Cherokee Phoenix


Published May, 1, 1830

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WHAT IS IT?-AND WHAT IS ITS DESIGN? We direct the attention of our readers to the following communication for a glance behind the curtains of the New York 'Indian Board.' We have been long looking for the unraveling of this riddle. Is here placed before our readers from a source which enables us to place complete reliance on its statements. The communication is prefaced by an extract from a New York paper which speaks for itself.

Religious Intelligencer.

From the New York Evening Post.

'We understand that at a meeting of the Indian Board of this city, last evening, (March 9) Gov. Houston was present, and furnished some interesting information relative to the Indian tribes in the southwestern parts of the United States. According to his statements, as we are informed, the Indians west of the Mississippi are in a better condition, both in a moral and physical point of view, from those within the limits of the states. He considers the immediate neighborhood of white men as most pernicious to the Indian, imparting to him the vices of civilization, without communicating any of its virtues,- accordingly, the southwestern tribes on this side of the Mississippi, with whom he was long and well acquainted, were in the mass, brutalized in the extreme, poor, living wretchedly, ill clothed, and practicing the most degrading vices. These tribes send forth number of mendicants, who travel the country, and are sometimes found begging as far as Pittsburgh. He drew a contrast between the Creeks who remained in Georgia and Alabama and those who had emigrated to the west of the Arkansas. The former were in the wretched condition already described, while the emigrants, situated in a country of plenty-a country fertile in all the productions of the earth, easily tilled, abounding in game-aloof from the causes of dispute with the white men, and from the contaminating influence of their neighborhood-already began to experience the good effects of the change in their circumstances. He was confident that the only possible method of preserving the Indian race, and of elevating the Indian character was to remove them from the vicinity of the whites until their gradual civilization could be effected. The attempts to Christianize the Indians in their present state, he was of opinion, much as he honored the zeal that had prompted them, were fruitless or worse. The supposed conversions has produced no change of habits. So degraded had become the character of this once independent people, that professions of religious belief had been made, and the ordinances of religion submitted to, when an Indian wanted a new blanket or a squaw a new gown. The only way to bring them to an understanding of the doctrines, and an obedience to the precepts of Christianity, was by educating ' civilizing them in the first place: but this could not be hoped for in the present state of the tribes east of the Mississippi. Fifty years might accomplish the work, if they could be persuaded to emigrate. The white agents, and traders whose interest it was to keep the Indians in their present unfortunate and degraded condition, of which they took advantage, were active and unwearied in endeavoring to prejudice the savages against the plan of emigration.'

Mr. Editor.-Perhaps some of your readers would like to know what is this Indian Board, and what is its claim to the title it has assumed. Having recently enjoyed some opportunity of learning facts on the subject, I think them quite worthy of publication.

This association, as I gather from their printed pamphlet, was projected by the Rev. Eli Baldwin, aided by the counsels of a few other ministers of the Reformed Dutch Church.- That church as a body, is considerably less in point of members than the Congregationalists in Connecticut, the number of churches being only 185 and of pastors 150. But being scattered through several states, and having its centre (sic) in the city of New York, where the old collegiate church is possessed of immense wealth, some of its ministers feel as if they were ex officio entitled to a controlling power in the Christian community. It happens unfortunately for these individuals that not being themselves Dutchmen, but engrafted scions of the Scotch origin, they do not succeed at all in controlling the general synod of the Dutch Church. Thus the synod refused to sanction their movements for a Dutch Sunday School Union, or to be responsible for the vagaries of their Magazine-now happily defunct. Another misfortune with which they have to struggle, is that everything which they take hold of is so apt to die in their hands. Witness the Jews Society 'c. The business of Foreign Missions was undertaken and has been hitherto conducted independently of their control. And so congenial is the diffusion of the Gospel among the heathen to the emotions of every pious heart, that they have not been able to prevent Dutchmnen and Dutch churches, from contributing liberally to the support of Foreign Missions, without sending their charities through what they claim to be the only legitimate channel.

I speak now only of a certain small division of the Dutch Church, chiefly what are called the Scotch Dutch.-To the catholicism and liberality of the better part of that communion, every one who is conversant with the benevolent operations of the church must concur Dutchmen the most honorable testimony. And such is the growth of evangelical spirit among them, that I doubt not their enlarged charities will soon put some larger communities to the blush. The little circle, of which I am treating neither controls nor represents that orthodox body, to whom our pilgrim fathers were so much indebted for protection and aid.

It is always easier to oppose than to promote, to pull down than to build up, to spend money for objects professedly benevolent than to raise it by the voluntary contributions of the people. Since the Jews Society was turned back upon its own resources, no way appeared in which these men could induce the people voluntarily to entrust the sacred funds of charity to their disposal. The countenance, which the new administration seemed inclined to give to the violent projects of Georgia, opened to their minds a new method of 'raising the wind.'

By associating themselves to support the National Government thro (sic) thick and thin, they would in the first place gratify their jealousy of New England. They would also have the pleasure of thwarting the plans and destroying the works of the Methodists, the American Board, the Baptist Board, and the Moravians. At the same time they would acquire the favor of the Government and obtain the disposal of the vast sums of money which the government would apply for the civilization of the Indians, and the power of growing out of such an extensive patronage. Thus they would be able at once to prevent all Hopkinsians, Aremenians, and Baptists from favorable access to the Indians or at least from deriving any aid in their benevolent operations from the bounty of the United States Government.

