From the Milledgeville Recorder.
THURSDAY, Dec. 19, 1831
The late session of the General Assembly was closed at ten o'clock on Saturday night last, in more harmony than was anticipated, considering the warmth of political feeling which had marked every stage of its progress. Contrary to expectation too, the public business was very generally disposed of, and but few if any, of the numerous bills before the Legislature in the last week of the session, were neglected, or rejected, without due consideration. This desirable result was attained during the three lat days of the sitting by a praiseworthy effort on the part of the officers and members of both Houses, combining industry with energy before which obstacles apparently insuperable, in legislation, as in other matters, are overcome.
On review, however, of its whole proceedings, we are at a loss to determine, whether or not it were better that this session of the Legislature had ever been held--while the harm it may have done by the passage of a single act may not more than counterbalance its beneficial acts. We allude to the act for the survey and occupancy of the Cherokee country. We object most strenuously to this act, because we consider it as unjust if not impolitic. As calculated to embarrass the President of the U. States, who has done all that he could do consistently with prudence, to sustain us in our rights, and to obtain, as early as practicable, a cession of the Cherokee lands. We object to it as injurious to the character of our State,- and as dangerous to the harmony of the Union. But let us take counsel from those who have less interest, if not less feeling than we have in this matter. Hear what the Richmond Enquirer, the most talented, upright and purely republican paper in the Union, thinks on this subject? Hear this respectable public Journal, which has been with us to all our Indian difficulties, and will continue to be with us, while we are worthy of its able support! The Enquirer of the 15th inst., while giving a view of political occurrences in several of the states says under the head of GEORGIA:
'The Cherokee land bill, providing for the survey and occupancy of the Country has passed the House of Representatives, and will probably pass the Senate. Whether the Governor (says the Milledgeville Recorder) will give his assent to it, is considered doubtful.
'We agree with the Recorder' that it is a 'measure of fearful responsibility,' Considering the language which has just been used on the Indian Question by the President and Secretary of War- the exertions which have been honestly made, those which are now making to induce the emigration of the Cherokees- the act is a precipitate and ungracious measure towards the Government of the United States.--Governor Lumpkin is in favor of an immediate survey, but not of an occupancy of the lands; but we fear that he has not the energy to arrest the torrent. No one is attached more sincerely to the rights of Georgia, than we are. We have been with her in all her tribulations with the General Government- but upon this point, we should profoundly regret the error into which she would fall. We beg her earnestly to pause; for the sake of her own character, the respect she owes to the feelings of the whole country.
The Enquirer is right, we think, in its opinion that Governor Lumpkin is deficient in energy; but it is under a mistake in supposing that there is a torrent of public opinion in favor of a survey and occupancy of the Cherokee lands until some Treaty or bargain has been made with the Indians. The more prudent and respectable portion of our citizens, with but few exceptions, are decidedly opposed to a forcible survey and occupancy. A survey alone, if not followed up by immediate occupancy is worse than nugatory. A great expense must be incurred, without any benefit whatever. The lines marked by the Surveyors will be obliterated by the Indians, as we understand, from very high authority, that the district lines have already been in many places, and for considerable distances. It is certainly intended that occupancy shall speedily follow the survey. In this state of things would it not be proper for the present Congress to arrest the evil by saying to the Cherokees, you must and shall sell to the United States, for the use of Georgia. We will give you not merely a fair price, but a liberal one-we will remove all who choose to emigrate at the public expense such of you as prefer to remain may take moderate reserves, with the privilege of selling to the whites, and the Government will pay into the Treasury of Georgia the fair value of all such reserves. This is in our opinion, a most proper subject for the action of Congress-for its speedy
and effectual action. It is surely better that Congress should compel the Indians to remove, treating them at the same time with lenity and liberality, than that a fearful conflict should be permitted to ensue between the State and the General Government--and of this, we apprehend serious danger.
