Thursday, February 21, 1828
To The Public
We are happy in being able, at length, to issue the first number of our paper, although after a longer delay than we anticipated. This delay has been owing to unavoidable circumstances, which, we think, will be sufficient to acquit us, and though our readers and patrons may be wearied in the expectation of gratifying their eyes on this paper of no ordinary novelty, yet we hope their patience will not be so exhausted, but that they will give it a calm perusal, and pass upon it a candid judgment. It is far from our expectation that it will meet with entire and universal approbation, particularly from those who consider learning and science necessary to the merits of newspapers. Such must not expect to be gratified here, for the merits, (if merits they can be called,) on which our paper is expected to exist, are not alike with those which keep alive the political and religious papers of the day. We lay no claim to extensive information; and we sincerely hope, this public disclosure will save us from the severe criticisms, to which our ignorance of many things, will frequently expose us, in the future course of our editorial labors.- Let the public but consider our motives, and the design of this paper, which is, the benefit of the Cherokees, and we are sure, those who wish well to the Indian race, will keep out of view all the failings and deficiences [sic] of the Editor, and give a prompt support to the first paper ever published in the Indian country, and under the direction of some of the remnants of those, who by the most mysterious course of providence, have dwindled into oblivion. To prevent us from the like destiny, is certainly a laudable undertaking, which the Christian, the Patriot, and the Philanthropist will not be ashamed to aid. Many are now engaged, by various means and with various success, in attempting to rescue, not only us, but all our kindred tribes, from the impending danger which has been so fatal to our fore-fathers; and we are happy to be in a situation to tender them our public acknowledgements for their unwearied efforts. Our present undertaking is intended to be nothing more than a feeble auxiliary to these efforts. Those therefore, who are engaged for the good of the Indians of every tribe, and who pray that salvation, peace, and the comforts of civilized life may be extended to every Indian fire side on this continent, will consider us as co-workers together in their benevolent labors. To them we make our appeal for patronage, and pledge ourselves to encourage and assist them, in whatever appears to be for the benefit of the Aborigines.
In the commencement of our labours [sic], it is due to our readers that we should acquaint them with the general principles, which we have prescribed to ourselves as rules in conducting this paper. These principles we shall accordingly state briefly. It may, however, be proper to observe that the establishment which has been lately purchased, principally with the charities of our white brethren is the property of the Nation and that the paper, which is now offered to the public, is patronized by, and under the direction of, the Cherokee Legislature, as will be seen in the Prospectus already before the public. As servants we are bound to that body, from which, however, we have not received any instructions, but are left at liberty to form such regulations for our conduct as will appear to us most conducive to the interests of the people, for whose benefit, this paper has been established.
As the Phoenix is a national paper, we shall feel ourselves bound to devote it to national purposes. 'The laws and public documents of the Nation,' and matters relating to the welfare and condition of the Cherokees as a people, will be faithfully published in English and Cherokee.
As the liberty of the press is so essential to the improvement of the mind, we shall consider our paper, a free paper, with, however, proper and usual restrictions. We shall reserve to ourselves the liberty of rejecting such communications as tend to evil, and such as are too intemperate and too personal. But the columns of this paper shall always be open to free and temperate discussions on matters of politics, religion, 'c.
We shall avoid as much as possible, controversy on disputed doctrinal points in religion. Though we have our particular belief on this important subject, and perhaps are as strenuous upon it, as some of our brethren of a different faith, yet we conscientiously think, ' in this thought we are supported by men of judgment that it would be injudicious, perhaps highly pernicious, to introduce to this people, the various minor differences of Christians. Our object is not sectarian; and if we had a wish to support, in our paper, the denomination with which we have the honor and privilege of being connected, yet we know our incompetency for the task.
