Washington City. --Gadsby's. --Capitol --Two Houses of Congress. --Interview with Cherokee Chiefs --Treatment of Slaves by Indians. --Causes of Extermination of Aborigines. --Indian Character misrepresented --Gold Mines. --Motive for removing Indians. --Insuperable Bar to incorporation with the Whites. --Despotic Laws of Georgia. --Protest against Emigration. --Religious Persecution in Georgia.
IN the afternoon I left Baltimore by the stage, for Washington (thirty-eight miles). The coach was filled with young men, who seemed to pay more attention to their rings and brooches and gold watches, than to the cleanliness of their hands, or the purity of their language. It rained in torrents, and the road was in a wretched state. About seven in the evening we entered the capital of the greatest slave-holding nation on the face of the globe; I speak of commercial, not of feudal, slavery: --of a system forced upon society, not springing naturally from its progress: --a disease engendered by the vices of its maturity, not an infirmity incidental to its infancy.
I put up at Gadsby's hotel --an establishment upon an immense scale: --between three and four hundred persons having been at one time accommodated there. At Baltimore, the bed-room doors were locked, at the hotel; and the guests requested to leave their keys at the bar of the house. Here, on the contrary, I was informed that no precaution of the kind was necessary. As the servants at the one were white, and at the other black, I was curious to learn the cause of this difference. I asked, therefore, one of the waiters at the breakfast-table how many servants there were; and whether they were free. "Sir," replied the man, "there are seventy or eighty of us; and not one freeman." My heart sunk within me at this unexpected piece of intelligence. I felt shocked beyond description at the idea of being surrounded by slaves. "Do you belong to the master of the house?" I inquired. "No," was his reply: "my owner lives at Alexandria: --I am let out, as many others are, to the landlord: --there are many here who do not know each other, even by name." The man spoke in a dejected voice, but his language was good --much better than what I had heard the day before in the stage. I conversed with him some time; --as long, indeed, as I remained the only white in the room ;-and felt deeply convinced, by what he told me, that his fellow bondsmen, as well as himself, were unhappy and discontented.
If slaves are all thieves, why does Gadsby allow his doors to be left unlocked, and so much valuable property exposed? Is the whip a better preventive of crime than the penitentiary? Or is he who is compelled to labor more honest than the man who is hired? Gadsby's treatment of those under his care is, I was told, mild and considerate, --this is the more to his credit --for he is an Englishman, long resident in the country; and it is generally observed that the English slave-owners are more cruel masters than the Americans; and of the latter, the southerners are less severe than those from the north. It is well known that those habits, which are most repugnant to our nature, are, when once they have obtained the mastery, the least easily subdued; while they are more severely condemned, from their supposed indication of innate depravity.
The rain continued to pour down as abundantly as the preceding day; and rendered it impossible to explore the topography of this infant metropolis. There was nothing going on in the Halls of Congress particularly interesting to a stranger. I went, however, to the Capitol, which is situated on a commanding eminence, and has a very imposing appearance, from the form of the edifice and the material of which it is built. The latter is white freestone; and the approach is by three or four flights of steps. As the decorations are of the Corinthian order, the whole, though perhaps somewhat too splendid for republican simplicity, is calculated to produce a strong impression on the mind of the spectator.
The rotunda, which occupies the centre of the Capitol, and is placed between the two chambers, where the Senate and the House of Representatives hold their sessions, is composed of marble, and lighted from the dome above. It is a noble room. Its various ornaments, whether in painting or in sculpture, are illustrative of those historical events which are most interesting to the country. Near each is placed a small sketch in outline, with the names of the figures introduced in the, original. As it is drawn on paper, and intended for the hand, a stranger is saved the trouble of asking for a guide, and the still greater trouble of listening to his mechanical explanation of the different objects before him. In front of the paintings were various wooden boxes, that attracted my attention; and it was some time before I could make out what they were. They contained some vegetable production, like mustard and cress. Upon a closer inspection, I discovered they were placed there for the accommodation of those who are addicted to tobacco in its various forms; and who, "cum pituita molesta est," might, for want of such conveniences, forget the sanctity of the place, and the respect due to the departed worthies whose images are around them. It would be as well, I thought, if Chantrey's beautiful statue of Washington, in the State House at Boston, had some protection against a beastly practice, which had so disfigured and debased the pedestal, that, were the artist to see it, "by Jove 'twou'd make him mad." The whole has since been railed in, and is now out of the reach of the spitters. To attempt a description of the disgusting habits here alluded to, would be to sin against that delicacy which they outrage. The very remembrance of what I have seen is inexpressibly disgusting.