The people of other states--those at a distance from the scene of action, will be curious to know what influenced the Legislature of Georgia to abolish Penitentiary imprisonment, since that mode of punishing crimes has been long tried in nearly all the States of this Union, and in various parts of Europe, with a success that has ensured to it a very general popularity. The enquiry, as to the main cause that operated in producing this result in our Legislative councils, is more easily made than answered.- Legislation, in this case, as in some others, is not conclusive evidence of that high degree of intelligence which law makers are supposed to possess in an eminent degree, It may be asked, with no better prospect of a satisfactory answer, what influenced the Legislature to appoint Dr. Jones of Clark, a gentleman not imminently qualified for the task, to procure from the British Court, copies of the colonial records of Georgia, connected with the history of the State, when the same service could have been performed much better ' at less expense, by the American Minister at the Court of Britain, or by the Consul of the United States at London or Liverpool-but then Governor Lumpkin's relative would not have been provided for at the public expense. It may be further asked, what influence could have prompted the Troup Legislature to name a county seat after John A Cuthbert, when the aforesaid John A. had charged them unjustly and injuriously with plotting to practice a fraud, and with attempting to impose on the people of the State a Governor who was not their choice; and after he had been convicted of profligate story telling? And last, though not least, what motive could induce those of both parties, who view with each other in the expression of their veneration and attachment for General Jackson, to pass prematurely an act for the survey and occupancy of the Cherokee country-a measure not in accordance with the strict rule of right-of doubtful, if not of dangerous policy; and which must greatly embarrass President Jackson, if it does not injure his popularity, and hazard the chance of his election.
If any ask, why Gov. Lumpkin did not interpose his veto to prevent the passage of measures so inconsistent, so much opposed to the public weal, and so derogatory to the character of the State--a candid, though not a very satisfactory answer, might disclose the lamentable fact, that our Governor is not one of those Patriots who, like the Roman Decii and Fabii, will devote himself for the good of the Republic. He belongs rather to that order of Modern Patriots, whose love of country consists in self-aggrandizement-who prop up an ephemeral, worthless popularity, by doing whatever the whim of the people, for the time being, rather than their sound, sober judgment may dictate; who under the practice of the plausible, but unsound doctrine, that the will of the people must in every instance, be obeyed, shuns that share of responsibility which our Constitution has wisely imposed on the Chief Magistrate of the State--of fearlessly putting his veto on ever bill and public act which has not
Justice for its support, and Wisdom for is warrant. The 'Arms' of Georgia, as exhibited on the Great Seal of the State, which is fixed to all grants of land have these memorable words, 'Justice', 'Wisdom', 'Moderation' encircling three pillars that support a fabric, emblematic, as we suppose, of this Republic. When the public authorities shall survey and occupy, by force the Cherokee country within our chartered limits, an honest, conscientious citizen, who has drawn land in this Lottery, on getting his Grant from the State, will find his attention irresistibly attracted by these high sounding words, 'Justice,' 'Wisdom,' 'Moderation,'
on the seal of his title paper; and may perchance commune with himself somewhat in this way: Does this emblem of the state's 'Justice Wisdom Moderation' represent a fact or is it a mere mockery. Is it one of the attributes of
Justice or of Wisdom to get possession of lands or money per fas aut ne fas?--by means fair or foul? The avaricious unprincipled father is stated indeed to have given his son the advice-'Get money my son-honestly if you can-but, at any rate get money.' In opposition to this, however, is a saying as old as the stars and as true as it is old;- anything worthy of all commendation -which teaches us, that 'honesty is the best policy.' Is it honest then to seize or take by force a piece of property that pleases our fancy, but does not exactly belong to us? It is true, that we have a kind of reversionary claim to these Indian lands--our right and title is clear and indisputable whenever the Government of the United States can purchase, as she is bound to do for our use, from its present occupants, the Aborigines of this country; who are supposed still to have some rights in the soil of their native land; derived from the laws of Nature and of Nations--from being the first and only possessors. But 'might gives right.'