Extract of the speech of Mr. Burges, at the Dinner given him by a large number of the citizens of New York, March ____ 1831.
If under the advisement of the Secretary of State, we have lowered our heads to foreign nations abroad, why might call us to some account for a departure from etiquette we have under the same council carried ourselves highly and haughtily enough to those dependent 'remnants of once mighty nations' a name placed by the fortune of war, and the inexplicable revolution of human events , in a condition of pupilage and guardianship to the American people. How have these wards and pupils been treated? How have the high and holy relations of guardians and instructors to them been kept and preserved by us? We stand pledged to the whole Christian world by the declarations of our ancestors, repeated by us, in every (sic) the most solemn form to civilize and instruct the aborigines in the great principles of our benign religion. By the obligations of the most sacred treaties and for a full and valuable consideration in broad lands ceded to the U. States, our government has at various times covenanted with tribes and nations to pay them annuities; to guarantee to them their respective governments and laws and territory; and to defend them in the quiet possession and peaceable enjoyment of all these, their great original and natural rights. From the commencement of our peaceable relations with them to the close of the last administration, these covenants had been fully and sacredly observed and kept by the government of the United States. Mechanics and farmers have sojourned among them to teach these people the great fundamental arts of civilized life. by holy men, who have taken their abode among several of these nations, they have been taught letters and arts; and above all, learned the divine precepts of the Christian religion. The annuities, due to each nation and tribe by treaty, have, with good faith, been paid into their treasuries, to be disbursed according to their own laws and customs. So early as 1802, by a statute of the United States and called ever since, the Intercourse Law, a line of demarcation was drawn between their lands and territories, and those of the United States or the several States and territories. By this law, all mankind were excluded from these lands, unless by the consent of the owners, and a license for that purpose first obtained. How have these people profited by these benefits? I will call your attention more particularly to the Cherokees, because their nation has been most improved, and their present condition does most interest the sympathies of the world. These people have abandoned the chase for subsistence, and have become the cultivators of the soil. They raise flocks and herds; grow corn and cotton, and have established household manufactories for most of their own clothing. Such other kindred arts are cultivated among them as are necessary for this state of improvement. Under the advisement and instruction of Mr. Jefferson, they have succeeded in establishing a republican form of government, and have enacted wise and wholesome laws.- a bank, and a treasury manage their currency and finances; a press promulgates their constitution and laws. One native Cherokee has invented an alphabet of their language; and another, * * * * edits a public paper printed in our and their language and letter, published for the information of their people, and received and read in most of the States in this Union. In half a century after letters were brought to this people by pious and learned missionaries, they have reduced their laws to writing in their own alphabet and language. A like achievement cost the Greeks not less than six hundred years. The school house and the meeting house have been built by them in their villages, as our pious ancestors reared the like buildings in ours. In the one their children are taught in our and their language; in the other their whole people meet together, on our Sabbath, in the name of the Savor of the world, to worship the God of the whole earth.
So were our trusts as guardians to them, religiously observed and kept; and so have they profited and improved as pupils and wards to us, under our teachings and protection. O! how unlike for our glory, and their prosperity is the present to the past. The President of the United States, soon after his inauguration, bade the Cherokee Delegation, then in Washington, to assure their people, from him that he would protect them against the demands of Georgia, and the intrusions of all persons. Mr. Van Buren had not then entered the Department of State or assisted the President by his advice. The next winter they are told by the same high functionary, that the lands in their possession were beyond question their own: but that he could not interfere with the laws of a sovereign State, or secure them against the jurisdiction of Georgia. That State had not then expressly laid claims to the lands of the Cherokees; but their legislature had passed laws abolishing their government, abrogating their laws, and subverting their national character. These laws went in to operation in June 1830.- The Cherokee lands are owned by the nation;and each individual owns nothing but his improvements on the soil. When the laws of Georgia had abolished the Cherokee Nation, the lands, as their politicians reasoned on the case, were left without an owner; and, as they say, lying within the limits of that state became at once as a thing derelict, the property of that republic. Perhaps the gold, discovered in the Cherokee mountains has dazzled the moral perceptions of these good men. Be that as it may, they last autumn seriously contended that the Cherokees had not right to their own lands, and have there upon enacted laws ordering them to be surveyed and parcelled out for distribution by lottery; or otherwise, among a people, who if they have any title to them, have obtained it by their own legislation. When the Cherokee delegation arrived in Washington the last winter and applied to the President again for protection, against the outrages daily committed on them, they are told by him, that all had been done that could be done, and they had no other course but to migrate beyond the Mississippi.
What can have changed the conduct of the President from a solemn assurance of protection to a total desertion of all the rights of these unfortunate people? Who is his adviser-the keeper of his conscience?- The Secretary of State- The lands laws, government, the whole nation of the Cherokees have been sold by this heartless Cabinet Minister, to the infatuated politicians of Georgia. To favor and carry into full effect, this scheme against the Cherokees, a most flagrant injustice has been practised against all other Indian nations and tribes to which our government owes annuities. To deprive the Cherokees of the pecuniary power of contending with Georgia, these annuities amounting yearly to more than $545,000 have, by an order from the war office, been directed to be paid not to the nations and tribes as the several treaties covenant that they shall be paid; but to the head men, warriors, and common Indians, in a ratable proportion. In some of the tribes there are more individuals than there are dollars to be paid; and how can they receive the money from an agent, who does not know one from another; who could not, therefore, safely distribute the annuities without assembling them all together nor liken, without a scale graduated with the respective proportions to be paid to each grade of character in the tribe. In truth, the project must result in a double fraud which puts the enemy into the hands of agents, who can never produce any voucher that he has paid it over, and therefore will keep the most of it in their own coffers; and the other, to the Indian tribes and nations, which by this project can receive not a cent of their annuities for any purpose common to the whole people. Our conduct is without a parallel. What can be found in the history of our own or any civilized country, so cruel in practice, so utterly without the pale of any theory of moral principle? This is not a question of national interest, but of national morality and character. The adviser of these measures, brings a calumny on our good faith in the great forum of the world; and we must, unless by a great national disavowal, stand condemned before all mankind.