Note: This issue of the Phoenix is printed in four columns only.
To the Editor of the Connecticut Observer.
DEAR SIR.- It was with pleasure, that I read in your paper of October 11, a letter from a gentleman, who has resided for a considerable time in the midst of the Cherokee Nation.- The facts which he mentions in his letter respecting the nation, are evidence which may be relied on, with greater safety than the unfounded assertions of interested persons or political intriguers.
But it is possible, that some of your readers may imagine even the writer of that letter, to have some interest at stake in this matter; and that for this reason he thinks unfavorably of removing the Cherokees west of the Mississippi.- There appears however, to be no ground for such a suspicion, as he deals wholly in those stubborn things called facts. His testimony respecting what are facts in the case I can see no reason for regarding otherwise than impartial.
But to relieve the minds of such, if any such there be, who imagine it to be otherwise, permit me to say a few things in corroboration of his testimony. And here I wish to premise, that I have no interest, either political or pecuniary in the decision of the question respecting the Indians. Living as I do, in Hartford County, Con. none can suppose me to have any pecuniary interest at stake; and as for politics, with them I never wish to meddle. All the interest that I have in this matter, is what every friend of justice and humanity ought to feel.
A number of months since, I had occasion to travel somewhat extensively, in that region of country which lies contiguous to the Cherokees; and was several times in different parts of the nation, and took special pains to satisfy my own mind respecting this condition. Before going among them, I made it an object to inquire of their white neighbors, respecting the conduct and character of the Indians.
I will mention some of my questions, together with the answers which were given.
Do not the Indians frequently trouble you, by coming over the line and stealing your property? No; they rarely if ever take anything without liberty. Do not people frequently pass through the nation? Yes; there is a great deal of travelling through the nation, especially on the Federal road. Can travellers be comfortably accommodated in the nation? Yes, there are good houses of entertainment on the roads. Are they kept by white people, or by Cherokees? By Cherokees. There are some white families living in the nation; but travellers generally call at the houses kept by the former. But is it entirely safe, for a person to put up for the night, at the house of an Indian? Will he not be likely in the morning to miss his horse or saddlebags or pocket book? No; you need have no fear of that. You and your property will be perfectly safe in the care of an Indian host.
These, and similar questions were put to many different individuals, and were answered by them all in substantially the same manner. My fears were all removed. I ventured through the domains of the Indians, for the first time in my life, and though travelling alone, I had not the least apprehension of danger. Had I before entering the nation, seen some statements which I have seen since, I should have expected to starve myself, or at least to leave my horse to be consumed by the buzzards. It proved however, to neither of us a land of famine. I made it my practice, to put up at the houses of the Cherokees; and was uniformly well entertained, and my horse bountifully fed with corn and fodder. I also saw large droves of cattle and hogs going to Georgia; and they had the appearance of being well fed, and capable of convincing the Governor himself, (provided they could find their way to his table) that they had not come from a land where everything was in a state of starvation.
Many of the Cherokees have good houses, as good if not better than most of their white neighbors. Others of them informed me that they would have built new houses, had it not been for the uncertainty, whether the nation would long be permitted to remain on their land. Their farms are well cultivated, and are productive; their children and people generally are well clothed. In some of the contiguous counties, I saw many ragged children, but next to none in the nation. Two Cherokee schools which I visited, would not suffer in comparison with some of the best primary schools in New England. I saw but one drunken Indian, in the limits of the nation, but did see within the same limits more than one drunken white man. There is a large Temperance Society among the Cherokees. I also learned that they have a law that no ardent spirits shall be brought within a given distance, of an election or a court of justice. A person informed me, that he was a little time before at a court, and the judge learned that some whiskey had been brought into the neighborhood. He directed the Sheriff to search for it, and dispose of it according to law.- He did so. After finding it, he poured it all upon the ground, as the law directs. I had an opportunity of conversing with families, indifferent parts of the nation, and found them much more intelligent than I expected. The claim which Georgia pretends to have on the Cherokee land, in one of the topics, upon which I heard them remark with a force of argument which I could not resist. Take the following as a specimen of Indian logic, and compare it with the long and crooked reasonings of many who glory in their superiority over these ignorant savages.
'What right has Georgia to our land? The government of the United States did indeed, promise that this land should belong to Georgia, as soon as the general government could peaceably, and on reasonable terms, extinguish the Cherokee title. When this is done the land will belong to Georgia and not before. The United States has not made an absolute gift of our land to Georgia, for she felt that it was not hers to give; but has merely promised that it shall be given to that State, whenever (should the time ever arrive) the Cherokees are willing to cede it to the U.S.'
