Cherokee Phoenix

From the New York Observer

Published October, 21, 1829

Page 4 Column 1a-4a

From the New York Observer

The doctrines respecting the rights of Indians recently advanced in some of our public prints and even in our public documents, are so absurd that they hardly merit serious refutation. Irony in such cases is the proper weapon, and is justifies by the example of Elijah in his interview with the prophets of Baal. We do not hesitate, therefore, to admit the following article into our columns, premising, for the sake of weak minds, that notwithstanding the signature, it was not written by a Persian, but by an American citizen, who shocked at the monstrous principles recently advanced by the State of Georgia, and the Secretary of War, has taken this method of exposing them.





In the twenty-first chapter of the First Book of Kings, we find the following story.

And it came to pass after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite, had a vineyard which was in Jezreel hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house; and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money. And Naboth said to Ahab, The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee. And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread.

But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad that thou eatest no bread?--And he said unto her, Because I spake unto Naboth the Jezreelite, and said unto him, Give me thy vineyard for money; or else, if it please thee, I will give thee another vineyard for it, and he answered, I will not give thee my vineyard. And Jezebel his wife said unto him. Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? Arise, and eat bread and let thine heart be merry. I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite. So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed these with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders, and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth. And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth high among the people: and set two men, sons of Belial, and sat before him: and the men of Belial witnessed against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, Naboth did blaspheme God and the king. Then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died.

* * * * * And it came to pass when Ahab hear that Naboth was dead, that Ahab rose up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria: he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to possess it. And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the Lord Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him saying, Thus saith the Lord. In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs lick the blood, even thine. And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me. Oh mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee; because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD.

* * * * *

And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying the dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.

In perusing this story the unlearned reader is very apt to receive the impression that Ahab was a wicked man, that Jezebel was an artful cruel woman, and that Naboth, a peaceable inoffensive vine-dresser, was unjustly deprived of his property and his life. That this view of the case should be almost universal among Christians is not surprising. Christians have always been noted for their squeamishness in regard to what they call 'the rights of man.' The distinction of master and slave, of vassal and lord, are almost unknown to their laws, and hence it is not strange that they blunder, when they attempt to pass judgment upon the conduct of men standing in these relations to each other.- It was my privilege, Mr. Editor, to be born and educated in a land where these distinctions have always been known and where the rights and duties which they involve are thoroughly understood. I feel, therefore, that I am better qualified than any Christian can be, to judge of what was proper in this affair of Ahab and Naboth; and as I perceive that some of your Editors, with their perverse views of meaning of the story, are making a wicked application of it to the case which now excites much attention among you, and in which they would fain involve the character of your government, I must beg the privilege of your columns while I prove:

1. That Naboth had no right to his vineyard.

2. That Ahab was a kind and generous master.

3. That Naboth was a foolish, obstinate ungrateful vassal; and

4. That Jezebel's plan of getting rid of Naboth was the most politic that could have been devised, and was not inconsistent with the strictest justice.

1.Naboth had no right to his vineyard.

The vineyard was Ahab's by right of inheritance from the conquerors of the country. Naboth was a Jezreelite. Jezreel, as we learn from Joshua XV, 56, was one of the towns of the Canaanites, the aborigines of the land, who were subdued in the time of Joshua. From the circumstance that Naboth is called a Jezreelite, it is fair to infer that he was a descendant of the aborigines, and of course had no right to property or privileges of any kind, except so long as suited the convenience of Ahab his lord and sovereign. He was a tenant at will, liable to be ordered off at any time, and at a moment's warning.

If it should be said that Ahab's offer to buy the vineyard is proof that he himself considered Naboth as having a right to it, and that probably where were treaties in which the kings of Israel had guarantied to the Jezreelites the quiet possession of their lands, I answer, that even if it were so, Ahab would have been a very weak man, if he had allowed himself to be influenced by considerations of this kind. He was lord and master of the Jezreelites, and he must have had a very imperfect sense of what belongs to the relation, if he felt himself bound to fulfil the foolish promises which he may have made them.- What are the rights of masters worth, if they may be frightened away by every writing to which they happen to put their name ' seal. It is said of a late emperor of Morocco, that when called upon by an Englishman to fulfil him, the promise which he had made indignantly replied, 'Thinkest thou that I am an infidel (that is a Christian*) that should be the slave of my word.' The emperor was a Mahometan sovereign ' had a high sense of the dignity of his station. He had no idea of making himself a slave or a Christian. And what would Ahab have been but a mere Christian, if he had allowed the claims of Naboth?

But independently of his rights as successor to Joshua, and as Naboth's master, Ahab had a perfect title to the vineyard on another ground. He wanted it for a 'garden.' Naboth used it merely for the purpose of raising grapes. Grapes, it is well known, contain very little nutriment. Probably the herbs which Ahab could have raised, would have fed ten times as many persons as could have been supported on Naboth's grapes. On the general principle then, that they have the best right to land who can make the best use of it,- a principle which has or ought to have a place in every system of international law.- Ahab had a sound and clear title to the vineyard.

