Cherokee Phoenix

From the Portland Christian Mirror

Published February, 12, 1831

Page 1 Column 3a-Page 2 Column 2a

From the Portland Christian Mirror.


In behalf of the Cherokee Indians.

We are not a little gratified and cheered, that the citizens of any town in our state, have their eyes fixed on the turning point, to which we have now arrived in the history of our nation's honor; and have done what they could to avert the disgrace which threatens us, of violating the faith of treaties. The following memorial was written in Vassalborough, for presentation to the citizens of that place, where, in a short time. between 300 and 400 signatures were obtained for it. So universal an expression of sentiment in such a manner is, we believe, of rare occurrence; and is the more to be valued, as it is given by men of different political parties--the leading friends of the present administration, in the town, being among the signers. This is magnanimous and patriotic. If every town would come forward like Vassalborough, we have no doubt that the issue would make every friend of humanity glad. We would respectfully suggest to the inhabitants of this town and vicinity, whether they have not an important responsibility in this matter; and whether, if our republic is hereafter to bear the stigma of treachery to the defenseless remnant of a once formidable people, they can individually escape their share of the odium, unless they remonstrate without delay. A few more weeks, perhaps, and no place will be found for repentance though sought carefully with tears.

To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled.

Respectfully represent your Memorialists, Inhabitants of Vassalborough, State of Maine. That the attitude assumed by the President towards the Indians, the Cherokees in particular, appears to us to be such as existing treaties with those tribes do not justify.

In his message to Congress of December, 1829, the President speaks of the Cherokees as having then lately attempted to form an independent Government within the limits of Georgia and Alabama, and strongly intimates that such pretensions on the part of the Indians cannot be countenanced by the General Government, on account of obligations to the respective States. A course of reasoning is instituted on this point tending to show the absurdity of permitting the Indians to exercise a Government within the territorial limits of any of the States. As the President observes entire silence in regard to the several treaties now in force between the United States and those Indians, and the obligations on the part of the United States arising from those treaties; your memorialists are apprehensive that an erroneous impression has been made on the public mind, both in reference to the right of the Cherokees, and to the relations which the United States sustain to them. In order to ascertain the present rights of the Cherokees, and the duties of the United States towards them, it may be necessary to trace concisely the history of the transactions between our Government and them.

At the close of the American Revolution, we find the Cherokees a powerful and warlike tribe, unconquered, unsubdued, and as far as we know, ever had been by any people on Earth. They were lords of the forest in which they roamed and appeared determined to fight to the last, rather than yield a territory which they had possessed from time immemorial. The States, exhausted by a long war, did not feel eager to continue the contest, and attempt to dispossess the Indians of what they knew to be their rights; more especially as it must cost much blood and treasure, however confident they might feel of the final issue. Under these circumstances both parties acted as wise and discreet politicians. It was obvious that as time advanced, the tide of white population would rolling upon the Indians, and the red man would become weaker while the states would become more powerful. In 1785, precise such a treaty was formed as suited the condition and future prosperity of the parties. The Cherokees, to secure to themselves a permanent national existence, put themselves under the protection of the United States and relinquished all claim to any lands except within certain limits, which limits were defined in the treaty.- The United States on the other hand received them into their 'favor and protection,' and solemnly guarantied to them the entire control and possession of all lands within those limits. By this treaty it was provided that if any person attempted to settle within those limits, he should 'forfeit the protection of the United States,' and might 'be punished by the Indians or not as they see fit.' After the adoption of the Constitution, and under the administration of President Washington, another treaty was made with these Indians. This was in 1790, and by this treaty the Indians ceded to the United States a portion of the lands secured to them by the treaty of 1783 for such consideration as was agreed upon by the parties. More than a dozen treaties have been made with them since, all of which acknowledge the Indians to be an independent people so far as to be capable of contracting with the treaty making power of the United States; and the sole and exclusive owners of all the lands not voluntarily relinquished. The Cherokees were told in the treaty of 1785, called the Treaty of Hopewell, that they might have 'full confidence in the justice of the United States towards them' and they had a right therefore to expect that all treaty stipulations with them would be scrupulously fulfilled. President Washington, in 1790, held the following language to the Senecas, whose lands were secured to them by a similar treaty- 'In future,' said he, 'you cannot be defrauded of your lands'- 'You possess the right to sell, and the right of refusing to sell your lands' - 'And the United States will be true and faithful to their engagements.'

