Cherokee Phoenix

Indian Memorial. The following Memorial is about to be put in circulation to receive the signatures

Published October, 16, 1830

Page 1 Column 1a

Indian Memorial. The following Memorial is about to be put in circulation to receive the signatures of the citizens of the State of Mississippi, as are opposed to the removal of the Indians, except by their own consent. We consider the facts and the consideration of every American, professing to be an advocate of republicanisms: those who are republican, are already satisfied of the iniquity of what is called the Indian Bill ' expect the Legislature repeal it.--The Natchez, To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Mississippi in General Assembly convened the following Remonstrance is respectfully addressed.

Your remonstrants disapprove of the law of the late Legislature, extending the jurisdiction of the State over the persons and property of the Indians within the limits thereof; and beg leave to show that the said law is unconstitutional, unwise, unjust, ungrateful, anti-republican and anti-Christian.

The law is unconstitutional in principle and fact, as it relates to the State Constitution, which does not give the power assumed, and which could not have been so made as to give such power. The convention were authorized by act of Congress, to form a Constitution for the people of the western part of the Mississippi Territory, not repugnant to the ordinance for the government of the North Western Territory, the 3d article of which requires that 'the utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians,' that 'their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent,' and that 'in their property, rights and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful war, authorised by Congress.' Now, Congress laid us under the restriction above quoted, in compliance with their compact with Georgia, which provides, 'that the territory thus ceded shall form a State, and be admitted as such into the Union, on the same conditions and restrictions as is provided in the ordinance aforesaid, with the exception of the article forbidding slavery. Now the law in question is an invading and disturbing of the rights and liberty of the Indians, as well as a breach of good faith in regard to many solemn treaties existing between them and the United States, and is therefore clearly without the powers which the State Convention did, or could confer on the Legislature, and consequently unconstitutional.

This law is considered unwise, because it creates for the Indians civil and political relations, and imposes upon them civil duties, for which very few of them are prepared, either by intellectual culture or moral discipline. Ignorant of the language, the laws, the customs, and the privileges of the State, of which this law effects to constitute them citizens, they could not be supposed capable of discharging the duties of a witness, or a juror, much less those which appertain to the higher order of magistracy. Moreover, by removing the restraints imposed by their native rulers upon their fatal propensity for ardent spirits -- restraints suited to the measure of their intelligence and the customs of their tribes, but inadmissible among the regulations of civilized society -- by removing these restraints, the ruin, even the speedy extermination of the Indian race, would by this law be rendered almost inevitable. Can that Legislature be wise which places its object in circumstances so incongruous and so ruinous? But not only is this law unwise as it relates to the Indians; it also presents characters of great folly in regard to the citizens with whom they are incorporated. With even the imperfect rights of citizens conferred upon them by this law, what is to prevent the Indians from roaming into any part of the State; and with the license of citizens, and impelled by their fatal propensity to intoxication, disgusting the whole country with scenes of Indian riot, and endangering the peace and safety of the community by their quarrels and their conflicts? Still further: this law is considered unwise because, by setting aside the constituted authority of the tribes it will have rendered it extremely difficult, if not utterly impossible to negotiate with the Indians for the purchase of their lands, should they be disposed to sell. With whom could the United States treat on the subject? Surely not with officers appointed by the tribes; for these, the law in question has declared destitute of authority. Indeed, as they hold their lands in common, if their national sovereignty be denied, it seems impossible to purchase any part of their lands without the distinct consent of each individual. This knot may be cut, but cannot be untied, unless by repealing the law against which your remonstrants find it their duty to protest.

That this law is unjust, every man may be fully satisfied, who will ask himself how he would feel on the subject, were he an Indian. It takes from the Indian, without his consent, his liberty, his right of self government, and subjects him to the caprice of men who he does not know, and over whom he can exercise no control. For impositions like these, our fathers appealed to arms, adopting for the motto, 'Liberty or Death.' Who dare look the foundation of moral excellence in the face, and say that this law is in accordance with that beautiful epitome of social morality, 'whatever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them?' Your remonstraints deem it a waste of time, and an affront upon the intelligence and moral sense of your honorable body, to urge elaborate proofs of a point so clear as the injustice of this law.

It is ungrateful, as well as unjust. Ungrateful towards God, who against mighty odds enabled our fathers to secure to us the very blessing which this law wrests from the Indians -- ungrateful to the Indians, who have ever been our accommodating friends when we are at peace, and our voluntary and efficient coadjutors when we were involved in war. Under the conduct of the illustrious Captain who now presides in our national government, they fought and bled in our cause, rendering important service to the security of our State and to the glory of our commander. How will it tell on this history of our state and nation, that without provocation even pretended, while yet the memory of their services and sufferings in the late war is green in our minds, we have made political slaves of the Choctaws and Chickasaws? Can history parallel such ingratitude?

