Cherokee Phoenix


Published March, 13, 1828

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CONGRESS- Our last Washington papers contain a debate which took place in the House of Representatives, on the resolution, recommended by the Committee on Indian Affairs, published in the Second Number of our paper. It appears that the advocates of this new system of civilizing the Indians are very strenuous in maintaining the nobel opinion, that it is impossible to enlighten the Indians, surrounded as they are by the white population, and that they will assuredly become extinct, unless they are removed. It is a fact which we would not deny, that many tribes have perished away in consequence of white population, but we are yet to be convinced that this will always be the case, in spite of every measure taken to civilize them. We contend that suitable measures to a sufficient extent have never been employed. And how dare these men make an assertion without sufficient evidence? What proof have they that the system which they are now recommending will succeed. Where have we an example in the whole history of man, of a Nation or tribe, removing in a body, from a land of civil and religious means, to a perfect wilderness, in order to be civilized. We are fearful these men are building castles in the air, whose fall will crush those poor Indians who may be so blinded as to make the experiment. We are sorry to see that some of the advocates of this system speak so disrespectfully, if not contemptuously, of the present measures of improvement, now in successful operation among most of the Indians in the United States-the only measurers too, which have been crowned with success, and bid fair to meliorate the condition of the Aborigines.

The following remarks of Mr. Vinton, on this subject, in the House of Representatives, we freely publish, as our readers in this Nation will be glad to perceive that this concentrating business has met with a manly opposition, and as the views of Mr. Vinton generally, so far as they have been expressed in this extract, are consonant to our views and feelings.


What is the proposition of Mr. Monroe? It is, first that you shall establish certain fundamental principles of policy, and then send intelligent men to the Indians to explain those principles; and when they give their assent, then, to fulfil the recommendation of the message of 1825, you may remove them. They rely on the government for protection, and this is the proper course. Instead of this, we have pressed the Indians over the Mississippi without giving them any choice, or assurance of protection. It is a policy of death of desolation, and they who force this upon the Indians ought to pause before they proceed further.

He referred to two or three cases which had occurred. A treaty was made with the Florida Indians, while living in happiness and prosperity, in the heart of the country. A gentleman holding high a station in Florida, had told him that he was struck with the comfortable manner in which these Indians were living, compared with the Indians at the north. We sent our commissioners to them to ask them to leave this country for one of sand ' sterility. They refused to go. They are told, they must-they should go. They then threw themselves on the mercy of the commissioners, and the organ of that nation told us, in the most powerful language, that death must be the inevitable consequence of the policy of commissioners. This language was prophetic of the tragedy which followed. It was afterwards established here, that 1500 of these poor Indians perished of starvation in the swamps to which the were removed. We then voted 20,000 dollars for their relief; and he had the honor to point out the provision in the bill which extended their territory of good land. Yet we are now told by the gentleman from Florida, that the condition of these Indians is now such that they are obliged to prey upon his constituents. How does he propose to relieve them? By sending them 2000 miles further north. He would point out another, and a speedier method of relief. He called on his colleague, who is at the head of the committee on Indian Affairs, and who is in a measure responsible for the lives of these Indians, to see this treaty fulfilled. He called on his colleague, as a Christian to do this; and he pledged himself to call the attention of the House to the provision on some suitable occasion.

He referred to the policy which had been pursued towards the Quapas whom we had removed to the Red River, and supported for a time. We now hear of the misery of these poor Indians.- As to the Delawares, removed from Indiana into Missouri, which seems to be the common reservoir of the Indians. In 1825, these Indians, as soon as they crossed the hunting path of an Osage, created difficulties, and it was with great difficulty that a war of extermination between these tribes was prevented. The executive has recommended, as the only means of preserving peace, that the Delawares shall be removed 600 miles from the Osages; yet in the same paper, it is strongly recommended, absurd as it may seem, the country West should be laid off into contiguous Districts for the Indian tribes.

His colleague had yesterday produced a letter from Governor Clarke to be read, which probably had its effect upon the committee. It was there said that these Indians were perishing; and that, unless relieved, they must break out upon other tribes, for pillage. This, the letter says, is the result of the removal of these Indians from their comfortable homes; and ought to operate upon us to be careful how we remove them hereafter.

The facts he had stated were the strongest arguments against moving another step until we have provided those principles which will protect them from want and death. It is avowed that this is the policy of the Government. If we allure the Indians beyond the Mississippi, the whole of the Indians, as soon as we have taken this first step, while allured by powerful inducements to follow, until the whole have migrated. It is a system of cruelty, fraud, and outrage, which has no parallel.

If we are to proceed with this policy who do not gentlemen offer some principle to consideration which ma be adopted ' made known ' acted on, instead of seducing the Indians gradually to migrate, under those circumstances to which he had referred.

He regarded this movement as pushing forward these Indians half way to that ocean where, it is to be eared, they are ultimately destined to terminate their existence and misery together. Gentlemen have described in glowing terms the condition of these Indians. They tell us that the Indians cannot be civilized in the neighborhood of the whites, that man cannot be civilized man.- He contended that we had not tested this assertion. We have done no act of legislation to incorporate them into the family of civilization. We have never undertaken to regulate the principles on which property is held among them. We have done nothing to break down the system of Kings and Chiefs among them. Until we have done this, it is wrong to argue they cannot be civilized. How did we find these Indians? With the exception of the Cherokees, who have formed a Constitution, we find the Indians governed by the same laws, as when the pilgrims first came to this country,.- He asked if it would not be too great an effort to be expected from uncivilized men to break these shackles.- It is not to be expected from the chiefs and head men that they will destroy their own power and influence.

But suppose these Indians are removed across the Mississippi. We all agree that they are not to be removed unless their condition shall be bettered. What is to be done to better that condition They must be brought to consent to the removal, to change the existing relations between the chiefs and people, to hold their property in severalty. They must be brought to consent to these modifications which are necessary to the improvement of their condition.

Supposing all this preliminary process gone through, and you place 100,000 individuals in the wilderness-men, strangers to each other, entertaining opinions and feelings in hostility to each other-and you undertake to civilize them. He asked by what process this is to be accomplished,.- All that has yet been said on the subject is mere declamation. We find then there is total ignorance of the laws and regulations of the new Government which is to be imposed upon them. He would ask, by what legislative spell these people could be at once reduced to order and civilization. He who could accomplish it, would deserve a higher fame than that of Solon or Lycurgus.

But, as his colleague yesterday remarked, there were no Elysian fields in the wilderness. Where do we hear of misery and distress? Is it on this side the Mississippi? With the exception of Florida, it is not. It is beyond the Mississippi. The letter which was yesterday read proves this fact. It is said the Indians only degenerate in the vicinity of whites. Here the argument is not supported by the fact. He referred to the opinions of Gov. Cass, that the Indians are wasting away in the wilderness with a rapidity which is unknown in the vicinity of the whites. He accounts for this on rational principles. While their knowledge was confined to the bow and arrow, they were unable to destroy the immense herds of buffalo and elk; but since the traders have put fire arms into their hands to destroy the animals merely for the sake of the hides, they neglect laying in provision for the winter, and destroy the means which Providence has given for their own subsistence. The consequence often is, the most indescribable suffering from hunger, and sometimes actual death. If, then, you put these Indians in that region of country, you send them into the midst of desolation.- What is the consequence? It would require less to sustain an army of 200,000 men, than to support half that number of Indians five hundred miles in the interior.