Again in a speech to the Chiefs and Warriors of the Cherokees (the very people who are now threatened to have their lands taken from them by force) he says, in reference to these lands,'that these have been confirmed by two treaties of Hopewell in 1785 and Holston in 1790- and speaking of these treaties, he says, 'the treaties which have been made cannot be altered - the boundaries which have been mentioned must be marked and established, so that no dispute shall arise, or any white people cross over it.' This language was held in 1794. Thus we see the sacredness of these treaty stipulations in the view of our great and beloved Washington and similar ones were entertained by Mr. Jefferson and others. Under these treaties, whose provisions were carefully observed, the Cherokees, for more than forty years, enjoyed and exercised the rights of a free and independent community. When the treaty of Hopewell was formed, the nation appeared by its Government, the Head men and 'Warriors, to the number of 37, who subscribed the treaty for themselves and in behalf of the Cherokee Nation. The constituted authorities acted in an official capacity, and the nation were bound by their doings, and they did not complain. At all times since when the nation has been called upon, it has appeared by its constituted authorities, its Government. Your memorialists were not a little surprised, therefore that the Cherokees should be represented by the President as having lately attempted to form and independent Government.' If the President would be understood to mean that this people have lately exhibited evidence of great improvement in the arts of civilized life- that they are making vigorous and successful efforts to emerge from the savage state, and chase away the moral darkness and mental degradation which have too long rested upon them- that the cultivation of their lands- the operation of the mechanic professions, and the attention to literature and science among them have given a new character to their Government, and a new aspect to the nation- we answer, that in all this they have been encouraged by our Government. It is perfectly obvious that any great change in the moral and intellectual condition of a people will produce a correspondent change in their Government. Such a change was desirable- and the Cherokees have profited by the advantages afforded them. But whatever improvements or changes may have recently taken place in their Government, they have never been without a Government, and the right to govern themselves has not till very lately, we believe, been disputed. The State of Georgia, has lately put herself in a posture to bring the Cherokees under her control. She has said the lands they possess are hers, and she 'must and will have them.' She as assumed the right of extending her laws over the Indians, and has not failed to make those laws of a character so odious that no people of any self respect could endure them. Hence, that the Indians would abandon their possessions, however valuable and dear, rather than submit to them, was looked to as a certain event. Georgia has no doubt, a strong and natural desire to possess herself of the land and gold mines belonging to the Indians- but for more than forty years she never learned that she had a right to take them by force, and we humbly presume she would never have learned it, had she not looked forward to the present Chief Magistrate, as more ready to favor such a design than his illustrious predecessors. In view of the impending evils which threaten him, the Cherokee takes the treaty in his hand and applies to the President. He had years ago laid down his tomahawk and buried his hatchet- the time for righting himself by force had long since gone by. All his interests, all his hopes, all his security were centered in that instrument bearing upon its face in legible characters the concentrated promise of all the States in the Union. He points to the dangers which threaten him, and demand a protection guarantied to him by the Treaty. Everything that is valuable and dear to him is suspended on the response. He reads the treaty that he 'may have full confidence in the just assurances given him by his great father, President Washington, and repeated by other Presidents, that the United States will be faithful to their engagements.' What then, must be his disappointment to be told by the present Executive that these treaty stipulations shall avail him nothing! That flight to the depths of the western forests could alone save his nation from utter extinction! Such language must have fallen with tremendous weight on the Cherokee, and it has not failed to strike the ears of others with a melancholy tone-it sounds too much like the knell of departed national virtue.

Your memorialists are aware of the pretexts under which Georgia assumes to exercise control over these Indians; but they are at the same time fully and decidedly of opinion, that the United States are under the most solemn engagements, by force of existing treaties, promptly and effectually to protect them against any interference with their sovereignty, or any encroachments upon their rights. The language of the treaties appears to us plain and unequivocal, and the practice for more than forty years has been in perfect accordance with their plain, well understood provisions, and no imaginary absurdities-no subtleties or reasoning-no ingenious suppositions of clashing obligations will ever convince the Cherokee, the European, or even the people of our own government, that a refusal to protect these Indians, is anything short of a gross and palpable violation of public faith. Such will the Cherokee feel it to be, while his tears flow in view of his future destiny, and while in his heart he curses the nation capable of such perfidy. Such will the European view it, and pronounce it 'not exceeded in its cruel, and faithless character by any transaction in the annals of European or Asian despotism.'- And such, in the opinion of your memorialists, would be the undivided sentiment of the United States, were the question presented unconnected and with circumstances of an exciting character.

But the character of the transaction is not changed by such a connection. The nation has pledged its faith, ' it is right or it is wrong to regard that pledge. Your memorialists had flattered themselves that there was at least one government on earth, whose solemn guarantee was a sure pledge of its performance, and they felt an honest pride in calling that government their own. It would be with extreme mortification and regret that they could see their government tarnished by the least semblance of equivocation, and they confess that they should feel alarmed could they believe, that on mature consideration, the government would refuse to these Indians that protection which is so clearly pledged to them in existing treaties.

It is the pride of the citizen of the U. S. that the character of his government is unsullied-but this should not longer be his boast, if the Cherokees sue in vain for protection. He will see and he will feel that the national honor has suffered loss, and as often as the cries of the ill fated Cherokee shall reach his ear from the western wilderness, he will be pierced with a sense of the injustice that sent him there. That such an evil may be averted and the national honor preserved unstained is the wish and prayer of your memorialists. In presenting this memorial they utterly disavow any considerations connected with party politics--they feel for the honor of the nation of which they are a part-they feel for the unhappy Cherokee whose all is involved in the decision of the question, and they believe themselves bound in duty, as good and honest citizens, to make known their views to the government. In vain will you attempt to satisfy the Cherokee that he would be secure in his new habitation in the wilderness.- He knows and the world knows that he can have no stronger pledges than your venerated predecessors have given him- and your memorialists frankly confess that if these do not prove his security, that they can have no faith that any others would. If these fail him he is miserable too, by trusting to the faith of a nation which boasts of extending equal and impartial justice to all. Your memorialists therefore pray that the plighted faith of the nation to these Indians may be honorably redeemed, ' that measures be taken to afford them immediate and effectual protection, according to the clear and unequivocal stipulations of existing treaties, and to place them in the full possession of those rights which they have uniformly enjoyed under all former administrations.


S. REDINGTON and 345 others.