Cherokee Phoenix

Extract of an oration delivered at the celebration of Independence in Macon County, N. C. on the 4th

Published October, 27, 1832

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Extract of an oration delivered at the celebration of Independence in Macon County, N. C. on the 4th July, 1832 by J. R. Williamson.

'But the time warns me to proceed in the consideration of the next principal subject of my address viz: the bill for the removal of the Indians, and our conduct generally, towards that unfortunate people.

In the midst of the general apathy, there is one at least, who dares to address the cause of the wretched and forlorn red man of the woods. And where shall I begin to count his multiplied wrongs? Shall I call upon the bleached bones of the warrior, that are now lying and crumbling far to the East? Shall the desponding heart broken and forsaken remnant of a fierce and lordly tribe of the South alone give evidence? Cannot the sequestered shades of the West tell tales of oppression? Are the gelid and moss grown rocks of the North free from the reminiscences of the Indians' woe? No; nor time nor place-from the landing of Columbus to the passing of the act we discuss--from the Amazon to the Frozen Ocean are periods and regions marked with an outrageous encroachment upon the Indian soil, on Indian rights, and Indian privileges. The name of Indian has indeed been intensified with every species of freebeing, injustice and oppression. Whether it is evidenced under the specious garb of legislative toleration, or by the skulking miscreant; who goes among them, to carry fraud and treachery into their very bosoms, it is one ' the same thing-the eternal laws of justice equally forbid; and the wholesome maxim so use yours that you do not injure mine has been violated by this whenever it has waged an unjust and exterminating war against them, or intruded upon them an oppression and overstretched legislation. Our conduct towards them has been indeed singular and inconsistent. We have treated with them as a free people--we have declared war against them as independent nations--there has been a semblance of regard to their national rights, in all our conventional notices of them, and yet we are endeavoring to force them into our notions of their welfare as slaves, as savages, as brutes; and this last stab to the Indians' hopes is now given. Yes, descendants of the once uncontrolled proprietor of the mountain crag and the waving valley, east of the Mississippi, in this unhallowed act of Congress read your death warrant, and you who roam yet free in the prairied(sic) west, divine how soon your time will come.

The proper manner in which to notice this subject, is, to examine the features of the bill. After detailing the means and the instruments of removal, most lame and cruel conclusion it says to the Indian, if you do go in a certain given time, we will withdraw our protection from you, we are your friends but if you do not submit to the terms of our despotic friendship, the rapacious white man may despoil you of your lands, your homes and your dearest rights. What is the answer of the Indian? Away with your cankering friendship; you promised us the peaceable enjoyment of the chase and the wigwam, our lands and our flocks, on the banks of the Holston; were there extended you the hand of frank and unsuspicious friendship, and you in return promised us love and protection, calling upon the Great Spirit, and the great seal of the United States to witness the solemn transaction. But this act of protection has been drawn with a dagger in its hand, not to shield us from our enemies, but to assist them in the red mans extermination. It is true, you promised us money and blankets and rifles, but what care we for these things without the means of enjoying them! Think you such paltry considerations are sufficient to reconcile us to the idea of being forced to leave not only our comfortable homes and our corn-fields, but our churches and our school houses, which you persuaded us to build, and go to the West and become savages again? And further, think you that we have not like yourselves, that heaven born attachment to the place where our fathers are buried--where we first looked upon the great sun that lights the day--the clear brook where we first quenched our thirst--the hill where we first struck fire for the hunting camp. Yes the Great Spirit gave us these feelings--we enjoy them in common with yourselves; and we like you, when done with the troubles of this world, wish to let our bodies molder in the valley beside the whitened bodies of our fathers.

But it is to the consequences of this bill, that we are to look for the chief injury of the Indian tribes that are the objects of its enactment; and what are these consequences? The States of Mississippi and Georgia have extended their civil and military jurisdiction over the tribes that are within what they claim to be their respective boundaries. What despotism, what inhumanity are couched in these terms, the extension of jurisdiction! Need I tell any man in this assembly that by the Constitution of these States an Indian would be excluded from the most common immunities of citizenship? Can an Indian give evidence against a white man? Can an Indian make a contract that would be binding on a white man? He can neither hold an office, nor has he a voice in the election of these officers who are to dictate to him the destinies of his property, his honor and his precious life. What are the Indian's feelings on these things?- Hear him in his secret ejaculations to the Father of his Spirit: oh take me to thyself ere these calamities befall me. My ancestors were as free and as unrestrained as the winds of heaven-the spirit of freedom is engrafted in my very nature-if the white man is to restrict this, let me cease to exist. I have born his encroachments, his insults and his depredations with becoming patience. Anything but subjection to the white man's laws and customs-death ten times inflicted, rather than subjected to the disadvantages of these laws, without the enjoyment of their advantages. The white man boasts of this liberty, to secure which his people fought. If this is the use he makes of liberty, oh King of Nations never let the sin of liberty rest on my head! But, says Congress, you are savages, and never will become inured to the customs of civilization -go to the wilds beyond the Mississippi, and there enjoy the sports of the forest--there indulge your propensity for a roaming life. May it please your honorable body retorts the Indian, we have no security in your promises. We have before listened to such deceptive advice. You have persuaded us to give back from one point to another, and you shall still surround us, and moved with us, and destroyed us. In you last treaty with us, we were promised us the enjoyment of our lands in fee simple forever; and appealing to the strength of your national army, you promised to protect us from intrusion. But what is the fact, we are now the slaves of Georgia, enjoying fewer privileges than your dejected sons of Africa. If we leave our long cherished homes, what right have we to expect any better treatment beyond the farther of rivers, the discontented white man is there too, and will there continue to go until we are again overwhelmed with his bosom like jurisdiction.

I see fellow citizens, in the present method of disposing of the Indians, but one doom for them, viz; gradual, certain, and painful extermination from the face of the earth. I read it in the fates of the Catawbas, the Tuscaroras, and the six bold Nations of the North,the two former entirely, and the latter almost dwindled into total extinction; and the time is not far distant, when not a solitary red man will be left to tell the sad tale of his country's wrongs. Let us then hope that this nation will avert such a heart rending doom, in so immediate determination, in favor of truth, justice and humanity.