Cherokee Phoenix

From Poulson's American Advertiser

Published January, 29, 1831

Page 4 Column 2b-5a

From Poulson's American Advertiser.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress Assembled, the Undersigned Memorialists, Citizens of


Beg leave respectfully to represent:-

That although in the Bill authorising the President to procure, and provide for, the removal of the Indians residing within the limits of the states of Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama, a proviso is subjoined; that nothing therein, shall authorize a violation of existing treaties; your memorialists apprehend, that the said Bill may be the means of encouraging a gross violation of the treaties existing between the United States and the Cherokees. Your memorialists believe that the following questions would be answered in the affirmative by the most zealous advocate of state claims.

Independently of the acts of those whom they may justly consider as foreigners and invaders of their country, would not the Cherokees be an independent sovereign people, and the rightful inheritors of the lands on which they reside.

Have not the lands which they now hold been solemnly guaranteed to them by treaties with our national government, more especially by the Treaty of Holston?

Are not treaties made by the national government with a sovereign and independent people, the supreme law of the United States agreeably to the Constitution?

Assuming that affirmative answers would be given to the foregoing queries, your memorialists infer that it must be conceded; that so far only as the most sacred rights of a people can, without their own consent, be abrogated by the ability of others to oppress them, and the precedent afforded by the long established practice of oppression: and so far only as the Cherokees could, by these extraneous means be deprived of their claims to be treated as a sovereign people, can it be legal, forcibly to eject them from their patrimony.

Your memorialists conceive, that with the power to make treaties, the discretionary power of deciding on the question of the existence of a competent degree of sovereignty in any people, with whom a treaty might be made, was necessarily associated; and that it would not now be justifiable for the people of any state, in our great confederation, to evade the obligations arising under a treaty by alleging that, in their opinion the party with whom the treaty had been made had not competent degree of sovereignty.

But as in the case of the Indians, the exclusive right to treat with them, whether within the geographical limits of a state, or otherwise situated, was specifically given to the national government, it were evidently irrational to question the constitutionality of any treaty mae with them by that government.

Your memorialists conceive that nothing can be more irreconcilable with law, reason, or national honor than that a treaty, solemnly ratified by the first, best, and wisest of our presidents, to which the people of the several states were parties under the constitution ' which they sanctioned by their acquiescence is now to be questioned upon the pretence that Washington and the senate with whose advice and assistance he acted, were so ignorant of the constitution, and the relation in which the aborigines stood to the people of the United States, as to make with the former a treaty, to be violated whenever it should become the interest of a state to treat it as illegal.

To the annals of our country, your memorialists would turn in order to demonstrate, that not only by Washington, but by his successors, by the British government, and even by the government of Georgia, has the sovereignty of the Cherokees been deemed adequate to the treaty making power.

Your memorialists conceive that the sacred obligations arising from the treaties of the United States, ought to be a sufficient protection to the Cherokees, in the possession of their lands, had they been intruders; but viewing them as those who would be the undisturbed legitimate owners independently of the superior power of the invaders of their country, and the sanction for the exercise of that power furnished similar wrongs heretofore elsewhere committed, your memorialists feel an increased repugnance and the anticipated breach of our national faith.

They are penetrated with sentiments of disapprobation, and sorrow, when they hear from distinguished politicians, as recital of instances of injustices towards the aborigines, not with the intention of depreciating a continuance of that course of iniquity but in order to make it an excuse for the perpetration of another wrong; in which our character, as a nation and as republicans, still be more deeply and more generally implicated.

The only pretence which could be set up to the lands of the Cherokees, supposing them unprotected by their treaties with our national government, would, in the opinion of your memorialists, be that claim of the strong to the possessions of the weak, which has been miscalled the right of conquest. But if obtained by conquest those lands were won by the disinterested soldiers of our revolution, who inspired by genuine, patriotism, a love of liberty and of virtuous fame, hazarded, or sacrificed, wealth, health, blood, and life itself in that perilous struggle. Your memorialists observe, therefore, with pain that those territorial acquisitions have been, by promised distribution, held up as the means of influencing a portion of our countrymen to forget what is believed due to the national character to humanity, and to those rights of man, which are so well portrayed in our Declaration of Independence.

Your memorialists admit that there may be plausible ground for the opinion expressed by the Secretary of War, and other eminent men, that the ultimate happiness of the red men, would be best consulted by their removal beyond the reach of the cupidity of the whites, if such a spot can be found for them in this side of the grave; and it should diminish the mortification of the undersigned at the contemplated evasion of our national engagements agreeably to the reprobated principle that the end justifies the means, did facts allow them to suppose that the ultimate happiness of the red men and their neighbors was the incentive of this policy.

But had such been the incentive instead of projected lotteries, and other methods of effecting a promiscuous partition of the Cherokee lands among the adjoining population your memorialists would expect to read of a plan for those lands, in order to create a fund for the benefit of a people expatriated for the common good. In that case your memorialists would not have had to complain that with respect to the territory acquired and the national reputation established by the impoverishment of the heroes of the revolution, the one is to be tarnished, in order that the other may be employed for the enrichment of a multitude, happening to reside within the geographical boundaries unjustly and injudiciously assigned by a foreign monarch, to one of his provinces.

Your memorialists are indignant that in a republican country, which has spurned the previously legitimate control of British Kings, the illegitimate charters and proclamations of those monarchs should be considered competent to authorize the seizure of a territory, in despite of a solemn guarantee.

Nor is there, agreeably to the opinion of the memorialists less cause for regret, that at a moment when we are universally rejoicing on account of the liberty gained by a nation in the eastern hemisphere we should, in our own country, sanction the worst of all tyranny- that of one nation over another.

Heretofore the acts of Congress have been considered as pre-eminently the law of the land, unless declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States; your memorialists are therefore surprised to observe, that the act of Congress of 1802 for the protection of the Indian tribes, which derives additional claims to a faithful observance, from its incorporation in more than one compact with them, should be treated as void upon the plea of its unconstitutionality; without any decision authorizing this view of it by the only competent tribunal.

In the provincial history of some of the states of our Union, there may be sufficient instances of fraud and violence towards the aborigines to furnish precedents for the course which the Indian Bill has been made to sanction, but your memorialists are under the impression, that in our national history no instance of ill faith, cruelty, or injustice, can be adduced prior to the proceedings in relation to the southern Indians. Our national character will be looked for, not in times anterior to our existence as a nation, but in the period which has succeeded the formation of our general government. Your memorialists trust that the Senate, and House of Representatives of the United States will not consider the crimes of our provincial times, as worthy of imitation; but will rather endeavor to wipe off any stain which may thence arise by a rigid performance of national obligations, and a scrupulous adherence to the path of justice and humanity.