The Chamber of the Representatives is semi-circular in its form, and rather gaudily furnished. The gallery, appropriated to the public, commands a full view of "the House"; above which it is sufficiently elevated to separate the members from the audience, and afford the latter an opportunity of seeing as well as of hearing what is going on below. Each member had his chair and desk; and most of them were busily employed in writing or reading, while one of them, who was presenting a petition, was dilating upon its contents; --they were of a local nature, and of no general interest. The appearance of the members was much the same as that which our House of Commons would present. It seemed to me, however, that there were not so many young men among them as are to be seen in the latter. Twenty-five is the minimum age allowed by the constitution.
From the House of Representatives I proceeded to the Senate. The room in which the latter sits is of similar form, but smaller and more plainly furnished. The galleries were very full; and, as I could not get a seat, I staid but a short time, during which some matters of form were going on.
While waiting to see one of the members of Congress, for whom I had a letter, I was accosted by a man to whom I had been introduced the preceding summer. He was one of the representatives from that part of New York State where I had been staying. Having informed him of my object, he very civilly offered his services; and, going, into the chamber, returned in the course of five or ten minutes with the person I wanted, --Mr. Edward Everett. The introduction was followed by a reception the coldest and most constrained I ever experienced in any country. The letter I put into his hand was from a friend in London, with whom he had had, I believe, some correspondence on the subject of the Cherokees. I gave him my address, and told him I should be happy to take back to England any answer he might wish to send to his correspondent, who, I knew, was particularly anxious to obtain from him some information relative to the Indians. I neither heard nor saw any more of Mr. Edward Everett.
Finding that some chiefs of the Cherokee tribe were in the city, I called at their hotel, and had a long interview with two or three of them. They were all dressed in the same style as the whites. They had, the manners and language of well-educated men. One of them had no mark of the Indian about him; and all were of mixed blood. The former had been imprisoned by the Georgians for a violation of their despotic laws. Upon my asking him whether the tribe did not hold slaves, he replied that they did so; but that they considered and treated them rather as free laborers*.
He was himself, he said, a friend to universal liberty, and would always use what influence he had in its favor. He had lately bought a slave, to whom he was giving wages, on condition that he should return his master the purchase-money as soon as he could earn enough for that purpose. The negro was willing to perform his part of the bargain; but the whites in the neighborbood were much displeased at the arrangement, and tried to get the man away from him. It will be seen from this anecdote, as well as from the nature of existing circumstances, that the Indians who are settled in the slave States could not employ the blacks as hired laborers, however much they might prefer free to forced work. The whites would not probably condescend to be employed by them.
* Another trait in their character is their great indulgence to their slaves. Though hunger and want be stronger than even the sacra fames auri, the greatest pressure of these evils never occasions them to impose onerous labours on the negroes, or to dispose of them, though tempted by high offers, if the latter are unwilling to be sold." Notices of East Florida, with an Account of the Seminole Indians, by a recent traveller, &c., published at Charleston, S. Carolina, 1822.
The description here given of the Indians, corresponds exactly with one I had from a Florida planter, (Mr. Kingsley,) whom I met both in New York and at Philadelphia.
The Cherokee told me that his people raised a good deal of corn, and had plenty of cattle. Some of them were wealthy; and most, if not all, were sufficiently civilized to form a quiet and respectable society. Had it not been for the discovery of the gold mines on their lands, they would probably have been allowed to remain a longer time in the State*.
