Cherokee Phoenix


Published August, 3, 1833

Page 2 Column 1b


From the Missionary Herald.

Messrs Worcester and Butler's Reasons for their course in

relation to the proceedings of the State of Georgia.


The faith and justice of our nation were at hazard. That faith and justice were pledged for the protection of the Cherokees and their rights; but that pledge was apparently about to be forfeited, that faith to be broken, and an act of flagrant robbery to be committed upon a defenseless people, with the sanction of our national authorities. Whether this should be done was not a question of mere political expediency but of clear moral obligation-a question of right or wrong-of keeping or violating the commands of God, of obtaining, as a nation, Divine favor, or incurring Divine vengeance. We hoped that a decision of the Supreme Court might be the occasion of arresting the hand of oppression-of averting from our beloved country the guilt of covenant breaking, and robbery, and the vengeance of heaven. We did not know but these consequences might depend upon our maintaining our ground, and appealing to the highest judicial tribunal of our country in our defence. While suffering for this object, we felt that we were suffering for righteousness' sake. And we feared that, if we should shrink from that suffering in such circumstances, we should be partakers of the guilt in question. We wished, if the people among whom we had labored in the work of the gospel were to sink under the weight of oppression and injustice, to be found guiltless not only of participation, but even of acquiescence.

Way (sic) then it may be asked, if we were impelled by a sense of duty to make our appeal to the Supreme Court, did we not insist to the last upon the execution of its decision? Not, we answer, from any change in our views, but on account of changing circumstances.

The law which had prohibited our residence in the former field of our labors had been repealed. We had no longer to contend for the right of laboring among the Cherokees without restraint in the work of the gospel.

There was no longer any hope, by our perseverance, of securing the rights of the Cherokees, or preserving the faith of our country. The Supreme Court had given a decision in our favor, which recognized the rights of the Cherokees; but it still rested with the Executive Government, whether those rights should be protected, and it had become certain that the Executive would not protect them. The utmost we could expect from that source was interference to the extent of executing the mandates of the court; and as those mandates could extend only to the cases before court, the execution on them would only effect our release from confinement, without benefitting the Cherokee Nation.

The leading motives, therefore, which first induced us to make our appeal, existed no longer. In the meantime, however, other motives had incidentally arisen. The supreme judicial tribunal of our country had given its decision in our favor, and the state which held us in unlawful ' oppressive servitude was trampling the authority of that tribunal under her feet. Did not patriotism, therefore, require us to insist upon the maintenance of the authority of the court? For a time it was our impression that it did. But we had to consider that:

3. Any advantage, to be derived from our preverance (sic), as to maintaining the authority of the Supreme Court, was extremely doubtful. The state had placed herself in an attitude of resistance, which it appeared evident that nothing but force could overcome; that force could not be obtained without the agency of the President of the United States; and we had as much reason to believe that the President would not interfere.

4. Had it been ever so plain that our cause could and would be maintained by force of arms, and however plain it is that, in case of our perseverance, it would become the duty of the Executive to maintain at all hazards the authority of the law, it was not so clear that it was our duty to insist upon this course. It is no sacrifice of the authority of the law, for an individual to yield his lawful right, rather than that blood should be spilt in his defence. While the right of preaching the gospel without restraint, and the question of grand moral obligation respecting the rights of the Cherokees and the faith of our country were depending, we felt it to be our duty to go forward; but the aspect of the case was changed, when the former of these was no longer to be contended for, and our further perseverance could not affect the latter.

5. The political aspect of our country was in other respects such as to render it doubtful, in our apprehension, whether the public would not sustain injury by the prosecution of our appeal.

6. As far as our personal liberty was concerned, it were better to suffer unjustly, than to seek redress at the hazard of civil war.