- This is the maxim of the ambitious unprincipled politician, but not of an hones, pious man. And here we may suppose our conscientious Fortunate Drawer in the Cherokee Land-Lottery to turn his attention to the signatures to his grant. Most conspicuous among these stands His Excellency the Governor, Wilson Lumpkin, without whose name no grant for land can issue. The Communer may be supposed to continue his self-examination somewhat in this way:- If this thing were wrong, as it seems to me to be, our excellent pious Governor would not surely give it his assent and approbation; how could he do so, consistently with his oath of office, his obligation to the Most High, to the Giver of all good? Besides, brother Polbill, of our Church, is of the same mind with the Governor, as to his partner Mr. Cuthbert who also passes for a Christian though he is somewhat addicted to *****. I really wish I knew how to reconcile this matter to my conscience, without giving offence to God or man. Interest prompts me to take and use what the law has given me, but then I have strange notions of things, and cannot altogether divest myself of the opinion which I have invariably maintained, that 'that cheating never thrives'-no never! This principle holds good when applied to Nations or to individuals. I will have nothing to do with this land, obtained, as it has been, by violence, if not by fraud. The Spaniards were once the most chivalrous, warlike, enterprising people in all Europe. They were the first discoverers of our Continent, and instead of treating the Aborigines of Indians with some degree of justice and humanity, as most other Europeans did, they took away their lands by force, without paying anything for them, and hunted the poor natives with blood-hounds. What was the consequence? Shall we Georgians imitate the example of those cruel Spaniards? God forbid. As a punishment for their sins, they are become a proud, lazy, miserable race, their ancient glory as a Nation is remembered only to make the contrast with the present degenerate race the more striking.-- Some describe this change to the discovery of the mines of Mexico and Peru. If this be so, let us beware of the Cherokee Gold Mines. But I attribute the degradation of old Spain and her once valiant sons to a far different cause--I view it as a manifestation of the Divine wrath--as a punishment from Heaven for the injustice and cruelty practiced on the Indians by the Spaniards who were prompted by their cupidity to do what conscience must condemn, and History has recorded to their infamy. Let us profit by a knowledge of their fate. Let us be content to wait a few years longer for these Cherokee lands. We shall then get them by purchase, made by the Government for our use, honestly, honorably, fairly. This thing must happen and it will certainly be bought to pass in good time. President Jackson is using every possible means to obtain possess ion of the Cherokee lands for us, for which we ought to feel grateful. The Cherokees of full blood are enlisting and removing to the Westward-in a few short years (perhaps in two or three) nearly all but the half-breeds will have departed; their improvements in the meantime will be occupied by white men, and thus the population of the country will be gradually changed. After a while, the cunning half-breeds will make fortunes by selling to the United States for the use of Georgia the whole territory to which we have claim. This is as certain as the sun shines in cloudless sky at noon-day. Meanwhile we are not suffering for land to cultivate, or for gold mines to work. There is plenty of both, unoccupied and of a valuable kind. Let us get the Cherokee country, not by force or fraud but honestly, that we may enjoy our inheritance with a good conscience, and sustain our character as individuals and as a State, free from reproach. Character to an individual or to a Republic, is of infinitely more value than money, and it is far better to be poor with a good character, than to be rich with a bad one. Wealth may be acquired by industry and sometimes even without it-but for a bad character there is no cure. Even repentance, with the forgiveness of sins from on High, does not altogether wash away the stain which memory attaches to the name of an unjust man. The Communer finally concludes to practice honesty as the safest and best policy. Not to avail himself of the pretended right conferred by his grant- not to 'touch an unclean thing.' We highly approve of his determination, and earnestly exhort our readers to 'go and do like wise.'
If these views, roughly sketched, and with no pretension to literary merit, should be deemed correct, the conductors of the Public Press, in this State and out of it, may do service to the cause of justice and to the character of the country, by taking some notice of them. Public opinion in a Government like ours, is all powerful; and the great body of our people, when correctly informed, will seldom do wrong.