Surely no question can exist concerning the anti-republican character of this law. The Legislature of the State of Mississippi, without the delegation from the Indians to them of any power for that purpose, have legislated for their government. This is subversive of what, in our Declaration of Independence, we have asserted to be the right of all men, viz: 'to be governed by themselves, or representatives chosen by themselves for that purpose:' and indeed it is contrary to the spirit of republican government in general, as it assumes a right to govern without the consent of the governed, and without responsibility to them for the exercise of the right so assumed. The consent of the Indians has never been asked, or obtained to the powers to which the law in questions subjects them. Our Constitution excludes even such as might have resided among us at the time of its adoption, from the suffrage, which is the most essential of all political rights; and although the law affects to confer right, it confers none that would make them a free people. Nothing can make them such under our government, but an amendment to the Constitution; and it is well worthy of remark, that although propositions for such an amendment were made, and well nigh carried at several successive sessions at the Legislature immediately previous to the last one, no attempt, it is believed, was made at the last one to effect such a purpose. The irresistible conclusion therefore is, that the law contemplated to force the Indians to become subjects, without admitting them to become citizens at any time.

After what has been already advanced, your remonstrants need hardly added, that this law is anti-Christian, seeing it has been shown to be contrary to the spirit of benevolence, of justice, of gratitude, and of equal regard to the rights of man, which breathes throughout the gospel. But there is a point of view in which the subject presents itself, which renders the truth of this proposition wholly unquestionable. For some years past the ministry of the gospel among the Indians within the limits of this State, and especially among the Choctaws, has been successful in a degree scarcely equal, even in the triumphs achieved by the gospel in primitive times. Not only has the gospel attracted this attention; it has entered into their spirit, and wrought such a change in their character, as to induce persons well qualified to judge, and who have had abundant opportunities of observing, to pronounce the effect produced the proper fruit of the religious instruction which has been imparted to them. Now the law, against which this remonstrance is presented, is calculated -- by rousing the angry passions of the outraged Indians, by exciting well founded jealousy of the white man's character, and by driving them from their homes, or deranging the order established among them -- to frustrate the religious improvement so happily commenced among them; and not only to throw them back upon their former barbarism and irreligion, but even to remove them farther from the white man's gospel than they were before it was introduced among them. Your remonstrants are not unaware that the business upon which your honorable body is assembled, is not to devise ways and means for the spread of the gospel; nevertheless, as the national government, through the whole course of its existence, has deemed it highly important to introduce and encourage religious influence and instruction among the Indians with a view to their political amelioration, if from no other motive, it surely cannot be deemed unsuitable to admonish your honorable body against a course of proceedings which directly tends to prevent that influence and to defeat the purpose of that instruction. So intimate is the connection between religions influence and the political well being of any community, that that statesman little deserves the credit of patriotism, who would lessen or discountenance its existence, especially among those who, like the Indians, have few of these less effective, but yet powerful motives to well doing, which operate on civilized society. Nor in a Christian country ought it to be deemed political heresy to suppose that God might be offended at, and avenge himself on, those who lay such an impediment as this law in the way of his favorite plan for ameliorating the condition of his creature man.

Your remonstrants are aware that this law was intended as an indirect method of obtaining the Indian lands. Against such an unfair and unbecoming procedure, they feel bound solemnly to protest. Could those lands be obtained by fair purchase, your remonstrants would have equal gratification with any of their fellow citizens; for none are more solicitous for the solid growth and permanent prosperity of a State than they; but highly as they would be gratified by the acquisition of the Indian's land, they would think the purchase exorbitantly dear, if these lands were obtained by the sacrifice of justice, gratitude and honor -- not to say of the divine approbation also. Should your honorable body be resolved to persevere in the course of policy adopted by the late Legislature, and invincibly opposed to the repeal of the law against which your remonstrants have addressed you, then permit them to press upon your consideration the expediency, nay, the necessity of suspending the law for at least one year. Much time will be necessary to give consistency to the proceedings in the matter. Leave the chiefs in authority, that the negotiations for their lands, which is understood are contemplated by the President, may not be embarrassed by the want of a proper organ through which the Indian may communicate on the subject. Leave their own laws in force, and their own officers in authority, till they shall have time to make the needful arrangements for their removal, if go they must. Think of the probable consequence of turning loose upon the borders of the State a horde of savages, freed from the restraints to which they are enured, and controlled only by the laws not understood by them, and too slow in their operation for their habits, and the outrages to which their oppression would be likely to drive them, and then determine whether a cruel exterminating war will not most probably be the result -- a war to which a very large portion of your fellow citizens must be conscientiously opposed, from the just conviction of its having been procured by the unconstitutional, unwise, and unjust legislation of their own State.