Cherokee Phoenix


Published December, 29, 1828

Page 2-3


MR. EDITOR--Permit me to offer a few remarks on the extract from the governor of Georgia's message to the legislature, published in one of your late numbers. After speaking of the solemn promise of 1802, His Excellency says, 'the rule of that Tribe {the Cherokees] who have since the year 1818

systematically devoted themselves to defeat any attempt to purchase out their permitted occupation of our lands, have as a last resort, a constitutional form of government.' That the rulers of this nation have devoted themselves to any systematical mode to defeat a purchase I deny. Their determination, not to cede a foot more land has long since been made known to the world, and it is needless to say that firmly adhered to this determination. Experience and observation compelled them to act thus, that the remnant of the tribe might be saved from ruin and extinction; and it was not the studied and artful machinations of speculating individuals to keep Georgia out of her rights, as might be inferred from the above paragraph. If flattering, threats, or the temptations of lucre could have preponderated over patriotism, a purchase would have been effected some years ago.

That our occupancy is permitted we acknowledge, and it is proved by possession; though we are not indebted to Georgia for this permission, but to authority infinitely higher. Her occupancy is permitted, and doubtless 'tis even limited like ours. But, to say we occupy the lands of Georgia, while yet she is constitutionally debarred from taking possession, or using them as hers, indeed requires a clearer explanation than is afforded by the light of his excellency's Message, or anything I have seen on the subject. Our title to the lands, was acknowledged to be the best by both parties in the compact of 1802, of which Georgia herself was one and that it was not affected by that instrument is evident, as the Nation was not a party concerned. But hear the plain and decisive language of President Monroe to Congress in 1824 on the subject: 'I have no hesitation, however, to declare it as my opinion, that the Indian title was not affected in the slightest circumstance by the compact with Georgia; and that there is no obligation on the United States, to remove the Indians by force. The adoption of a constitutional form of government was for the better administration of justice, that method should be observed in enacting laws; and not as a last resort to defeat Georgia in her rights. If her rights are good let them be realized, but if ours are better we claim her attention to them as members of the confederacy. If we have a right to make laws for our own government have we not the right to observe order and regularity in their construction? Query -- Was the constitution of Georgia adopted, to affect the Yazoo purchase?

'By this instrument the annuity paid to the tribe by the United States, and ALL the rights and privileges of individual Cherokees are controlled.' [See Message.} The United States are bound to pay to the Nation the annuity, and not to distribute it. The Nation has vested in its rulers the power to manage this fund, and it is applied by them to the support of the government, and other National purposes. Much more advantage and benefit is desired from its present disposition, than if distributed, which would probably be about fifty cents per head. Would the authority of the state have this fund equally divided out, and thereby think to hasten a dissolution of the Nation?

All the `rights and privileges' of individuals are not controlled by the Constitution. Like other people they have privileges exempted from Legislative controlment. These individuals taken collectively compose the Nation, and a Nation of people destitute of legislation would have their `rights and privileges' but loosely controlled.

'Here within our territory upon the lands forming a part of our Sovereign property!! is a government exercising authority independent of ours, and denationalizing our citizens in order to strengthen itself in opposition to our will!!! This state of things cannot be endured.' [See Message] The nation has ever exercised its own authority independent of Georgia, or any state government. And were it not that the promise in the compact is yet to be fulfilled, her right to do so would not be questioned. Neither has she made it an object, or even sought to denationalize the citizens of Georgia to strengthen herself, nor has she the direction of 'Cupids arrows.' The authority of the Nation is too limited to pass an act prohibiting intermarriages, and I doubt whether Georgia herself would have the authority, or power to enforce it if passed. How then can this denationationalization be checked? Cannot the state endure the policy recommended by one of her greatest men? But is it our growing physical strength that it is so alarming? No. Our warriors are few, and none to disturb the repose of peace. With humility and a consciousness of dependence they look up to the Genl. Government for justice, and it is there only they expect to have their grievances redressed. 'Tis the growing strength of our intellect that cannot be endured; our love of country and unshaken faith in the Government. Our rulers are men of honesty and reflection.

'What disposition is to be made of the Cherokees who reside in the State? To expel them would be cruel and unjust; to leave them as mere tenants at will of their present settlements would be a reproach to the character of the state!!! for incorporation with equality of rights as a part of our political family they are unfit. Under these reflections! I recommend to you to extend all the laws of the state over the territory lying within our limits, occupied by the Cherokees.

The Indians to be subject as other persons to the operation of those laws. To secure to the Indians immediately the enjoyment of all civil rights. To GRANT each Indian family now living in the state, while they continue in it a sufficient body of land for their comfortable support!!!'

To expel them would be cruel and unjust. How merciful. But what is it, to tear the nation in two and divide it without its own consent -- set aside the Constitution of the United States and existing treaties, and legislate away a large portion of their territory, subject to be settled by white citizens of the state -- extend the laws of the state over the Indians, to be no longer blessed with their own wholesome regulations, but subject to laws under which the robber might enter and plunder their dwellings, and, in seeking redress, denied their testimony in courts of justice? Let his Excellency's recommendation to be carried into effect; and under the simultaneous and portentous events that would ensue, the Cherokees would sink to rise no more. Though they have been the most favored of all Indian tribes -- have stood with safety upon the very precipice from whence others have fallen, and but a faint recollection left of their existence -- though they have surmounted innumerable difficulties, and are rising in respectability, yet under this cold and withering policy, their eternal fate will be sealed, and they must perish from among the nations of the earth. The reflection of their once flourishing condition and happy enjoyments will only add to their sufferings, Now tell me what is cruelty and injustice, and reproachful to the character of a state? Better far, to raise at once the arm of power and say 'we are strong but thou art weak, power is right remove or be expelled,' for it is in virtue the same but perhaps a more decent way of coming round. But I am fully satisfied that the Cherokees and their lands are yet safe, and are likely to remain so; and that it betrays weakness to believe for a moment that the General Government would act the part of a silent spectator to such transactions, when her own character would be tarnished. Humanity alone would forbid it, even were the voice of justice silent on the subject. Here I leave the matter for the reflection of an enlightened people and friends of aborigines.