NEW ECHOTA. JAN. 14, 1832
The report of the Secretary of War, or that part of it which relates to the Indians found in the columns of our present number, we take the liberty of accompanying with a few remarks.-We are glad to find in it so much candor, and expression of good wishes for the welfare of the Indian tribes.
The right of State legislation we leave for the decision of the proper tribunal before which the Indians will expect to bow. An important crisis in Indian affairs has indeed arrived-and it is now with the people of this great American Republic to decide the future destiny of those tribes within the limits of the United States.- Both the means and the power are at their disposal.
With regard to the northern and northwestern tribes, Governor Cass speaks from personal observation. We therefore submit to his statements-But as he acknowledges respecting the Cherokees, that his judgement is formed from such information as he has been able to procure, we, differing from him, shall take the liberty to correct that information, doing so from our own experience and knowledge of facts.
We are unwilling to attribute to the prevalence of slavery the improvement of the Cherokees. What 'peculiar causes' are referred to we cannot tell-but the true causes of their improvement we think are obvious-among some of which are the honorable course pursued towards them by former Administrations, the introduction of schools, a change of Government to and the pursuance of recommendations to exchange their former customs for the customs and habits of civilized society.
The Secretary of War asserts as his belief that a 'great mass of this tribe are living in ignorance and poverty' 'c.- We admit many of them are in a state of comparative ignorance and poverty; but are daily emerging from that state, and as rapidly as their means will allow--'subject to the influence of their principal men'-Who are not?- Who ought not to be?- What would government be but a name, that had no subjects? But the Cherokees know by whom and how they are governed. They have rulers of their choice, and in whom they place confidence-- If they are dissatisfied, their dissatisfaction arises not from a state of things existing within themselves, but from circumstances now known to the world arising from that change of policy which has been put in operation with regard to them.
Marked success has attended the efforts which have been made to improve the condition of the Cherokees. If the remark that 'the Indian indolent in his habits is averse to labor in providing, or care in preserving,' is intended to apply to this people, however it might have formerly applied, its application is at present unjust, and cannot be substantiated. A more enlightened age has enabled him justly to appreciate former 'traditions and institutions,' and finding them unsatisfactory, he has been led to renounce the 'customs of his fathers.'
The question is asked,--'Shall they' (the Indians) 'be advised to remain or remove?' If the former, their fate is recorded in the annals of their race; 'As the Cherokees have been preceded by no nation of Indians whose advances have equaled them in improvement, consequently, they will not bear comparison with any.- The 'great work of improvement' among them has already commenced, and in the protection of those rights and privileges heretofore guarantied to them, will certainly go on. To its aid, 'the truths of religion, some knowledge of mechanic art, and the rudiments of science' have ere this been brought, and have been attended with certain and prominent success.
Much more might be added, but viewing the remarks in general as inapplicable to the Cherokees, we for the present let them pass. We shall still look for the fulfillment of treaty stipulations, and until they are entirely violated, our confidence in those whom we have been taught to consider as our guardians and protectors shall remain unimpaired.
We publish this week an article from the Southern Recorder (a Georgia paper) disapproving the act of the late legislature, for the survey and occupancy of our territory. We are pleased to find that there are men in Georgia who are willing to come our openly, in defense of right and justice. The Editor of the Recorder seems to be convinced, that the right of soil is in the Cherokees; and that the State of Georgia has no right whatever to take the land until the Indian title is extinguished to the same by treaty. It has been said by the advocates of the policy of removing the Indians from their present homes, that the Indian title, is but a mere right of occupancy- and that the ultimate domain is in Georgia. We would ask, does this give Ga. the right to survey the lands on which we dwell, and to which the Indian title has not been extinguished by the Gen. Government, and distribute them amongst her citizens? Can she claim any right from the laws of nature and of justice to dispossess the Cherokees; or where is the power delegated to her from the American Constitution, to take possession of the Cherokee territory, whenever it shall be her pleasure so to do? She has now passed an act to take possession to deprive the Cherokees of their lands of which they have been in possession long before the white man set his feet on the American continent; and she does it in open violation of existing treaties; which guaranties to the Cherokees their lands, to certain limits. She does it also in violation of her own compact with the General Government, where the United States engage to extinguish the Indian title within the chartered limits of Georgia; 'as early as the same can be peaceably obtained, on reasonable terms.' It plainly appears from this, that the State of Georgia did not question the title of the Cherokees, to the very same lands which she is about to take possession. We cannot view the act of Georgia in any other light than open robbery.
