Cherokee Phoenix


Published December, 31, 1831

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We are pleased with the opportunity of publishing the eloquent letter of Mr. Wirt, with the appropriate introduction of our Correspondent.-If any man can read this letter of Mr. Wirt, written more than twenty years ago and then can appeal to his heart; and honestly declare, that he approves of the conduct of the administration towards these oppressed and injured people; we wish no communion with that man: he has no feelings of sympathy, or sense of justice in common with us. If the sentiments which Mr. Wirt's so eloquently expressed, were inspired by the injuries which the Indian race had then received at our hands, what must be his feelings when reflecting upon the wrongs which they are now made to suffer?

Hamilton Intel.


From the Hamilton Intelligencer.



I was not long since in company with an intelligent foreigner. The conversation turned upon the policy of the course pursued by General Jackson's Administration towards the Indians; and upon the recent nomination of Mr. Wirt, and the opinions, which he entertained concerning the rights of the Aborigines of our country.

So fair an opportunity of referring to a popular American work seldom enters in conversation, as here presented itself for the introduction of the following letter from the British Spy; which no citizen of the United States ever read, without feeling a secret pride that its author was his own countryman,and the noble sentiments expressed none other than American.

You may be well assured, that the opportunity was not suffered to pass without avail. I had keenly felt, the bitter sarcasms of my foreign companion, upon our National honor tarnished-our plighted faith broken and our character as Christian community foully blotted. What apology offer? When with the finger of scorn, he pointed me to the poor Indian, reluctantly bidding a farewell to the scenes of his youth, and the graves of his fathers.- What could I say-when he directed my sight, to my ruthless countrymen, seizing that Indian's home, and as if to heap insult upon villainy, appropriating it by lottery:- What could I say-when he pointed me to the penitentiary, wherein the heralds of Christ's salvation, are imprisoned as fit companions of thieves and murderers!-- For what?-For the CRIME! of preaching to that Indian, the glad tidings, that, if not beyond the Mississippi, yet certainly beyond the swelling flood of Jordan, the Great Spirit had prepared for him, a hunting ground, from which the white man can never drive him!- What could I say?- Nothing-- Except indignantly to heap the disgrace, where it ought to be, on the heads of our rulers; and refer to the following letter, as proof that some among us felt as a man should feel, towards an injured, persecuted, wronged, but noble race. This reference afforded to my feelings, a seasonable relief, when thus pressed by my antagonist. I had read the letters of the British Spy, again and again, when a boy. I had bowed before the 'blind preacher,' and admired the story of Pocahontas; but never, until that evening-never, until after the cold hearted policy of this administration towards the Indians had been fully developed--never until after I had felt the biting jeers of a foreigner, ever my country's honor fallen!- degraded! sneered at! never until then! did the sentiments expressed in that story, come home to my heart. I would to God that our rulers could, for a moment; cease their family feuds, and contemplate the foul stain, which they are fixing on our National Escutcheon forever.



RICHMOND, Sept. 22.

I have just returned my dear S___ from an interesting morning's ride. My object was to visit the site of the Indian town, Powhatan; which you will remember was metropolis of the dominions of Pochahontas' father, ' very probably, the birth place of that celebrated princess.

The town was built on the river, about two miles below the ground now occupied by Richmond, that is, about two miles below the head of tide water. The land whereon it stood, is, at present, part of a beautiful and valuable farm belonging to a gentleman by the name of William Mayo.

Aware of the slight manner in which the Indians have always constructed their habitations, I was not at all disappointed in finding no vestige of the old town. But as I traversed the ground over which Pochahontas had so often bounded and frolicked in the sprightly morning of her youth, I could not help recalling the principal features of her history, and heaving a sigh of mingled pity and veneration to her memory.

