Cherokee Phoenix


Published September, 2, 1829

Page 1 Column 1b-5b


From the National Journal.

The present Administration and the Indians.- In order that the American people may understand the fundamental change which their Indian relations are to undergo under the 'reforming' hands of Gen. Jackson, we publish this morning his 'Talk' to the Creeks, and the letter of Mr. Secretary Eaton to the Cherokee Delegation. In contrast with these extraordinary papers we also publish President Madison's celebrated 'Talk' in 1812, to the Indians; a performance which, for beauty of style, and for the justice and enlightened humanity of its principles, is as characteristic of its author as the peculiarities of President Jackson's 'Talk' and his Secretary's letter are suitable to these distinguished functionaries.

General Jackson, after announcing his elevation to the Presidency, in terms which the phrase of European Royalty, 'by the Grace of God,' is varied to suit the Indian taste, says to his Red children with military brevity, 'where you now are, you and my White children are too near to each other to live in harmony and peace.' The author of the Talk seems to have suspected that this was rather a summary disposition of a question of right, for shortly after, he adds, 'where you now are your White brothers have always claimed the land.' This declaration must have surprised the Creeks, as their Father had just assured them that he always spoken 'with a straight and not with a forked tongue,' and they perfectly know that the United States had never claimed that land. On the contrary, the Indian title to it is recognized by the Constitution of the United States, and by many of their treaties with the Indians, from the treaty at New York, in 1790, to that made at Washington in 1826. Equally groundless with the declaration just referred to is the pretension of Alabama to 'extend their law, over the Creeks-a people not citizens of the State, and not amenable to its laws. 'My White children in Alabama have extended their laws over your country.' Nothing can more clearly show the extravagance of the principle, contended for, that the terms in which it is couched. The country is styled the country of the Creeks-'your country'- and yet is made subject to the law of Alabama, and they are threatened with banishment if they decline submitting to it! 'If you remain in it,' (i.e. in your own country,) 'you must be subject to that law. If you remove across the Mississippi you will be subject to you own laws, and the care of your Father the President.'

The letter of the Secretary of War to the Cherokee Delegation, is an exposition of the principles avowed in the President's Talk. Mr. Eaton contends that during the Revolutionary War the Cherokees were the friends and allies of Great Britain; that Great Britain claimed entire sovereignty within the limits of the thirteen United States; that by the Declaration of Independence, and subsequently, by the Treaty of 1783, all the rights of sovereignty pertaining to Great Britain, became rested respectively in the original States of the Union, including North Carolina and Georgia, within whose territorial limits, as defined and known, the Cherokees were then situated; that their subsequent residence on their lands, with 'the right of soil and the privilege to hunt,' was only permissive; that the Treaty of Hopewell, concluded in 1785, allotted and defined their limits and hunting grounds, secured them 'in the privilege of pursuing the same, and from encroachments by the Whites;' that it conceded a possessory right only to the Cherokees, leaving the sovereignty, where it was before, in those States within whose limits they were situated; that a durable peace was not entered into with them till 1791, when the United States gave a guaranty, 'favorable to the occupancy and possession of the country,' but that they neither made nor had the power to make a guaranty adverse to the sovereignty of Georgia;' that in 1803, Georgia ceded to the United States all her Western territory on a condition which was accepted, 'that the United States shall at their own expense, extinguish for the use of Georgia, as early as the same can be obtained on reasonable terms, the Indian titles to all the lands within the State of Georgia.' The Secretary then states that the establishment by the Cherokees of an independent substantive government, within the limits of Georgia, against her will, had induced her, through virtue of her sovereignty, to extend her law over their country; on the hypothesis that Georgia cannot rightfully exercise such a power, he warns the Cherokees that 'the arms of this country can never be employed to stay any State of this Union from the exercise of those legitimate powers which attach and belong to their sovereign character;'- and he concludes by urging on the Cherokees, as the President had done on the Creeks, a removal beyond the Mississippi, as the only assurance to them of protection and peace.

