Cherokee Phoenix

From the Skeneatales Telegraph

Published October, 23, 1830

Page 1 Column 5a

From the Skeneatales Telegraph


It is truly painful to read, from week to week, of the oppressive, not to say degrading and abominable measures, put in operation to afflict this unhappy people, and drive them from their immemorial and till recently acknowledged inheritance. They now are, and for some time have been, subjected to arts (sic) and indignities altogether too trying and vexatious, too unjust and debasing for common fortitude to bear. And it certainly is no less surprising to us than creditable to the sufferers, that so little disposition to violence has prevailed among them.

Our fathers were taxed without their own consent, and for purposes beyond their control; but they were never, we believe, so completely disfranchised, nor rendered so entirely helpless and miserable as are the Cherokees at this time. Greatly indeed were our ancestors oppressed; but never were deprived of all participation in the government; nor were they ever exposed to more flagrant and intolerable abuses, than are now endured by the Cherokees.

But to our sires, open and determined resistance promised a speedy and permanent remedy. The nation arose in its strength, and, by the favor of Providence, asserted and established its 'unalienable rights'. Not so the Indians. Keenly sensible as they are, to the unsparing cruelties practiced upon them by their once dependent and indulged but not ungrateful oppressors, they have not the power if they have the inclination to offer a sanguinary and effectual resistance. They did suppose, and with much good reason, that a people whose history tells so much of exile and oppression from the mother country, and so much of Indian credulity, and kindness, in affording them a shelter and a home in their distress, would deal justly at least, if they did not greatly excell the uncultivated SAVAGE in deeds of charity, when the circumstances of each should be changed. And such a change has long been anticipated. So early indeed, that had not the above expectation been strengthened by the most fair and solemn promises, the progress of our nation would have been materially retarded, if its very existence had not been jeopardized. Treaty after treaty was made with them, in all of which their sovereignty was acknowledged, either directly or indirectly. And no less plainly were protection and a regard to their rights, pledged FOREVER.

If they were not a sovereign people, why was it not known and asserted long since; and why was not the attempt made to convince them of this when they had the requisite power to oppose usurpation and to punish the intruder? If the national rights of the Cherokees were not distinct from those of Georgia, how could the General Government make treaties with them without violating state rights? Can the United States form a treaty with a county, or with five counties without considering and acknowledging them sovereigns? And if sovereigns, how can a state control them or lay claim to their territory? Can an independent state lie within a sovereign state? Our Constitution, our President, Georgia, and all rational men say no. But the Cherokees from time immemorial, existed a sovereign people, and claimed their possessions independently of all governments. How then can any reflecting people claim them and their possessions as a constituent part of a state to which they never owed nor acknowledged allegiance? How could Georgia tamely permit treaties to be made with them so often, and so long since her nominal boundaries were thrown around them? and how could our wise Presidents and enlightened legislators sanction and confirm the compacts this unconstitutionally concluded? If they were unlawful, why was it not long since perceived and the present dilemma avoided?

With some it may be a matter of policy, and in many respects desirable, to bring the Indians under our laws and government. So thought Great Britain when she attempted to coerce us into obedience. It is true, the circumstances of that case were different from the one now under consideration, inasmuch as the colonies had acknowledged allegiance to another country; which is in no sense true of the Cherokees; yet our fathers were indisposed to submit without a struggle. They were capable of distinguishing between the legitimate rights of the people and the delegated authority of the government and when that government assumed those privileges which did not belong to it, and exercised undelegated and unlawful authority, the injured people would not, could not be made slaves, so long as the hope of freedom and the means of defense remained.

'We hold these truths to be self evident,' said the venerable founders of our independence, 'that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL; that they are endowed by their CREATOR with certain UNALIENABLE RIGHTS, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the CONSENT of the GOVERNED.' 'We hold these truths to be self evident' was and is now the response of the nation.

How then does it happen, that a nation thus tenacious of its rights, and determined to maintain them, can lift an arm of oppression over another, which owes them no obedience, nor any unriquitted obligation?

We know it may be as often as it has been repeated, the Cherokees are not an independent nation, because they are chiefly situated within the alleged boundaries of Georgia. But when did the Indians yield their immemorial title to the included territory? When did they assent to those boundaries? Shall mere nominal boundaries become real in this age of wisdom? Shall one possessor of the soil run his boundaries across the domains of another and his claims be sustained? Or shall one hold the property of another, simply because it has been formally deeded to him by a third? Is it ever too late to investigate the title of either, and thus decide between just and unjust claims?

Not only 'life liberty and the pursuit of happiness;' but also the quiet enjoyment of our homes, and the right of self-government, are treasures too valuable to be yielded into the hands of the tyrant or the covetous without a tear, an argument, an effort. More intrinsic worth do we all attach to them than to gold. And he may be deemed a prodigal indeed who can carelessly waste, and he an idiot, who can quietly relinquish them to an unlawful grasp.

Is it not strange then, that any who have yielded a hearty assent to our national Bill of Rights, should so far forget their own avowed sentiments, as to attempt a forcible alienation of 'unalienable rights?' Is it not strange, 'passing strange,' that a people, whose right of self-government has not only been derived, in common with all men from the even hand of the Creator; but has also been sealed and secured by an almost unparalleled expenditure of blood and treasure, should so soon forget the value to others, of similar inheritance? Well indeed may every philanthropist exclaim with the poet,

'My ear is pain'd, my soul is sick

With every days report, of wrong

And outrage with which earth is filled.'

But it may be asked, what can be done to relieve the Cherokees? In reply, we may observe, that the moral sense of the community, if rightly directed and strongly expressed may do much to correct the evil. The voice of philanthropy has already done much to sooth and encourage the sufferers; and if raised to a still higher pitch, may produce a salutary effect upon the measures of Georgia. Were Georgia disposed to deal justly and tenderly with the original lords of the soil, then no further efforts would immediately be necessary; for the Indians ask no greater boon of us, than to permit them to remain around the graves of their fathers, and enjoy the fruits of their own toil. They ask of use simple justice, and not a gratuity. They ask the privilege of enjoying their inherent rights, only because they have not the power to maintain them against the arts ' more abundant means of their oppressors. They have looked in vain to the clemency of Georgia. It is evidently the object and aim of that state to depress their spirits, to tire their patience, and exterminate every hope of peace and quietude, or even a reciprocal citizenship, until they relinquish their present territory and consent to go into exile from the land of their birth and of their choice.

In this extremity, they have addressed their petitions for aid to their promised protectors, the general government; but like the burdened and complaining Israelites in Egypt, they are turned away without redress. And we would that this were all. Not satisfied with giving them a cold reception, and disappointing their reasonable expectations, additional and more vexatious burdens are laid upon them.

A small annuity, due from our government to the Cherokee Nation, and by them appropriated to the support of their government, is, in the wisdom of our chief executive, ordered to be apportioned among individuals of the nation. In consequence of this order each individual, or possibly one of each family, (for we would fain make the best of it) must apply to the government Agency, at the distance of one hundred miles from some of their dwellings -- all for about forty-two cents each! 'Tell it not in Gath! publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon!' Tell it not? Yes: let it be told not exaggerated, to every man, woman and child of our nation. And let each look down, we cannot say up, along the chain of our national existence and happiness, and calculate its length and probable tendency, if such vexatious and intolerant abuses are not speedily corrected. We say abuses, for we could exhibit more of them if time permitted.

We are consoled however by the reflection, that a last resort still remains, where justice may be peaceably sought and prudently awarded.

And to this source the Indian now turns his eye. To the Supreme Court of the Union he appeals for a decision of the controversy. And his appeal will not be in vain.