They were all strongly opposed to the scheme of removing beyond the Mississippi; as they could have no security against the recurrence of that injustice from which former treaties had been unable to protect them. There was no rancor or resentment perceptible in their language. It was evident, however, from what they said, that they had little hope of receiving, at the white man's hand, an equitable adjudication of their claims.
* The gold district, which now spreads over six or seven States, was supposed, in 1824, to be confined to a portion of N. Carolina. It produced in that year but 5,000 dollars; Whereas the amount of what was obtained from it last year, was expected to be nearly 2,000,000 in value : 868,000 dollars in coined, and about as much in uncoined gold, having been the Product in 1833.
After I had been with them some time, their chief, (Ross,) who had been to the Capitol, returned; and, hearing the object of my visit, received me very cordially. He was a plain farmer-like looking man, about fifty years of age, with the shrewd thinking countenance of a Scotchman: his father was from the "land o'cakes." Both he and Mann, to whom I have before alluded, might pass anywhere for white men. Having left some letters with him that I had brought from England for one of the Cherokee chiefs, (John Ridge,) with whom he was well acquainted, I took my leave of him.
A few days afterwards I had an interview with some of the tribe, who had migrated to the other side of the Mississippi. They had come on a mission to the seat of government with the object of obtaining some guarantee for their present possessions; but they entertained little hope of succeeding in their application. I asked them why they did not settle in the Texas, where the Mexican government would find it good policy to grant them an asylum. They replied, that they should, in all probability, adopt that measure, if the prospect before them did not improve. The party of which John Ross was the head, were strongly inclined to pursue the same course; and subsequent events must have given further strength to the intention. The Georgians, during their absence from home, proceeded to employ violent means to compel their removal; and the plantation of Ross had, according to a statement I saw in the public papers, been taken possession of by some one who had purchased it at an auction.
From the first day when the New World was discovered to the present, the Indians have been marked out as a spoil and a prey to their more civilized brethren. In a new country, where labor cannot be had but at too high a price to leave a profit upon its products, what respect would be paid to the rights of those who were looked upon as doubly inferior, as savages and pagans? As the aborigines, however, if reduced to a state of slavery, might run off to the woods, they were, when convicted of crimes by men who would never want a pretence for the accusation, sold, in exchange, for negroes. In the Connecticut code of 1650, "it is ordered", that those Indians who are guilty of "willful wrongs and hostile practices" shall be - delivered up by the magistrates, when, seized by the partye or partyes endammaged, either to serve or to bee shipped out and exchanged for neagers, as the case will justly beare," "onely women and children to bee sparingly used, unless knowne to bee somewhat guilty; and because it will be chargeable keeping Indians in prison; and, if they should escape, they are like to prove more insolent and dangerous after." That they were used as slaves formerly, may be proved by allusions in old statutes and books. In the collection of the New Jersey laws is an Act of 14 March, 1798, to this effect. "Be it enacted, &c., that every negro, Indian, mulatto or mestee, within this State, who, at the time of passing this Act, is a slave for his or her life, shall continue such during his or her life, unless he or she shall be manumitted, &c., in the manner prescribed by law."
Knowing how the whites have behaved towards the colored races, most men, possessing but a common share of good sense, would make considerable deductions from any unfavorable representations the former might make of those whom they had injured. Yet authors of the most recent date, when juster notions are entertained of the value to be placed on the evidence of interested witnesses, have not scrupled, under the garb of science and religion, to copy these ex-parte statements, and vilify their unfortunate subjects. Lord*,
in his work on "Popular Physiology," assures his readers, that the American Indians "have never learned any thing from an approximation to civilized life, further than to participate in its vices." With the same regard for truth, he says of the whole African race:- "The reflecting powers seem dormant, or little exercised, the moral sense is weak and obscure, the animal propensities alone seem to have reached maturity; and, under their unchained influence, the negro is capable of the warmest attachments, the bitterest enmities, and the most horrible revenge." He adds, that the negroes despise the Indians, and the Indians despise the negroes, and quotes a vulgar proverb among the Indians, that proves nothing but the facility with which the aborigines borrow ideas from their narrow-minded neighbors. " God make white man first, then red man, then dog, and then nigger."*
* Extract of a Letter from General Calvin Jones to the Editor of the Raleigh Register.
