At a large and respectable meeting of the inhabitants of South Lee and its vicinity, assembled for the purpose of taking into consideration the situation of the Cherokees and their contest with the State of Georgia Samuel Jones Esq. of Stockbridge was called to the chair and Nathaniel Tremain Jr., Esq. of Lee was chosen Secretary.
After remarks from a number of gentlemen present and an address from Mr. John Ridge, a member of the Cherokee delegation, the following resolutions were unanimously passed.
Resolved, that it is the sense of this meeting, that they view with the deepest sympathy the oppressions which the State of Georgia is visiting upon the Cherokee Nation and we now tender the same to that Nation through their distinguished Representative who has honored us with his address this evening.
Resolved that the thanks of this meeting be tendered to Mr. Ridge who has so eloquently unfolded to us the situation of the Cherokees at this time and that we receive the congratulations of all present in the late decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in favor of his oppressed countrymen.
NATHANIEL TREMAIN, Jr.
Secretary of said meeting.
The following address was delivered at the above mentioned meeting by Mr. Franklin Sturgis:-
'Land of my sires?-what mortal hand
Can e'er untie the filial band
That knit me to the rugged Strand.'
This Mr. President was the exclamation of the forlorn and care-worn native when he beheld for the last time the verdant hills of New England, winding his way to the western wilds, he from the mountain tops, cast a last and lingering look upon those delightful plains within whose bosom reposed the ashes of his long lost chieftains and friends. A stranger from foreign climes had crossed the then trackless ocean bringing with him the seeds of life and death, to scatter wide over this delightful domain, seeds that were to produce a tenfold harvest of joy and happiness to one and of sorrow and desolation to the other. The seeds of life to the unprotected stranger--Death to the lofty, powerful, and happy native as the whitened sails were shaken by their crew and the stranger bark glided to Plymouth's rocky shore and unprotected band with pale and showy countenances sought
'Rest and a guide and food and fire,
Their life be at their path being lost
The gale had chilled their limbs with frost.'
They asked of the lords of this soil but a few feet of land to rest themselves from the briny ocean, and where to lay and rest their weary heads 'till Providence should interfere in their behalf and provide for them a 'habitation and a name'- With that cheerfulness and hospitality so remarkably interwoven into the aboriginal character it was no sooner sought than granted. That little pilgrim band, fleeing their country's wrongs, her despotism and degradation, found in the unsuspicious and confiding native, that hospitality and kindness denied them on their own native soil. This is a simple story of the first approach of the Pilgrim Fathers to the land which we now inherit and govern with such ample sway. As they approached the wilderness, and turned their faces towards the interior they met a band of proud and lofty beings who since the birth of time for aught we know had held undisputed sway over the continent: -of them our fathers sought protection and they had it. They sought as time wore on, their lands and with the like generosity and hospitality they had them, and as the tide of our population rolled onwards we added purchase to purchase and accession to accession until our country has grown rich and powerful by their generosity. We talked to them in the language of friendship, we called them brothers, and they listened to our professions of friendship. Most of their lands from the East to the West water have been yielded to our importunity, and although centuries must pass before we can improve all the lands we have now obtained of them, yet we are endeavoring to take by force, persecution and subterfuge, that little remnant on which like the penned flock they huddle together and remain. Mr. President, perhaps to many in this audience the situation of the interesting race of whom we are now speaking may not be perfectly known. to others whose minds have been given to the subject and who feel an interest in the political movements of this eventful day their history and present condition are perfectly known.
To the former I will briefly state, that during the present administration the citizens of Georgia had laid claim to all the Indians' lands within the chartered limits of their state. They have declared that as a nation,they shall no more exist, unless they wander far into the western wilderness when,within the regions of the Rocky Mountains, they may once more have a country ' a name, where they may once more light up their council fires and encircle their hunting grounds, where they may again build up their churches-establish their schools, ' dwell without the interference of white men.
To this the poor Indian replies-'Save us! oh! save us now or you will never have the opportunity.- We have been driven from river to river, from mountain to mountain, from plain to plain without allowing opportunity for moral and intellectual improvement, till it is as clear as if written with a sunbeam by the finger of God himself, that we shall soon go the way of all our fathers. If we cannot have an abiding place where we now dwell because the white men want our lands, what else can we expect than when a few more years shall have filled the regions beyond the Arkansas with these same white men, the red men shall be 'swept away into the barren prairies or the Pacific of the west. We ask you to remember that we have in our present happy abodes wise and beneficent laws, regular constitutions of civil government, and republican in their principles-Printing presses are established and schools flourish in our settlements, Christian Temples to the God of the Bible are raised and thronged by respectful and devoted worshippers and we do hope and believe that God has sent his spirit among his red children that among us are many whom he has redeemed and whom he regards as the apple of his eye. To the benevolent exertions of our white brethren we take this opportunity to accord unbounded success. Your venerable Father the great and the good Washington was the first to recommend to his white children the cultivation of our unfortunate race who were disappearing from the earth as he observed like the dew before the morning sun. In accordance with his benevolent views, the illustrious Jefferson always the Red man's friend in his message to Congress in 1800 says-'We continue to receive proofs of the growing attachment of our Indian neighbors; and this disposition is inspired by their confidence in our justice and in the sincere concern we feel for their welfare, and as long as we discharge these high and honorable functions with the integrity and good faith which alone can entitle us to their confidence, we may expect to reap the just reward of their peace and friendship.
