THE IMPRISONED MISSIONARIES
Department of War
November 14, 1832
Sir: I have received and submitted to the President, the memorial of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, transmitted in your letter of the 3d inst., and am instructed to inform you, that having on mature consideration satisfied himself that the Legislatures in the respective states have power to extend their laws over all persons living within their boundaries, and that when thus extended the various acts of Congress providing a mode of proceeding in cases of Indian intercourse, inconsistent with these laws, become inoperative, he has no authority to interfere under the circumstances stated in the memorial.
I have the honor to be,
your obedient serv't
William Reed, Esq. Chairman of the Prudential Committee of the A. R. C. F. M. Boston.'
A state, in President Jackson's view of the subject may therefore nullify 'acts of Congress'!!!-and he takes upon himself to exercise the kingly prerogative to decide the question though the Supreme Court has rendered against his decision--which, however, he respects as little as he does the 'acts of Congress' the reason is he is 'independent of both,' when 'born to command' and the people to obey.
But we leave this branch of the discussion to the judgment of an enlightened public, and proceed.
Yes, Fellow Citizens, it is he who ought to be the President of the people, the guardian of our rights, the supporter of the Constitution, the executor of the law, but who has told us he is above law or what is the same thing, that he is 'independent of both Congress and the Supreme Court.' And that he shall execute the laws, and administer the Constitution according to his interpretation of them; it is this usurper, who with more than kingly daring, looks on composedly and sees a state exercising usurped power, to afflict and disgrace men for preaching the gospel to a remnant of the original owners of our country!
If a pagan despot were to act thus, though in ten thousand miles distant, and did oceans roll between us and the victims of his malice, all the energies of our souls would be employed to break down his power, and thousands and hundreds of thousands of gold and silver would be looked upon as the dust in the balance, when compared to the great object of liberating our brethren from such unjust and cruel slavery. And he who would not aid in effecting the great object no matter by what Christian name called, would justly subject himself to the indignation of insulted humanity.
But our despot is at hand. He breathes with us the air which our Fathers taught us to believe was the air of liberty- and as it was until the breath of Andrew Jackson contaminated it. He is moreover within our reach, and at our disposal, and the liberation of the missionaries is within our power. Nor are we called upon to fit out armaments to cross seas, nor to batter down the castle of the despot with ____ and ball, nor expend hundreds and thousands to accomplish so great an object; we have it in our power in a few weeks from this day, by going to the ballot box and voting against the re-election of Andrew Jackson, to demolish the castle of despotism which has been upwards of three years in building, drive the tyrant from it into his original obscurity, reestablish the empire of law, and let the missionaries go free.
We ask, where, where is the christian, where the citizen, where the man, who will refuse to come forward, and lend his power, the exercise of which will not cost him a single cent to aid the country of the Usurper who has shown himself to be a despot; his conscience is to be impervious to the obligations of his oath, and his heart steeled against the cries of suffering humanity?
Where we ask, is the man? Let him who would refuse to smite in a cause so holy, hold up his hand-let him stand out before angels and men, and announce his insensibility to such a call, that he may not be mistaken before any righteous community in the future. But no, we will not believe that there lives one man, having the feelings of a man, to say nothing of Christians who would, under such circumstances feel indifferent to the fate of the heralds of the gospel, or withheld his efforts to release them from a bondage so lawless, so cruel, and so unjust.
When Rome was free, the declaration of one of her sons--no matter how humble his condition, I am a Roman citizen, made the despot relax his hold, in the certain prospect if he did not, that all Rome would rise to defend the victim and avenge the insulted honor of the Republic.
But here, in America, how have our hearts felt and our energies been employed during the many months that the voices of two of our citizens have been mournfully uttering the complaint, we who are American citizens, are here incarcerated in this loathsome prison-our crime being the preaching of the everlasting gospel to the aborigines of the country?
Will we stand still any longer?- Will we permit the opportunity to pass which is now to be brought to our very doors to liberate our brothers? Will any man consider the toil for the accomplishment of so great an object too great, which requires only that each person shall vote against the re-election of Andrew Jackson.
Our Fathers pledged themselves, each to the other, in their property, and their sacred honor, eye, and in their lives, to win the boon of freedom-to lay the foundation of equal and just laws in this Western world-to secure to every man his rights, and confer upon all the blessings of free government. Nobly did they resolve, and nobly did they achieve. Treasure and blood, and life, were freely given, and the eye of the dying patriot, catching a glimpse of the glorious future, would impart to his heart as it ceased to beat, a tranquil joy that compensated for the agonies of the death wound and the loss of life!
But had that part of the future been revealed, when the place of Washington, and Adams, and Jefferson, and Madison, and Monroe, and the second Adams, should be filled by one who in utter disregard of the laws would erect the throne of the despot, and decree that free men, and the sons of free men, and the ministers of the gospel of Christ should be thrust into a penitentiary for no earthly crime, to mingle with felons, the joy of the dying patriot would have been turned to sorrow- and `how vain is it' he would have said with his expiring breath, `for me thus to shed my blood, and yield up my life for my country and for freedom.'
Happy thrice happy, for man, is it that a curtain separates his view from the events of the future.
But we live when that which might then have been announced by some prophet has become a sad reality.--Will we permit its continuance? What say ye? you who revere the memory of your patriot fathers-`what say ye?' you who love liberty and law-what say ye? you who are followers of Jesus, will you let slip the opportunity, the only opportunity which is at hand, to thrust from his seat the author of all the wrongs that are heaped upon the memories of our fathers- and of the disgrace which has been inflicted on our liberty and our law- and of the
violence which has been so ruthlessly exerted upon our brothers?
'No'- We hear the indignant and heart swelling answer from thousands, 'no we will not.'
Then let the response be heard in the midst of all who are free- in our churches in the hamlets, and upon the mountaintops, let all come up with the glorious purpose, to thrust the despot from his throne, and save our country, our liberty, our altars, and our hopes.
Let our watch word be 'down with the despot and liberation to the incarcerated missionaries.'