This issue of the Phoenix is published in four columns only.
RIGHTS OF THE INDIANS.
At a late political meeting at Fanend Hall in Boston, the treatment of the Indians by the present Administration being under discussion, Mr. Eearts, the author we believe of the essays signed 'Wm. Pen,' thus forcibly and eloquently set forth their claims, and our responsibilities. Let his concluding words be deeply pondered: N.Y. American.
The claims of the Indians rest on the following foundations.
All communities have a perfect right to territory, of which they have been in immemorial possession. The southwestern tribes have been thus in possession of their countries respectively, within known boundaries. Thus their original right is perfect, whether we have acknowledged it or not. And there never was an instance, from the first settlement of the British colonies to the year 1817, of the government of the parent country, or of a colony, or of a state, asserting that the lands of the Indians might be taken from them without their consent; nor was there an instance, within the period mentioned, of any such government extending, or claiming a right to extend, the laws of the whites over tribes of Indians living on their original territory, and under their own laws and customs.
From the commencement of our national existence, the rights of the Indians were fully admitted by the general government.
When the federal constitution went into operation, one of the first exercise of the treaty-making power, if not the very first, was a formal proposal to the senate, by the President of the United States, asking the advice and consent of that body, whether the United States should guaranty to the Creek Nation of Indians all their lands within certain boundaries? To this question the Senate gave a unanimous answer in the affirmative. This was in August, 1789. The next year a treaty was made, on the basis thus deliberately approved, containing a article of express guaranty; and the treaty was unanimously ratified by the Senate. The President then proposed the same question to the Senate, with reference to the Cherokees, and received the same affirmative answer. A treaty was accordingly made with that tribe, on the same basis, in the year 1791, which was also unamiously ratified. Thus, in the course of two years, that illustrious body of men had the subject of Indian rights under consideration at least four times; and four times they decided that the United States ought to guaranty, and would guaranty, to the Indians, an inviolable territory, carrying with it, of course, all the privileges of self-government. It is impossible to doubt as to the meaning of the word guaranty; and this word was repeated in the year 1798, and declared to be forever. In numerous other compacts, these fundamental articles are sanctioned, and reaffirmed in the most solemn manner.
In a word, Gen. Washington and his cabinet, after the most thorough consideration and discussion were perfectly united and decided in favour of protecting the Indians in their rights of territory and government. There is not the slightest evidence that any member of any cabinet, under the six first Presidents of the United States, ever doubted on this subject; or ever supposed, for a moment, that it would be right for the separate states, or the general government, to extend laws over the Indians, without their consent. Thus during forty years, the decisions and measures of all administrations were uniform in regard to the rights of the Indians.
Every Senate of the United States and every House of Representatives, have sanctioned these principles, down to the close of the last Congress; and, in all the research which has been applied to the Indian question recently, it has not been found that ever a single member of either house of Congress, anterior to the year 1827, asserted or maintained doctrines opposite to those which have now been explained.
The Supreme Court of the United States has expressed an opinion to the same general effect, by saying that the original inhabitants of American have 'a legal as well as just claim to their country, and a right to use it according to their discretion.'
Thus, all the co-ordinate branches of our government have settled the question; and, by the legislative and executive branches it has been settled as solemnly, as deliberately, and as uniformly, as any question can be settled.
Indeed, it is admitted, universally, and was expressly admitted on the floor of the Senate, by the chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, that the meaning of the treaties is plain, and that they were understood by the parties according to the obvious meaning of the words. Let us look a moment at this admission. Washington and his cabinet supposed that the United States were bound by treaties with the Indians. Mr. Jefferson and his cabinet supposed we were bound. Every Senate and every House of Representatives supposed were bound. All our public functionaries and especially the Secretary of war and Indian Agents, were perpetually representing to the Indians that we were bound. The Indians thought so: the American people thought so; ' and the world thought so.
And why are we not bound? It is now discovered, forsooth, that the Government of the United States cannot bind the people of the United States, in regard to our intercourse with the Indians; and that a separate State can defeat and annul the most solemn stipulations made with these aboriginal communities. Will the world believe this? Will any honest, disinterested man believe it? What! shall the most solemn transactions of the twenty-four States united under one Government, and thus forming one nation, be defeated by the doings of one State out of the twenty-four? Shall this be done, when to the National Government is committed the power of peace and war, treaties, and foreign intercourse; and when all these powers are expressly surrendered by the separate States; and when every State is solemnly bound by its own act not to exercise any one of these powers?
It remains, Mr. Chairman, for the people of the United States to say whether their engagements with the Indians shall be violated, or whether the public faith shall be preserved. It is a great moral question, and the people are to decide it; and they are to decide it by declaring, through their representatives, that the laws of the land shall be executed. Why should not a stand be taken here? If our honor is to remain untarnished, if our national character is to be sustained; if the union of the States is to be preserved; it must be done by the sovereign authority of law, by a faithful execution of compacts, which are the supreme law of the land.
A saying of the great Roman orator found its way very properly into one of the newspapers yesterday, to this effect: LET IT BE WRITTEN ON THE FOREHEAD OF EVERY CITIZEN WHAT HE THINKS ON THIS QUESTION. Never was there an occasion on which the remark was more applicable to the people of the United States than it is in regard to our treatment of the Indians. If the electors do not write on their forehead, HONOR, INTEGRITY, FIDELITY TO OUR ENGAGEMENTS, other influences will prevail, and we shall be obliged to receive a brand upon our foreheads, deep, indelible, infamous, -- a band not merely transmissible to posterity, but certainly to be transmitted, -- which all men will read in words like these: PERFIDY TO WEAK AND DEPENDENT ALLIES; PERFIDY TO SOLEMN OBLIGATIONS A HUNDRED TIMES REPEATED; PERFIDY COMMITTED DELIBERATELY AND FOR THE SMALLEST CONCEIVABLE TEMPTATION.