Cherokee Phoenix

From the New York Observer

Published March, 19, 1831

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From the New York Observer.

[From a Correspondent.]

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 1831

The House presented today the most deeply interesting scene it has exhibited during the present season. The friends of the Indians have for some time been devising ways and means to bring up their neglected case before the Representatives of the people. The Committee who should have attended to the subject, have delayed and delayed until last Monday, Mr. Everett introduced a memorial from his constituents on behalf of the Indians, with a motion that it be referred to the Committee on Indian affairs, of which you remember Mr. Bell is Chairman, with instructions to report a bill intended to restrain the Executive in the course it is pursuing towards the Southern Indians, and asserting the powers of Congress touching these tribes. This morning Mr. E. attempted to call his motion up, and a singular scene ensued; but through the good Providence of God, though this advocate of Indian rights failed in his immediate object, the great end was secured by a fair vote-that of obtaining a hearing on this important subject.

On Mr. E's. making his motion or rather renewing his resolution of last Monday, he was proceeding to debate upon it, when the Speaker declared that he was not permitted to speak on behalf of a petition presented by a portion of the American people, the Speaker denied to them and to all memorialists the sacred right of petitioning. He then appealed earnestly, but firmly from the decision of the Chair to the House. Before the appeal could be taken, a half dozen members were on the floor with Mr. Speaker- Mr. Speaker on their tongues, and then up starts a member and moves a call of the House, that is, the names of the whole are called over like a company of soldiers at a military parage, until the roll is finished, when, if any have been absent, it is moved perhaps to continue the call, and if carried, the names of absentees are called until they appear in the Hall, the Sergeant at arms being, if necessary, despatched after them. This motion, like that for an adjournment takes precedence of all others, and precludes all debate, 193 were found to be present.

During the roll call there was the utmost activity throughout the House. The Georgia members were scattered here and there conversing with apparently intense interest with various members, you may imagine for what nor were 'the friends of humanity,' as Mr. Everett calls the advocates for Indians, idle on the occasion. It seemed to be felt to be a great crisis, and one when all must take sides. From the galleries of the Hall the Cherokee Delegation looked down upon the movement below with anxious hearts, as if their fate might depend upon the decision now about to be made.

A motion was now made on the question of consideration. This motion is often made by the opponents of a bill which they wish to strangle in the birth. Now came the momentous question: Shall the House consider the resolution of the gentlemen from Massachusetts? If decided in the affirmative, the way would be open to Mr. Everett to stand forth before the American people- the advocate of the injured and oppressed. If not, it would be impossible to say whether the subject would be touched again. The friends of the Indians might despair. Every heart palpitated as the yeas and nays were called. Mr Everett stood at the clerk's side watching the count, when at length his heart must have bounded within his as he saw 101 FOR consideration, 93 AGAINST it. The result brought tears to the eyes of one of the Cherokees, who sat near me. 'Now,'said he, 'there is some prospect we shall find justice here.' It is true that Mr. Cambreleng of your city, and Mr. Buchanan voted in the affirmative, but I believe no other members who oppose the Indians. One of the oldest and most judicious members informed me, shortly after the vote was taken, that he considered the result most auspicious, and as laying the foundation of a strong hope that the Indians would triumph.

Mr. Everett now took off his surtout, retreated a few steps to the desk of a friend (his own being quite near the speaker in the front row) and commenced his speech. In the meantime the extensive galleries had become well filled, though not uncomfortably crowded. Many members gathered round, while others thickened near the fire-places, and some began to take notes. Mr. Buchanan took his seat near him with pen and paper to take notes for an answer. Mr. E. does not appear in usual health this winter. His countenance has a pale hue and is a little inclined to emaciation. His general debility has detracted some from the strength and fullness of his voice. MR. Bates of Massachusetts sat near him as an encouraging ally, and will prove, when he shall speak, a very forcible one, not a whit inferior to the literary champion of the north. The excellent moral character which generally distinguishes the leading defenders of the Indians, both in the Senate and House, is a beautiful comment upon the justice of their cause.

Mr. E's exordium was marked by no particular elevation of verbal expression, by no display of professional eloquence, by chiefly by the ardent conception of the magnitude of the cause in which he had embarked, the thorough feeling of the importance of what he had undertaken. He declared his solemn conviction that it was the most important subject which had ever come before the Congress of the American people-that he had been so loudly admonished of this from that quarter of the state of Massachusetts which he represented, he could not be silent though many other tongues might vindicate the cause with far superior ability. He alluded to the singular fact that days and weeks had been spent by both branches of Congress on the case of a single individual, while not a day had been devoted to seventy thousand Indians, who had been seeking justice at our doors, and what was still worse, all attempts at even discussing the subject were met and resisted with the utmost pertinacity. And if we boldly stepped forward to discharge our consciences in this matter, our motives were openly assailed. A minority (alluding to the vote of last year) of the most respectable names in this House, almost equal to the majority, had been arraigned in the columns of the Government paper ( the Globe) as having acted from vile and factious motives in their endeavors to sustain the faith of treaties and the integrity of the laws of the land. For what he was then saying and about to say, he expected, he said, that a hundred presses would open their fire upon him, but the discharge of his duty was a higher consideration than the favor of those who in their adulation of power, would forget the rights of man, and the sacred character of the Constitution. He then went on to animadvert upon the dangerous course of the administration, which had ceased to act as the Executive should act, that is, execute the laws and treaties, and instead thereof had suspended their operation, or suffered States to nullify them without interposing any check to this arbitrary exercise of power. The Massachusetts orator never forgets his wonted courtesy and mildness, and it is well known that elegance and correctness, rather than Websterian energy and might, are the predominant traits of his mind; but on this occasion; inspired by the great theme on which he dwelt, he rose to an unusual degree of earnestness, and seemed powerfully intent on the end in view. He necessarily touched on many of the arguments used by himself and others last year, and went into many documentary particulars, 'c. At 8 o'clock I left him speaking and can only say that the subject cannot be again taken up this week except by a special order. Monday being the only day assigned for debating on petitions. If it be possible for the industry of men to bring this matter to a conclusion the present session, it will be done, and as the case now stands, the Philo Indians have a good prospect of a majority on their side. Let those who look with solicitude for the final result continue their prayers to Him who has all hearts in his hand, and they may yet have the satisfaction of rejoicing in the fulfilment of their hopes.