New Echota Aug. 27, 1931
TO THE READERS OF THE CHEROKEE PHOENIX.
In the two last numbers of this paper I narrated very briefly some transactions which I conceived to be an invasion of the liberty of the press. The circumstances attending my first interview with the Commander of the Georgia Guard were of such a nature, I thought, as to justify me in relating them to the public, and to give me sufficient reason in saying that I did not consider the movement in any other light but as an attempt to frown me down. My second interview with him, brought about as at was by force, by means of armed men, only confirmed the impressions I had first received. This movement is to me so extraordinary, so directly and openly in conflict with one great liberty guarantied by the Constitutions of the United States and the several states, that I feel impelled by a sense of duty to the public to recur to the subject again.
When I was first summoned before Col. Nelson, threats similar to the one he delivered had previously reached me through rumor. I had understood that one of the officers had said if it were not for pity's sake 'he would whip me within an inch of my life.' Another had declared, he would castigate ' flagellate me. When, therefore, messengers came to my house with a request that I should walk up and have an interview with Nelson before he left the place, I partly anticipated what the object was. I, however, readily consented to go, supposing, if his intention was really to deliver a formal threat of personal chastisement, I might be able to learn from him what particular part of the Phoenix they considered objectionable, as abusive and slanderous, demanding such satisfaction. Consequently in the course of our conversation, I requested him to point to a particular part of the paper which was so offensive to him. He did not specify, but spoke of the Phoenix in its general course and character. I had intended, if any specification had been made, and if I had been permitted to speak and to explain fairly and freely upon the subject, to say to him that I stood ready to do him justice if I had injured him. I had intended to tell him that there was a wide difference between a deliberate falsehood and mere misstatement. I was not conscious of being guilty of the former, but that it was more than likely I had made some misstatements in attempting to relate particulars founded upon information; that if I was convinced of any such error I was prepared at all times to repair the wrong. But I obtained no opportunity to say these things- I found there was a determination to consider me a libeller without making a single specification, and that the rod was to bring me to my senses without allowing me the privilege of making reparation, if indeed I had been (as a nominal editor) guilty of slandering and abusing the Guard. It is true Col. Nelson spoke of falsehoods told by missionaries directly and through me, but I could not learn where they were to be found in the Cherokee Phoenix.
Such in substance had been the nature of our interview when messengers again came to me with a request similar to the first. I refused to go according to my own ideas of propriety. I did not think I was bound to obey every summons that may be sent to me, particularly when I had reason to believe that the object was by no means a friendly one. I could not, according to my sense of honor, leave my own appropriate duties to attend to the call of any person, who pretended to act only in his private capacity, merely for the purpose of hearing a lecture ' a threat of personal chastisement. I fully anticipated, when I refused to go, that I would be taken as a prisoner. When, therefore, I saw seven armed men approach my house I had no other idea but that I would be taken for refusing to comply with the call of Nelson. I was consequently, not a little surprised to hear the question put to me,' Who fired that gun?' It is not for me to say whether they really thought I had shot at them, or had instigated another to do it. My impression at the time was, that this circumstance was seized as a pretext to take me and to bring me before Nelson, for there certainly was no investigation of the subject, and I was not kept under arrest five minutes after I arrived where he was. Be that as it may, I knew nothing of the firing of the gun, except merely hearing the report; and if it was really discharged at the Guard, it was not done, I presume, within one hundred yards of my house. If it were not that I have Nelson's word that he arrested me for the firing of the gun, I should be firmly of the opinion, notwithstanding the circumstances under which that arrest was brought about, that my refusal to obey his call subjected me to the treatment I have received. Nelson's question to me, 'Why did you not come when I sent for you,' would confirm that opinion.
In my last I attempted to give the substance of his talk, delivered after I was relieved from arrest. It was not, certainly in the least offended when he informed me that I was considered by them as an ignorant man. I knew they were welcome to their own opinions and in regard to that one particular, I was sensible they were correct. I was conscious of ignorance myself, besides I had never placed myself before the public as a man of information. The intimation as to the part which the Missionaries have taken in conducting the Cherokee Phoenix, that is, in writing the editorial articles, is too foolish to demand any attention. I have said as much on the subject as I intended to say, unless any person who believes or makes the assertion will come out and attempt to prove that I have only been a tool in the hands of the Missionaries. I do not wish, however, to disguise the truth, that I entertain the highest regard for these persecuted men. I consider them to be men of the strictest integrity and veracity. Among them I have the honor to number some of my best and dearest friends, but they have as little desire to interfere with my duties as editor as to interfere with any other person.
