on the Report of the Committee on Indian Affairs in the House of Representatives.
We have read that part of the report of the Committee on Indian Affairs in the House of Representatives, which describes the condition of the Cherokees, with feelings of indignation, and sincere regret that otherwise intelligent men should be prompted by self-interest, to the reiteration of studied and criminal misrepresentations. We were aware, considering the political opinions of a majority of the committee, of the general principles which would be promulgated by them, still we did not in the least suppose that, to justify the policy of removing the Cherokees, such unfounded and untenable premises would be resorted to. But it is even so. As truth cannot be brought to second their design, misstatements and falsehoods, derived from interested and mercenary persons must be put in requisition. It matters not what is sacrificed, so that the great arm of removing and destroying (as we do now verily believe) the Indians may be accomplished. We can now no longer exercise charity for the advocates of Indian emigration, when it is apparent that their design is intended to be brought about by deception-this is the battery to demolish truth and justice, ' with what skill and dexterity it is handled, may be learnt from the following extracts of the report.
The committee are constrained to believe, from the effects of the new institutions, [Cherokee Government] and the sentiments and principles of most of those who have the direction of them that the Cherokee Indians of pure blood, as they did not understand the design, so they are not likely to profit by the new order of things.
The committee here hazard assertions gratuitously. How do they know in the first place, 'the sentiments and principles of most of those who have the direction of these new institutions?' By what process have they been led to the knowledge and what are the sentiments and principles here spoken of? Should they not in justice to themselves, have stated what they are? The sentiments and principles of the Cherokees are contained in the written constitution long ago made public, which secures to every free man equal rights and privileges.- In the second place, how do the committee know that the full blooded Cherokees did not understand the design of these new institutions, and of course are not likely to be profited. We take it for granted that they did understand them, for these new institutions were sanctioned by them, having been reduced into a written form by persons (some of pure blood too) elected for the purpose by their votes.
When the mixed race began to assert its superiority, may be dated the commencement of the deterioration of the mass of the tribe.
When the mixed Cherokees were admitted into the councils of the nations 'may be dated,' the overthrow of Indian prejudices against civilization, and consequently the commencement of that improvement which has so justly distinguished the Cherokees, the assertions of the committee to the contrary notwithstanding.
That part of their ancient usages which secured an equal division of the presents and spoils which fortune threw in their way, has been slowly undermined. Wealth has long since become the principal badge of distinction among them, and those who possess it constitute a distinct class. However patriotic or public spirited some few individuals of those who were active in forming the new government may have originally been they have at last been compelled to yield to the general spirit of those around them; and the only tendency yet perceivable in the new institutions has been to enable those who control them to appropriate the whole resources of the tribe to themselves. For this purpose, they have in effect, taken the regulation of their trade into their own hands. They appear, also to have established something in the nature of a loan office or bank, in which are deposited the funds arising from the annuities payable by the Government; and these are lent out among themselves or their favorites. The committee have not been able to learn, that the common Indians have shared any part of the annuities of the tribe, for many years. The number of those who control the Government are understood not to exceed twenty-five or thirty persons. These, together with their families and immediate dependents and connexions (sic), may be said to constitute the whole commonwealth, so far as any real advantages can be said to attend the new system of government. Besides this class, which embraces all the large fortune holders, there are about two hundred families, constituting a middle class in the tribe. This class is composed of the Indians of mixed blood, and white men with Indian families. All of them have some property, and may be said to live in some degree of comfort. The committee are not aware that a single Indian of unmixed blood, belongs to either of the two higher classes of Cherokees, but they suppose there may be a few such among them. The third class of the free population is composed of Indians, properly so denominated, who, like their brethren of the red race everywhere else, exhibit the same characteristic traits of unconquerable indolence, improvidence, and inordinate love of ardent spirits. They are the tenants of the wretched huts and villages in the recesses of the mountains and elsewhere, remote from the highways and the neighborhood of the wealthy and prosperous.
