Cherokee Phoenix


Published March, 3, 1832

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From the Poulson's Daily Advertiser



Sir:- In my first letter I presented you with an extract from the law(the fifth section of the act of 1802) clearly defining the obligations of the United States, to the Cherokees, and all other Indian Territory, secured to the Tribes,'by Treaty with the United States,' of trespassers. No human being, under the act, has the right, under no matter what circumstances or pretext, to intrude on lands 'secured by Treaty to any Indian Tribe.' I need not here enlarge on the binding obligations of that act. I have said that the law I have quoted is backed by the obligation of Treaties. I forbore to present to you these solemn contracts. I did not suppose it was required. With these I certainly supposed you were acquainted. With the law you are now, at least, made familiar. That I may be fully understood, I have concluded to depart from my intention, and present to you extracts from 'Treaties,' entered into by the Cherokee Indians, 'with the United States.' These may serve to fix the responsibility on the Union, and show how entirely both the law and the Treaty provisions are now disregarded.

See Treaty of Hopewell, fifth article-'If any citizen of the United States, or other person not being an Indian shall attempt to settle on any of the lands westward or southward of the said boundary which are hereby allotted to the said Cherokees Indians, for their hunting grounds, or having already settled and will not remove from the same, within six months after the ratification of this Treaty, such person shall forfeit the protection of the United States, and the Indians may punish him as they please.'

Is it possible for language to convey, more definitively, the intention of any instrument?

Outlawry is proclaimed against the trespassers, and the right to punish them is referred to the Indians! How important was it esteemed to be, by the parties to this compact, to keep the Indian Territory free from intrusions. It is no less important now, nor the obligation less binding than it was then. This Treaty was signed at Hopewell, in 1785.

Again, Article 7 of the Treaty of Holston is the following guarantee- 'The United State SOLEMNLY guarantee to the Cherokee Nation, all their lands not hereby ceded.' Yet it is from a portion of these very lands your order forbids them to pick up gold! How ridiculous must such solemnity appear alongside of such an order, and how futile such a 'guaranty'. Now for the provision for their protection, in this Treaty also, and their right of enjoying the products of their territory.

'Article 8. 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 as they please.' This is a transcript from the preceding treaty.

'Article 9- No citizen or inhabitant of the United States shall attempt to hunt or destroy the game of the lands of the Cherokee ; nor shall any citizen or inhabitant go into the Cherokee country without a passport first obtained from the Governor of someone of the United States, or Territorial Districts, or such other person as the President of the United States may from time to time authorize to grant the same.' How carefully guarded! How entirely is the object seen to be, to preserve these people from the harassing effects of trespassers on their Territory. The fifth article provides for the punishment of all who may trespass on the 'persons' or 'property' of these dependent people. These obligations were entered into in 1791- They were declared to be binding in another treaty held in Philadelphia, in 1794. In 1798 another Treaty was held- the Treaty of Tellico. This Treaty sets forth that, owing to a want of knowledge of the boundary lines, as established by the preceding Treaties, 'divers settlements were made, by divers citizens of the United States upon Indian lands 'c., but which settlers were removed from the Indian lands. BY AUTHORITY OF THE UNITED STATES, as soon after the boundaries had been so lawfully ascertained 'c.' Thus was the public faith plighted to those same Cherokees, in 1798, and thus was it sacredly regarded. -Intruders, by virtue of Treaty provisions, were removed. This is all that is asked now, the same Treaties being in force. In 1805, another Treaty was entered into with the Cherokees, the first article of which runs thus- 'All former Treaties which provide for the maintenance of peace, and preventing of crimes, are on this occasion recognized, and continued in force' It was made criminal in former Treaties given to outlawry for any person to intrude on Cherokee lands. But under wilful pretenses are they now encouraged to go there! On such binding obligation did the United States esteem those Treaties to be, that when a road for the public convenience was wanted, and the route lay in part through the Cherokee country, before is was opened, a Treaty was held and the liberty asked, and the price agreed upon for the privilege, and paid. It was a road for carrying the mail from Knoxville to New Orleans. 'The Cherokees agree,' says the second article of the Treaty, 'that the citizens of the United States shall have, so far as it goes through their country, the free and unmolested use of a road leading from Tellico to Tombigbee, to be laid out by viewers on BOTH SIDES, who shall direct it the nearest and best way; and the time of doing the business, the Cherokees shall be notified of,'- This was in 1805. Under present auspices, the relations are changed. Georgia is allowed to send her 'surveyors' over this country to the law of 1802, to 'survey' and lay off the same into counties, 'c, and her citizens encouraged to range at will and oppress those very Cherokees in every possible way on horse and foot. Under any and every pretence, officers, spies, and constables, are sent in to arrest, bind, lead, drive, try, condemn and execute, those very people, of whom, in former times, the privilege was asked, to open a mail route through part of their country! So recently as 1827, an appropriation was made by Congress, and a Commission appointed to procure the consent of the Cherokees to connect two rivers by means of a canal, in their country. The privilege was refused. But the United States never dreamed of usurping the liberty. Tempora mulander!!