The reader has already been informed that Col. Nelson became enraged because I said, I did not care anything about his threat. I have, also, already explained what I meant by that expression. I did not mean to dare his threat, or to intimate that the punishment, if inflicted, would be nothing to me. I believe I should feel as keenly as any other man the indignity offered to my person, if my back were indeed subject to the lash; but yet that would be but a trifling consideration in my mind when compared with the dictates of my conscience, and what I consider to be the line of honesty. I could not abandon these on account of threats. That was my meaning. And why should I care about a threat if I really thought I was doing my duty, and felt not the workings of a guilty conscience? I should be unworthy of the confidence of my countrymen and friends, if, for fear of a personal chastisement, I should be guilty of a dereliction of duty.
In closing this article, I would respectfully inquire, would a white man have been treated as I have been? If it is possible that a white editor can be treated in this manner, what would be the feelings of the people? In this free country, where the liberty of the press is solemnly guarantied, is this the way to obtain satisfaction for an alleged injury committed in a newspaper? I claim nothing but what I have a right to claim as a man- I complain of nothing of which a privileged white editor would not complain.- THE EDITOR.
* His expression, 'I will mount you,' has been misunderstood by some readers. They suppose he meant he would place me on a horse and take me off as a prisoner. It is a Southern phrase, meaning he would fall upon and beat me.
It is supposed that not less than one thousand beeves will be driven from this Nation for the northern markets this season, besides those taken into Georgia and South Carolina. Those for the north are bought by Tennesseeans, not from the half breeds only, but (as the expression is) from the common Indians. This fact, perhaps, may give some of our distant readers a little light as to the condition of the Cherokees, who were said to be not long since on the point of starvation, some of them subsisting on sap and roots.
It is thought, also that there will be as much corn raised this year in the Cherokee Nation as there was the two last _______.
Last week, after the Post rider had left this place, our papers were returned to us accompanied with the following:
Art. 2. The printers are to make up all such newspapers as are intended for one office into one packet, if the number do not exceed twenty and of more than that number into packets of nearly that number. If there be a greater number than twenty tied up together, they will be apt to break and suffer in the conveyance. If only a single paper be sent to one office, the cover should be left open at one end.
Art. 3. The newspapers are to be well dried by the printers, and then enclosed in proper wrappers, ' tied, if intended for a distant office.
Art. 5. If the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th articles above mentioned are not complied with by the printers the newspapers should be returned to them.
Sir you have failed to comply with the 3rd Art. of the above instructions to Post Masters- In compliance with the sacred obligations of an oath I return your papers to you to be dried and put up agreeably to law.
New Echota, C.N. Ga. August 20th 1831
W. J. TARVIN P.M.
If we know the law we do not wish to violate it. But does the law require a Post master to return all the newspapers because there should be some packages which are not dry? We are willing to admit that among the packages returned to us there were some that were too wet for the mail, but we feel pretty confident that not a few were sufficiently dry. If the 3d. article really justifies such a course we have not a word to say.
Our Post master, in his great zeal to comply 'with the sacred obligations of his oath,' sent us some packages which were not done up at our office, and which were as dry as it was possible for newspapers to be. We noticed one in particular, directed to Durham, Con., and found it to be a sheet printed three weeks previously.
On Wednesday evening of last week, Rev. S. A. Worcester was arrested by Georgia Guard, but the Commander, learning the very trying and afflictive circumstances under which they had found him, promptly released him.
In all our trials and difficulties we have the satisfaction of knowing, that our feeble endeavors to maintain the rights of the Indians are held in friendly estimation by many impartial and intelligent men, not in this country only, but in other parts of the world. We forget all vulgar hostility, such as was evinced in a late 'correspondence' when we perused the following extract of a letter to the editor, dated London, 20th June, 1831. It is from the editor of one of the most popular periodicals in England.
I am highly gratified by the receipt of your letter of the 18th March, and shall welcome the Cherokee Phoenix with delight. Though some of our periodicals have noticed its existence ---' their (sic) is much interest felt in the happiness of the Indian Tribes. I will find some means of drawing attention more particularly to the subject.
I gather from your letter that the Cherokee Phoenix succeeds--I rejoice in it sincerely. It is certain the Indians cannot stand on any ground but that of an advancing civilization, against the constant intrusions of wealth and power. I should hope the Anglo---Americans do not feel towards them the prejudice of skin, which, I am sorry to see, so vehemently in action against the blacks- at least in many minds. I hope the time is not fat distant when the Indians will exercise their fair share in the powers of government---and fervently trust that neither their rights will be violated nor their happiness in any way interfered with. I see very frequently in the American newspapers evidence of a friendly and paternal spirit towards them.