MR. KETCHUM'S ADDRESS ON THE INDIAN QUESTION.
Agreeably to promise, we give the following sketch of the address of H. Ketchum, Esq. at the Masonic Hall meeting, relative to the removal of the Cherokees and other Indian tribes in the south. N. Y. Obs.
Mr. Ketchum remarked, that after the luminous views of the subject, taken by the gentlemen who had preceded him, there remained but little for him to add. He said it was a proposition, the truth of which had not been denied by any person, and was admitted by the government of the United States, that this government had no right to resort to compulsory measures to effect a removal of the Indians from their present habitations. But it was said by the general government, that they could not protect the Indians against the legislation of any state, within whose territorial limits they resided; and this was announced to the Cherokees, at the very time when the State of Georgia was about to confiscate the greater part of their lands, and strip them of their most valuable political rights. It had been communicated to the Cherokee Indians, by the official organ of the government: that if they would consent to remove beyond the Mississippi, and inhabit a portion of the territory of the United States, 'the United States' power and sovereignty, uncontrolled by the high authority of state jurisdiction, and resting on its own energies, would be able to say to them, in the language of their own nation: The soil shall be yours, while the trees grow and the streams run.' Now it was remarkable, said Mr. K., that to the greater proportion of our south-western Indians, substantially the same promise had been made, the same assurance given, by the United States, as that now offered to the Cherokees; when those Indians occupied territory of the government, and before the states of Alabama and Mississippi were created and formed out of that territory. If the Indians, relying upon this new pledge of security should accept the offer made to them, and abandon the homes of their fathers, what guaranty could be given that the pledge would be redeemed? But in regard to the Indians, within the territorial limits of Georgia,- the Government, by a treaty signed many years since by General Washington, in this very city; ' witnessed by Richard Varick, Mayor of New York, had solemnly guarantied to the Cherokee Nation, all the lands not ceded to the United States by that treaty; and this guaranty had been repeatedly ratified, and confirmed by subsequent treaties made with the Cherokees during every administration of our national government, except the present; and one of these treaties was negotiated by General Jackson, as commissioner on behalf of the United States. And all parties, even Georgia, had acquiesced by their silence, in these treaties, and, until quite recently, had not pretended to question the fact that they conferred entire security upon the nation contracting with the general government. But, said Mr. K., time is not afforded, on the present occasion, to go much at length into the argument; indeed a bare statement of facts, and a recurrence to the plain and explicit declarations of treaties would leave no room for argument.
It only remains for us to calculate the consequences of the trampling upon the obligations of plighted faith; and ask ourselves whether it is wise or safe to hazard these consequences in order to satisfy the vociferous and unreasonable demands of Georgia. One of these consequences to be look for, with entire certainty and though revolting to every feeling of humanity, he regarded it as the least important of them, was the utter extinction of that noble race, who were the original lords of this continent; a race of men who seemed to have been made in the very poetry of nature, the fine contour and symmetry of whose physical form, the artist delighted to sketch and embody, and the effusions of whose eloquence, would not suffer by a comparison with the masters of antiquity. For, said he, let these Indians once be removed at the distance proposed by the government, and their cries, however loud and piteous, would never reach the ears of the people of these United States.- amid every suffering to which flesh is heir, they would pine and dwindle away, and all ultimately perish. In view of the consequences which amy be looked, as the almost inevitable results of the contemplated removal, we might as well, said Mr. K., bring out these seventy thousand Indians and slay them in our streets.
Another consequence to be calculated upon with equal certainty, as that already mentioned, is, that the wanton violation of solemn contracts by the government, without even the plea of necessity, must inevitably greatly weaken the obligations of good faith, and relax the principle of common honesty, in the dealings between man and man, citizen and citizen. For the standard of morality which the government establish whenever by their acts they do establish one, although it will not alter the determinations and actions of men, who are governed by a higher standard, must have an incalculable influence either for good or evil upon the principles of action, and actual conduct, of a large portion of the community. And the speaker earnestly admonished all men and there were vast numbers of these, who respected fair dealing and common honesty, to look well to the consequence last adverted to.
Again:- If our government shall be guilty of this breach of faith, the press will convey information of it, to foreign nations; the world will know it and with what face, he asked, could we animadvert upon the corruptions of monarchies; how could the ambassadors of our country summon up sufficient assurance to urge the call of humanity, and insist upon the obligations of justice, in foreign countries when our conduct in regard to these defenceless (sic) Indians, was liable to be cast into their teeth? Well might it be said to these ambassadors or republican America: 'You talk of humanity and justice; you who have torn to pieces, and scattered to the winds, your solemn treaties; and have blotted from existence nations of defenceless (sic) men: we doubt not you will be humane, and just, when you dare not be otherwise; but when you are clothed with power, and contend with the weak, the world has seen how you respect humanity and justice.' What must be the reply of the republican ambassador to language like this? The denial of the charge would choke him, and nothing would remain for him, but 'shame and confusion of face.' And what, said Mr. K., amid the ruins of broken faith, becomes of the influence of our republican example, upon other nations? Who can wish to have free institutions, when there appears upon the records of the only nation in the world, in the enjoyment of pure civil liberty so foul a blot?
The subject under consideration will test the moral sense of the nation, and it remains to be seen whether we shall do justice for the love of it. For it is not to be concealed that those with whom we are at issue, in the present controversy, are weak and defenceless (sic); there is no earthly power that will redress their wrongs, however aggravated and grievous. The knowledge of this fact, operating upon an honorable and high-minded people should make them punctiliously exact in the performance of their engagements. But if upon trial it should be found, that regardless of honor and plain justice, we act upon the principle that might gives right, I feel perfectly assured, said Mr. K., and it may be calculated upon with as much certainty, as the revolutions of the seasons, that Providence will afflict this nation with some awful calamity. If it comes not in our days, it will come in the days of our children. There is an ear that hears the cry of the oppressed; there is an arm that will avenge their wrongs. But to verify the truth of this assertion, we need not ascend to a source so high as the prophetic denunciation of holy writ; it is verified by the history of past ages. For there never was a nation who wantonly oppressed another nation, that has not in due time been punished; and that too, plainly as a consequence of their own injustice. If we compel these poor Indians to taste the bitter ingredients, which are now mingling for them, these ingredients shall be returned to our own lips, and we shall have to drink them to the very dregs.
Mr. Ketchum further remarked, that the principal object of those who had convened this meeting; was to invite public attention and scrutiny, to the course of measures which, it was evident, were in preparation by the general government, relative to these Indians; and particularly the Cherokees. The subject was a momentous one; and it was meet that those who felt an interest in preserving the honor of their country from obliquy and just reproach should examine it calmly and deliberately for themselves; and he hoped that every one of the numerous meetings which he had the honor to address, would take an early opportunity to do so; the documents and facts requisite to the investigations were easily obtained. And he concluded, by expressing a hope, that every citizen present, would, as far as his influence extended, endeavor to shield his country from the dishonor, and disgrace, and the long train of disasterous consequences, some of which had been hinted at, which must inevitably result from violated national faith.