New Echota, 1st March, 1833
Dear Sir:-* * * *
The following is a copy of a letter from Mr. Wirt to Mr. Seargent, dated at Baltimore, December 22, 1832.-
My Dear Sir,- I have just had a visit from Mr. Forsyth of Georgia, on the subject of the Missionaries, the purpose of which I am at liberty to communicate to you for the purpose of consultation. It seems that there is a desire to separate the Georgia question from that of South Carolina, that the President may have only one on his hands to settle at a time.* * * *
Mr. Forsyth says that he saw Governor Lumpkin about three weeks ago-that he said he considered the penal laws of Georgia, prohibiting white persons from living among the Cherokees, without the consent of Georgia, or without having taken the oath of allegiance of Georgia, as virtually repealed by the recent laws of that State, for laying off that territory into counties, and incorporating it practically with the state; and that he was very desirous to get rid of the missionaries by a pardon ,an unconditional pardon- and Mr. Forsyth thinks he would have done so before now, had it not been for the notice he received of our intention to move the subject farther before the Supreme Court: that if he were, under this notice, to pardon them, it would seem to be extorted by his fears of the effect of this notice, and would destroy his standing in Georgia, where submission to the Supreme Court would destroy any man-that if Mr. Forsyth were at liberty to write to the Governor, and tell him that the motion was not to be made, that he, Mr. F. had no doubt, he would discharge the missionaries at once; and the object of his visit was to ascertain from me, whether, under these circumstances, I felt at liberty to say that the motion would not be made. He went on to say farther, that if the motion was made and proceedings followed under the authority of the Supreme Court, or even if the motion was made, he believed the men would have to serve out their time. I told him that I was acting merely as one of their counsel in the case-that the notice had been given, and that the motion would be accordingly made, unless we should be differently instructed by our clients, or by the Board of Missions-that I had no authority to change the direction which the case had taken; that I would, however write you on the subject, and consult you as to the propriety of our interference on the matter, though I could not myself perceive that we could properly interfere-that the authority of the Supreme Court was in question, which I thought, ought to be vindicated--but that nevertheless, I would willingly obey any instructions from our clients to forbear the motion.
Mr. Forsyth disclaimed any authority from Governor Lumpkin or any one else, to seek his interview, or enter into any arrangements. He acted from public motives,- from a desire to remove any cause or imaginary cause of sympathy between Georgia and South Carolina. He thought the cases were not at all alike; yet that there were many persons in Georgia, and out of Georgia, who thought it a common cause, and were strongly disposed, for this reason, to support South Carolina, in her nullifying course; that a great majority of the people of Georgia were anti-nullifiers; and that if her own (Georgia's) question were settled there would be a removal of all possible cause of her uniting in the South Carolina policy. He said he supposed I knew the course the President would hold with regard to Georgia, he thought he did; though he had no direct assurance to that effect, but only inferred it from his past course-that if the Supreme Court were to move again in the case, the President, he took it for granted, would not interfere; he hoped he would not, for if he did, Georgia would join South Carolina which he hoped would never be the case. But he did not see what we could do- the Supreme Court could not issue a habeas corpus- if they awarded a mandamus, the State Judge would not obey it-or if he did, would come and say very politely, that he had no intention to treat the Supreme Court with contempt or disrespect-that he was only obeying a statute of his own State, when it was his duty to obey-that, disclaiming all contempt, the Supreme Court could not punish him, but must discharge him; and the remaining two years of the missionaries must expire while this process was going on; that I must see we could not get along without the support of the President; and I knew as well as he, whether we had any reason to count on his support.
He wished me, finally, to inform him, as soon as I could, whether this motion was to be pressed or not. He had no objection to my writing to you, or to the Missionary Board, all that had passed between us, and to mention his name.
He said that the missionaries themselves, considering all the moral influence of public opinion was attained by the decision of the Supreme Court, had been disposed to accept a conditional pardon last Spring-but were prevented by the Board at Boston, who advised them that to accept a pardon, would be to admit their guilt, which he seemed to consider totally unfounded [In regard to what is stated in this last paragraph, Mr Forsyth was mistaken. S.A. W.]
I asked him what assurance he had that the missionaries would be discharged, even if the motion were withdrawn. He said that he could only give his opinion that it would certainly be so- that I must know how anxious Gov. Lumpkin would naturally be to get rid of them, 'c. 'c.
Is it worthwhile to communicate this letter to the Board of Missions at Boston? If so, you are welcome to send it on.
Meantime let me know what you think of the matter. It seems to me that it is a case for our clients and the Board of Missions. Mr. Forsyth says that the pardon if granted, will be unconditional, and will be sent, not to the missionaries, but to the keeper of the Penitentiary, who will have instructions to discharge them. This he said in reply to a suggestion from me, that I did not believe they would accept a pardon in any shape.
Please acknowledge the receipt of this, and let me have your opinion.