No paper, we venture to aver, ever emanated from the War Department, so abundant in mistakes of fact and reasoning, as this letter of Mr. Secretary Eaton. The fallacy which is the substratum of the whole argument, (if argument it can be called,) is that any title to lands in this country exist, besides that derived down from compacts with the aboriginal proprietors, and the late unequivocal title founded in European occupancy. Great Britain, says Mr. Eaton, claimed, during the Revolutionary War, 'entire sovereignty within the limits of what constituted the thirteen United States.' The only right ever pretended by Great Britain, to lands in North America, were in the case of inhabited territory, the right created by treaties and other agreements with the natives, and to the case of vacant territory, that of first occupation; the latter description of right belonging, according to the European principle, to discoverers, and in many instances being expressly confirmed by Royal charters. The sovereignty thence arising was manifestly only operative against the pretensions of other foreign nations, and neither conflicted, or affected to conflict with the distinct national character of the aborigines. It was sovereignty, thus explained, that by the Declaration of Independence was assumed, and by the Treaty of 1783 devolved on the United States; or as the Secretary, in the superabundance of his Constitutional learning affirms, on 'the original States of the Union, including North Carolina and Georgia.' But at no stage of history of the sovereignty, was the national Indian character ever considered to be merged in State membership, or any claim set up to appropriate, without their consent, the soil remaining in possession of the Indians, and which they had not bargained away. Indeed repeated instances of a disavowal, expressed or implied, of such pretensions, are contained in treaties made by the United States with the Indians, to say nothing of the Constitution of the former. In the Treaty of Hopewell, made in 1785 (to the preamble, and one section of which the Secretary refers in a tone of triumph, but little justified by other parts of it,) the independence of the Cherokees on any State is recognized by a provision entitling them to send to Congress a deputy of their own choice. It is also recognized by an article in the same which it has suited Mr. Eaton to pass over slightly, as securing them 'from encroachments by the whites,' but which expressly commit to their own jurisdiction any citizen of the United States, or other person not being an Indian, who should attempt to settle on, or refuse to remove from, their hunting grounds. In the Treaty of Holstein, made in 1791, 'the United States solemnly guaranty to the Cherokee Nation, all their lands not thereby ceded,' but says Mr. Eaton, they 'forbore to offer a guaranty adverse to the sovereignty of Georgia.' What estimate the United States formed of the sovereignty of Georgia as adverse to the Indian title, is manifested by the new Constitution which they had formed about two years before, and which vested in the President and Senate, and withheld from the States, the power of making treaties, and omitted the provision contained in the 9th article of the Confederation, 'that the legislative right of any State, within its own limits, be not infringed or violated' by the exercise of the power therein given to Congress, of 'regulating the trade and managing all their affairs with the Indians- not members of any States.' It is observable that after the war, and during the operation of the Confederation, Georgia had made various abortive efforts to propitiate Congress to her aggressions on the Indian title. The provisions, in this same treaty, turning over to the Cherokee jurisdiction citizens of the U. States or other persons, not being Indian who should settle on the Cherokee lands, is not noticed by the Secretary. He is equally forgetful of the article in the Treaty of Tellico, made in 1798 in which the United States stipulates with the Cherokees 'to continue the guaranty of the remainder of their country forever,' as made and contained in former treaties,' and of similar stipulation made in subsequent treaties. He seems to consider all these solemn facts as annulled by the agreement made in 1802 between the United States and Georgia, in which it was proposed by Georgia and asserted to by the United States, 'that the United States shall, at their own expense, extinguish for the use of Georgia, as early as the same can be peaceably obtained on reasonable terms, the Indian title to all lands within the State of Georgia.' This agreement manifestly admits an existing Indian title; supposes that such title can be extinguished only by the consent of the Indians themselves; defined no time for its extinguishment; asserts no power or right in Georgia to attempt to extinguish it, in the contingency of a failure on the part of the U. States to do so, 'peaceably' ' 'on reasonable terms,' and above all is an agreement to which the Indians were not parties.

How such a compact can be supposed by any mind, and especially by that of a licensed lawyer, to be a revocation of existing treaties between the United States and Georgia, would greatly surprise us, had we not previous reasons for suspecting that the Honorable Secretary was far more distinguished for the rashness than for the perspicuity of his intellectual efforts. We are, to speak candidly, a little afraid that his notions of law and logic are sometimes sadly undigested. In this very letter, while arguing that the Indians have only a possessory and hunting right, he concedes to them expressly the right of soil, the very thing they are contending for; and in reasoning on the hypotheses that Georgia has no right to extend her laws over the Cherokees, states that should she, however, do so, without right, the United States will suffer her to proceed, because they will not obstruct her in the exercise of her legitimate power.

