Cherokee Phoenix

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Published March, 12, 1831

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From the Vermont Statesman.


By agreement with Georgia, the United States are bound to purchase of the Cherokee Indians all their lands laying within the said State, at which time said lands become sole property of Georgia. This contract was entered into on the part of the United States in consideration of full 'value received,' and on the part of Georgia, of value conveyed. There can, in fairness, be no dispute about the justness and validity of Georgia's claim on the government. It is as binding as a note of hand from one individual to another, or from one firm of copartnership to another. Every citizen of the United States is bound by it, both individually and collectively, as much, and in the same manner, as he would be by a paper which reads as follows: 'For value received of the Sovereign People of the State of Georgia, we, the Sovereign People of the United States, jointly and severally, promise to convey to them the country of Switzerland, as soon as it can be purchased ON REASONABLE TERMS..' [Signed by their agent, the President of the United States, according to order.] This would be an uncommon contract, but it would be a true one, an enforceable one, and one not without a precedent. The Government would be bound to take all honorable measures to ensure its fulfilment, and when fulfilled, every honest citizen would consider, that he had only paid his part of an honest debt. But it would by no means be incumbent on the Government to violate other contracts in order to hasten the fulfilment of this. If this country had agreed, in consideration of -- no matter what -- say a ship's cargo of watches -- to protect the Swiss Government from foreign intrusion, they would be obligated to use all exertions to fulfil the contract. And after they had got possession of the watches, it would be bad philosophy which would teach them it would be just to allow, and invite the surrounding nations to perplex and harass them, or to send agents among them to misrepresent facts in order that we might make a better bargain with them to remove to Siberia, and the Georgians might be sooner be put in possession of their territory.

As a nation, the Cherokees are as independent as the Swiss. Their title to their possessions is more ancient than the memory of man can tell. Even tradition extends not back to the time when they first came in possession of their lands. For centuries they have sat by the same council-fire, fished by the same streams, roamed the same wilds in the same chase, and defended the same soil with their bravery and blood. They have no written title of ownership, yet what nation can boast a more valid claim? It was given them by the Almighty -- the 'King of kings -- the Giver of all gifts to men.' They own no other conveyancer -- they need no other. Before the Indian had heard of the white man, or the white man of the Indian, it was theirs. Their domain was then extensive, and as a people they were powerful. But avarice appeared among them, and their possessions vanished; vice picked their warriors, till they are dwindled to, as it were, a handful of men, inhabiting a small, though fertile, patch of territory, within the chartered limits of a State. That nation, which could once defy in arms the whole physical force of the white man on this continent have been brought to the necessity of purchasing protection at the hands of its once diminutive suitor for mercy, and, again to see that unforfeited protection wickedly withdrawn. When the U. States agreed to protect the Indians, it was as complete an act of bargain and sale as any act could be. So much land was given for so much protection. When Gen. Jackson permitted that protection to be withdrawn, he violated the faith of this nation, against the will of this nation, and for this very act he has justly and fairly forfeited the confidence of this nation. Whether they will judge the man by his measures, and reward him according to his deeds, remains to be seen.

The Georgians are not much to blame in this matter as the General Government. No doubt, the Indians are troublesome neighbors to the Georgians -- troublesome in peace, and in war, vastly so. From the nature of things, no great friendship can exist between them. There must be a continued conflict kept up between two of the most incorrigible passion -- avarice on the one hand, and revenge on the other. Nothing but the strong arm of National power can keep them from clashing. This has been withdrawn, and Georgia has done as she has. She has done that, which, if permitted to remain undone, let no after history record, or if recorded, let it be read with shame. The arm of the Executive, which was sworn to sustain the Indian, has beckoned his enemy on. It has played the traitor, and let it share the traitor's reward. Again we say, let every contract with Georgia be fulfilled to the very letter; let not the people be mistaken by the notion, that it is wrong to purchase the Indians' lands, for it cannot be wrong to do so; it is fulfilling a fair contract, and violating no rule of justice. But, at the same time, let the Indian have his due. Let no faith be broken. Let it be remembered, that a tawny skin is a far more honorable badge than a tarnished honor.