From the Pioneer and Baptist, published at
Rock Spring, Illinois.
GEORGIA AND THE MISSIONARIES.
We are gratified to learn from various sources, that the account, published some time since, of the conduct of the authorities of Georgia towards the missionaries, has called forth expressions of regret and indignation from our readers. We think this sentiment is general, and it shows that the spirit of virtuous liberty has not departed from the people of the west.
This subject is not again urged upon the attention of our readers merely because missionaries have been the sufferers, condemned to the penitentiary for no crime,--a part sent there, and the rest insulted with a pardon! It is a question that involves deeply the civil and religious rights of the people of the whole United States--the life, liberty, and property of every American citizen. No matter what may be the claims of Georgia to the Cherokee lands, nor how many solemn treaties with the Indians may have been violated, or national compacts and pledges forfeited; no matter how the pretended claims of Georgia may be disposed of, if the proceedings of the state in the case of the missionaries are justifiable, then every particle of the civil and religious liberty of every man, woman, and child in the union, is in imminent jeopardy. All our boasted freedom, or constitutional government, our Bill of Rights, our liberty of speech and of the press--all are 'the baseless fabric of a vision.'
Let us examine the principle-the axis on which this question turns. And that he who reads may understand the real character of the question we all suppose (which we do not believe to be true) that Georgia has full constitutional or inherent right to take possession of the Cherokee country and drive from the territory, vi et armis, every Indian, all the treaties and pledges of the national government to the contrary not withstanding. Admit all this and still the proceedings of Georgia in 'principle' violates and nullifies all the inestimable and blood bought rights of American citizens.
To show how atrocious have been the principles of Georgia in making and executing the wicked laws under which the missionaries are now suffering, let us suppose Illinois to be guilty of the same line of conduct, and our teachers the sufferers. We will imagine the legislature of this state, in some frenzied hour, to pass an act, forbidding all white citizens from any attempt, directly or indirectly, to dissuade the people living north of the Illinois River, from emigrating, or from holding any verbal or written intercourse with any person living within the prescribed boundaries; that to enforce this law, another was made requiring all white men, in that district, to take an oath to obey ALL the laws of the state, on penalty of four years confinement at hard labor in the penitentiary. The first law would violate the rights of conscience and freedom of speech, by prohibiting preachers of the gospel and all other persons from preaching, praying, and conversing with their neighbor on the subject of religion. The second would enforce the observance of the first under the pains and penalties of perjury.
With the same plausibility that the apologists of Georgia justify her proceedings, it might be said that all who did not choose to take the oath prescribed might leave the state. It was the refusal to take such an oath and continuing to reside in the Indian country, that constituted the crime for which these men of God have suffered so much. They resolutely refused to leave the people who had been converted under their ministry, and who had put off the temper and habits of the savage, and put on the characteristics of a civilized and Christian people through their ministrations. They had Christian firmness enough to refuse an oath to a law that effectually 'nullified all their labors of love in instructing these Indians, and completely prostrated their dearest rights as American citizens. For this they were seized by an irresponsible band of ruffians, call the 'Georgia Guard', neither civil nor military: but partake of both, dragged before a court, found guilty of refusing to obey an unrighteous edict, and incarcerated in the penitentiary for four years! Is here not a complete prostration of rights,- a wanton and wilful violation of national and state constitutions? Let such a course be enacted in Illinois, and would not the virtuous indignation of every citizen be aroused, and his voice be heard in accents of such? Laws be driven from their seats, and never be permitted to prostitute the power of legislation again?
If Georgia has legal power to make and execute such laws by virtue of state sovereignty, every state in the union has the same right. If our national constitution cannot protect the citizens of every state in the full enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, of the freedom of speech and of residence, then farewell to liberty and justice. Our fathers bled in vain. Our boasted revolution was rebellion,- our governmental fabric is annihilated.
But we rejoice that our rights are not thus easily disposed of by a corrupt and frantic legislature, or even a frenzied majority of any one state. This question is now to come before the Supreme Court of the United States, and we hazard the opinion that Georgia, mortified, disgraced; and humiliated, will yet sit down tantely(sic) under the majesty of constitutional law. The legislators who enacted, the people who sanctioned, and the governor who barbarously executed these laws, will have their names helded(sic) down to posterity, on the roll of infamy, as lamentable proof of the weakness and corruption of human nature in an age and country of liberty, virtue; and intelligence.