From the National Intelligencer
CHEROKEE CHARACTER AND CONTROVERSY WITH ITS BEARINGS.
Georgia, Sept. 10, 1833
Messrs. GALES ' SEATON: You will allow me, I hope, to present, through your columns, a sketch of the Cherokee character, with a few hints upon the Cherokee Question, and its incidental bearing upon questions, rising and marching with a bold front, upon the fundamental principles of our common country. I select your paper as it is less tinctured with the bitter spirit of party rivalry, then either the Globe or the Telegraph. This position may possibly produce more reflection to matters of high import, such as the true interest of the country, as this peculiar crisis, demands, than if it appeared under the supposed dictation of the administration, or the mere love of opposition to all its measures.
The Cherokee Questions must be speedily settled by a treaty, or the Cherokees, as a tribe, will not only be abolished, but individually ruined. The settlements of the whites among them, with their grog shops, and their attendant oppressions, in the accumulation of property, will, if allowed to continue, sap and destroy the policy of the Government, and defeat the hopes of the Christian, from the rapid improvement of the Cherokees in attempting their redemption from the savage life, to religious and political liberty. If this be not affected, and an attempt be made to expel the whites from the country, the disaffection of the South towards the Union, but more particularly towards the North, will eventually result in a Revolution-any attempts at which, no human foresight, nothing less than the over ruling Spirit of Providence can count the dreadful consequences.
Circumstances forcibly present themselves to the American Statesman to pluck out the firebrand to silence local discords, to hush sectional jealousies, as all such feelings have but one tendency, to weaken attachment to the Union.
Georgia has now possession of the Indian territory, leaving the Indians no political rights, and but little more than the shadow of claim to their circumscribed homes. The Rubicon has been passed, how to withdraw the sufferers under such harsh measures from the field, with the least injury, is now the only question of either the Philanthropist or Statesman. As an American Citizen, alike adverse to the laws of Georgia and the course of the Federal Government, I am, from a full view of all the surrounding and embarrassing incidents, very urgent for such a treaty with the Cherokees, as will redound to the honor of the Government, and permanently give the Indians a home, with such political rights as their intellectual advancement and civilization will justify. I am well informed as regards the circumstances of the Cherokees. They were making speedy and salutary advances towards civilization, previous to the strong measure taken by Georgia. And I must here state, that no history of its contests for political power informs us of any instance in which the strong have treated the weak with less cruelty and more show of mercy than have hitherto been experienced by the invaded Indians. The Cherokees, relying hitherto upon their form of government, which was only social and municipal, have now become divided on the question of a treaty. Now all hope for the reassertion of their rights, or a recognition of them by the United States, are in a considerable abandoned. John Ridge, and others, well informed and highly improved as well in the science of civil governments in the proper measures for the preservation of their brothers and countrymen as a nation are become the open advocates for a treaty. In this party, though greatly in the minority, we can rank a majority of the talented men of the nation, such as would be an ornament to our Government in proving the value of education among our savages friends.
John Ross, the principal chief, is opposed to a treaty, and has the great body of the Indians with him, and is, in my opinion, influenced by the same high spirit of patriotism to preserve his nation, that characterizes the talented Ridge, and his enlightened associates. Hard necessity has, however, divided these patriots, whose great ambition is, in my opinion, to be the first builders of a religious and enlightened government from a savage tribe, which our pilgrim fathers as recusants first established on the American soil. And this pure ambition of both parties must, before long, unite in the policy of a treaty with the United States, as the only alternative to relieve them from their present embarrassed situation.
The Cherokees have generally assumed the white man's dress. Agriculture is almost as common with them as the whites, although much less extensive. None scarcely look to the hunter's life for support; looms and wheels, and cornfields, belong to almost every family. As great a proportion of Cherokees now read their language as we find in many of the states, save where general education has been systematized by law. A great spirit for learning and for knowledge is now prevailing with them. Boudinot is now engaged in the translation of the Bible into their native language. His native intellect, added to his erudition, well fits him for so honorable and praiseworthy efforts for his countrymen. Ridge and Boudinot are full-bloods of about 30 years of age. These two men are well informed, sagacious, and every way qualified to lead onwards the intellectual advancement of their people. You will meet with few men in any country of their age, better suited for the accomplishment of the bold task they have determined on. There are many others of high promise among them. The last fifteen or twenty years have wrought almost miraculous improvement among the Cherokees. The most credulous would scarcely believe that such a change could be produced without an actual acquaintance with the facts.
I gave you this account of the Cherokees, that the Government may discover their fitness for political rights, and be induced to place them by a treaty on that elevated ground which will make them our allies forever.
