Cherokee Phoenix


Published November, 19, 1831

Page 1 Column 1a


From the Charleston Observer


The following letter from the Rev. John Thompson, is published in accordance with that system of even handed justice which we have pursued in reference to the contest which has been pending between the Cherokee missionaries and the State of Ga. It will be recollected that letters and statements inculpatory and exculpatory, have been admitted into our paper from Gov. Gilmer, Col. Sanford, Col Nelson, on the one hand, and from the Rev. Mr. Worcester and Dr. Butler, on the other--but without any comments of our own. Nor have we thought comment necessary to enable our readers to discriminate between surmises and facts--sophistry and reason, in the case at issue.


Oct. 6th 1831


Dear Sir,- I noticed in the Observer, a few weeks since, several communications from His Excellency George R. Gilmer, containing references to my own, and the conduct of other Missionaries in this Nation.--In his letter to the Hon. J. H. Eaton, are allegations adapted to mislead the public mind in regard to my own doings, and to create prejudice against others who are engaged in the same cause. It is due, therefore, to your readers to be made acquainted with the course I have pursued, and for which I am accused.

His Excellency states that I am 'reported to have been active in exciting the Indians to their attempts to sustain and independent Govt.' To this statement permit me to subjoin a few facts. I have been in the Nation nearly three years, but have never attended a general Council of the Cherokees. Nor have I ever been present at any of the regular Courts.--Once I witnessed a trial between citizens of this country at a place where I immediately afterwards preached. I was present also when some Cherokees had assembled to protest against the method directed by the President for receiving their annuity. In the doings of the Cherokees on that occasion I took no part except to witness the singing of their names.

The above is a detail of my attendance at the public meetings of the Indians, except when I have met them for religious purposes. I may safely challenge any man to adduce another instance. But if the reports which have reached Governor Gilmer, are of sufficient validity to call for the steps which he has taken in regard to myself, might it not have been expected that I would have been more interested in the Councils, Courts, and other meetings of the Indians, collected for the sake of sustaining an 'independent Government?' Or has it been reported to His Excellency, that I have been 'active in exciting the Indians in their individual capacity?' If so, there has been a time and place when and where this has been done. His Excellency has not specified as to these particulars. And why not? For the obvious reason, that evidence is wanting. A candid and enlightened public, I apprehend, expect him to adduce evidence not only that I have been active, but criminally so, before it will be prepared to pronounce as to my guilt. I do not wish, however, to conceal the fact, that I am in favor of supporting the institutions and laws of the Indians. To wrest from them these, would in my view, be as palpable a violation of justice, as to those treaties by which they are walled around. The view expressed above, is among the causes which have deterred me from taking the Oath prescribed for white men residing in this Nation, by the Legislature of Georgia. Aside from this, there are other intrinsic objections against binding myself with the obligations of the above oath: for some of these laws which it is designed to support, so far as I understand their nature and end, are adapted to goad,

instead of protecting the defenseless Indian.

Governor Gilmer informs the late Secretary of War, that Missionaries have 'found their stations too lucrative to yield them up willingly.'--When I hear this allegation from the lips of injured avarice or wounded cupidity, in connection with its kindred insinuations so frequently made to the Indian, 'the missionaries have come to rob you of your lands and to enslave your children,' I can without great effort make up my mind silently to hear them. But I am not accustomed to hear them from a source so deserving of respect, as the Executive of Georgia. I will not say that Governor Gilmer has originated this allegation: for it is as old as the hostility to Missions. I owe it, however, to myself, my brethren, and the cause of my Master, to repel the assertion. So far as I myself am concerned, and so far as my knowledge extends to other Missionaries, it is wholly incorrect. All I ask, and all I obtain for my labor among this people is a bare support. Nor would my pecuniary interest be effected in the least by the entire failure of the Indian cause. If any person is in possession of evidence to invalidate this statement he certainly has the right and ought to produce it.

I understand, Governor Gilmer, as including me in that class of persons whose 'influence' he affirms, has been 'exercised in opposition to the humane policy of the Government.' By 'the humane policy of the Government,' is doubtless meant those measures in progress for the removal of the Indians beyond the Mississippi. I am represented as opposed to these measures. If by my 'opposition' His Excellency means no more than that I entertain views, on this subject, differing from his own, and that they have been expressed, I admit the correctness of his representation. I am free to confess that I anticipate the removal of the Cherokees with their aversion to it, with the greatest solicitude. I view it as the precursor to a serious, if not entire and fatal interruption of their progress in civilization and religion. And should these feeble churches of Christ, to gather which has cost the toil and expense of years, be scattered and placed beyond the reach of instruction, I have resolved that it shall be done without my aid. If the children in the schools, must be compelled to return to their parents, and accompany them to the chase, and live and die in all the ignorance of nature, it shall be without any influence of mine. Did the prospect before them in the West, offer any equivalent for the loss they would sustain in points to which I have alluded, I should view the subject differently. And is it a crime for a Missionary thus to express an opinion on a subject of such universal interest to our country?