You will bear me in mind that all those Treaties are as binding on the United States now, as they were at the first hour of the ratification.

In 1816, a Treaty was held to obtain the assent of the Cherokees to a sale of a portion of their territory, which, by an arrangement between North and South Carolinas had fallen within the limits of the latter. It was bought not taken. In all things touching our Federal relations with these people, the strictest regard has always been paid to our contracts with them, and the right to their country never questioned. In no case was a single article of any Treaty violated, or law broken, without an attempt, at least, to enforce the penalty of its violated provisions; every thing was attended to, in good faith by the Executive of the United States- the laws were duly enforced-the faith of Treaties was sacredly regarded, and kept inviolate. Never, Sir, until you accession to the Presidency were these obligations esteemed to be other than binding. Never before were wrong and outrage permitted much less acquiesced in. So scrupulous has the nation been to maintain the faith of Treaties with these people, and to preserve its honor from even the suspicion of committing a trespass upon them, as to indemnity them for damages done within their limits by our troops, in marching through our nation. The fifth article of a Treaty argued at Washington in 1816, provides for losses sustained by the Cherokees on this account, the sum of twenty five thousand dollars. Agents were appointed by the United States to ascertain these losses. How honorable how just!--What a contrast to the present policy! Hitherto those Indians were regarded as human beings, having rights, and treated as such. How are they regarded now!

Thus it is seen that the most solemn guarantees have been given to keep the country reserved to the Cherokees from the intrusions of the whites; and all the world knows that good faith was observed by all your predecessors in maintaining them. But of what avail, allow me to ask, would be the provisions of the law, as quoted in my first letter, and the solemn guaranty of Treaties, if a State can by a single municipal regulation nullify the one,' render void the other? And yet a State has, it seems according to your interpretation of its powers, made a dead letter of both. And you have determined to use the emphatic and appropriate words of your War Minister the question to be settled; that is the Indians are no longer to be regarded as within the protection of the laws of Congress, or as deriving any rights by virtue of our Treaties with them! It does seem to me, Sir, to be a case of incalculable impertinence; a case demanding the immediate investigation of Congress. If, indeed, a President of the United States may thus disregard law in one particular, he may be tempted to do so in another. If the rights of the Indians are considered a fit subject for the exercise of a prerogative so fatal to them, have we any guaranty against the exercise of alike power, no less fatal to ourselves? I think Sir, the precedent you have set in regard to the Cherokees, and their rights is, if not destroyed, a fatal omen of what may await ourselves. I do not mean to say that you have begun with this usurpation with any view to embrace the subjects involving our rights, but others may come after you, who taking encouragement from the impunity with which you have, so far, at least, despoiled the Indians of their rights, may make the attempt to enslave us. The slightest disregard of law, in the view of the subject, becomes important. No President should be permitted in a single instance, to disregard the law, or treat its supremacy with either contempt or neglect. But when he 'determines' what is law he will not execute, and what is of Treaty obligation he will disregard, it becomes, in my humble opinion, the imperative duty of those whom the preservation of our liberties are entrusted, to look to it. In the present case, this duty is binding force, for those who suffer by this contempt of law, are weak and friendless-they are placed by providence and the Constitution, in our hands, as wards. -OUR COUNTRY,Sir, is their guardian. If people, feeble as they are, physically and intellectually, and standing in the relation to us as do our Indians, and poor withall, can be deserted, as the Cherokees are, and no voice is raised loud enough to arouse the citizens of this country to an exertion in their behalf, then our liberties may be looked upon as on the wane, and our glory as departing.

I do not think it too late for you to retrace your steps. You cannot be intent, for any pleasure it can afford you, on the destruction

of these poor people? I know what you have done is all the fruit of bad councils. Then do not persevere. Look into this subject. Be not afraid to confess your error. Heaven, and all good men, will applaud you, in any step you may take, whether backwards or forwards, if you do justice, and give protection and consolation to the weak and those who are ready to perish. I plead for nothing for those Indians, which the laws do not give them-they ask for nothing more.