We think the Gover. of Georgia and the advocates of his measures have assumed a great responsibility, and should certainly fear in the prosecution of such measures, some awful calamity would befall us from the judgements of Heaven.
ALABAMA AND THE CHEROKEES.
The following article which appeared some time since in the Huntsville Democrat is worthy of a perusal. We are glad to see such sentiments emanating from a paper which we supposed represented the views of that portion of the citizens of Alabama who have advocated the policy which Georgia has pursued, and urged upon their own State the EXPEDIENCY of extending its jurisdiction over the Cherokees. Alabama is under a sacred obligation to respect the rights of the Indians. She has given her pledge not to invade their 'property rights and liberty.' Let her act according to the conditions under which she became an independent State, ' the Indians residing within her charter will live in peace and enjoy their firesides having none to molest or make afraid.
We have been frequently asked why our Journal was not employed in urging the necessity of extending the jurisdiction of Alabama over the Cherokee Indians residing within the territorial limits of the State? We answer, that we doubt whether the Legislature has authority to do so; and we will here give our reasons for doubting, and we should be glad if we are in an error, for any gentleman to correct us. We are told we 'ought to follow the example of Georgia'- but we ought first ascertain whether the example of Georgia has been founded in Law of justice:-
It is generally known by those who know anything about the subject that in 1802 a compact was entered into between the State of Georgia and the General Government, by way of adjusting certain prerogatives, claimed by both;- that, in that compact the State of Georgia ceded to the United States all that part of the Mississippi Territory that now forms the States of Alabama and Mississippi;- and the United States stipulated on their part, to extinguish at their own expense, for the use of Georgia, so early as the same could be peaceably obtained, upon reason able terms the Indian title to all the lands lying within the chartered limits of that State. Whether the United States have, in good faith, performed their part in the contract or whether the State of Georgia has grossly violated her's, are questions which we shall not now attempt to decide. In the compact of 1802, Georgia made a requisition of the United States which was conceded and incorporated in the compact, for the future protection of the Indians. The requisition was this:- that any new State which might be formed out of the ceded territory should be bound by the 'ordinance of the government of the territory northwest of the Ohio.'--Now, as we have said above, Alabama is one of the States formed out of the ceded territory; and was admitted into the Union, expressly under all the obligations that the compact of 1802 had imposed upon her. What, then, is the language of the 'ordinance' by which Alabama is, to this day bound? Here is a part of it. 'The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and in their property rights and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars, authorized by Congress.' But laws founded in justice and humanity shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them. Now, if the State of Alabama after thus solemnly pledging her faith to this article of the ordinance, as a part of the price of her admission into the Union, can extend her laws over the Cherokee Indians without invading their 'property, rights, and liberty,' then we say, let it be done. But if on the contrary we are bound by the terms that made us one of the United States;- and if Georgia has violated her compact, by claiming jurisdiction over the Cherokee Indians before the United States could, 'upon reasonable terms, peaceably obtain the Indian title' that is not authority for our doing the same.
This subject has been so frequently urged upon us, that we felt it our duty to investigate it; and our conviction at present is, that the Alabama Legislature have not the right contended for by those whose peculiar interests persuade them to a contrary opinion. What ever expediency may dictate, the still small voice of justice must be heard. When Aaristides reported the scheme of Themistocles, of burning the fleet of the allies, he said, 'it was the most expedient thing that could be done but at the same time, the most unjust.' Upon this report the Senate rejected what Themostocles proposed. If the legislature of Alabama should believe that is unjust to extend the laws of the State over the Cherokees, we hope they will not yield to what may be said to be expedient.