In regard to the annuities, we have stated in a previous number of the Phoenix, that they are not divided among the people as in ancient time, but paid into the treasury of the nation and kept as a public fund for the support of the government and other public objects. Do the committee suppose that these annuities are so large that they are the cause of much wealth and corruption to the 'mixed class?' _hif_try do we can tell them better. The whole amount of these annuities is very little over six thousand dollars and the sum paid yearly to each member of the council 'mixed' and 'pure blood' for services, is from seventy to one-hundred dollars.- This small pittance is all they receive.- There is now no 'loan office or bank' among the Cherokees. When there was one, every person; 'mixed' or 'pure blood' if he was able to pay, had the liberty of borrowing. It is therefore false, positively false, when they say that 'those who control the new institutions appropriate the whole resources of the tribe to themselves.' It is a little surprising that the Indian committee in congress should indirectly advocate cold ignorant customs of the Cherokees; such as the custom of dividing among the individuals of the nation, the annuities, a dollar's worth or so of goods to each, which could not possibly benefit them. It is civilization which has changed the custom, and however the Hon. Committee may be disposed to impugn the motives of those who have been instrumental in bringing about the change, it is a triumphant instance of the civil improvement of the Cherokees.
But the most remarkable reasoning of the Committee is where they say that the number of those who control the Cherokee government does not exceed twenty-five or thirty. What of that? How many control the government of the United States of 12,000,000 inhabitants? One Chief for 40,000 souls, while the avaricious, the despotic and wealthy 'mixed' Cherokee is a representative of only a few hundred. What did the committee mean? Did they intend this as an objection to the new institution?
If the committee are not aware whether a single unmixed Cherokee belongs to either of the higher classes, it is because they did not seek testimony from a proper source, or they did not wish to believe existing facts. The speaker of the council of last year was of 'pure blood.'-the Clerk of the Council was of 'pure blood.'
The report gives a distressing account of the wretchedness of the third class, of which the committee say there are nineteen out of twenty. As no one in this nation knows of such a class, it would be an act of benevolence if the Hon. gentlemen who have discovered them in 'the recesses of the mountains; for we must suppose they have visited them, would kindly show us where they are, that they may be invited to experience with us the benefits of the 'new institutions.'
Some portion of the Indians forming this class are less desponding in their temper, and exhibit a greater degree of energy than the others, in obtaining the means of subsistence; but still, this class of Cherokees, as a whole, are believed to approach nearer to a state of absolute destitution than any other Indians of the South, except perhaps the Florida Indians, and apart of the Choctaws. The same causes which have contributed to elevate the character and increase the comforts of the mixed race, have tended to diminish the means of subsistence among the Indians of purer blood. Victims alike to the arts of the worthless white men from without, and to crafty policy of their own rulers within, they have become a naked, miserable, and degraded race. Among the Creeks, what property they have, is more generally distributed and the spirit of their warriors still exerts a feeble control over the conduct of their chiefs.- The Chickasaws find some resource in the large annuities but the less provident portion of the Cherokees often find themselves reduced to the necessity of relying upon wild fruits, birds, and fish, for the support of lift. The moral condition of this class does not appear to compensate in any degree for their deficiency in the means of mere animal existence.
We have not introduced the above extract for the purpose of making comments-there is no necessity for that-it carried comments with it stronger than we can pen them. No liberal person who has attentively watched the progress of the improvement of the Indians will be led to believe such statements as this.
Now what are the authorities upon which the committee have founded their premises and statements? This question must naturally arise in the mind of every reader, before he give his assent to what is said. What are the authorities? What the testimony in support of this dark picture? Not a solitary authority-not a solitary proof is adduced! What will the public think of this, especially when the committee have so ungenerously illiberally and criminally charged the missionaries, eye witnesses be it remembered, with having practiced a 'pious fraud' on the public, in the statement of the civil and religious improvement of the Cherokees. The following paragraph must astonish the Christian public.
If this representation of the condition of the common Indians shall appear too highly colored, when contrasted with those glowing pictures of their happy and improving condition, which the Christian world has been so long cheered the committee can only say, in explanation, that both sides of the picture may still be substantially true, when viewed in reference to distinct classes. As wealth and lighter complexion do not necessarily imply any great degree of moral cultivation, it is probable that the resident missionary teachers have found an ample field of labor among the more fortunate portion of the tribe. They, as well as the benevolent traveller, may have regarded the higher class as a nucleus, around which they might finally bring the naked and hungry wanderer, whom they rarely saw except about the farms and doors of the wealthy, gradually to arrange and form themselves, by the observance and practice of the customs and arts of civilized life. With such anticipations, however delusive, if the abject condition of the mass had been veiled from the public view, the pious fraud may be excused, if not justified. In accounting for the errors which so generally prevailed upon this subject, it should not be overlooked, that missionary teachers, to be useful to any portion of the tribe, must necessarily in some degree, become parties to the views and interests of those in power. A different course would, without doubt, render their situation neither agreeable nor useful.