The high handed mandate, scarcely shrouded under the will of advice that the Indians should remove to other lands provided by their 'Great Father,' is enforced by an alleged incompatibility between their new institutions and the claims of Georgia.- It is necessary now to discuss the question of right, disregarded by this assumption; for the Committee on Indian affairs in Congress last session, emphatically say that they 'do not perceive that the regulations adopted by the Cherokees under the forms of a constitution and laws, change in any manner their relations to the United States.' But the facts, which fully sustain this opinion of the Committee, seem to be the chief cause of the acrimony with which the State of Georgia has of late years pushed her pretensions. The progress of the Cherokees in civilization, under the auspices of former administrations, has awakened murmurs in Georgia, which must surprise and distress every liberal mind. A Committee of the Legislature complained in December 1827, that the United States had contrived 'so to add to the comforts of the Cherokees, and so to instruct them in the business of husbandry, as to attach them so firmly to their country and their homes, as almost to destroy the last ray of hope that they will ever consent to part with the Georgia lands.' These'contrivances' on the part of the United States are the application of a beneficent system, which the American Government, at its inception, solemnly agreed with the Indians to put in practice; of which the success was a favorite object with Washington and his successors; and which is recommended to zealous observance by every consideration of philanthropy, sound policy, and national faith. Such is the system that the present Executive, in aid of selfish passions, now threatens to subvert. If the policy, uniform from the colonial to the present times, is to be suddenly changed; if Federal protection of the Indians is to substituted by State despotism; if treaties are to be violated that lotteries may thrive; than indeed this may well be called the era of Revolution, but who can say that it is the era of Reform?


Indian Wrongs- We are rather surprised to see the religious papers so nearly silent as to the policy of the present administration in reference to Indian Affairs. The plan of virtually compelling the Creeks to migrate to the Rocky Mountains for fatherly protection, will be to establish a precedent which may soon be extended to the Cherokees, and for ought we see every tribe whose lands happens to be coveted by avaricious speculators among the whites. One would think that the guilt of African slavery was enough for the nation to bear without the additional crime of injustice to the aborigine. And what if this policy should be pursued? What would become of Indian improvement? Will the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains be a good place to acquire a knowledge of agriculture, the arts and sciences of civilization, and the doctrines and duties of christianity? No such thing. It is a hollow pretence in sheer selfishness! The Georgia speculators may say what they please, and the new administration may become their abettors; but the indications now on foot, unless we have totally mistaken the subject, will be a foul blot on our nation's character.

Western Rec


From the New York Observer

The Indians.- A writer, who (if we have rightly guessed the man) is admirably qualified for the task, has sent to the editors of the National Intelligencer a series of Essays on the pending and ripening controversy between the United States and the Indians. The editors have promised to insert them, and we may expect that first number in the course of a few days. Meanwhile, we may learn something of what is coming from the following note to the editors accompanying the Essays.

1. This is a subject which must be abundantly discussed in our country.

2. It will be among the most important, and probably the most contested business of the twenty-first Congress. Some able members of Congress, to my certain knowledge, wish to have the matter discussed.

3. I expect to make it appear, by a particular examination of the treaties, that the United States are bound to secure to the Cherokees the integrity and inviolability of their territory, till they voluntarily surrender it.

4. In the course of this investigation, I shall not agree with the present Executive of the United States, in the construction which he gives to treaties, but shall be sustained by the uniform tenor of our negotiations which the Indians, and legislation for them, from the origin of our government to the present day.

5. My discussions will not assume a party character at all; and whenever I speak of the President or the Secretary of War, it shall always be by their official designation, and in a respectful manner. Though I think that the President has greatly mistaken his powers and his duty in regard to the Indians. In have no wish concerning him, but that he may be a wise and judicious ruler of our growing republic.

The country is 'ripe for the discussion and impatient for it.' We had ourselves been gathering materials for a series of articles on this subject, but are glad that the matter has fallen into better hands. We burn then we think of the wrongs which have been heaped upon our Indians. We hope that they will not attempt to avenge themselves, but there is One who will surely be their avenger.