Cherokee Phoenix

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Published January, 15, 1831

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From the New York Spectator.

The Presidents' Message. -- The Indians -- Let none of our readers turn from this subject. It has been, we are aware, so often discussed, that to many it may have become tedious and uninteresting; but it involves the sacred cause of humanity, justice, and national faith, and it is not less our duty to explain it, than it is the duty of every citizen in our republic, to exercise his influence upon it.

The present Message of the President has advanced upon his Message of last year, and at length undisguisedly develops the intention of the Executive towards the Cherokees. Last year, it was said: -- 'Their emigration should be voluntary; for it would be cruel as unjust to compel the Aborigines to abandon the graves of their fathers, and seek a home in a distant land.' This year, we read that while (in the heartless cant of the Message) 'humanity weeps over the fate of the Aborigines.' yet, the consummation of the Government policy of removing the Indians from the limits of the states, is what 'the states have a right to demand. It was substantially a part of the compact which made them members of our confederacy -- with Georgia there is an express contract.' This additional boldness of language may be owing to the unflinching and inveterate fierceness, with which Georgia her during the recess, advanced in laws of cupidity; or it may be another exhibition of Mr. Van Buren's peculiar policy, who never fully indicates his designs at first, and who (as Fontenelle expresses it,) if he have his handful of truth, will only open a finger at a time.

The Indian question, besides its intrinsic interest, is becoming, through the additional circumstances which almost thicken round it, important to us in a new point of view. It is not only now, whether national faith shall be broken -- whether immemorial usage -- British engagements anterior to our Independence -- treaties during the revolutionary war; and at least twelve distinct treaties made since the adoption of our constitution, supported by corroborative laws, shall be infringed and violated; nor, whether a single unprincipled state shall pursue its cruel avarice and nullify the laws; but also, whether General Jackson has the right of his own will and pleasure, to abrogate a treaty, repeal a law. If written constitutions are worth more than old Almanacks; if the French, in their late revolution, were wise in shedding their blood for a charter; this ought to be a question of some moment to American freemen. Now, to give one remarkable fact: On the 30th March, 1802, a law of Congress was passed regulating intercourse with the Indians, and enacting, among other things, 'that it should be unlawful for any citizen to enter upon any Indian territory -- to make any settlement upon their lands; or survey or attempt to survey the same' -- and providing in various other respects for the preservation and integrity of their boundaries; and directed the executive to use force to carry into effect its provisions. This law is still in force. In the very teeth of this statute, General Jackson has withdrawn the United States troops, with the avowed view of allowing Georgia to enter on the lands and make surveys, and in short do as she pleases; and in his messages, he declares all laws impairing what he terms the state powers over the Indians to be unconstitutional. Unconstitutional indeed! What right has he to pronounce them so? A law of Congress once passed, the President -- that is, if we live, as we are beginning to doubt, under a limited and free government -- has no more right to pronounce it unconstitutional, than has a deputy Sheriff. Constable Hays might as well refuse to execute the Recorder's bench-warrant against a pick-pocket, because it was unconstitutional. The President has no more latitude and discretion over an express law, than the humblest tide-waiter of the customhouse. We speak advisedly, when we declare our opinion, that this very conduct of the President is an impeachable offence. In England, a minister, nay, the Duke of Wellington himself, would tremble for his head, if he dared to imitate it. God help our country, if Andrew Jackson can act in this manner, with impunity here.

Mr. Secretary Eaton here steps in, ' favors the country with his marked opinion on the subject. He solemnly shakes his head, and gravely remarks that he has doubts not only of the binding force of acts of Congress respecting Indians, within the limits of States, but, also, of treaties made by the President and senate. This accomplished doctor of civil laws has not yet settled in his mind the precise extent of the treaty making power of the constitution. We do indeed believe the Secretary sincere in saying he has doubts on the subject; and we go further in his favor, and believe that he things and knows nothing about the matter. Our wonder is how Mr. Van Buren and Mr. Berrien, who must have some esprit du corps, came to allow their colleague to write on the subject.

The writer of the message pretends to compare the forced departure of the Indians to the free-willed, voluntary emigration of our New England youth. Does this writer realize that he is writing to the intelligent people of America? The parallel is an insult to our understanding. The New England young men may possess at home a rood of ground, but General Jackson, as yet, cannot take it from him. It is his own. His house may be the poorest cottage, open to every breath of winter; but (in the language of Erskine) 'though every wind of heaven may enter it: a King cannot! a King dare not!' To such a man, going forth, free to remain and free to depart, with the world wide before him where to choose his place of rest, and Providence his guide, is he like the helpless Cherokee, imploring in vain to be allowed die on his own land, and driven to wilds, which can scarce support the beast of prey? What mockery is this!

To what pass are we coming? Are chaos and old night returning? Are we doomed to see law, justice, common sense and common honesty; torn down, and mangled by Barbarian hands? We confess that at times we feel desponding over our country; and we ought to feel so, on anticipating the Indian's destruction, if we recognize a retributive Providence, or believe the lessons of history. It was such an act, the expulsions of the Moors by Philip 2d, which gives date to the decay of the once mighty monarchy of Spain. It was by such acts, that the sun of Spanish glory in the western world set in clouds and blood.