In what way can the political fraud, in which the Honorable Committee are attempting to palm on a thinking and generous public, be even excused? Certainly we cannot exercise as much charity for them as they have for these missionaries- men of whose integrity, intelligence, disinterested benevolence, self denial, and strict sense of justice; they must be most grossly ignorant. They must be ignorant of the principles which have impelled those worthy men to take their lives in their hands, forsake their country, friends, and near relatives, with the hope that the poor Indian, tossed about as the convenience of politicians may require. may be brought, through their instrumentality, to taste the sweets of civilized life, and the hope of a happy existence in the world to come. They came as commissioned to preach the gospel to the 'poor' and the degraded, and they have accordingly pursued the ignorant Indian to the 'recesses of the mountains,' where the committee or their mercenary informants have never been, and partaken of his homely fare. There they have preached to him the words of eternal life; and with what success may be learnt from the fact that a larger portion of the members of the Moravian, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches here, are of, what the committee would call, the third class of Cherokees. The majority of the children at the missionary boarding schools are the children of this class. The fact cannot be controverted that the first and great object of the missionaries is to instruct the ignorant portion of the nation. For this purpose interpreters are employed,-native exhorters and preachers are sent to every neighborhood, - Hymns and portions of Scriptures are translated and published,-tract ' book societies are organized in different parts of the nation to circulate them, and in these efforts they have the hearty good will and co-operation of the Chiefs. In this they do indeed 'become parties to the views and interest of those in power,' for what are their views ' interests? Wealth is not a badge of distinction, but merit only, and the interests of the people, are the interests of the Chiefs, and the interests of the people consist in their civilization and christianization.
The different communities of Christians, Baptists, Moravians, Presbyterians, and Methodists, who have established missions here naturally feel a deep ' elevated interest in the success of their benevolent efforts; with what feelings must they therefore view the unmerited aspersions cast upon the integrity and motives of their servants? We cannot- we dare not holding the station we do, and living where we do, and knowing what we do know, hold our peace and bear a worthy people, so ungenerously assailed. We must speak a word, how feeble soever that may be. The editor of this paper is not ashamed to acknowledge publicly his indebtedness to missionary efforts, and to testify, from personal experience and observation to the incorrectness of the insinuation of the Committee, that missionary teachers associate with the wealthy and neglect the poor, in order to 'render their situation agreeable or useful' and that they therefore in describing the condition of the people, leave out of view the latter class and only introduce the former, of which there are only one in
twenty, ' in this way produce a 'pious fraud'. Nothing can be more false than this. If we have only palliation to make for the committee, it must be this- as the testimony of these missionaries is no trifling barrier in the way of their accomplishing a political fraud on the world, that testimony must be superseded somehow, and we must, in charity, suppose they had no other way to do it, but what they have actually done.
After despatching the missionaries the chiefs of the nation are the next objects of misrepresentation. The committee broadly state the incentives, which in their imagination, induce the Cherokee chiefs to oppose the policy of removal, in the following words.
It is obvious that the new Government party among the Cherokees are influenced by the most powerful incentives to human action, in wishing to maintain their present position. Every consideration of present affluence, of the means of future acquisition, and personal consequence, urge them naturally and powerfully in the employment of all their resources, whether of wealth, or of their political relations with their own people, to effect the permanency of the institutions already established or mediated in the country which they now occupy.
The committee are certainly gifted in dissecting and analyzing the Cherokees, and giving appropriate names to each ingredient--'pure blood,' 'mixed blood,' 'mixed Cherokee,' 'first class,' 'second class,' 'third class,' 'new government party,' 'c. The aspersions cast on the motives of the chiefs are too palpable to need any comment; it may be proper, merely to observe that not a shadow of authority is given in support of what the committee have here said.
When it is known that they are able to employ much talent and address in the conduct of their affairs, it is not surprising that, besides the influence they have established among the Cherokees, fearing the consequence of standing alone against the policy of the United States, they have sent their emissaries among the Creeks and acquired a manifest influence in their councils, upon the question of emigration.
We are compelled to declare this a deliberate falsehood wherever it originated. What emissaries have the Cherokees sent to the Creeks, and when did they send them? We wish the Committee had been more particular. We know of two men only who have gone among the Creeks, and to be a little more particular than the Committee, we will mention them by name, Messrs. John Ridge and David Vann, but then they were urgently requested by the authority of that tribe, and their compliance to serve the Creeks for a while in the capacity of clerks was made an objection against them by many of their own countrymen. For our own part we were glad these gentlemen acceded to the call of the Creeks, and that they were of much service to them during a time of great trouble and perplexity. The Cherokees have sent no emissary.
