Cherokee Phoenix


Published January, 8, 1831

Page 1 Column 1b-3b


From the New York Observer.


On Saturday, May 15th, Mr. Storrs of New York, opposed the bill in one of the ablest and most conclusive speeches, which have ever been delivered in our House of Representatives. It will bear a very honorable comparison with the best discussion in the British House of Commons. In point of order, close adherence to the subject, fair and manly argument, and cogent expostulation it has rarely been surpassed. Whoever doubts the correctness of this representation may read the speech for himself, as published in the volume of speeches on the Indian Bill.

Mr. Storrs occupied the floor just four hours, and was heard with profound interest and attention. Public expectation, which had been raised high, was fully satisfied. Among the topics which he discussed, are the following.

He began by expressing his fear, that insuperable obstacles had been thrown in the way of the free action of Congress, by the previous action of the Executive on this subject; a subject pre-eminently, on which the Executive should not have anticipated the proceedings of the National Legislature.

Mr. Storrs then entered upon a discussion of the claims of Georgia, in doing which he said he should express his opinion fully, faithfully, and fearlessly. He asserted the obvious meaning of the compact of 1802, to be, that the Indian territory should be obtained by fair and honorable treaty, if obtained at all, and that treaties had been made under that compact, at the instance and with the approbation of Georgia, down to the year 1825, when the Treaty of the Indian Springs was formed.

He next examined the report of the Georgia Legislature, as approved by the Governor, and transmitted by him to the President of the United States, in December, 1827; which report goes the length of denying to the Indians all rights whatever. He showed that the laws, subsequently enacted by Georgia, have carried out the principles of the report.

The Cherokees have appealed to Congress. If they can have no redress here, they can have none anywhere.

This should not be a party question. It is not. On some of the memorials, the very best friends of the administration are the first signers.

The President has no power to abrogate treaties, no power to expound them. They are the supreme law of the land; and he is bound by his oath to execute them. He has no dispensing power. When a treaty is made, it is beyond his control. It derives its force from the constitution; not from the President, unless he is above the constitution. If he can abrogate or expound these treaties, he can set aside treaties with the powers of Europe, and may change all our foreign relations.

Mr. Storrs denied that the State of New York has exercised the same power over the Indian tribes within her borders, as Georgia has done in regard to the Cherokees. He examined the law of New York, relating to this subject, and declared that the decisions of the highest court of law in the state sustain the national character of the Indian tribes. He said that if we set aside these treaties with the Cherokees, we make the whole course of proceedings with Indians a system of mockery, of foolery, of juggling. When we undertake to set aside treaties, we must have a clear case. If there is a doubt, the Cherokees are to have the benefit of it. The stipulations of guaranty, which we made to them, were made for a compensation, a valuable compensation;-were made for our benefit and at our solicitation. The parties cannot be reinstated as they were. We are to decide in our own case, and we must decide right. If we give the world reason to say, that we cast our sword into the scale, we must hang our heads with shame forever.

There are two courses to be pursued with the Indians, that of Spain in South America, and that of Penn and the Puritans. We must take our choice.

Before the American Revolution, the principle was settled-deliberately settled by the British government, - that the Indian Nations were sovereign, and capable of making treaties, and of selling or retaining their lands. After the Revolution, the same principles were acknowledged, and acted upon. In 1793, the cabinet of General Washington held a solemn deliberation, the result of which was the most explicit acknowledgment of Indian rights, as now claimed by the Cherokees.

Mr. Storrs here read some extracts, which he had made from the executive journal of the Senate, by which it appeared, that the fullest and most positive declarations were made to tribes of Indians by General Washington, disclaiming any right to their country till they should voluntarily cede it. The right of discovery, so far as it might be considered as involving any claim, to the soil, was renounced as unjust and untenable.- This decision of the question by such a cabinet, Mr. Storrs considered as a precedent which banished all doubt and defied all evil.

He next examined the letter of the Secretary of War to the New York Indian Board; and after scanning it, sentence by sentence, concluded by saying: 'And thus, by such a contemptible mass of sophistry is this great question disposed of'.-

The guaranty of the Treaty of Holston was declared by Mr. Storrs to have been made for the very purpose of protecting the Cherokees against Georgia. He asked, 'Is not Georgia a member of this Union? Has not Georgia adopted the federal constitution? Is she not bound by the obligations of our country? The good faith of this government must be maintained. I measure my words: the good faith of the country must be maintained, at every hazard'.

As to the pretended right of conquest, Mr. Storrs said, that we had never availed ourselves of it, and it was now too late.

He concluded by a very strong and eloquent appeal to members, with regard to their responsibility to their constituents,- to the enlightened American community-to the wise and good of every land,- to the friends and enemies of free institutions,- to the great family of nations. He solemnly declared that he should think it a less evil, and a more supportable calamity to have a dictator for the life of one man, that to have the contemplated measures with the Indians carried into full effect. He believed that such a course would do more injury to the cause of free institutions than could be done by all the armies of all the monarchs of Europe for a century. He reminded the House, that the judgment of posterity on this matter, could not be perverted by sophistry, nor by flattery, nor by patronage, nor by a venal press. He wished that the President would still pause and reflect; that he would consult the honor of his country, and his own true glory; and that he would interpose, and save the plighted faith of the United States from violation.

The effort of Mr. Storrs was a noble one. He threw in it his whole soul. It was the result of sober conviction and deep feeling; and excited in the minds of hearers overpowering emotions.

Mr. Lampkin of Georgia, a member of the Indian Committee, obtained the floor, and moved that the committee rise, and the committee rose accordingly. On Monday, Mr. Lumpkin proceeded; but an account of his speech must be reserved for my next number.