Cherokee Phoenix


Published February, 11, 1832

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Mr. EDITOR:- The report of the new Secretary of War, Mr. Lewis Cass, to the President of the United States on their relation with the Indian tribes develops no new measures by which the Indians east of the Mississippi can be restored to the rights and privileges exercised by them, nor their exemption from state legislation. The report must be admitted to be the production of a profound classic, not less distinguished for the solicitude manifested to the destiny of the Indians in their present location, than it is from a conviction of the intricate mature of the subject matter. Here we stand on the soil of our fathers, as has been announced to the world, to plead for that eternal justice which has been rendered to the Cherokees by the immortal Washington, notwithstanding the great storm of Jacksonism that is now raging to prostrate the red man, like the ponderous avalanches that roll from the Alps to crush its unoffending inhabitants below. The accumulated evils, wrongs, and sufferings to which we have been exposed by the present administration, will, I hope, be a sufficient apology, for placing in your columns, the still small voice of justice which shall claim from the white man, a restoration of those rights we have always enjoyed, and of which they are depriving us. The honorable Secretary appears to be fully aware of a crisis having arrived in their Indian affairs, which call for the establishment of a policy adopted to the present state of things; or a permanent foundation for the future political condition of the Indian tribes, and adds 'whatever change may be contemplated in their condition, no one will advocate the employment of force, or unproper (sic) influence in effecting it.' This sentiment is replete with benevolence and just such a one as is due the grave character of the question, and capable of mitigating the evil brought on our nation, if the honorable Secretary possessed sufficient independence to act up to its spirit. But I have reason to distrust the integrity of his honor, when he deprecates all improper influence in effecting a change. The sun too shines bright in a cold day, but his listening rays germ but little comport to the body; so it is with his varnished aversion to the employment of force or improper influence it is unavailing, it is without a benefit. What are the measures ordered by the Secretary to accomplish a change in our political condition and now in progress! They are by the employment of numerous agents now traversing the Indian paths, enlisting and registering Cherokees for the purpose of emigrating them west of the Mississippi, and by that means enabling the state of Georgia to settle its citizens on the improvements abandoned, and lastly on the Cherokee country. The exercise of a power to disturb our internal condition, as is growing out these measures, is a power pregnant with a consequence which I consider was intended to annihilate the Cherokee Nation . The measures ordered by the Secretary not only enables the authorities of Georgia to place numerous legal intruders into these Cherokee improvements, but it also enables these legal occupants to settle as many other tenants on the promises as they choose to employ, thereby infringing on the treaty of 27th February 1819 by J. C. Calhoun on the part of the United States and the Cherokee Nation, which stipulates in the 5th article, 'that all white people who have intruded, or may hereafter intrude, on the lands reserved to the Cherokees, shall be removed by the United States according to the intercourse law of March 30th 1802.' Hence the exercise of a power to settle the Cherokee Country, by white people; is virtually a power to destroy the Cherokee Nation, to nullify said treaty and intercourse law of the U. States. But the honorable Secretary states that the President on mature consideration has decided that there is no power in that department to enforce these treaties and laws. What has become of the solemn oath which he has given, and which has sounded from east to west-yea it was heard in the Chancery of Heaven, to have the laws faithfully executed? Is the virtue, of his supreme power to be abated on the legislation of states, on indeterminate rights? If it be answered in the affirmative and the honorable Secretary himself would seem to authorize the result; there it forms a ground of strong complaint against the executive, by 15,000 Cherokees for the violation of 16 solemn treaties negotiated in the years of 1785 down to the year 1819. But the nullification of these treaties which provides for the preservation of the Cherokee rights, is to be attributed to the President alone; not to Congress, nor the American people as a body politic, nor do I perceive any indisposition on the latter of any magnitude that would interpose any obstacles to the execution of the treaties and laws which may be intended to restore the rights claimed under them, but on the other hand it may be stated with confidence, and to the honor of Congress, that is has in a great measure discharged a duty it owed the Indians, by adding a provision to the bill for the removal of the Indians west of the Mississippi, that said bill should not be construed, so as to violate any treaties with the Indian tribes. Here let it be urged with reference to the decision of the Supreme Court, that there are two departments of the federal government which have sustained the inviolability of our treaties with them, and that we are still entitled to the benefits secured in said treaties, and that if the honorable Secretary is seriously opposed to the employment if improper influence to charge our political condition; he will be our brother, when he removes the legal duress of the Georgia militia, and the bayonet, holding