We will not unnecessarily intermeddle with the politics and affairs of our neighbors. As we have no particular interest in the concerns of the surrounding states, we shall only expose ourselves to contempt and ridicule by improper intrusion. And though at times, we should do ourselves injustice, to be silent, on matters of great interest to the Cherokees, yet we will not return railing for railing, but consult mildness, for we have been taught to believe, that 'A soft answer turneth [sic] away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger.' The unpleasant controversy existing with the state of Georgia, of which many of our readers are aware, will frequently make our situation trying, by having hard sayings and threatenings [sic] thrown out against us, a specimen of which will be found in our next. We pray God that we may be delivered from such spirit.
In regard to the controversy with Georgia, and the present policy of the General Government, in removing, and concentrating the Indians, out of the limits of any state, which, by the way, appears to be gaining strength, we will invariably and faithfully state the feelings of the majority of our people. Our views, as a people, on this subject, have been most sadly misrepresented. These views we do not wish to conceal, but are willing that the public should know what we think of this policy, which, in our opinion, if carried into effect, will prove pernicious to us.
We have been asked which side of the Presidential question we should take. Our answer is, we think best to take a neutral stand, and we know that such a course is most prudent, as we have no vote on the question, and although we have our individual choice, yet it would be folly for us to spend words and time on a subject, which has engrossed very much, the attention of the public already.
In fine, we shall pay a sacred regard to truth, and avoid, as much as possible, that partiality to which we shall be exposed.-- In relating facts of a local nature, whether political, moral, or religious, we shall take care that exaggeration shall not be our crime. We shall also feel ourselves bound to correct all mistatements [sic], relating to the present conditions of the Cherokees.
How far we shall be successful in advancing the improvement of our people, is not now for us to decide. We hope, however, our efforts will not be altogether in vain.-- Now is the moment when mere speculation on the practicability of civilizing us is out of the question. Sufficient and repeated evidence has been given, that Indians can be reclaimed from a savage state, and that with proper advantages, they are as capable of improvement in mind as any other people; and let it be remembered, notwithstanding the assertions of those who talk to the contrary, that this improvement can be made, not only by the Cherokees, but by all the Indians, in their present locations. We are rendered bold in making this assertion by considering the history of our people within the last fifteen years. There was a time within our remembrance, when darkness was sadly prevalent, and ignorance abounded amongst us-when strong and deep rooted prejudices were directed against many things relating to civilized ( word unclear) had when it was thought a disgrace for a Cherokee to appear in the costume of a white man. We mention these things not by way of boasting, but to show to our readers that it is not a visionary thing to attempt to civilize and Christianize all the Indians, but highly practicable.
It is necessary for our white patrons to know that this paper is not intended to be a source of profit, and that its continuance must depend, in a great measure, on the liberal support which they may be pleased to grant us. Though our object is not gain, yet we with as much patronage, as will enable us to support the establishment without subjecting it to pecuniary difficulties. Those of our friends, who have done so much already for us by instructing us in the arts of civilized life, and enabling us to enjoy the blessings of education, and the comforts of religion, and to those exertions may be attributed the present means of improvement in this Nation, will not think it a hard matter that their aid should now be respectfully requested. In order that our paper may have an extensive circulation in this Nation and out of it, we have fixed upon the most liberal terms possible; such, in our opinion, as will render it as cheap as most of the Southern papers; and in order that our subscribers may be prompt in their remittances, we have made considerable difference between the first and the last payments. Those who have any experience in the management of periodicals will be sensible how important it is, that the payments of subscribers should be prompt and regular, particularly where the existence of a paper depends upon its own income. We sincerely hope that we shall never have any occasion to complain of the delinquency of any of our patrons.
We would now commit our feeble efforts to the good will and indulgence of the public, praying that God will attend them with his blessing, and hoping for that happy period, when all the Indian tribes of America shall arise, Phoenix like, from their ashes, and when the terms, 'Indian depredation,' 'war whoop,' 'scalping knife' and the like, shall become obsolete, and for ever be 'buried deep under ground.'