"When I visited the Cherokee nation lately, I had no predilections in its favor. I had known something of two tribes of Indians, and that all attempts to civilize one of them had been unavailing, and had every where seen the various tribes recede and melt away at the approach of the white people. I had always believed the enthusiastic zeal of good men led them to expect human means would effect what had been denied by an interdict of nature; that there were physical as well as moral causes which would for ever prevent the civilization of these savages, until the capabilities of their minds were improved, &c., by the long continued existence of their race and species. But I have seen the nation, and have witnessed the attempts, &c., and am no longer sceptical."
The red man is not likely to place himself second in the scale.
* The classification is different in the Western States; where to shoot an Indian is thought by many "fair game." Even in Kentucky, my friend, Mr. Crawford, heard the driver of a stage call out to a ferryman (a slave) who had kept him waiting-- You d-d nigger, I would sooner send a ball through you than through an Indian." The difference was in the driver's pocket. A slave belongs to "a preserve," an Indian is fera naturæ.
The Indians feel no antipathy to persons of African extraction; or, if they do so, they have imbibed the disgraceful prejudice from the whites. In the New England Magazine, (one of the best of that class of periodicals,) is an account of Indian habits and manners, under the title of "Life beyond the Frontier." It appears to be actually drawn from nature, and to be descriptive of scenes and events that have real existence. "There was an old colored woman in the village," says the writer, "whose live sons had never heard that they were inferior beings, either from the Indians, or the Canadian French. Therefore, having never considered themselves degraded, they were not degraded. On the contrary, they were ranked with the most respectable inhabitants of the place. We knew them well: --one of them was the village blacksmith, the others were substantial farmers. Their father was a Frenchman, and their name was Gagnier. One of these men owned a farm, three miles from Prairie du Chien, where he lived with his wife, (a white woman,) two children, and a hired man, named Liepcap. Thither the Red Bird repaired, with his three companions, sure of a fair reception; for Regis Gagnier had always been noted for his humanity to the poor, especially the Indians."
What sort of contempt it is the aborigines of America feel for their darker fellow-sufferers, may be seen by the following extract from a letter, dated June, 1819, and written by the Indian agent at Piqua, in the State of Ohio: --"A great reformation has taken place amongst the Wyandotts, through the instrumentality of a colored preacher, named Stewart. About sixty-one of these Indians now make profession of Christianity. Many more of them appear seriously inclined; and they all seem attentive. I have encouraged Stewart to open a school, as soon as possible; but we have no means to forward it. He has been three years among the Wyandotts; is of the Methodist profession; and, from the account I received from himself, appears to have been led to embark in this labor by a providential intimation. He was married about nine months ago to a woman of his own color. They are plain people --very poor, and in need of almost every thing. I think them deserving; and the Indians have become much attached to them."
I was assured by a Scotchman (Mr. Z. Kingsley) of remarkable intelligence, and one of the most benevolent men, though a slave-holder, I ever met with, that there was no sort of antipathy or repugnance observable between the black and red races in Florida; where, as well as in the greater part of the Union, he had had opportunities enough to exercise an observing and shrewd mind;- an amicable intercourse when circumstances admitted of it, was kept up between them. He invited me to his plantation in Florida, as Ross invited me to Georgia, that I might judge for myself upon this particular point. I regretted that I was unable to visit either at his own home.
It is chiefly for the sake of the gold mines, which are said to be productive, and to spread over a great extent of country, that the Cherokees are to be dispossessed of their lands: --and what is the character of the miners? "I can hardly conceive," says a correspondent of the New York Observer a few years back, --"I can hardly conceive of a more immoral community than exists around the mines. Drunkenness, gambling, fighting, lewdness, and every other vice, exist here to an awful extent. Many of the men, by working three days in the week, make several dollars; and then devote the remaining four to every species of vice. The colored people --slaves --are generally the most moral." The Observer is not, I may add, an abolitionist.