A portion of the common Indians are understood to be opposed to emigration.
Some time ago all the 'common Indians' were said to be unanimous in their wish to remove-after awhile the 'great mass' were favorable to emigration-and then a majority-and now a portion are understood to be opposed. But what portion the committee are not pleased to tell us.- We believe finally truth will triumph, and that it will be found and acknowledged by these advocates of emigration, that not only a portion but that the whole of Cherokees are opposed. This varying in their statements augurs well for truth.
Many of them have been taught to entertain the most unnatural and improbable fancies in relation to the nature of the country West of the Mississippi, as well as the motives of those who advise them to go there; yet the influence which produced, could no doubt destroy, this repugnancy to emigration.
We deny that any 'unnatural and improbable fancies' exist among the Cherokees in regard to the nature of the western country, but we do think that those who extol it are infected with such fancies, or they say what they do not believe.
It so happens that the Cherokees are better acquainted with the nature of the country than their officious advisors. We need no advice on this subject. But that the reader may not suppose that the Cherokees receive their information from interested persons only, we here copy a letter from one of the late emigrants, written to his brother.
FORT SMITH Sept. 13th 1829
DEAR BROTHER.- I embrace this opportunity to inform you that I and my family are all well, hoping these lines may find you and family enjoying the same. I can inform you that I had a tiresome journey. I was a long time on the way, and now I have got here I am very much dissatisfied. I find no good land, bad water, very little good timber, and my advice is to you, stay where you are. I find the country sickly and a number of the people are dead that came with me and a number more sick, and I do not know where I shall settle- I don't think I shall live on Arkansas.
I am dear brother, yours with more than common respect.
The above simple statement of facts is corroborated by hundreds of other testimonies. Major Long the authorized agent of the General Government to ascertain the nature of the country must also have entertained 'the most unnatural and improbable fancies' in regard to it, for he considers it 'uninhabitable,'
and stiles (sic) it the 'American desert.' The Cherokees and Creeks are not the only ones of the southern tribes who entertain such fancies. Whether ruled by the 'emissaries' of the 'new government party' or not, the views of the Choctaws and Chickasaws are certainly in unison with those of the two former. A gentleman writes as follows from the Chickasaw Nation to the editor of the Pittsburgh Herald.
The joint delegation of the two tribes who in the fall of 1819, visited the countries beyond the river report unfavorably to a removal. They state that the land is poor and badly watered and timbered. I have conversed freely with numbers of the delegation, and have heard them, and our most intelligent Indians who are extensively acquainted with the views of their tribe, declare that they did not believe a single Chickasaw was willing to remove.
When they addressed a letter to Government expressing a willingness to exchange lands provided the land beyond the river suited them, it was a distinct understanding among themselves that no such lands could be found. The principal Chickasaw chief (who was one of the delegation) remarked to me- 'all men love home, but when you are beyond the river, and look in this direction you seem quite out of the way. We advised the Creeks to remain until compelled to remove.'
We shall make but one more extract and that is but an old story told over.
The middle class, who have property, as well as the more discerning of the common Indians, do not appear to have been so easily managed.- They have been controlled through another medium, both among the Cherokees and Creeks. Besides the penalties and disabilities imposed by the laws upon those who enroll themselves for emigration, menaces of personal violence have not only been made but in many instances they have been executed in the most barbarous manner, either by those highest in authority, or by their partisans; as will appear by the documents annexed to this report.
The documents referred to in the above extract, touching the Cherokees, are what we have already twice published, two letters from Col. Montgomery to the Secretary of War, and one from the 'secret agent,' Captain Rogers, the Arkansas Cherokee. We have already commented upon these letters and shall not therefore trouble the reader with further remarks. It would be impossible for the Committee, or any other set of men, to prove the charges they have here made against the Cherokee chiefs. - Impossible because what is not truth can never be proved. Now what has been the effect of the repeated and unfounded charges and aspersions cast upon the leading men of this nation? Such an effect as those who made them did not anticipate-it has checked emigration. We hear of no one enrolling and going to the west, ' we hope as long as misrepresentations and illiberal charges are employed to remove them, no one will go.