Wednesday, September 23, 1829
GEORGIA AND THE INDIANS
Under this head, the last Charleston Observer has more than a column of editorial remarks animadverting of an article in the New York Observer of the 22 ult. relating to the Indians. We are extremely sorry to perceive that the Rev. Mr. Gildersleeve has imbibed the common prejudices against the Cherokees entertained in our neighboring States, and is too ready to disseminate the often repeated misrepresentations in regard to them.
'The State of Georgia,' says the editor, 'has no controversy at all with the Indians nor are we apprized of a single act of theirs, towards the shattered remnants of this unfortunate race, which indicates a disposition to treat them with injustice, unless it may be their running a new line through the Cherokee country, in regard to which a difference of opinion exists; and their refusal to permit the Indians to give witness, or be a party in any court created by the laws or constitution of that State.- Now, whatever may be the integrity and virtue of a number; both of the Creeks and Cherokees, no white man would like to have his life and property jeopardized by the testimony of an Indian. Though a few may feel the sanction of an oath, the majority of them-unless they are greatly slandered-utterly disregard it.'
In the view of Mr. Gildersleeve, then, it is uncertain whether it is unjust for the State of Georgia to run a new line through the Cherokee country, in opposition to an express law of the United States, and attempt to establish the claim upon exparte evidence; and to refuse to permit the Indians to give witness, or be a party in any of the courts of the State? Such acts, however, other men, not only the editors of the New York Observer, but a large number of respectable and intelligent, and we may add, disinterested men, throughout the Union, consider unjust in the highest degree, and are willing to express their opinions to the world. Is it not plainly avowed by the Civil authorities of Georgia that their legislation, in regard to the Indians, has in view their ultimate expulsion from their possessions? We say expulsion, for we consider persecution equivalent to open force, and of the two we believe we should prefer the latter. Is it not unjust, highly unjust, that if there are but a few Cherokees of integrity and virtue, these few should be made to suffer and their 'lives ' property jeopardized' by such a general proscription? But it is not so as the editor of the Observer says,(and we are sorry he has encouraged the slander) that there are but few who 'feel the sanction of an oath,' and 'the majority of them utterly disregard it.' In all our courts of justice oaths are administered with becoming solemnity, and we know of no instance wherein a witness has even been suspected of perjury, but we know of instances where our more favored white brothers, using the advantage which the law of Georgia gives them, have perjured themselves in order to possess the property of the Indians. Such instances are of recent date, and are the natural consequences of unjust policy. Whatever Mr. Gildersleeve may think of the refusal of the State of Georgia to permit the Indians to give witness 'c. we know such a refusal is most unjust on at least to a large portion of the Cherokees, whom the operation of the law is severe and oppressive.
The Rev. Gentleman appears to have a very contemptible opinion of the 'integrity and virtue' of even the few Cherokees who 'may feel the sanction of an oath,' for he says, 'no white man would like to have his life and property jeopardized by the testimony of an Indian.' We should here be tempted to say something, were we not confident, that many white men, those who know the intelligent part of the Cherokees best, would prefer to have their lives and property depend on the testimony of conscientious Indians, rather than on the testimony of unprincipled whites, who, for a trifling consideration, or from malignity of heart, would not hesitate to barter away life and property.
In the extract given above, we are inclined to suppose that the author makes but a trifling estimate of the progress of civilization and religion among the Cherokees; this supposition is strengthened from the following words: 'We have also been informed on good authority, that so far as the Cherokees are concerned- while a few are growing wealthy, the majority of the nation are actually growing poorer and poorer every year.' This misrepresentation has been repeated heretofore in Congress by Georgia members, by Mr. Mitchell of Tennessee, by Mr. King of Alabama and others.- It has now made its appearance from another source-a source we least expected, for which reason we are the more surprised. We feel it to be our duty to declare that the assertion above made is not true, and to call upon Mr. Gildersleeve to prove it, or reveal his authority, and when that is done, we pledge ourselves to the public to produce good and sufficient testimony, to show that the majority of the Cherokees and not 'growing poorer and poorer every year.' Mr. Gildersleeve owes it to the public-he owes it to his readers-he owes it to the friends of Indian Missions to whom a favorable, ' we believe, a correct report on the progress of intelligence and civilization among the Cherokees has been given,(some of these reports we have seen in the columns of the Observer) to produce something more than a bare assertion.
If the article, which is the subject of these remarks, had made its appearance in some political paper we should probable have given it but a passing notice- but coming as it does from a religious paper, which we supposed had an intimate connection with the benevolent operations of the day, ' from which we had reason to expect at least Christian sympathy, we could not refrain from saying something. We think the time is fast approaching when the destiny of the Indians will be sealed. We can look to that time without any dread--if we are to be destroyed and become extinct, the responsibility must rest on others; we have done what we could to save ourselves, with the blessing of God. We do not however despair--Trusting in God we will continue in the even tenor of our course, doing what we in our feeble judgment think to be our duty.
P.S. We ought in the above remarks to have corrected the following: 'Give the Indians as many dollars as this land would fetch in market, and they would soon part with it.' We think not, if we are to believe the frequent declarations made by them on this subject. If they had a good country to go to, they would perhaps sell their possessions, but as it is, having no refuge to flee to except the worthless one beyond the Mississippi River, they will have to be compelled to abandon their lands, by force, or its equivalent, persecution.