2. Ahab was a kind and generous master.

We have shown that he could have made our a perfect title to the vineyard on any one of three distinct grounds. He would have been justified, therefore, in ousting Naboth without notice or ceremony of any kind. But did he oust him. Instead of this, he condescended to negotiate with him, he offered him another vineyard, a better vineyard, or if he preferred it, the worth of the vineyard in money. And when Naboth declined all his offers, what was the effect? Ahab was grieved to think that the poor man should be so blind to his own interest. It touched him to the heart. His compassionate feelings were too powerful for his feeble frame. He returned to his palace, 'laid him down upon his bed,- turned away his face, and would eat no bread.' How could he have manifested more kind and generous feeling!

3. Naboth was a foolish, obstante, ungrateful vassal.

The tender concern which Ahab manifested for the improvement of his condition was met with cold insensibility and stupid indifference. To all his offers of money, of a better vineyard, and a better title (for doubtless Ahab offered to guaranty the tile on the new vineyard) he turned a deaf ear. And what reason did he assign. Why forsooth, he was attached to his vineyard, because it had come down to him from his ancestors. ' The Lord forbid it me' he says, 'that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee. The very circumstance which should have reminded him of the ling debt of gratitude which his family owed to the kings of Israel is assigned as a reason for refusing their request! He had been permitted to occupy the vineyard so long that he now claimed it as his own! To be stoned to death was too mild a punishment for such ingratitude.

4. Jezebel's plan of getting rid of Naboth was the most politic that could have been devised, and was not inconsistent with the strictest justice.

To appreciate fully the merits of Jezebel, we must consider the circumstances in which she was placed.- Naboth although poor and an alien doubtless had friends among Ahab's subjects. They knew that he and his ancestors had always occupied the vineyard-they would therefore naturally presume that it was his, and it might have been very difficult to convince him of the contrary. They may have heard also of the treaties; and there may have been among them bold sticklers for the rights of vassals, and for the obligation of sovereigns to fulfil their promises. If Ahab then had attempted openly to drive Naboth away it might have excited an alarm among his Israelitish subjects who would have feared that their own vineyards would soon share the fate of Naboth's.

Jezebel was aware of all this, and with admirable dexterity adopted her measures to the exigencies of the case. She immediately extended the laws of the Israelites over Naboth, brought him before the court on a charge of blasphemy, and on the testimony of two sons of Belial,(Naboth probably not being allowed by the laws of the kingdom to avail himself of the evidence of his own people,) had him condemned and stoned to death.

This plan was certainly ingenious. and it was not inconsistent with strict justice. It is true, Naboth suffered for a crime which he never committed, but no injustice was done him. He deserved to die for his obstinacy in refusing to give up his vineyard; and as there was no law to punish this offence, justice required that some expedient should be devised to supply the deficiency.


The inference from our exegesis of this story is that Elijah the Tishbite acted strangely.

Elijah was a holy missionary. It was his business to instruct men in their duties to each other. He was a prophet; and doubtless understood perfectly well the nature of the controversy between Ahab and Naboth. Why then did he not go to Naboth, and advise him to emigrate to the new vineyard which Ahab offered him? Why did he not say to Ahab, 'I see the trying situation in which you are placed, and I pledge myself to co-operate with you in all your measures.'

Such a course was recommended by four powerful considerations.

First, It was the only feasible method of saving Naboth from destruction, for Jezebel had resolved that he should emigrate or perish.

Secondly, It would have spared Jezebel the necessity of planning Naboth's death, and saved the sons of Belial from the guilt of perjury.

Thirdly, It would have highly gratified Ahab, and

Lastly, It would have promoted the personal interest of Elijah.

Doubtless Ahab, in return for the influence which Elijah might have exerted, would willingly have supported him ever afterwards from the national treasury. Instead of wandering through the country, lodging in caves, and fed sometimes by ravens, and sometime by taking from the poor widow her last mouthful of bread, and her last drop of oil, he might have lived at his ease, and continued to discharge the duties of his sacred office, cheered with the approbation of Ahab and Jezebel, and all the sons and daughters of Belial.

But Elijah seems to have been blind to the advantages of this course. He chose rather to take the part of the poor vassal, and to denounce Ahab in the most harsh and bitter language. Elijah was truly a singular man, and it is impossible to account for his conduct, by ascribing it to any of the motives which ordinarily govern men. There was something invisible, on which his mind's eye seemed to be always fixed, and to which he had reference in all his actions. It was a something, which I do not understand, and about which, therefore, I will not attempt to speculate.


*The Mahometans call all Christians infidels.