In 1825, at which time there were, according to official documents, throughout the States and territories of the Union, sixty-four tribes and remnants of tribes of Indians --amounting to 129,266 souls, and claiming about seventy-seven millions of acres of land, --Mr. Elliott, Senator in Congress for Georgia, made, as one of the committee on Indian affairs, the following statement: "Some of the South American Indians, although conquered and reduced to slavery by the Spaniards, were not destroyed. Their tribes are still extant; and, having commingled their blood with that of their conquerors, they are, at this time, an improved and powerful people;" --and such would have been the case, had the aborigines been treated like men, in the North American States; but it suited the purposes of their citizens to combine with the superiority that civilization had given them the accursed prejudice of color, and thus to crush that tendency to assimilation which juster feelings in the southern portion of the continent had encouraged; but which would have marred their base --their all-engrossing object, --the possession of the Indian lands. Mr. Elliott stated to the senate that, as it was "idle to look for any solid or extended improvement in the Indian population within the States," it was proposed "to purchase a tract of country, lying between the Missouri and Arkansas rivers, as a permanent possession for these people" --under the protection and guardianship of the federal government; "all white men, except missionaries teachers, and artisans, engaged in their instruction and improvement, to be rigidly excluded from this territory." The motive for this suggestion comes out afterwards. "The removal of the Indians beyond the limits of the State, would leave us in possession of all the lands they now occupy; and these, from their situation and extent, must be very valuable. Almost all the Indian reservations have been of the best lands; and, surrounded as they are, at this time, by a white population, and improved by roads and other facilities of intercourse with the adjacent country, they would command comparatively a high price. But these lands form an aggregate of no less than 77,500,000 acres. Now deduct 9,500,000, as lands belonging to Georgia, when the Indian title shall have been extinguished; and 144,000 in possession of the Catawba Indians*,
but which, if surrendered, would belong to South Carolina; --and you will have 67,856,000 acres, subject to the disposition of the United States. Suppose this immense tract sold at only two dollars per acre; --a fund would be created of 135,712,000 dollars! --which, after reimbursing the treasury for all expenses incurred in carrying into effect the provisions of this bill, would not only be adequate to the extinction of the national debt, but leave an immense amount at the future disposal of government." After enlarging on the benefits to be derived to the whites from the projected removal, the speaker concluded thus: "About 130,000 souls of this unfortunate race now await their destiny at your hands! Pass this bill (For the preservation and civilization of the Indian tribes) and you elevate their character, and impart new hopes to their future prospects. Reject it, and you set your seal to their degradation; although their fate may be delayed, I consider it inevitable as the march of time." There is no government in Europe that would dare to commit such an act of bare-faced iniquity.
* The following is a copy of a petition sent, some years ago, from an Indian of the Catawba tribe "to the Councils of South Carolina."
"I am one of the lingering embers of an almost extinguished race:- our graves will soon be our habitations. I am one of the few stalks that still remain in the field, when the tempest of the revolution is past. I fought against the British for your sake.- The British have disappeared, and you are free. Yet from me the British took nothing; nor have I gained anything by their defeat. I pursue the deer for my subsistence : -the deer are disappearing, and I must starve. God ordained me for the forest; and my habitation is the shade:- but the strength of my arm decays; and my feet fail in the chace. The hand which fought for your liberty is now open for your relief. In my youth, I bled in battle, that you might be independent. Let not my heart, in my old age, bleed for the want of your commiseration.
The old world is divided into communities that check and restrain each other in their career of guilt. In this portion of the New there is no powerful neighbor to awe or control the wrong-doer, whatever scheme he may adopt to enrich or aggrandize himself at the expense of humanity and right. There is no public opinion to which the red and the black man may look up for protection or redress. "The world is not" his "friend, nor the world's law." It is only by bringing into closer communication those nations that are separated by the Atlantic, that the principles of religion and equity can be made to bear upon consciences not fully amenable to the Jurisdiction of civilized society. President Monroe, in his message to congress the year preceding, bore testimony to the improved condition of the Indians, who could have hardly undergone so rapid a process of degeneration as that insisted upon by the Georgian senator *.
