Cherokee Phoenix


Published February, 25, 1832

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From the Poulson's Daily Advertiser



Sir:- It has been suggested by some of the many who feel a deep interest in this Indian subject, that it were better to present what any one may have to say about it to Congress. I do not think so. All that relates to the making of laws, ample laws for the government of this question has been faithfully attended by the Congress. The law exists.- Nothing is asked but a fulfillment of its provisions. You alone in your executive capacity, can carry this law into effect. If it is not enforced, the responsibility is yours. To you then should addresses on this subject be made. It is for this reason I write to you.

I wish it to be understood by Georgia, that I can well appreciate her solicitude to be rid of the Indians who now live within her limits. It is natural. Most potent reasons operate, (political power, and wealth are indeed strong reasons) to induce her to seek to have the complete control of these Cherokee lands. I make no quarrel with her on this subject, but I must say it becomes Georgia to seek to obtain those possessions only by legal means. What these are, all the world knows. Georgia herself agreed to receive them of the United States when they could be procured on 'peaceable and reasonable terms.' THIS IS HER BARGAIN. But I would ask that high minded state of her late movements, made by your permission, are in their nature 'peaceable?' Everybody knows they are not. And I would again ask whence she derives her authority to act at all? Various attempts were made to procure the assent of your predecessors, to allow the carrying in among the Cherokees the same vexatious regulations, which you have countenanced, but without success. But you have not only cooperated with Georgia by withdrawing the protection from the Cherokees, the protection which the Congress furnishes but under the guidance of Councils, you have issued orders in themselves oppressive.- Orders subversive of every principle of justice, and exceedingly harassing and odious to the Indians. I will name two:- First, the singular order forbidding these people from picking up the gold from their own lands: Second, directing that their annuity should not be paid as it had been paid for many years, to their councils, but to individuals of the nation, and that too when a few cents, fifty perhaps, would fall to each person, who if each should attempt to get it would involve a cost in travelling, for the pittance, of as much again as it is worth.

In regard to the first order, it is precisely the same as if you had forbidden them to pluck the corn that grows out of their soil, or drink the water that flows from their springs, or to appropriate any other article, the growth or product of their soil, to their use. And this order of prohibition was applicable to lands secured to these people 'by Treaty with the United States,' and to which they have the same right that you have to any possessions you may own. It would strike you, your Hermitage estate lying in Tennessee, as being very arbitrary and tyrannical, if one of your powerful neighbors should say to you, I command you Sir, to desist from picking up gold from these grounds, since it is in the view of the Legislature some of these days to procure them for the benefit of the citizens of the State.' Yet it would be no more a kingly act, an act I mean of usurpation, than is your own act forbidding those Indians from picking up gold from their lands. Indeed, Sir, this looks more like oppression a movement upon them to force them away, than at first imagined. It was an order stripping them of their natural rights.

And so, Sir, with the order respecting the distribution of their annuity. The design is manifest--it being to harass and dissatisfy them with their condition, and force them to abandon their country. These things ought not to be! There is something so revolting in a wanton attack upon a feeble people, as to make one blush for those who direct it. Merciful acts, soothing in their tendency, are far more operative, and instead of disgusting, they charm those who behold them, and endear their author to our hearts. All this, Sir, I have reason to believe originated with another. But you are responsible. It is right you should be held responsible. If you could as the President of the United States, shift the responsibility of the executive acts upon irresponsible advisers, then indeed would the office be but a name. In regard to this annuity, for so many years paid to the accredited agent of the Indians for the benefit of the whole, our order has operated, and for the reason I have stated, viz: the trouble and expense of reaching it, to keep it in your agent's hands--only a few of the Indians as I am informed, applying for it, and fewer still receiving it when offered to them in this arbitrary way. Thus upwards of $6,000 a year are locked up from these people! There might be some excuse if there had been any complaints, but there were none.