7. We had the assurance of an unconditional release, provided we should desist from the attempt to obtain that release by force. This assurance came, not from any solicitation on our part. We made no solicitation, no overture, no compromise. But we were often and earnestly solicited by persons in the confidence of the governor to desist from the prosecution, and assured that if we did so, we should not long remain in prison. So long ago as last August we were told by C. I. Mills, that the governor had expressed to him his intention to release us as soon as the Cherokees should form a treaty of cession, or as the state should have taken actual possession of the territory by the operation of existing laws and added 'You may tell them so.' After we had given notice of our intention to move the Supreme Court for further process, Gen. Coffee and Judge Schley, two members elect of Congress, earnestly solicited us to recall the notice, and said that, though they were not sent to us, and did not give the assurance officially yet they had conversed with the governor on the subject, and knew his views; and we might be assured that, if we should withdraw our suit, we should be discharged without any concession or condition, or even an application to the governor, before many weeks. Mr. Cuthbert, another gentleman in the confidence of the governor, and who had also solicited us to withdraw the suit, told us that he had received the most unqualified assurance from the governor, that if we did so, we should be discharged immediately after the adjournment of the Supreme Court. Mr. Forsyth had called on our counsel, Mr. Wirt, for the purpose of bringing about the same object, and had expressed his full confidence, though he said he was not empowered to give any pledge from the governor to that effect, that we should be discharged immediately on the governor's receiving information that no motion would be made before the court. We at first believed, and have since been informed, that Mr. Forsyth was authorized by the governor to give Mr. Wirt such assurance.

Since our release the question has been asked, What had the missionaries gained by suffering imprisonment, and appealing to the Supreme Court? _ This inquiry may deserve a reply.

1. Suppose we have gained nothing. Ought we therefore to repent of having made the attempt? Are we never to make efforts and sacrifices for the accomplishment of an important object, without the certainty of success? Or when we have done it, and failed, are we therefore to wish we had not done it? No. If we have gained nothing else, we have at least gained a very cheerful testimony of our consciences, that we have done what we could, for the prevention of injustice, oppression and robbery, and the preservation of the nation faith.


*We ought, perhaps, here to say, that Mr. Wirt did not give us any advice on the subject preferring, as he said, to sustain to us simply the relation of legal counsel.

2. If we have not gained, we have at least not lost the privilege of laboring among the Cherokees in the work of the gospel.

3. We have gained in behalf of the Cherokees a decision of the Supreme Court, which, although it does not avail for the protection of their present rights, may nevertheless have a very important bearing on their future prosperity-a decision worth far more than the sacrifices we have made to obtain it.

We do not repent of what we have done. We greatly rejoice in it. And now that we are free, it gives us consolation to reflect that we have not obtained our freedom by any abandonment of principle, or by ceasing to bear our testimony against the injustice of the measures by which the Cherokees are deprived of their possessions. We felt it to be due to the cause of justice in announcing to the authorities of the state our determination to prosecute the case no further, to declare our unaltered conviction of the correctness of the principles on which we have acted. Having made the declaration then, we feel a freedom which we should not otherwise feel in making it now.

We know not but we shall be considered as having used language unjustifiably severe, in this communication, respecting the proceedings of the state of Georgia; but our own vindication appears to require that we speak of things as they are in our own view. The nature of the proceedings by which the defenseless Indians are deprived of their possessions appears to us very plain. We wish certainly to avoid opprobrious language, but we cannot see why, when we have felt ourselves called upon to oppose a torrent of iniquity, we should attempt to gloss over that iniquity by giving it names too smooth to express the truth. And we feel unwilling to retire from the contest into which we have been led, without giving our decided testimony against what it is impossible for us to regard in any other light than injustice, oppression, and robbery. Towards the state of Georgia or her authorities we are conscious of no vindictive feelings. It is our unceasing prayer that her transgressions and the transgressions of our countrymen be forgiven, and those judgements of heaven averted, which there is too much reason to fear.

We are yours with much esteem and affection.

S.A. Worcester,

Elizur Butler.