Further than a free expression of my belief, I have not gone. And if by my 'opposition to the policy of Government,' Gov. Gilmer would imply, that I have endeavored to prejudice the mind of the Cherokees against a removal, or that I have been disposed in any way to intercept the Agent of Government when engaged in the business of enrolling emigrants. I disavow any such interference. Indeed, I have been as destitute of an opportunity as a desire thus to interfere; for no citizen of this Nation has ever expressed to me a disposition to remove beyond the Mississippi. With such as have been so disposed, I have had no means of intercourse. So far as the feelings of individuals have been made known to me, they have been without exception averse to a removal.

But the circumstances in which I have found myself, has led me to inquire as to the character of those measures which His Excellency is pleased to denominate the 'humane policy of the Government.' So far as this policy has been developed, I have been led to take a different view of its nature.

Under its influence, I have seen the Indian, whose rights and welfare it professes to regard its prime object, thrown into chains and dragged to prison, for no other offence than digging into the soil, which gave him birth. I have seen him with a chain around his neck, and thence extending to the baggage wagon of the Georgia Guard, and thus made to travel during the greater part of the day. Others I have seen driven before the Guard, like so many cattle for the slaughter, for the same crime mentioned above. Others still have been confined in jail for weeks; and again, others have been summoned to appear before the acting Commander of the Guard, to receive such admonitions as his martial spirit might dictate, and then to be retained or discharged at his pleasure. Among those who have been thus treated, may be mentioned the Editor of the Cherokee Phoenix. In short, the Cherokees have, without distinction, been hunted and driven from their gold mines, and thus made to yield an unwilling obedience to the acts of Georgia. When I have witnessed these things, the question has arisen, 'are the rights of the Indians secured, and their persons and property protected by the policy of Government?'

And has humanity originated and carried forward such a system of policy as this? The answer has been, 'A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit.' I have seen white men too, respectable and intelligent, arrested and driven before the Guard during the day, and chained at night, till they have accomplished laborious route from 50 to 100 miles, and then thrown into prison, and detained there eight or ten days, when their keepers could show no warrant or precept from civil authority for so doing. A minister of the Gospel whose residence was in Tennessee, after having been arrested and compelled to dismount from his horse and to walk, was denied for awhile the privilege of choosing the better parts of the way; and was forced through mud-holes and water. He was obliged to continue in company with two other clergymen, his pedestrian march for the greater part of the time will seventy miles had been passed. He was then thrown into jail where he lay for three or four days and was then discharged, while the only ostensible cause for this treatment was, that he happened to meet the Guard on the public road and said some things which they received as 'insolent language.' I have seen another minister of the Gospel, who did not ride out of sight of the Guard at the order of their Commander, receive from him a severe blow on the head.

Recently I have visited the mission station which I have been compelled to leave for the present on account of the proceedings of Georgia, which appear to have received the sanction of the Executive of the United States. I found the mission house occupied by a number of the Guard. A Cherokee family which I had placed there to take care of the furniture and other property at the Station fled at their approach. The doors of a room in which the furniture had been left and which was carefully nailed and bolted, were opened and the furniture removed to an upper apartment. To this anyone had access, for when I arrived the door was not fastened.

The last Spring expecting to board and school fifteen or twenty Cherokee children during the year, I planted a small field of corn. Much of the labor in preparing the ground, and depositing the seed, was performed with my own hands. Some vegetables had been raised, and also a small quantity of potatoes. When I arrived at the station, the corn had been destroyed by the Guard. The place where I left potatoes had been sown with turnip-seed. Their horses were permitted to range at pleasure, not only in the cornfield, but in the garden, and among the fruit trees.

It will not be forgotten that the Mission house was erected, and the improvements at the station made at the expense of the Missionary Society, under whose direction I labor, and for the express purpose of enabling those who had the charge of them to exert their influence to civilize and evangelize the Indians. But enter that Mission house now, and instead of those who have been there for the sake of disseminating the mild maxims of the Gospel, you shall behold the soldier in habiliments of war. Instead of the voice of prayer and praise, you shall hear the music of the violin! Instead of a circle of young immortal beings, listening to instruction, you shall find their places occupied with the ensigns of death. In view of this appalling picture, I would ask, whether buildings erected, with the funds of the benevolent, to furnish means for imparting to the Indians the rudiments of knowledge, the arts of civilized life, and the principles of Christianity, shall be forcibly entered by a band of soldiers, and by them be converted into camps? Shall the avails of a Missionary's labor, designed to support his family and a few Cherokee children, be seized in open day, and be consumed as rations for troops and forage for their horses? Shall the apartments of a Mission house, secured by nails and bolts, be broken open, and the property within removed and deranged to suit their convenience?

I submit the decision of these inquiries to the friends of liberty, justice, and humanity, in our country. If I mistake not, they are novel transactions, and will hereafter be viewed as such, when seen on the page of future history, which records the splendor of American freedom?

In conclusion, permit me to add that a few days since, at Lawrenceville, Ga. eleven men were sentenced to four years hard labor in the Penitentiary of Georgia; among whom were two ministers of the Gospel, one Catechist, and four or five other professors of religion-for residing in this nation without a license from Gov. Gilmer. In view of the facts which have been mentioned, we have a glance at that policy which Governor Gilmer has denominated 'humane.' And is humanity its peculiar characteristic? Let bolts and bars, which confine such men as Worcester and Butler, answer. Let the

grating of massy hinges and clanking of chains, as they echo from prison walls on the ear of innocent men, testify.

I am, dear sir, yours in the Gospel,