forcible possession of our gold mines. The refusal of the President of the United States to execute in good faith the treaties entered into with the Cherokees, and the laws of the United States enacted for our benefit, in opposition to the decision of the other coordinate departments of the government is an anomaly; the idea is as now as it is for the executive of a nation to violate its faith in the joyous youth of its republic. Again the Honorable Secretary seems to doubt under the constitution of the United States the estoppel of state legislation all classes of people within its limits, and that if the Indian claim of exemption is rested upon natural rights. It may be doubted whether the condition of this rude people do not give to the civilized communities around them the right of guardianship over them, and whether this view is not fortified by the practice of all civilized nations. The rights of the Indians to things by nature is not less grand, than is the conception of justice. The rights of soil and jurisdiction have originated from a great source; the first cause of all things; which the white had no hand in ordaining excepting so far as he has recognized and sustained them since the discovery of America to the use and benefit of these Indians which the Hon. Secretary thinks now are fit subjects of state legislation. Did the Secretary know that he was leaping over the acts of the American genius of civil liberty, Thomas Jefferson, when he was discovering no grant of power in the Constitution of the United States which divested the state legislatures from their jurisdiction over all classes of persons within its limits? Were the acts of George Washington the great the hero of republics, the protector of Indian rights, consigned to the feet of those nations, to whose practices he refers, to be remembered no more? These sages both opposed invasion of states on Indian rights, therefore it is to be hoped that the Secretary will yet retract, adopt the examples of the brave and the wise, and when he shall have disapprobated the use of any improper influence in effecting a change in our political condition let him not send numerous agents to impose the credulity of Indians and place white men in possession of their birth rights, to denationalize us. But say in the language of Thomas Jefferson when he was advising the Cherokees to make laws for their government, 'If you wish to be aided by our counsel and experience in these things we shall always be ready to assist you with our advice; and we may yet be happy:-we are not suffering.' The Secretary's investigation then proceeds to discover that the United States in their treaties with the Indians have guaranteed no political rights incompatible with the power of legislation. On the score, I am constrained to repose but little confidence on the point which his language naturally implies. The Treaty of Holstein 1791, art. 6th is stipulated--'They guaranty to the Cherokee Nation all their lands not hereby ceded.' This guaranty of soil to the Cherokee nation by the United States in its sovereign capacity, I consider to be a political right so strong that no state of the Union ought to proceed to go into possession of said lands, under any circumstances, but by a concession of it by the Cherokee Nation. Article 8th stipulates--'If any person not an Indian shall settle on any of the Cherokee lands, he shall forfeit the protection of the United States, and the Cherokee may punish him.'- These are the words of the United States, and George Washington, consequently they intend to convey the idea the articles really mean that the United States would protect the Cherokee Nation in the occupancy and enjoyment of the lands not ceded. Now Sir, I consider this to be a guaranty of a political nature so strong, that it ought to influence the Hon. Secretary to prohibit all improper influence, such as taking our gold mines, and selling emigrants' improvements and restore to us our just rights and our liberties. The latter article is equivalent to a guaranty; it is a right conceded by the United States to the Cherokee Nation, and I presume they would not convey a right that they would not be willing to protect; to assume the negative would place the acts of the Government on the principle of dishonesty;- this is another political right guarantied to the Cherokee Nation, which the Hon. Secretary is at a loss to find, ' the exercise of that power the Cherokees possess an indisputable right; especially, when all improper influence to change our political condition shall have been prohibited. To the physical encroachments on our rights we protest-they have the power to exercise it, but they have not the right. The sword of the republic was sounded on the back of our industrious gold miners by the United States troops for the purpose of enabling Georgia to possess the mines and expel the Cherokees, but thanks be to heaven that we are still enabled to press earnestly and I hope respectfully on the government for the enforcement of our treaties, that without delay we may be permitted to enjoy our rights and breathe the pure air of liberty. But if all the exertions which the Cherokees have made and are still making should prove unavailing, and the execution of our treaties with them be finally denied, let us fall with a conscious rectitude of having done our duty to save our nation, as the comet that makes its exit from on high down the desert, until the sight disappears in the distant horizon. But mark it reader! When the execution of these 16 solemn treaties shall have failed arising from the apathy of the President, to give to the Indians justice, the faith of the republic will sit down behind the appalling cloud of despotism, never to be dispelled by the sun of liberty.


See 4N31-P3.C2A for additions and changes to this correspondence.