"It affords me great satisfaction" --such are his words --"to add, that they (the Indians) are making great advances in civilization, and the improvement of their condition. Many of the tribes have already made great progress in the arts of civilized life. This desirable result has been brought about by the humane and persevering policy of the government; and particularly by means of the appropriations for the civilization of the Indians. There have been established, under the provisions of this act, thirty-two schools, containing 916 scholars, who are well instructed in several branches of literature, and likewise in agriculture and the ordinary arts of life."
* John Heckiwelder, (in a statement written about the year 1763, and laid before the senate of the United States in 1822 by the President,) says of those Indians who had been under his charge at Nain in Pennsylvania: --"So much is certain, that, during the whole of their stay in this part of the country --in all twenty years --not one single complaint had been brought against them, or any one of them, for any crime committed, that would have come under the cognizance of a magistrate and punishable by law. There is nothing of the kind to be found on the docket of the magistrate who officiated during that period, as can be seen, it being yet extant, and in the hands of his venerable son, Joseph Horsfield, Esq., now upwards of seventy years of age."
In 1830, the Cherokee nation moved the supreme court of the United States, for an injunction to restrain the State of Georgia in its proceedings against them; but the application was refused on the ground that the court had no jurisdiction in the case; a mere quibble on the word "foreign" having been employed to deprive them of all hope of redress. The very lands, of which it was sought to deprive them, were allotted to them in 1787 by the commissionaries plenipotentiary of the general government, "for their hunting grounds;" and an act of congress in 1802 prohibited, under penalty of fine and imprisonment, any attempt to survey any of their lands by marking trees, &c. Yet, in the teeth of this enactment, the legislature of Georgia has appointed, by its sovereign authority, surveyors to lay off this very territory into districts and sections. Mr. Justice Johnson, in delivering his opinion on the case, declared that "the general policy of the United States always looked to these Indian lands as a certain future acquisition." Compared with the Punica fides of this Federal Republic, the conduct of Russia's autocrat towards Poland is honest and humane!
The Indians are disqualified from incorporating with the whites under the existing laws. "The act of Congress, (says Kent, Commentaries, Vol. I. p. 72,) confines the description of aliens capable of naturalization to 'free white persons.' I presume that this excludes the inhabitants of Africa and their descendants: and it may become a question, to what extent persons of mixed blood, as mulattoes, are excluded; and what shades and degrees of mixture of color disqualify an alien from application for the benefits of naturalization. Perhaps there might be difficulties also as to the copper-colored natives of America, or the yellow and tawny races of Asiatics; though I should doubt whether any of them were white persons within the purview of the law. It is the declared law of New York, that Indians are not citizens; but distinct tribes, living under the protection of the government; and, consequently, they never can be made citizens under the act of Congress." The greater part of the human family is thus excluded from this "asylum of the unfortunate." Because Aftica has been robbed and wronged, Asia and America are to be insulted; and the exiles of a petty island in Europe are to set up their own pale faces as the standard of excellence for all who have been "made in God's own image." One thing, however, is plain:- the original owners of the soil are systematically excluded from the privileges of civilization, by the very persons who pretend that they have endeavored to reclaim them from their barbarous habits. They are worse treated than were ever the Irish by our ancestors. They are driven from their lands, and have no "pale" to flee to. "But what can we do?" the whites will say:- "we must not violate the constitution." Then are they as much enslaved as were ever the Medes and Persians; and have thrown off the yoke of "Parliament," to put on the chains of a "Convention." The king's little finger has been removed to make way for the loins of the framers of the constitution. Great Britain declared at Ghent, that the covenant of the United States not to purchase any more lands of the Indians, was considered by her as a sine qua non to the treaty. But what does such intercession amount to? The government is not bound by it, or finds some way to evade it.
