Cherokee Phoenix


Published March, 3, 1830

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Indians:- One of the papers gives the following as the substance of an article in the North American Review, on the Indians. It is needless for us to say, that what is said of the impracticability of civilizing the Indians, is contradicted by existing facts in the case of the Cherokees and others.

'If ardent spirits and other adopted agents are not removing them fast enough, much may be gained in point of time, by colonizing them to the coast of Africa; or sending recruits to Key West. It matters little, to a wild red man, in what forests he pursues his game, or from what river he draws his fish. When these become scarce in one region, he will seek them in another. He is entitled to justice at our hands, but scarcely to sympathy, unless we would favor cruelty, barbarity, and ignorance.- The march of civilization is his extinction; and as it has been said that 'slaves cannot live in England' it may be safely affirmed that an Indian cannot exist in a state of refinement. He must be wild or he must be nothing. He thrives in the woods but dwindles in open fields. But, if there is justice in the country, the arm of Georgia and Alabama shall not force him from his present home.'

The reviewer, however, strongly advocated the plan of removing the Indians west of the Mississippi. But the editor of the Connecticut Observer has noticed several things which detract from the conclusiveness of his reasoning; such as the following: 'The reviewer candidly tells us he does not profess to be intimately acquainted, from personal observation, with any but the more northern tribes. 'He ascribes to the whole race of red men one uniform and fixed character;' [Whereas 'it will hardly do to make a Wyandot sit for the likeness of a Cherokee.'] -'In his statements respecting the Cherokees, he differs widely from some who have had personal acquaintance with the facts.' 'He contradicts his own favorite witness.' [Mr. McCoy] ' finally 'the writer contradicts himself. He says of the Indians, `Government is unknown among them; certainly that government which prescribes general rules and enforces or vindicates them. They have no criminal code, no courts, no officers, no punishments!'---But on a consequent page, the writer raises a note of alarm, because this obstinate son of `nature,' who has no government, and cannot be persuaded to submit to any--whose character is as fixed from age to age, as the character of a rock or a tree, has already organized `a government de facto, within the limits of the State of Georgia, claiming legislative, executive, and judicial powers, and all the essential attributes of sovereignty.' What a change a few pages have made in the unchangeable character and condition of the Indian!

Title of the Indians to their lands:- It has been asserted that the Indians have no right to the land on which their tribes have lived, from time immemorial, except the right of occupying it; while the right of soil is vested in the United States, in virtue of The Declaration of Independence, and cession from Great Britain by the treaty of 1783. Mr. Burgess, a member of the House of Representatives from Rhode Island in a speech in the distribution of the public Lands, enters at some length into a history of their acquisition by the United States. Among other remarks, he says,`History does not authorize us to say, that the sovereigns of Europe ever claimed soil and freehold in the New World, by a right of discovery. They [only] claimed, by virtue of discovery, the exclusive right to purchase the soil of primitive owners.' Again he says.

'By the principles of the Revolution, vested with the great right of pre-emption and settlement, and by the cessions of the several States, disencumbered of any conflicting claim, the United States have gone into the exercise of that right, for the common benefit of all the Union. They have by treaties, at various times, made with the Indians, the owners of the soil, purchased of them for a valuable consideration, either in hand paid, or for annuities stipulated to be paid to them in coming years. By the process, the United States have changed what was, in 1783, in them a mere right of pre-emption, into a clear and unquestionable title of soil and freehold throughout almost the whole of that extensive region.