Cherokee Phoenix


Published October, 19, 1833

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'It has been recently communicated to me, that a respectable portion of our citizens residing in the counties bordering on the Cherokee Nation, are desirous that the laws of the State should be extended over the Indians within our limits; and in compliance with their wishes, I have thought it to be my duty to present the subject for your consideration.'

'As the act of Congress of eighteen hundred and two, only extends to the `regulating of trade and intercourse with the Indians,' it is thought questionable whether any authority exists to punish crimes committed within that portion of our State to which the Indian title has not been extinguished; nor is it believed that there is authority to enforce civil contracts. If this view of the subject be correct, it seems to me that the power of the State to pass laws for the punishment of crimes committed within its limits, or to coerce the payment of debts, cannot be well doubted. In acting upon this subject, I am persuaded you will pursue that course which will best comport with the rights and interests of the parties concerned.'

From the National Banner.

The Select committee to which was referred so much of the Governor's Message as relates to the extension of the laws of the State of Tennessee, to her southern limits, Report:

That in deliberating on the subject submitted to their consideration, grave and important as it is, they have chiefly directed their investigations, to the influence which the measure they propose will have upon both the tranquility of the State and the just supremacy of her laws, and the comfort and happiness of that portion of the Indians whose condition it is designed to affect.

The former it is conceded should not be acquired at the expense of justice; nor should blessings however enduring be harshly forced upon a people, who have not the capacity and intelligence to appreciate them. Beneficence and humanity lose half their charms, when the recipient of unwilling favors, does not comprehend the value of the intended kindness.

The peculiar features which characterize the relations, existing between the Federal Government and the neighboring Indians-the power and the greatness of one, contrasted with the weakness of the other, ought likewise to admonish us that magnanimity and forbearance, should mingle freely with every act of the Legislature that concerns their rights and privileges.

The law of force never has, nor never should govern except in extreme cases, emanating from their follies and their pernicious delusions, leading as they frequently do, to insufferable outrages. The committee trust indeed, that they would be among the last to propose, and the first to resist any acts of violence or unnecessary legislation on the part of the State of Tennessee, and with becoming submission to the opinions of others, who may think differently, they do not conceive any of the principles here conceded will be violated by the policy they venture to advocate.

In proposing as they do by the bill herewith reported, to extend the authority of our laws over the whole of the acknowledged limits of the State, and thereby subjecting to their jurisdiction, the scattered mixed and degraded population, who inhabit the remnant of the Indian lands, they seek to remove an evil, that has only been thus long perpetuated, by a few designing chiefs, regardless of its unhappy effects upon the miserable people over whom they rule, and as is confidently believed, contrary to the wishes of the largest portion of those who understand their true condition. Motives of state aggrandizement, will not they trust, under any difference of opinion, be urged as a reason for the policy recommended. The territory in question is not of value sufficient to excite the cupidity of the most avaricious government. There may be extent of country sufficient to constitute one county and make perhaps the one half of another; but it is mostly broken, mountainous and sterile, and without any of the mineral advantages that have of late given so much importance to lands lying a little farther east.- Considerations of the most exalted character, (they repeat it) predicted upon undeniable facts (some of them within the observation of individual members of the committee) present indisputable arguments in favor of speedy civil reform in the condition of this people.- Deprived of the blessing of law and government, and yet oppressed by their most extensive outward forms, they are held in abject and servile control, by a few cunning and artful men, who arbitrarily assume to themselves, every civil and spiritual station, and in pretended exercise of religion and justice, make a solemn mockery of both- perverting both to the most selfish of human purposes.

In such a state of things, as may readily be conceived, whilst the weak are endeavoring to escape from or to overthrow the strong, internal divisions, misrule and distraction spring up. The dominant party unwilling to yield to, or to part from the wretches, who minister to their wealth, their lust and ambition, enact the most sanguinary laws against resistance or migration. If the naked, half starved savage (such is the condition of this unhappy population) enrolls himself for removal beyond the Mississippi, where a contended and flourishing half of his nation already reside, and where in a healthy, genial and fertile soil, there is abundant room for the whole tribe, he is cruelly punished with stripes. Should he consent to cede any portion of the territory in question, his life is the forfeit. Thus it is by superadding 'pains and penalties' to the natural attachments which bind even the wandering savage to his native, uncultivated wilds, the artful 'chief' of an ignorant band, maintains his usurpations of general government and against the best interests of the deluded Indian; and hence, the strange spectacle now too long endured, of a small community dwelling within our jurisdiction and within view of our court houses, where anarchy, crime, and violence pass unnoticed and unpunished.

The committee would respectfully submit in behalf of their citizens, whose lots have been cast on the borders of this anomalous empire, if the mischiefs to which they are daily subjected present no argument in favor of the measures now recommended? Have they no claims upon the protection and interference of the legislature? Whilst sympathizing for acts of pretended violence, perpetrated on the 'Indian' shall it be forgotten that the 'white man' too has some rights; and if he has, shall he be any longer postponed, in order to gratify the insatiate avarice and ambition of a few lawless 'chiefs' tyrannizing over an ignorant horde? How long is it to be endured, that this sanctuary of vice and crime shall remain open, a safe refuge for the old offender whose multiplied enormities have nearly betrayed him to the vengeance of the law, or as a school whither the young beginner in depravity may repair to learn the most successful lessons of moral turpitude.

It is time that the evils here adverted to should be arrested, and the protecting influence of government felt, where its shadow only has existed before. It is too late, the committee verily believe, for any false notions of humanity now to interpose and arrest the just exercise of legislative authority upon this subject. All the states bordering on the Cherokee tribe, have extended their laws, and taken jurisdiction with their several chartered limits. This policy, though debatable in its incipient stages, has now become the settled usage of the country-and in any action upon the subject we are only left to inquire-what shall Tennessee do, in view of the circumstances surrounding her, to preserve her own internal tranquility?

To forebear longer, the committee believe, would be to invite every species of aggression within our acknowledged limits, and to proclaim to all the lovers of disorder and misrule, that an asylum was provided for them within the jurisdictional limits of one of the sovereign states of the Union. This, the committee believe, would be as unwise as it would be unjust, and finally tend to the overthrow of the Cherokee tribe itself. National honor and the progressive improvement of society demand indeed liberal and generous provisions of law, and that the statute book should go more, for the requirement of obedience in the 'white man' than the exaction of 'dues' or 'duties' from the 'red man.'

In further elucidation of this subject, the committee state the fact to be, that not less than three of this tribe have been by special acts of the legislature, admitted to all the privileges of citizenship in the state of Tennessee; one of whom is, at this time acting, as post master under the authority of the general government, and all of whom are now residing within the limits of the country, over which our laws are proposed to be extended- a negative pregnant at least that they reside within the jurisdictional limits of the state of Tennessee.

Of our constitutional right to take jurisdiction of crimes and contracts, as recommended in the Message of the Governor, the Committee entertain no doubts, it were useless, if they possessed the ability to elaborate a question of power which has already distinguished the pens of some of our most eminent statesmen. As the best and most conclusive argument at their command, and one which it is believed speaks the sentiments and opinions of the present able and popular administration; the committee have concluded to accompany this report, with a discussion which appeared in a Northern Journal, in the winter if 18, then and ever since attributed to a Gentleman, whose talents and integrity have gained the confidence of the nation and his Government. This paper with other documents and 'A bill' are respectfully submitted to the wisdom and consideration of the House.