Accordingly a correspondence was opened by the Rev. B. with Colonel M'Kenney, the Clerk for Indian Affairs, which resulted in a meeting of eleven persons connected with the Dutch Church, on the 10th of July last. These men proceeded to call a public meeting, which took place on the 12th of August, when by their request Col. M'Kenney made a speech. In the mean time a constitution was adopted and signed by 29 of the 30 members to which it is confined. Of the Board no less than 22 are connected with the Dutch Church, 3 more are Scotch Presbyterians, on Episcopolian (sic) and one Moravian. These are to represent and control the charities of the whole church towards the poor Indians! The name adopted is 'The Indian Board, for the Emigration, Preservation, and improvement of the Aborigines of America.'

By article 4th, 'this Board engages to afford to the emigrant Indian ALL the necessary instruction in the arts of life and the duties of religion.'

By article 5th, 'this Board is pledged to co-operate with the Federal Government of the United States, in its operations on Indian affairs; and in no instance to contravene its laws.'

By article 6th they 'invite the citizens of the United States, without respect to sect or party, religious or political, to co-operate with them in this benevolent enterprise.'

It appears that the whole is purely a piece of political machinery, in which a few ministers of the Gospel lend the sanction of their name and station to shield the government from the odium of its own oppressions (sic), and to impose upon the poor Cherokees by the high sounding title of 'Indian Board' 'c. with the idea that their true friends, the Christian community, give them up to the tender mercies of Georgia.

It would seem as though men who had much self-respect would not lend themselves to such a 'pledge to cooperate with the General Government' in its measures, right or wrong. Still less that they would place themselves at the beck of such a man as Col. M'Kenney, and base all their movements upon the testimony of his word. (his word! ask the people of Washington how much it is worth.)- and present themselves before the public for no other purpose than to echo and sanction his speech. But so it was. Their pamphlet contains nothing else of moment but his speech. It was supposed by most people, that this Board had died in being born. And I strongly suspect a good many of the worthy men who had been drawn in to sign its constitution hoped it would prove so. In that case it would have been only an additional monument of human weakness. But now it appears, by the article above quoted, that its projectors have no idea of letting it die, till it has done up its work 'for the emigration of the Indians.' Whether it will be as vital after it has emigrated them, and when it comes to the laborious and practical business of 'Preserving and improving' them remains for experiment to prove.

One or two facts connected with the recent meeting are worthy of notice. This 'Gov. Houston' is the man who was Governor of Tennessee and who suddenly deserted his post of honor among civilized beings causelessly forsook a beautiful young wife whom he had just married and broke her heart, and withdrew to find his chosen associates and his brightest pleasures among savages. His friends would gladly say, he is insane, if there were any evidence. But such an apology for his baseness has not even the shadow of proof. His conduct can be accounted for only by an inherent debasement of heart that would not submit any longer to the constraints of social life. Accordingly as I know from his own lips, he is the declared enemy of civilization, an open scorner of religion, and a spiteful mocker of missionaries, and a slanderer of their characters and their labors.

To hear the testimony of such a man, these grave Doctors of Divinity, and elders in the churches, were convened. Several of the members of this Board, (I hope however they were not present) are members of the American Board for Foreign Missions. And all of them ought to be a little acquainted with the effects of Christianity among the southwestern Indians. And yet they are not ashamed to send out the wicked falsehood, on the testimony of Governor Houston, that nothing good has been accomplished. After all the testimony of eye witnesses, of President Monroe, of Vice President Calhoun, of Drs. Worcester and Cornelius, Mr. Evarts, and hosts of others, one word of this renegade from religion and society is to overthrow it all.

It is manifest at a glance, what Gov. Houston's object is, even by his own shewing (sic). Instead of helping the Indians forward, he would threw them back to that fancied state of elevation which they once possessed; i.e. make them as complete savages as ever. And the power and influence which he may expect to gain among them will illustrates the sentiment of a poet. Ambition when coupled with sordid selfishness and grovelling thoughts, 'Would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven.'

I will not remark upon the utter inconsistency of ministers of the gospel, in giving currency to the idea that the Indians must be civilized before they can be Christianized; nor upon the palpable dishonesty of alleging the distress and poverty of the Creeks as evidence of a similar state of wretchedness among the Cherokees. The hollowness of that friendship to the Indians which seeks such means to gain credit, is sufficiently manifest. The Indians are not such fools but they will inquire how it happens that the members of this new Indian Board did not sooner find out their wonderful interest in the welfare of our aborigines. And perhaps they may ask how this Board are to procure the funds for redeeming their unconditional promise 'to afford to the emigrant Indians all the necessary instruction in the arts of life and duties of religion.' And possibly it may occur to them to look into some of our periodicals, which all circulate among the Cherokees to find out whether the Dutch Church has a supply of ministers and teachers to spare, for all their wants if they emigrate.

In conclusion, the persons really concerned in this proceeding appear to be Governor Troup, Colonel M'Kenney, Gov. Houston, Dr. Brownlee, and the Rev. Eli Baldwin. And when we contemplate the cruelty of their object, and the recklessness of spirit with which they are forming it, I think it would be well named an 'Indian Board' taking the word Indian in the bad sense only. But since by the progress of civilization and religion among our red brethren, this word has become ambiguous. I propose that the corresponding synonyme(sic) should be adopted and that in all future notices it should be designated as the 'SAVAGE BOARD.'