My astonishment was excited, by reading the Cherokee Phoenix, and comparing it with many other papers which are published in the adjoining counties among the whites. I hesitate not to say, that in point of ability, it is far superior to many papers, which I had the opportunity of examining, during my travels. I made inquiry if the Editor did not receive assistance, in the duties of his department, from some well educated white man; and if many of the original articles, which he published were not furnished by such men. But I was assured and feel satisfied, that neither is a fact.
Another circumstance which awakened peculiar interest in my mind, is the following. When travelling in Tennessee, I put up for the night at the house of a respectable family; and in the course of the conversation inquired whether there was a school in that neighborhood, and who taught it?' They informed me that their school was taught by a Cherokee. My next question was, does he teach a good school? The best we have had for many years, was the reply. It seemed strange to me, that white people should find it necessary to employ Indian teachers; but stranger still, that the representative of these very people, should strongly urge in Congress the importance of removing the uncivilized Indians farther into the wilderness. When this is done, where will his constituents find school masters for their children?
Permit me to mention another fact which came to my knowledge. Before going into the nation, I heard much said on the subject of removing the Indians west of the Mississippi. Almost every one who spoke of their removal, intimated that the private members of the nation, and the full Cherokees especially, were willing and even anxious to go; but were kept back, by the influence of their chiefs, and of the whites living among them. The reverse of this I found to be the fact, when I came to examine for myself. I was repeatedly informed both by full Cherokees and by others, that most of those who had enrolled to go to the Arkansas, were either white men having Indian families, or half breeds, and that but very few full Cherokees had enrolled. This class are evidently the most opposed to a removal. A memorial to Congress, against the removal of the nation, was at the time circulating among the people; and the full Cherokees were the most forward to sign it. The opposition to a removal appeared general and strong among them. Many times did I think of the remark which the Cherokees, who several years ago removed from the Hiwassee District in Tennessee, used to make; We will not leave our land. If the white people want it, they may shoot us, and manure their cornfields with our bodies; but we will not go away.' Something of the same feeling is manifested by a large part of the nation now living east of the Mississippi.
While in the nation, I heard of a base white man, who hired a native to claim him as her husband, that he might enroll, and secure the bounty which government offers to the Indian removing to the west. Report says that he gave her forty or fifty dollars, enrolled, got into the boat, and went off with the emigrants at the expense of government; but the woman remained behind.
The withdrawing of the Indians from the pernicious influence of the whites, has sometimes been urged as a powerful reason for removing them to the Arkansas Territory. I was not a little surprised therefore when in the Western District, Tenn., many informed me that the Arkansas was the common resort of criminals. If a person had done anything which would expose him to the law, the common speech of people was, 'the next you will hear of that man will be, that he has gone to the Arkansas.' The commission of crime is regarded as a signal for removing to that favored land, where the Indian is to avoid every influence which is hostile to morals and religion, and learn everything that is lovely and good report. An intelligent gentleman of Tennessee, who had visited that Territory, when inquired of, how he liked it, replied thus.--'On my return I resolved, that if I could reach Nashville before the rising of the Legislature, I would petition that body to abandon the establishment of a Penitentiary, and as a substitute, to pass a law, banishing criminals to Arkansas for I am sure that a residence of six months in that Territory, would atone for any crime which a mortal can commit in this life.' I forbear to mention the fraud, and robbery and murder with which travellers coming from that region have filled my ears. You will no doubt agree with me, Mr. Editor, that the poor Indians will not find that a very safe retreat. Yet I fear they must go there. They are so oppressed in their own land, by their white neighbors, that unless some friendly power interposes, and that soon, their sufferings will be past endurance. I heard them tell of their wrongs, will the blood boiled in my veins. They told me how a mill, built and owned by a Cherokee, was taken from him, and kept by an armed force; while he made no resistance but suffered the white savages to retain their booty. They told me how the people from another neighboring State, frequently came into the nation, and drove off hogs and cattle, and when the owner pursued and complained to the civil authority, he could get no redress. They told me how when a white man commits a crime, and is punished by the constituted authority in the nation, with only half the severity with which an Indian would be punished for the same crime, judge and jury are liable to a heavy fine, or imprisonment; and the white offender returns with an armed company, to wreak his vengeance on the nation. They told me how the white man came to the house of the Indian in his absence, and flung his furniture into the street, kicked his children out of the door, and took possession. These things, and many more like them, were related in my hearing. The wrongs suffered by the Indians have not been told. It is time to arraign their oppressors before the bar of the civilized world, and put their conduct under the ban of an enlightened public opinion.
Yours respectfully, A traveller.