From the Hiwassean.
THE CHEROKEES. -II
I now proceed to redeem a pledge I made in my last address, which was, to make some observations upon the course pursued by Georgia and the General Government towards the Cherokee Indians, and shall endeavor to measure this course by a standard of rectitude, and meted to each its true desert. We have lately seen that under the guardianship and protection of the United States, the Cherokees have been enabled to merge from a dark state of humanity, and to form themselves into a civilized community. They have formed a government-institutions, laws, and many of them have embraced christianity. Their system of government was drawn by the same pen that drafted our own Declaration of Independence.
Thomas Jefferson, a President who could duly appreciate the claims of justice, gave them this system.- He advised them to adopt such of our laws as were suitable to their condition, chiefly those for the punishment of crimes and the protection of property. He directed them to associate Col. Meigs in their councils, who, from his wisdom and goodness, could inform them what laws would best suit their situation, and how to transact their business, in order to avoid discord, and assured them that 'their council could make laws, giving to each head of a family a separate parcel of land, which, when he has improved it, should belong to him and his descendants forever.' He closes his letter by telling them that he sincerely wishes them to succeed in their laudable endeavor to save the remains of their nation, by adopting industrious occupations, and a government of regular laws, and assures them that in 'this they may rely upon the counsel and assistance of the government of the United States.' Encouraged by assurances like these from Washington, Jefferson, and other Presidents, as well as the promise of protection solemnly guaranteed to them by treaty on the part of the government of the United States, the Cherokees soon commenced the work of reform-threw off the appellation of barbarians, and in a few years to the astonishment of an admiring world, instituted a government admirably adapted to their prosperity, under which they have become enlightened, ' now furnish men, whose love of science and intellectual exertions can scarcely be rivaled.-- But amid the enjoyment of that liberty, and prosperity, which their own industry and unceasing toil procured, the fell Demon enters their peaceful borders.
The cheerful cottage to which the weary ploughman could repair at close of day, to rest himself secure within the bosom of his family and friends, is now turned into a house of mourning. Avarice with all her attendant votaries, spread devastation over their land. The anxious husbandmen now quit their toils, and hasten home to hear the desolating news. What pen can describe their feelings when they heard from a letter written by the Senators and Representatives of Georgia, 'that there is no alternative between their removal beyond the limits of the state of Georgia, and their extinction !!'
When the sordid robber, for the sake of gain, wilfully deprives his fellow being of his life, we expatiate freely over the enormous offence, and our hearts recoil at the baseness of the deed. But when we hear the final extinction of thousands of innocent human beings threatened, it passes off like the fleeting breeze, and leaves no deeper impression, than a common occurrence of the day. O tempora! O mores!
Amid their consternation and despair, the last ray of hope had not however yet expired. One alternative yet remained. It was an appeal to the government of the United States, to execute the laws, and enforce the treaties made in behalf of their nation. A delegation of Cherokees forthwith repaired to the seat of government, and addressed the President of the United States: 'You sir, are now called upon as the executive of your nation, to redeem your solemn promises which have been made on divers occasions, for our protection. Our lands--yes, the lands which you yourself at various times, have recognized as our own, are about to be wrested from us, by the iron grasp of tyranny. Georgia, apprized of rich treasures upon them, has resolved to take them from us. To this end, she has extended her laws over us-prohibited us from digging our own soil--and withholds from us the immunities granted her own citizens. Our little republic, reared by the fostering care of Washington, and Jefferson, and nurtured by the protection of all our predecessors. We say, our little republic, under the benign influence of which we have long reposed in peace, is about to be destroyed. We hold in hands the solemn engagements of your nation, and which your Constitution declares to be the supreme law of the land, securing to us protection.-- Our white brethren are preparing to cast lots for the humble bequests of our fathers--our cultivated fields--our homes.- We hold also, the Intercourse Act, passed by Congress, which makes it highly penal
to survey the lands of any Indian tribe secured to them by treaty; yet Georgia is making preparation to survey our land. We now call upon you, as President of the United States, to enforce those treaties, and save the few remains of our people from utter annihilation and destruction. What was the reply? 'The treaties are unconstitutional-Georgia is supreme. -The arm of government, too short to reach them.' Tell it not in Gath.- What! the government of the United States too feeble to redeem its plighted faith to maintain unsullied its national honor!! Such reasoning needs but little comment; for it carries with it its own refutation. Georgia has no claim to the Cherokee lands lying within her chartered limits, but by virtue of the compact entered into between her and the General Government. The Indians had nothing to do with this agreement. Is there, then, even the semblance of justice in forcing them from their possessions, in order to its fulfillment? Most surely not. But our government to which they confidently looked for protection, and which was bound by every consideration that is dear to honesty and fair-dealing, to have afforded it, furnished Georgia with the means of more effectually oppressing them. Thus all their hopes were delusive, and every effort ended in abortion.-'The die is cast'--their lands-their native lands, endeared to them by the scenes of childhood, and the graves of their fathers, must now be the property of the fortunate drawer. 'SIC VOS NON VOBIS MELLIFICATIS APES.'
We thrust them farther ' farther into the wilderness, until they shall not 'have where to lay their heads.' Let them go on-the Great Spirit, who has allotted to them and their oppressors an equal spare of soil, has prepared an abode, not built by hands, eternal in the heavens, where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest. There, they may find protection -the arm of God is not too short to reach them, nor too feeble to avenge the wrongs inflicted on them.
A portion of their nation is exempt from the ruin which has come upon them-this portion is found within the limits of Tennessee. Shall we, who desire to be considered patriotic and just, admonished by the sufferings of this inoffensive people, extend our laws over them-seize upon their land-break down their institutions which are congenial to their prosperity, and in a word; seal their doom forever?- Can we, whose ears are alternately astounded by the agonizing shrieks of the helpless orphan, the heart rending sighs of the destitute widow, and the groans of the aged father, trudging their miserable course to an unknown and distant land, he so regardless of conscious rectitude, as to shut from our breast the least spark of humanity, and lend our aid in the unholy cause of oppression against them. It is heard to foretell what influence pecuniary considerations will have over the actions of men. Well might the Poet enquire,
***Quid non mortalia pectora cogis Auri sacre fames.