Cherokee Phoenix

From the Charleston Observer

Published May, 19, 1832

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From the Charleston Observer


The Rev. Stephen Olin, now one of the Professors in Franklin College, Geo. delivered in January 1824 in this city, an address at the Anniversary meeting of the South Carolina Conference Missionary Society of which we select several eloquent paragraphs: The address is published entire in the Macon Christian Repertory of April 25th.

Our forefathers, together with a rich inheritance of moral and puritanical advantages, have left to our sympathies and our piety, the two-fold charge of an exotic population, unrighteous introduced amongst us. Whose existence is the worst foe to our posterity, and whose rapid multiplication looks, with a threatening aspect upon the perpetuity of our happy institutions; and of a native population, the ancient and rightful proprietors of the soil we cultivate, who from their earliest intercourse with the European race, have been hastening to destruction with a swift and uninterrupted tendency. For the former class of persons, humanity has already done much, and is still active in their behalf. In many instances, they enjoy all the necessaries and many of the conveniences of life. Religion freely admits them to her churches, her instructions, and her sacraments; and we may confidently hope that as experiences shall gradually remove those prejudices which still unfortunately exist, the condition will receive all that improvement which is compatible with the general welfare.

For the Aborigines of our country, little has been done and little attempted. Their sufferings, their wrongs, and their mournful fate, are without a parallel in the history of man. Brave and independent, their Creator planted them in this fair continent. Their dominion spread abroad on every hand and their right was undisputed. The hills and valleys, the beaten shores and the mountains torrents were all their own, and the unfettered breezes which shook the foliage of their wild forests were not more free than the valiant human who reposed beneath their shade. Unhidden and unauthorized, our ancestors came to their peaceful home. By contract or by force, by the _____ of traffic or the sword of force they got possessions of their land. They poured into their unsuspecting bosoms all the contaminating vices of civilized life, unaccompanied by a single safeguard or one redeeming principle, which education and religion have invented to counteract their destructive influences. At their approach, the Indian population melted away like the snow upon their own mountain, before the zephyr spring. From the shores of the Atlantic, where they pursued the chase and marshalled the hosts of battle, they have fled successively for protection to the Allegheny Mountains to the Ohio and to the Mississippi. At the present day only an humble remnant is left upon the earth. Still in the wonted attitude of plighted and of suffering, and still pursued by relentlesss persecution, they are slowing passing on to where another wave of civilization from the remotest west may ere long check their progress and dash them back upon the wave they are vainly attempting to escape till the buffeted wreck of this anonymous people shall be swallowed up for ever.

I love to contemplate the bright pages of my country's history and dwell with rapture upon the high scenes of her prosperity; her rapid growth in arts and in power; the intelligence of her citizens; the uprightness of her general policy, and the wisdom of her institutions, all have lifted up the rights and the dignity of man from being lorded over and trodden under foot by hereditary pride, to their legitimate place of security and dominion. I rejoice too at the trophies our heroes have won in the fields of righteous combat; although the blood and bereavements by which they were achieved, threw over the contemplation, the hue of a sable melancholy. But when I think of the poor Indians; of their violated rights and unmerited sufferings; how they came to be considered intruders and foreigners in the land which had given them for their dwelling place, and when they were driven from their beloved homes and the burying grounds of their fathers, into the distant wilderness, the rapacity of the white men pursued them there and because they were unwilling to share this last refuge of their calamities with their unfeeling invaders they held to be aggressors, and slaughtering armies were sent amongst them which burnt up their scanty food, their simple habitations, and turned out their women and children in the cold winter storm. aye-and helpless and innocent as they were-murdered them all with exterminating cruelty. Oh! my heart sickens within me at such recollections and I tremble at the thought of the day of retribution which is appointed for nations as well as individuals.