Good Heaven! What an eventful life was hers! To speak of noting else, the arrival of the English in her father's dominions must have appeared (as indeed it turned out to be) a most portentous phenomenon. It is not easy for us to conceive the amazement and consternation which must have filled her mind and that of her nation at the first appearance of our countrymen. Their great ship, with all her sails spread, advancing in solemn majesty to the shore; their complexion; their dress; their language; their domestic animals; their cargo of new and glittering wealth; and then the thunder and irresistible force of their artillery; the distant country announced by them, far beyond the great water, of which the oldest Indian had never heard; or thought, or dreamed--all this was so new; so wonderful, so tremendous, that I do seriously suppose, the personal descent of an arm of Milton's celestial angels, robed in light, sporting in the bright beams of the sun and redoubling their splendor, making divine harmony with their golden harps, or playing with the bolt and chasing the rapid lightning of heaven, would excite not more astonishment in Great Britian than did the debarkation of the English among the aborigines of Virginia.

Poor Indians! Where are they now? Indeed, my dear S___ this is a truly afflicting consideration. The people here may say what they please; but, on the principles of eternal truth and justice, they have no right to this country. They say that they have bought it-bought it! Yes;-of whom? Of the poor trembling natives who knew that refusal would be in vain: and who strove to make a merit of necessity by seeming to yield with grace, what they knew that they had not the power to retain. Such a bargain may appease the conscience of a gentleman of the green bag, 'worn and hackneyed' in the arts and frauds of his profession; but in heaven's chancery, my S_____ there can be little doubt that it has been long since set aside on the ground of duress.

Poor wretches! No wonder that they are so implacably vindicative against the white people; no wonder that the rage of resentment is handed down from generation to generation: no wonder that they refuse to associate and mix permanently with their unjust and cruel invaders and exterminators; no wonder that in the unabating spite and frenzy of conscious impotence, they wage an eternal war; as well as they are able? that they triumph in the rare opportunity of revenge; that they dance, sing, and rejoice, as the victim shrieks and faints amid the flames, when they imagine all the crimes of their oppressors collected on his head, and fancy the spirits of their injured forefathers hovering over the scene, smiling with ferocious delight at the grateful spectacle, and feasting on the precious odor as it arises from the burning blood of the white man.

Yet the people, here, affect to wonder that the Indians are so very unsusceptible of civilization, in other words, they so obstinately refuse to adopt the manners of the white men. Go, Virginian; erase from the Indian nation the tradition of their wrongs; make them forget, if you can, that once this charming country was theirs; that over these fields and through these forests their belated forefathers once, in careless gaiety, pursued their sports and hunted their game; that every returning day found them the sole, the peaceful, the happy proprietors of this extensive and beautiful domain. Make them forget too, if you can, that in the midst of all this innocence, simplicity and bliss--the white man came; and--the animated chase, the feast, the dance, the song of fearless, thoughtless joy were over; that ever since they have been made to drink of the bitter cup of humiliation, treated like dogs; their lives, their liberties, the sport of the white man, their country and the graves of their fathers torn from them in cruel succession: until, driven from river to river, from forest to forest, and through a period of 200 years, rolled back, nation upon nation, they find themselves fugitives, vagrants, and rangers in their own country, and look forward to the certain period when their descendants will be totally extinguished by wars, driven at the point of the bayonet into the western ocean, or reduced to a fate still more deplorable and horrid, the condition of slaves. Go, administer the cup of oblivion to recollections and anticipations like these, and then you will cease to complain that the Indian refuses to be civilized. But until then, surely it is nothing wonderful that a nation even yet bleeding afresh, from the memory of ancient wrongs, perpetually agonized by new outrages, and goaded into desperation and madness at the prospect of the certain ruin which awaits their descendants should hate the authors of their miseries, of their desolation, their destruction; should hate their manners, hate their color, their language, their name, and everything that belongs to them. No; never, until time shall wear out the history of their sorrows and their sufferings, will the Indian be brought to love the white man ' to imitate his manners.

