Cherokee Phoenix

From the Hiwassean

Published February, 25, 1832

Page 1 Column 4a

From the Hiwassean.

(Messrs Hoods;) As original matter is not very plenty, in your columns at present, I have thought proper to devote a portion of my leisure moments in writing out a piece on the situation of the Cherokees-the manner in which they have been treated by Georgia as well as by the United States, and have endeavored to show, as in my humble conception, is substantially true, that the course pursued toward them is in violation of national faith, and contrary to the dictates of reason, humanity and justice.

In commenting upon this subject, I know that I assume an unenviable attitude. In tracing it through its different bearings, it necessarily compels me to remark upon the course pursued by our present Chief Magistrate in relation to the Indians. It is his duty to see that the laws and treaties are faithfully executed on the part of the United States, and since as I can show, that treaties have been violated, it remains for us to enquire into the cause, and apply the remedy. I wish it however distinctly understood that I am actuated by no party feelings, nor have I any interest of my own to subserve, aside from the common interest of my countrymen. I do not aspire to the title of dictator; for then my humble effort would perhaps frustrate my design, but it is my object to mingle my voice in the expression of public sentiment, which alone, the liberal institutions of our happy country can be sustained. In the discussion of this question, I shall consider, first, the policy of the government towards the Indian tribes. Second the right which they possess as proprietors of the soil. Third, and lastly the manner in which those rights have been disregarded and the obligations to which the United States are under to afford them protection.

When party spirit, the love of abuses and a hatred of all political reform, occupy the minds of men, they are generally deaf to the calls of humanity and devoid of those feelings of sensibility which render us conscious of our moral and social obligations. To such men it is in vain to write-who alone seek their own aggrandizement, regardless of the claims of their fellow citizens-men who are urged on by blind enthusiasm, by the mere infatuation of a name, who ascribe untimely eulogies to their delusive chief, and are predetermined to condemn and censure any and everything which impedes their heedless course, aye, to such in vain may we sound the alarm when danger approaches. But I appeal in this address, to the man who has a soul within him-a heart that 'can feel for others woe,' who will generously sacrifice his prospects of worldly gain for the preservation of his country's benefit.

What has been the policy of the General Government towards the Indian tribes, and more particularly towards the Cherokees? We are informed by the annual message of the President of 1830,'that it has long been the policy of the government, to introduce among the Indians the arts of civilization, in the hopes of gradually reclaiming them from a wandering state,' the President adds, 'this policy has however been completed with another, wholly incompatible with its success. Preferring a desire to civilize and settle them, we have at the same time neglected no opportunity to purchase their lands and thrust them farther into the wilderness. By this means they have not only been kept in a wandering state, but have been led to look upon us as unjust and indifferent to their fate. Thus though lavish in its expenditures, 'Government has constantly defeated its own policy.'

It is obvious from the above paragraph and many others of similar nature which might be advanced, that the policy of the government has long been directed to the humane objects of Christianizing the natives.

It has been under the benign influence of this policy that the Cherokees have been enabled to establish a Government--to copy our--to imitate our manners, and in fact to rise from a state of barbarism to an agricultural and civilized people. But has this policy been continued? Is it now the principal object with the Government to civilize and settle the Cherokees?

Where are their Missionaries?- Where their lands? Where are the peaceful homes which the scenes of childhood and the graves of their fathers have constituted dear to them. Gone-gone- a sacrifice to the cupidity of Georgia. The Secretary of War Maj. Eaton informed us 'that a new era has commenced in our Indian affairs,' true Sir; and you might with propriety have added, that a new era has commenced in the history of our country-an era from which we may date the subversion of many of the dearest rights of American free men. The time has come, when the state, in order to accomplish its own sinister motives assumes the power to declare laws of the Union unconstitutional. The painful period has arrived, when a single State can abrogate treaties made by the United States with impunity and thereby tarnish the bright escutcheon of our national glory. When men under the protection of the union, may be dragged into prison--loaded with chains and doomed to perpetual disgrace, for an innocent expression of their sentiments. Even Ministers of the Gospel in the faithful exercise of their sacred trust, have been cut off from society, hurled into the state prison to be the associates of the highway robber, the infamous thief the midnight incendiary. But what is the cause of all this? This question leads us to the consideration of the 2nd division of our subject. The title which the Indians have to their lands--1st. It may be founded upon discovery or immemorial occupancy--2nd. It may have been obtained by conquest from the neighboring tribes, or by purchase.--3dly. And which I conceived to be the better opinion, this title had its origin in the wants and exigencies of nature and strengthened by occupancy, gradually become perfected by the law of the land. It may not be amiss here to mention some of the treaties by which this title has been recognized by the Government. In the Treaty of Holston which was negotiated in 1791 on instruction previously ratified by a unanimous Senate may be found this plain and expressive language: 'The United States solemnly guaranty to the Cherokee nation all their lands not hereby ceded.' As late as 1817 this, as one of the previous treaties, was declared in 'full force' with all 'its privileges and immunities,' and this earlier mention of its validity was made in a recent treaty negotiated by the Present Chief magistrate and received the unanimous concurrence of the Senate. I will now refer you to a letter from the immortal Jefferson to General Knox, then Secretary of War. The following is an extract: 'The Indians have a right to the land upon which they reside independent of the states within whose chartered limits they may happen to be.' Could language be more explicit? Then in the opinion of Jefferson the Cherokee Indians may subsist as a distinct people, dependent in some degree upon the U. S. notwithstanding they may be surrounded by the chartered limits of Ga. But again: an exclusive right to anything implies a right to exclude all others from the enjoyment of it. If then I have a right to exclude all others from a piece of land, so long as this right remains unimpaired, as long as the right to the land itself rested in me. Now apply this principle to the Cherokees.--Government has on repeated occasions acknowledged the right in them to drive intruders from their land, and even Gen. Jackson himself is so liberal as to admit it. In a letter to Path Killer and other Cherokee Chiefs, dated Head Quarters, Nashville 18th Jan. 1821, he expresses himself thus: 'Friends and Brothers:

I have never told a red Brothers a lie nor deceived him. The intruders, if they attempt to return, will be sent off. But your light horse should not let them settle down upon your lands. You ought to drive the stock away from your lands and deliver the intruders up to the agent. And on his notice, I will drive them from your land. I am your friend and Brother,' ANDREW JACKSON.

In the 5th article of the Treaty of Holston which is still 'in full force,' I find the following. 'If any citizen of the United States or other person, not being an Indian shall settle on any of the Cherokee lands, such person shall forfeit the protection of the United States and the Cherokees may punish him or not as they please.' I might add many additional authorities as well as treaties which go on to corroborate and confirm the Indian title, but those already cited are amply sufficient to convince any unprejudiced mind. It now only remains to be considered the manner in which Ga. has disregarded and curtailed these rights, which the law of nature and the laws of the land have conferred upon the aborigines of the countries and which have been recognized and supported not only by Government, but by the ablest statesmen, and the most profound jurists.

This however will be the subject of a second communication.