The Sabbath is generally observed by them; churches and Sunday schools were spreading over the Nation. The accomplishment of their daughters has commenced. This is the best evidence of the receding darkness amidst the savage life. I have met with a few Cherokee ladies highly polished in the useful and elegant arts. The spirit of emulation among families invited by the rapid burst of knowledge that is breaking through the thick clouds of savage ignorance, seems to be stirring up the Indian to a spirit of imitation for the white man's customs. They seem to have a great talent for music. I am told they learn it with more facility than the whites. The violin is the most common; some few pianos are to be seen in the nation. It is with much difficulty that their former dances and ball plays can be attended with success. The best part of the females have abandoned their rude festivals, and nothing but the change of their Government, which places all power with the people, induces any part of the intellectual young men to attend the ball plays. But, somewhat like our candidates for popular favor, the aspiring office hunters mingle in all associations. Yet public sentiment is daily receding from these rude, though innocent plays. They have a great desire for large stocks of horses, 'c. the hunter range being nearly exhausted these have been very much reduced.
This hasty sketch of the Cherokee character is due to them, and it is due to the America public. They must and will treat. It is now their interest, as well as the interest of the Government, that they should leave their present homes. Yet the ruling spirit of both parties will never consent to treat, unless their political rights are guarantied and fixed by the settled policy of the Government. No presents, no bribes, no appeals to their avarice, can induce either side from their present purpose of becoming an enlightened nation. If the Government would agree to a provision allowing them hereafter to be represented in Congress as a Territory, with the prospect of becoming, whenever Congress shall deem them fit, a member of the Union, this would, at once , calm the rugged waves that have so long threatened their nation with ruin. It would give point and action to the whole energies of the nation, and strengthen the ambition of the high attributes of the heart and head. In a struggle from barbarism to civil liberty, the tendency of these prospects would be very flattering.- The policy of the United State, placing all the Indian tribes in clustered settlements west of the Mississippi, certainly requires that the Government should mark, in characters not to be misunderstood, its guardian solicitude for their final prosperity. The impress of our friendship should be decidedly laid in their hearts, by the policy of the Government; if its desire be to make and keep them our friends in peace, and our allies in war. The evident tendency of this policy will give the future historian fresh matter to exult in the happy results upon mankind, spring up as the glorious production of American justice, based on and interwoven with American liberty.
The renown of our country, when its policy can escape the fangs and fetters of that jealous spirit of party and ambition incident to the popular elective franchise, is brightening with the hopes of the world for political emancipation.
None but recreants to its redeeming glory would throw a speck over the lustre of its redeeming and cheering qualities.
The friends of the Cherokees, to be consistent in their love for their welfare, must cease to urge the establishment of the Cherokee's rights of separate government. The peculiar crisis of Georgia and South Carolina furnishes striking examples that communities are so often led astray by their passions, as uncivilized Indians; and while thus mad and enraged are as much influenced by the local parties of their States, as the mere love of public justice. And it becomes the friends of the Union to remove, as far as practicable, all cause of dissension and commotion.
Many of the Cherokees already see that the peculiar attitude of the South towards the Union will prevent the Government from any interference with their case. They are well enough informed that the slave question, now agitating in Georgia and South Carolina, has excited a deeper and more sullen hostility than even the sectional tariff could do against the North; and hence it is manifest to many of the Cherokees, that the Government is restrained by the fear of internal commotion and dissension, from aiding them in the reassertion of their rights. And they admit, as statesmen, regarding the peace and welfare of the country, that the policy, or rather course of the Government, is one that circumstances now press it not to recede from. They also see that an attempt to expel the whites would make them the first victims of the revolution.- These considerations are gradually weaning the native love of the Indians from their present homes. They begin to inquire about the country promised them, and it requires but little more to incline the balance in favor of a removal of the nation. It is by no means uncommon in Georgia and South Carolina, to hear of a Southern and Northern, and sometimes of a Western confederacy.
These things are ominous of political storms, and the seeds of disunion have been sown in South Carolina and Georgia. When the bloody harvest will be reaped, no human foresight can reveal. The slave and Indian questions are the only themes of deep interest-the citizens of these states seem to act as if Yankees had hold of their negroes, and were dragging them off by violence. This is merging the proud chivalry of the South into a sordid appeal to avarice, the least honorable passion of the heart. This view of the real state of public sentiment is important to be understood by the pure constitutional patriots of the land.- Let the Government remove all causes of annoyance; and if shame and self reproach will not bring the people of the South back to their duty, the rod will have to be used among these petted children. But let it be the last dreadful remedy for such political heresies; mutual forbearance, and brotherly concessions, are the most to be preferred by every true patriot. Without the exercise and prevalence of such generous sentiments throughout the land, the Union will soon be a bloody arena; but with these patriotic views and feelings, American liberty, the political torch for the world;s freedom, will still blaze with a light that will increase in lustre with time, from the hallowed ramparts of our federal Union.
[The writer of the above communicates his name to us, but we do not know him. We give his article for what it is worth. He adds in a private note to us; 'I am a citizen of Tennessee, Knoxville. I have been over and through this country, and the Indian territory, and state nothing but facts. I write this ill digested article at the request of the treaty party in the Nation. They cannot longer stand the injustice of the whites-they wish their true character better understood.']