Cherokee Phoenix

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Published January, 15, 1831

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From the Cincinnati American.

MR. EDITOR -- I wish to say a few words on the subject of the removal of the Indians. They shall be but a few. All the learning on the subject, legal and historical, has been exhausted long ago. In truth, there has been far too much of it. The overwhelming importance of the subject has been lost sight of, in the labyrinths of detailed argument. Besides, I profess no learning. But I thank god that I have feeling. My pulsations are as rapid as those of other men. I can feel national disgrace as keenly. And I understand the law which is written upon the heart. I would have the rights of the Indians tried by that law. I would have every American citizen make their case his own. I would ask him to call to mind the burning indignation, with which he has read the story of Spanish cruelty to the Indians of South America, and then see wherein he can distinguish the present case form theirs. My poor vision, unassisted by a political eye-glass, can see but one difference. The Spaniards professed no regard for unalienable rights. We have them forever on our tongue. The Spaniards had not reached that high conception of Freedom which prompts men to pour out their blood like water in its cause. We are the sons of those men, who not only did this, but who published to the world, in the sublimest manifesto which hand ever penned, that all men are born free and equal. The question therefore is, are the Indians men? If they are, this nation has laid it down as a self-evident truth, 'that they are endowed by their Creator with an unalienable right, to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' Yes, endowed by their Creator. Man did not and could not give these rights. And shall be, because clothed with a little brief authority, presume to take them away? We talk of the faith and solemnity of treaties, and it is well. But the obligation, in the sight of Heaven, was as strong as it could be before a treaty was made. The only difference is, that a nation's honor is now pledged, and if the pledge be not redeemed, a nation's deep disgrace will be the just consequence. If, when this act of high handed oppression is consummated, the civilized world does not cry out against it, human nature will not be true to itself; and public opinion will have stepped down from the high ground it occupied when the diversion of Poland was first made known. Who has forgotten the burst of execration from every quarter, which greeted that monstrous outrage upon human rights? And will not every unprejudiced eye regard the removal of the Indians as a twin brother to that? There may be this difference. Sarcasm and scorn may be added to detestation. The tyrants who effected that division, were tyrants by profession; they held themselves out to mankind as despots; and however their conduct be deprecated, there was no horrible inconsistency in it. But the tyrants who are preparing, with no other right than that of the stronger, to drive away a people from the land which their ancestors occupied for centuries, before the glorious vision of a New World rose upon Columbus, profess to be ministering at the altar of freedom. They have been elected by a free people to administer a free constitution; and the palpable hypocrisy of their behaviour must strike the world. And when some future Mitford comes to this dark passage in our history, (if an enemy to republicanism should ever write our history, as has been the fate of Greece,) he will task his bitterest powers of iron to set off in its proper relief this significant commentary upon the doctrine of EQUAL RIGHTS. I will not attempt to imagine his language. Could the reproaches fall only where they are merited, they could not be too severe. Let the Measure go abroad to the world, and down to posterity, as purely a party measure, undertaken with no other view than to gain reputation for a feeble and corrupt administration; let mankind be told it was customary for each successive President to fix upon some leading article of policy to characterize his reign, as Jefferson projected the purchase of Louisiana, and Madison the war with England; and that the moral test of Jackson and his ambitious cabinet, aided by the pliant subserviency of a predominant party in Congress, singled out this as a novel, and heretofore unheard of measure, that their claim to originality might never be disputed, (as indeed it never was or will be); and let it be published in the same connexion, that while the subject was under discussion, a host of the greatest and best spirits of the land took arms against it, that the most eloquent orators and profound lawyers in the Union spoke and wrote for the rights of the Indians, and that a long and loud strain of indignant remonstrance was heard from the pulpit and the press in every State; -- if all this could be told in extenuation, the cause of freedom would not suffer by an act of her recreant votaries: and glaringly unjust as the measure is, it would take its place among the long list of cases, in which political ambition has extinguished the light of moral principle, and the happiness of multitudes has been trifled with for the gratification of one or a few.

At all events, however men may regard it, 'there is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations.' To Him this transaction must appear as it is. And our hope that He will not visit our nation with the same awful fate that we are preparing for the helpless Indians, is grounded on the revelations he has made of His character. If ten righteous men would have saved the devoted city, we may be permitted to trust, that the glorious multitude of great and good men, who have thus far struggled without avail against a prostitute majority, will avert from our beloved country, the merited wrath of God, for so daring an outrage against a portion of His children.

There is an eloquent passage in Mr. Everett's Speech in Congress at the last session, with which I will conclude these remarks.

'Sir, I acknowledge my mind has been strangely confounded by the propositions laid down by the Executive Government and those who support its policy toward the Indians. I am ready to think that they or I have lost sight of the ordinary significancy of terms. I had supposed the general idea of the nature of law was settled in the common agreement of mankind. Sages, when they attempted to describe it in its highest conception, had told us, that its seat was the bosom of God, and its voice the harmony of the world. I had been taught to reverence the law as a sort of earthly Providence; as the great popular sovereign; the unthroned and sceptreless prince; the mild dictator, whose province it was to see that not a single subject of its sway received harm. With these conceptions, how can I understand it when I hear that the Indians claim to be protected against the laws of States? Protected against the laws! I thought it was the object of the law to protect every good man from all harm whatever, and even to visit on the bad man, only the specific penalty of his proven offence. But protection against the law: protection against the protector? Sir, I cannot understand it: it is incongruous. It confounds my faculties. There must be fatal mischief concealed in so strange a contradiction of language.'