Cherokee Phoenix

From the North American Review

Published August, 17, 1833

Page 2 Column 3c

From the North American Review

Extract from Thatcher's Indian Biography

'This is a very interesting chapter in the history of man; and no one will read this work, without acknowledging that the subject has fallen into the right hands. There is much to awaken interest and sympathy in the character of this unfortunate race, who, with manners and habits essentially savage, exhibited some traits of refined and elevated feeling, and who, when brought into direct contrast with cultivated men, were, in some respects, able to put civilization to shame. For such a people, once great and powerful, to pass away from the soil possessed by them and their fathers; for those who once made others tremble, to dwindle away to weak and helpless remnants, scattered here and there upon the face of a country, changed in such a manner, as to make their destruction sure, and whose only trust is in the protection of persons, who feel most interested to oppress them, is a destiny well calculated to excite the compassion of those, whose benevolence is not limited to family or nation, but comprehends alike the Samaritan and the Jew. But to carry this feeling so far, as to express regret that a civilization has extended; to maintain, that it would have been better that the country should still be a hunting ground, instead of being divided into cities and villages; to speak as if the accidental vices of civilized life are so many and great, that barbarism would be better, is carrying this sympathy much farther than good sense and reason would be disposed to go. Wherever civilization comes in conflict with barbarism, we mean, with a race which has no active principle of government within it, it is the order of nature that a barbarism shall give way; the savage either ceases to be a savage, or retreats before the rising flood; justice and humanity do not require the civilized to conform to his habits, nor to abandon the country; for in that case, no room on earth would ever be found for cultivated man. But justice and humanity do require, that the rights of the weaker party shall be respected, that no advantage shall be taken of superior strength to injure nor oppress them; that avenues shall be opened, by which they may enter into the privileges of civilization if they will; and that a civilization shall be recommended to them in every possible way, instead of being associated in their minds with violence and wrongs. We do not hold our fathers responsible for the extinction of the Indian race, for we see not how it could have been prevented; but we fear that there were instances, in which they violated the laws of justice and humanity in their dealings with their neighbors, and if so, the other party should not labor under perpetual reproach for the sake of vindicating their reputation. There is enough in their character for which their descendants may reasonably be proud, and if they deserve blame in this instance, let them bear it; but let the cases of oppression charged upon them be investigated, for sympathy in such cases is poorly qualified to act the judicial part; it takes too much for granted, and trusts as readily to feeling, as to evidence and examination. Mr. Thatcher has touched these cases with a delicate and discriminating hand; in a popular narrative, he could not enter into the subject very largely; we would suggest to his consideration, whether a work of permanent value as an authority is not required. The separate sketches of tribes and individuals, which he has given, might easily be woven into a philosophical history, and it would give us pleasure to see it done by one so industrious and impartial, who has the talent withal of giving it so much attraction.'

'We do not by any means admit, that the Indians met with later times, in a case already too well known to the world, and justified only by those who are blinded by local interest and party passion. Our fathers meant to do them substantial justice, and they failed, it was owing to jealousy and suspicion; it was not because they coveted their lands and were willing to descend to base means to possess them. When such cases are represented as in all respects the same, and attempts are made to involve the pilgrims in such a condemnation, it is time to repel the charge and to show their injustice if they were guilty of anything mean, avaricious, and grasping; to show also, that if their jealousy of the Indians made them unjust to them, they stood in a relation to them in which no people can ever stand again. Much may be forgiven to their feeling of weakness; they did not presume upon their power.'