals of the agents. By an overwhelming majority, they refused to cede the land of their fathers' sepulchers. Supposing the business settled, most of them returned to their homes, happy in the prospect of still dwelling in the land that gave them birth, and soon enjoying the blessing of civilization and Christianity. After their departure, the agents of the United States, of this great and noble minded nation, by telling them that if they did not cede their lands and remove, the United States would withdraw their protection, and leave them to the disposal of the state of Mississippi, by promises and threats, induced the one thousand who remained in the council ground to accede to their proposals. By such means, whether just or unjust, let him that reads judge, did the agents of our government succeed in persuading 1,000 Choctaws to deprive the remaining 19,000 of the land of their ancestors, their comfortable dwellings, and cultivated fields. All is now confusion and anarchy. Many faces gather blackness. Many give themselves up to intoxication and vice. But still there is hope of better days. The missionaries, who had seen the seed, which had been sown with much toil and suffering, beginning to spring up and bring forth abundantly, will not forsake the unhappy Indian. Some of them will go with their churches, schools, and friends, beyond the Mississippi, and endeavor to perfect there the work which has been so unfortunately, not to say wickedly; interrupted. The Indian churches plead with them, not to forsake their spiritual children. 'Will a mother forsake her needy child?' say they. They ask too that their white brethren may remember them in their prayers. Mr. W. has with him several letters written in a plain and legible hand, by chiefs and others, expressing the most lively gratitude to them and those by whom they were supported, for their past labors, requesting their continuance, and asking for their prayers of the churches in their behalf. Could the readers of the Chronicle hear them, they could not refuse to comply with their request.