And what let me ask, are the sentiments cherished towards the solitary families of red men who still hunger on the earth, by the ten millions of people who have turned their forests into corn fields, and built cities on their graves! Is it a feeling of resentment, because they have proven fruitless in peace and ferocious in war? Surely it is too soon to have forgotten the provocations which goaded them on to madness and revenge. If they negotiated with our public authorities, they were met by a grasping policy which swept away their possessions, a province at a time. If they had traded with private individuals their skins and furs, the fruit of their hard toil, were obtained in exchange for worthless trinkets and devouring luxuries. If they dwell in our neighborhood, wasting corruptions overspread their land. If they fled from our contaminating intercourse, avarice and oppression haunted out their retreats. In peace and in war, the causes of their ruin were always at work, and a gloomy anticipation of coming destruction was forever pressing upon their hearts. From us they had learned nothing but craft and perfidy. With the sanctity of treaties their unenlightened souls were unacquainted, but the God of nature led them to feel, and it is not strange that the bravest of them sometimes burst away from the lethargy of intoxication and despair, and poured upon their oppressors, a torrent of desolating fury.

But I am aware that since the Indians have ceased to be the objects of terror they are no longer the objects of resentment. Another sentiment, less gud__y but not less dangerous, has taken place of the spirit of vengeance; an infidel discouragement which represses hope and paralyzes exertion. A persecution is broad among us, that the fatal decree has already gone out against this devoted people; that the elements of a nature, so incorrigibly savage, are deposited in their bosoms, as bids defiance to the meliorating influences of civilization, and we seem to be waiting in gloomy expectancy for the day of their doom. And if these doctrines had their foundations in truth and in experience, what would be the inference? That we should remain the inactive spectators of their sad catastrophe? No: We should fly the more speedily to their relief, and strew the flowers of celestial hope along the dreary pathway of their approaching ruin. We should call upon our country to atone, while atonement was possible, for the wrongs she has inflicted; interpose all the resources of her power and her policy, to throw the opposing dikes of her wisdom and benevolence, before the desolating torrent, which is sweeping away an injured race to where they will unite their accusing voice with those who have gone before in calling down the vengeance of Heaven upon our encroachments and oppressions. We would cry to the slumbering church to her mighty energies in requisitions; to hasten whilst haste might be availing, to snatch a few brands from the devouring burning; to quench the conflagration of sin, with the waters of salvation; to pour through the parched fragments the life giving sap of the Gospel, and plant them as trees of righteousness from the vineyard of God, where for a season, they might bring forth the fruits of holiness a late but cheering testimonial of the patience of earth and delightful foretaste of the unrevealed blessedness of Heaven.

But this despair of which I have spoken is gratuitous altogether, condemned by the faith of a Christian and the reason of a man. From the failure of some former attempts to improve the condition of the Aborigines, it would be folly and injustice to infer that the efforts of the present day will prove like unsuccessful. We are not making over again an experiment that has already failed.- We are not resting upon principles long since exploded; nor seeking to engraft the refinements of civilization on a savage nature, which uniformly recoils from their reproach. We introduce a process which is to change that nature and implant new principles. Our reliance is upon a power which has often been defeated, but which has always been victorious; even that same power of the Gospel which converted the brutish Goths who plundered the Capitol, into the polished Italian who built the church of St. Peter; that power which turned the savage inhabitants of ancient Britain, who enslaved and sold their countrymen, in clannish broils at home or murdered them in gladiatorial shows abroad, into the Newtons, the Howards, the Wilberforces, the Wesleys, and the Careys of modern England. The Gospel gives us in morals, what Archimedes wanted in mechanics, another world to plant our energies upon,and with this vantage ground we have nothing to fear from the stubborn coalition of sin and barbarism.

It is fashionable to speak of the conversion of the Indians as a mere utopian hypothesis, a scheme more visionary than all the visions that fed the voracious credulity of a believing generation. And yet this common prejudice is in the fact of all experience which has uniformly demonstrated that they yield the readiest and ripest fruits to Missionary zeal.--The labors of the United Brethren, of Mayhew, Elliott, Brainard, Finley and others, have been crowned with success and the waywardness of the savage character has submitted to the healing influences of the Gospel. If their converts have not in every instance been reduced into organized intelligent, and enduring communities, it was because first successes were not followed up; because the whites thought it more for their own interest to keep them in a state of degraded inferiority than to admit them to the just rights of men; because they were neglected and cheated and corrupted in peace, and murdered in war; for any other cause, I am fully persuaded, than any incapacity in the Indians themselves, to be molded into all the noblest forms of intellectual and moral excellence.