Cherokee Phoenix

From the Boston Daily Advertiser and Patriot

Published November, 3, 1832

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From the Boston Daily Advertiser and Patriot




This is the darkest chapter in our history. If it were possible to draw a veil over it, we would gladly do so for the honor of our country and of humanity. But it is not. The work of iniquity is still in progress. The only hope of arresting it before it reaches it s consummation, must be founded on the awakening sense of justice of the people. The strongest appeals have been made repeatedly to the executive and legislative departments of the government, as they are now constituted, but without effect. The judiciary has nobly taken its stand in defence of the right, but without the cooperation of the executive, its interposition will probably be ineffectual. It is only by a change in the character of the administration, and of the majorities in Congress, that we can expect to redress this great wrong, and prevent the final extermination of a civilized and Christian community. If there were no other objection to our present rulers, this alone ought to be considered as decisive; and it is therefore of the highest importance that the facts in the case should be constantly kept before the public mind.

What then, are these facts? The Cherokee Indians, occupy a territory somewhat smaller than the state of Massachusetts, situated at that point where the boundaries of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama approach each other-partly in each of these states, but principally in Georgia. The possession of this territory has been solemnly guarantied to them in a succession of treaties, first by Georgia herself, and subsequently by the government of the United States, those of the latter class being not less than sixteen in number. In all these treaties, they are expressly recognized as a distinct community; their rights of property and jurisdiction are formally admitted; ' it is stipulated that no citizen of the United States shall enter their territory without a passport. In all these treaties there are mutual concessions; the Cherokees make grants and promises in exchange for the guaranties and promises which they receive. All these grants and promises so made by them have been faithfully executed-we have had the whole benefit of them;- it is not even pretended that there has been any breach of faith. The Supreme Court has declared that the treaties are valid and binding. Finally, the Intercourse Act of 1802 authorizes and requires the President to employ, if necessary the military force of the country, for the purpose of securing to the Indians the rights and privileges to which, under these treaties, they are entitled.

Such are the rights of the Indians. Let us look now at the manner in which they have been treated by Georgia and the general government. In a time of perfect tranquility-without a pretext even for complaint against the Cherokees-the state of Georgia, by a public act of her legislature, extends her jurisdiction over them and their territory; in other words, declares that she is herself the rightful sovereign of a territory of which another community has had from time immemorial quiet possession, and which is guarantied to that community in a series of treaties by Georgia herself and the Union of which Georgia forms a part. Truly, a modest pretension! But even this is not the worst. The object is to obtain; not merely the jurisdiction but the property. Another act is passed authorizing the survey of all the lands not in the immediate occupation of the Indians, and their division into lots, for the purpose (will posterity believe it?) of distributing them by lottery among the inhabitants of the state. In order to render the quantity of land not included in this distribution as small as possible, the Indians are subjected to personal disabilities which must render their residence in their ancient abodes intolerable, and if the system is continued, will compel them all to emigrate.

Assailed in this unexampled manner by a stronger neighbor, whose aggressions they are wholly unable to resist by open force, the Cherokees appeal to the General Government and invoke the execution of the laws and treaties by which their rights are secured. They appeal at different times to the three great departments, the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary. The Supreme Court, answers their appeal with its usual prompt and yet prudent energy. In the first case in which the question came up-that of Corn Tassel, a prisoner indicted for murder, a mandate was issued immediately requiring the State of Georgia to appear in Court and defend the constitutionality of her proceedings. No sooner was the fact known, than the Legislature of Georgia, which was then in session, passes a set of resolutions, denying entirely the right of the Supreme Court to interfere with the course of her criminal jurisdiction, and requiring the government to resist any such interference by force. In open contempt of the authority of the Court, and with a disregard for the common feelings of humanity that makes the blood run cold, the prisoner, his trial still pending in the ordinary course of law- was ordered to execution and actually executed, or in plain English murdered under the forms of justice. When the case came on at Washington, the State of Georgia made default; the Court, with the dignified moderation and correct sense of property which constantly marks their proceedings, took no notice of the contumacious conduct of that State which was not regularly before them, and decided the case on a point of form in her favor.

The next year the affair came up a second time in the case of the Missionaries, and the Court, with a manly firmness, not less honorable to them than the steady impartiality which they had exhibited before, gave an unequivocal opinion against the constitutionality of the laws of Georgia. When that opinion was sent down for execution, the authorities of Georgia, in their usual spirit of insubordination, refused to carry it into effect, and actually retained and now hold in close confinement in the State Penitentiary, TWO MINISTERS OF RELIGION-one of them a citizen of Massachusetts-under a process which the highest judicial authority of the United States has declared to be unconstitutional.

Such has been the conduct of Georgia. In the mean time what has the President done? The President is bound by the Constitution and his oath of office, to see that the laws and treaties are faithfully executed, and as we have said, is authorized and required by the Intercourse Act, to employ if necessary the military force of the country, for the purpose of securing to the Indians the personal, political and territorial rights guarantied to them by the treaties. What then has the President done? In what way has he interfered to check these violent and unconstitutional usurpations of power by Georgia, and to sustain the Judiciary department in the rightful course of its constitutional functions? What sort of countenance and aid has he given to the feeble and distressed remnant of a once powerful people, who have come to him in their utmost need-to invoke not merely the friendship for the beloved Cherokees of which they had received so many homed assurances, but the PLIGHTED PUBLIC FAITH of the Union? When thus called upon by the Cherokees, the President informed them, through the Secretary of War, that whether the proceedings of Georgia were or were not in accordance with the treaties, the United States could not and should not undertake to oppose them. When the Supreme Court declared these proceedings to be unconstitutional, the President's Secretary of War attempted to refute the decision in a long manifesto, published in the semi-official paper call the Globe. When the State of Georgia, in carrying her unconstitutional laws into execution invaded the territory of the Cherokees, the President, instead of employing the military force of the country in their defence, actually withdrew a corps of troops which was previously stationed there, and left them entirely at the mercy of their enemies. Instead of lending them his countenance and aid to the unequal struggle in which they are engaged, he is continually laboring, through his agents, official and unofficial, to persuade them that they are in the wrong, that they cannot maintain their ground, and that they would do much better to quit their improvements-abandon their cultivated territory; and emigrate to a distant wilderness two or three thousand miles off-in one word, that they would do better to abjure civilization and Christianity and return to barbarism. When the state of Georgia, after setting at nought the claims of common humanity, and the majesty of the laws and Constitution of the country, went still farther and laid violent hands upon the persons of MINISTERS OF RELIGION for no other cause than zeal and activity in their sacred calling-the President not only did not, as he was bound to do by law-protect them, but actually withdrew from one of them the character of a functionary of the United States, which he had held before, for the express purpose of exposing him entirely naked and defenseless-to the full sweep of the blows that were aimed at him by the brutal agents of the tyranny of Georgia.

Such has been the conduct of the President. Even Congress-we blush for the honor of the country and of humanity, when we say it-even Congress has thus far been so completely enveloped in the toils of party management, that it has been found impossible by the friends of the country, notwithstanding, their unremitted laborious energetic and most praiseworthy efforts, to obtain even a resolution that it was expedient to maintain the Public Faith of the Union.

Such are the facts in the case of the Indians and Missionaries: Let us now very briefly consider the character of these proceedings under the various aspects, in which they naturally present themselves-their PERFIDY:-their VIOLENCE;-their MEANNESS:- their BRUTALITY:- the alarming resistance to the constitutional authority of the Supreme Court:-the revolting and outrageous defiance of the moral and religious feelings of the community.