Cherokee Phoenix

From the Adams Sentinel

Published January, 22, 1831

Page 4 Column 3a-5a

From the Adams Sentinel.

The Committee appointed by the Citizens of Adams County, assembled at the Courthouse in Gettysburg, on the 18th day of Dec. inst. to prepare a memorial to Congress, on the subject of the Southern Indians, have agreed on the following- which they submit to the consideration of their constituents.




To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the U. States of America, in Congress assembled:-

The undersigned, inhabitants of Pennsylvania, beg leave to lay before your honorable bodies, their opinions, feelings and wishes, with regard to the rights, and the course proper to be pursued towards the Southern Indian tribes.

We believe that the Cherokee Indians hold the absolute right to the lands which they now possess, by a title indefeasible by the acts or decrees of this or any other Nation, without their consent. Among Nations, prior occupancy, and fixed possession, establish the right to soil, which can be divested only by abandonment, treaty, or conquest; by neither of which have the Cherokee lands been alienated. Their possessions are reduced to so narrow a compass, as not, in our opinion, to justify further unauthorized encroachments, on the ground of National necessity or policy. The Cherokees are an independent Nation, and entitled to all the rights of such independence, except so far as they have already surrendered them by treaty. Including them within the boundaries of the States, could not deprive them of their inalienable rights or national independence, so long as they confine themselves within their own acknowledged limits. Within such limits, and over all the inhabitants thereof, the power of their own peculiar government is, and of right ought to be, absolute and uncontrollable, except so far as regulated by Treaty.

These principles we hold to be correct, and binding, by the general law of Nature and of Nations, independent of any contract between parties. But if it were otherwise, it would ill become the United States to deny the national independence of the Cherokees; their sovereign power within their own territory; or their right to the protection of the national Government from the intrusion of all our citizens, whether perpetrated under the guise of law, or for purposes of private plunder.

Whenever nations negotiate treaties with each other, through acknowledged agents, however unequal in numerical force and physical power, they admit themselves equal in point of national rights. Masters do not negotiate with their slaves; nor sovereigns with their subjects. Every one of these United States, through its constitutional organ, the Executive of the Union, has repeatedly become a party to compacts and treaties, entered into with the government of the Cherokees in their national and independent character; and have, thereby, become estopped from questioning their national sovereign existence. By the treaties of Hopewell and Holston, and others subsequently made, after designating the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation, the United States solemnly guarantee to the Cherokee Nation forever all their lands not here by ceded; the Cherokees acknowledge themselves to be under the protection of the U. States alone, and surrender their right to make treaties with other nations or individuals. These treaties, having been ratified during the administration of the illustrious Washington and his distinguished successors, Congress enacted laws for carrying into full and faithful execution. By the act of 1802, the President is required to employ the 'military force' of the country to enforce their observance. Notwithstanding the promises, the Commonwealth of Georgia, in defiance of the spirit and obligation of these treaties, has passed laws annihilated the national existence of the Cherokees; subjecting them, within their own territory, to State authority and control; and taking cognizance of the acts of Indians done within the chartered and reserved limits of their Nation.

We forbear to comment on the odious and partial character of these laws, discriminating between the same acts when committed by men of different color; and prescribing different punishments and modes of redress to different individuals, without any other regard to the quality of the action, or the degree of right, than the diversified hues of the skin. For, if Georgia has a right to legislate at all for the Indians, she is not answerable to the General Government for the quality of her laws. Such right we conscientiously and firmly believe does not exist; she claims it because the Indian Nation is within her boundaries. It is difficult to perceive, why an independent people should lose its existence, and be stripped of its individuality, because it happens to be surrounded by the possessions of other nations. Such a circumstance may give the power, but not the right, to crush them.

But, however humanity may weep over the licensed oppression which is sweeping the Aborigines from the face of the earth-yet, as Americans, such sympathy is merged in the alarm which we feel for ourselves, at the consequences of certain doctrines lately promulgated by a high officer of our Government, and adopted by the Executive in his late Message to Congress. In order to justify the abandonment of the Indians, and the refusal to protect them according to existing treaties, the Secretary of War, in his report to the President, assumes, that the Act of Congress of 1802, passed in pursuance of prior treaties, is unconstitutional, and not obligatory on Georgia, or the Federal Executive; and this reasoning is acquiesced and acted on by the President.

A reference to the prior acts of Georgia will show that she cannot sustain this position. The treaties of Hopewell and Holston, and the Act of Congress of 1802, above referred to, all took place before the 'articles of agreement and cession between the United States and the State of Georgia,' by which Georgia ceded a part of her territory to the United States. In those articles, she explicitly acknowledges the existence of the Indians as a Nation; with whom the U. States were to hold treaties, and extinguish the title to their territory, as soon as the same could be peaceably and reasonably done. By such acknowledgment, she certainly admitted the validity of former treaties and laws, which guarantied their protection and distinct existence.

The Treaty of Hopewell is older than the Constitution itself; hence, the adoption of the Constitution, which declares treaties to be the supreme law of the land, is a direct recognition of the right to treat with the Indians, according to the provisions of the compact.

Is it consistent with the spirit of our Government, for our Chief Magistrate to constitute himself the judge of the validity of laws, and execute them or not according to his decision thereon? After the people, through their Representatives, have passed such laws as they deem best for the public weal, should their executive servant be permitted to justify his disobedience to them, on the plea of their unconstitutionality? While laws are neither repealed by Legislature, nor invalidated by a decision of the Federal Judiciary, we can perceive no right in the Executive to set them aside, or suspend their operation at pleasure. Such a power admitted would be a firm foundation for future usurpers to build upon. Make the Executive and his Cabinet the arbiters of the constitutionality of your enactments; and, at some future day, when your officers become more ambitious, and less honest, than at present, what barrier have we between Tyrants and our liberty?

Firmly believing that our treaties with the Cherokee Indians, and law passed for their execution are constitutional and valid; and that a disregard and violation of them would be an indelible stain on our National honor-we pray your Honorable bodies to pass such laws as may be necessary to protect the Cherokees and other Indians, within their own territory, from the intrusion of any of our citizens, whether done in pursuance of State enactments or not, according to the true intent and meaning of our several Treaties with said Indian tribes.-And we will pray, 'c.