Your venerable Monroe speaking of our Nation to Congress in 1824 says-'Many of the Tribes have already made great progress in the arts of civilized life. This desirable result has been brought about by the humane and persevering policy of the government. there have been established under our protection thirty two schools containing nine hundred and sixteen scholars who are instructed in the several branches of literature, and likewise in agriculture and the ordinary arts of life.'
They further address in the following language-'We have been informed that our white brethren who live at a distance from us are deceived, and that our enemies speak to them with a forked tongue,saying we cannot learn the arts of white men. But we implore you not to receive the declarations of such of our enemies; but only rely upon the assertions of your Washington, your Jefferson, your Madison, and your Monroe. They loved the red man. They had no prejudices against our race, and when they talked to us we listened to them as to our friends. But sorrow, affliction, and distress prompt us to tell you with Indian simplicity that severe and bitter woes are come upon us. The Indians sky is overclouded with blackness and darkness; dispersion and death seems about to be written on all our race; we are commanded to put our council fires,to desert the tombs of our departed Chieftains and friends, to gather up all we have and to wonder into the regions of the setting sun where death, slow and lingering death must soon await out Tribes--oh! do not be deceived by those who tell you that our removal beyond the Mississippi is a dictate of humanity,that if we remain where we are our Tribe will disappear. This is not so. More than thirty years ago, Mr. Jefferson in a message to Congress congratulates his citizens in the following terms:'I am happy to inform you that the continued efforts to introduce among our Indian neighbors the implements and the practice of husbandry and of the household ares have not been without success. They are becoming more and more sensible of the superiority of this for clothing and subsistence over the precarious resources of hunting fishing, and already are we able to announce, instead of that constant diminution of numbers produced by their wars and their wants some of them begin to experience an increase of population'--This was the language of more than thirty years ago. Since that few people on the earth have made greater advancements than ourselves. Now can you not believe this illustrious man who was the Indians' friend, instead of those who are the demagogues of party and are our enemies. He told you true, and upon the sincerity of an Indian's plighted faith we now declare to you that until the persecutions of Georgia and the arts and intrigues of the agents that are sent among us, we were a flourishing and happy people. Our population was increasing and at this time more than half of our people can read and write. But it seems to be the determined resolution of Georgia to drive us from our country. Every art and intrigue in her power is done to remove us beyond the Mississippi. It is said we wish to go: that the Cherokee Nation desire not to remain. But Sir that this is not the fact and to show you that the complaints which are daily ' hourly made to Congress are true permit me to read a communication of one of the Cherokees written to his distinguished friend now in this meeting and received by him since he has been in this place.
[Here Mr. Sturgis read a letter from Ridge to his son giving a detailed account of some of the recent transactions of the Georgia agents in the nation, which caused a general burst of indignation throughout the assembly.]
Thus you see Mr. President, the claims which this devoted race have upon our hospitality. They urge us by all that is sacred in the hearts of freemen, by the plighted faith of our Nation, not to drive them into foreign inhospitable and desolate realms, and rend asunder all the ties which bind them to their country, their homes and their friends.
But sir, will it be said that with them we have no plighted faith, no treaties by which our intercourse with them shall be governed? Permit me to cite to you a few of the many which lumber upon the archives of the Nation for the performance of which the Cherokees now come up into our councils.
The first document to which I shall allude is the third article of the ordinance passed by Congress for the government of the Northwestern Territory, which says, 'The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians. Their lands and property shall never be taken away from them without their consent, and in their property, rights, and liberty they shall never be invaded or disturbed.'
The next which I shall cite to you Sir, is the 7th article of the Treaty of Hopewell made between the Cherokee Nation and the United States 1794. 'The United States solemnly guarantee to the Cherokees all their lands not hereby ceded and the contracting parties will carry the foregoing treaty into full execution with all good faith and sincerity.'
The last quotation I shall make to you sir, is more solemnly binding than any before mentioned. Gen. Washington his treaties with the Creek Nation uses the following words---'a solemn guaranty is given by the U. States to the Creeks of their remaining territory, and to maintain the same if necessary by a line of military posts.' But, Mr. P. will it be contended that these treaties have no binding influence upon the State of Georgia. That Congress has no power to make treaties that shall conflict with the interests of a State? To settle the matter forever and remove all doubt from every mind, let us go back to the Constitution of the United States and there read. 'All Treaties made or which shall be made under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.' Thus then Mr. Chairman you have the Treaties and thus you have their power and binding force.
Now Sir, in the name of Heaven let us ask,-shall the flagrant violation of all these treaties be suffered in this land of light and liberty? Did not our government, when in consideration of lands ceded to it, they guarantied to the Cherokees the remainder of their country forever, mean something?
Mr. President on this subject I shall say no more. This much have I said because I have felt deeply the wrongs and injuries inflicted upon this unfortunate race. If aught on earth demands our sympathies it is that powerful, but now oppressed people, who, when our ancestors were feeble and suppliant, extended to them the hand of Charity and support, who owned all these lands from the East to the West water; from the rising to the setting sun. I sincerely feel that since the establishment of our National Govt., no act has involved consequences so interesting to humanity as the present determination to remove beyond Mississippi the original proprietors of the American soil. They have too long experienced the inclemency of our selfishness and injustice. They love the land of their Fathers. Then spirits like those of white men delight to linger among the tombs of their mighty dead. But the hand which unites them to their country seems about to be severed. They in truth behold written the dispersion of all the race.- Their council fire is moldered, they must desert their churches; their villages and their schools, possessions which they inherit from the king of kings to dwell in the land of wilderness.- Let us then extend to them the hand of friendship, and remember that the glory of our Republics, like those for back on the scroll of time, may through ingratitude and injustice be consigned to the grave of a century.