Now do not these acts go to show a concert between you and the State of Georgia, to oppress, and by indirect means, drive away those Indians? You consent to hold the act of Congress as nullified, by the municipal regulations of Georgia, and refuse to enforce it; thus subjecting the Indians to Georgia rule, and the vexations arising out of it; and agreeing, in such matters as were necessarily connected with the general government, to issue harassing orders-so as to leave the Indians in all their loneliness to be dealt by as Georgia should please, and close their eyes to all hope of relief from you, in whom the laws had placed the power to rescue them.

It was, to be sure, most ingeniously planned. It was considered to be of the highest moment thus to have the question fashioned, and your late Attorney General, Georgia's Representative, entered your councils, as he has himself said with a primary view to this very Indian question. These Sir, it is to be presumed are the fruits of his councils;-you yielded to his advice, and this work of oppression was made complete! For this, you are responsible. Never was it believed by any intelligent men that whilst the act, the 5th section of which I quoted in my first letter, remained a law, in force-unrepealed-that any citizen could reach the Presidency who would refuse to enforce it. No matter what were the inducements. The conciliation of a State, however desirable at all times, sinks into insignificance in comparison to the majesty of the law, and the imposing obligation of an oath!

But, Sir, there is less excuse for all this-seeing that you precedents in acts of your distinguished predecessors. If you are right in your course, then they were wrong in theirs. If their course was just and merciful, and lawful, yours is unjust, cruel and illegal. Any man, however gifted, might feel it a duty he owed himself, before he acted in direct opposition to such precedents, to look well to the consequences-for those great men whose acts towards the Indians you have directly opposed, were among the greatest and best men that ever ornamented any government or country--they will stand in all time the praise and the glory of America-to say the least of it, they were not inferior to ourself in all those qualifications which are so important in one who undertakes to fill the first office, in resectability and dignity in the world.

I can perceive nothing in this Indian question, as between the United States and Georgia, that ought to embarrass any enlightened mind. It is, as I have before said, perfectly plain. I know there is much said of 'the Sovereignty of States.' and no man respects the Sovereignty of States more than I do-but when a state is situated as Georgia is, in regard to her Indian population, and a mutual understanding is had, such as exist between the State and the United States, in the famous compact of 1802, which defines the terms on which, alone Georgia can possess these lands, there is no alternative between a compliance with the terms of the compact, as to the conditions on which the Indian population shall be get rid of, and force. But has not legal provision been to preserve and defend those Indians whilst they may choose to remain, where they are, from violence? Aye, even from the vexation arising from personal intrusions on their territory? I have quoted the law for this-and this law is backed by the provisions of their 'treaties with the United States.' Under such circumstances the terms of the compact ought to be faithfully regarded, both by Georgia and the United States; and the law of Congress, made for the protection and security of the Indians, faithfully and scrupulously enforced. Thus would the two revolve in their respective spheres, and harmony would be the happy result. But you have brought them into conflict-hence all this confusion, strife, bloodshed, and murder!

It is a hard case for an Indian population of perhaps five thousand souls, to occupy lands within the limits of Georgia, Georgia found them there. They were not thrust in upon her soil, and her sovereignty; her lines were stretched over and around these people, in the establishment of her territorial limits-no doubt in view of the time when the Indian title might be extinguished. But this can give me just or legal sanction for hastening; by oppressive means, the consummation of this view, by measures which violate the laws of the Union, even if such violation did not involve the peace, and happiness, and lives of the natives.

It is in this view of the subject, Sir, I see no difficulty. There are high duties to be performed by both the contracting parties-Georgia, upon the one hand, and the United States on the other. Georgia has her tile in the lands, but it was only after the Indians leave them-but that day may not be hastened by trespasses, and vexatious treatment, without imparting odium to the Executive that shall permit it, for the law commands that such trespasses shall not be permitted.

I repeat the declaration with which I set out. I exclude politics from a discussion of this question as altogether unworthy of it. It is too sacred to be incorporated, under any forms, with heartless science.

My object is to throw, what I consider the proper light, on this controversy-the end I have in view is the relief of an oppressed and afflicted people.



*See the compact of 1802