* * * * * To reflect, My S_____, that the authors of all these wrongs were our own countrymen, our forefathers, professors of the meek, and benevolent religion of Jesus! O! it was impious; it was unmanly; poor and pitiful! Gracious Heaven! what had these poor people done? The simple inhabitants of these peaceful plains, what wrong, what injury had they offered to the English? My soul melts with pity and shame.

As for the present inhabitants, it must be granted that they are comparatively innocent unless indeed they also have encroached under the guise of treaties, which they themselves have preciously contrived to render expedient or necessary to the Indians.

Whether this have been the case or not, I am too much a stranger to the interior transactions of this country to decide. But it seems to me that were I a President of the United States, I would glory in going to the Indians, throwing myself on my knees before them, and saying to them, 'Indians, brothers, O! forgive my countrymen! Deeply have our forefathers wronged you; and they have forced us to continue the wrong. Reflect brothers; it is not our fault that we were born in your country; but now we have no other home; we have no where else to rest our feet: Will you not, then permit us to remain? Can you not forgive even us, innocent as we are? If you can, O! come to our bosoms, be, indeed, our brothers; and since there is room enough for us all, give us a home in your land, and let us be children of the same affectionate family.' I believe that a magnanimity of sentiment like this, followed up by a correspondent greatness of conduct on the part of the people of the United States, would go farther to bury the tomahawk and produce a fraternization with the Indians, than all the presents, treaties, and missionaries that can be employed; dashed and defeated as these latter means always are, by a claim of rights on the part of the white people, which the Indians know to be false and baseless. Let me not be told that the Indians are too dark and fierce to be affected by generous and noble sentiments. I will not believe it. Magnanimity can never be lost on a nation which has produced and Alknomok, a Logon, and a Pochahontas.

The repetition of the name of this amiable princess brings me back to the point from which I digressed. I wonder that the Virginians, fond as they are anniversaries, have instituted no festival or order in honor of her memory. For my own part, I had but little doubt, from the histories which we have of the first attempts at colonizing their country, that Pochahontas deserves to be considered as the patron deity of the enterprise. When it is remembered how long the colony struggled to get a footing; how often sickness of famine, neglect at home, mismanagement here, and the hostilities of the natives, brought it to the brink of ruin, through what a tedious lapse of time, it alternately languished and revived, sunk and rose, sometimes hanging like Addison's lamp 'quivering at a point,' then suddenly shooting up into a sickly and short lived flame; in one word, when we recollect how near and how often it verged towards total extinction, maugre the patronage of Pocahontas; there is the strongest reason to believe that, but for her patronage, the anniversary cannon of the fourth of July would never dare resound throughout the United States.

It is not probable, this sensible and amiable woman, perceiving the superiority of the Europeans, foreseeing the probability of her countrymen, and anxious as well to soften their destiny, as to save the needless effusion of human blood, desired, by her marriage with Mr. Rolfe, to hasten the abolition of all distinction between Indians and white men; or bind their interests and affections by the nearest and most endearing ties, and to make them regard themselves, as one people, the children of the same great family? If such were her wise and benevolent views, and I have no doubt but they were, how poorly were they backed by the British court? No wonder at the resentment and indignation with which she saw them neglected; no wonder at a bitterness of the disappointments and vexation which she expressed to Capt. Smith in London, arising as well from the cold reception which she herself had met, as from the contemptuous and insulting point of view in which she found that her nation was regarded.

Unfortunate princess! She deserved a happier fate! But I am consoled by these reflections; first that she sees her descendants as among the most respectable families in Virginia; and that they are not only superior to the false shame of disavowing her as their ancestor; but that they pride themselves and with reason too, on the honor of their descent; secondly, that she herself has gone to a country, where she finds her noble wishes realized; where the distinction of color is no more: but where indeed, it is perfectly immaterial, 'what complexion, an Indian or an African sun may have burned' on the pilgrim.

Adieu, my dear S_____. This train of thought has destroyed the tone of my spirits; when I recover them you shall hear further from me. Once more, adieu.