Though the State of New York will not allow Indians to become its citizens, yet the federal government was more liberal in 1817. By a treaty made that year with the Cherokees, (one of the Commissioners being Andrew Jackson,) it was stipulated by the S8th Art., --"To every head of an Indian family, residing on the lands ceded by the Cherokees in this treaty, shall be allowed a section of land, i.e. 640 acres; provided he wishes to remain on his land, thus ceded, --and to become a citizen of the United States. He shall hold a life-estate, with a right of dower to his widow; and shall leave the land in fee simple to his children." There was a similar provision in the treaty of 1819, with the same tribe.
The treatment of the aborigines has become more harsh and unjust as their numbers have diminished. In a treaty, made with the usual forms, with the Delawares, at Fort Pitt, in 1778, is inserted a clause, the purport of which, if extended to the other tribes, and carried fairly into effect, might have preserved this unprotected people from extermination. "Art. 6. Whereas the enemies of the United States have endeavoured, by every artifice in their power, to possess the Indians in general with the opinion, that it is the design of the States aforesaid to extirpate the Indians, and take possession of their country. To obviate such false suggestion, the United States do engage to guaranty to the aforesaid nation of Delawares, and their heirs, all their territorial rights, in the fullest and most ample manner, as it hath been bounded by former treaties, as long as they, the said Delaware nation, shall abide by, and hold fast the chain of friendship now entered into. And it is further agreed on between the contracting parties, (should it for the future be found conducive to the mutual interest of both parties,) to invite any other tribes, who have been friends to the interest of the United States, to join the present confederation, and to form a State, whereof the Delaware, nation shall be the head, and have a representation in Congress." The same privilege of citizenship was held out to the Cherokees by the treaty of Hopewell.
In reply to the charge of having formed a government of their own within the State of Georgia, (an imperium in imperio,) the Cherokees, in their memorial to Congress in 1830, say, "The great Washington advised a plan, and afforded aid, for the general government of our nation in agriculture, science, and government. President Jefferson followed the noble example, and concluded an address to our delegation in language as follows: 'I sincerely wish you may succeed in your laudable endeavours to save the remnant of your nation, by adopting industrious occupations, and a government of regular law. In this you may always rely on the counsel and assistance of the United States.'"
Deserted by the general Government, which, down to the last intelligence, (the President's message to, Congress,) has evinced an undeviating determination to "expel" them; and, left to the mercy (if such word be not a mockery) of Georgia, the original owners of the soil have now no hope left, nor a certainty of retaining one rood of land throughout the vast domains of the North American confederation, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. "An Act more effectually to provide for the government and protection of the Cherokee Indians," passed by the legislature of Georgia but a short time before I was at Washington, has set the seal to their fate *.
A few extracts from it will place the condition, in which they now find themselves, in its true light.
* Georgia affords equal "protection" to the Indian and the "African." An Act of her legislature in 1818 having declared in the preamble, that "the exercise of humanity towards the slave population" required the measure, decreed as follows: Every will, deed, or contract or agreement, whether written ,or verbal, made for the purpose of manumitting a slave, either directly by conferring freedom, or indirectly by giving to such slave the right of enjoying the profits of his or her labor or skill, free from the control of the owner, is hereby declared null and void; and the person, concerned in giving effect thereto, shall be severally liable to a penalty, not exceeding 1000 dollars; and every slave, in whose behalf such agreement shall be made, shall be sold as a slave at public sale."
"Sect. 3. And be it further enacted, that if any Indian, or descendant of an Indian, or white man, the head of an Indian family, claiming the privileges of an Indian, shall employ any white or person of color other than the descendant of an Indian, as tenant, cropper or assistant in agriculture, or as miller or millwright, they (he) shall, for such offence, upon the same being established by the testimony of two respectable witnesses, forfeit all right and title that they (he) may have to any reservation or occupancy within the limits of this State; and that, upon the certificate of the agent to be hereafter appointed, grants may issue for the same, as if such improvement had never been occupied by such Indian, descendant of an Indian, or white man having an Indian family."
It would be needless to ask what sort of witnesses would be considered "respectable" by the agent "to be appointed."
The 6th section is, if possible, still more iniquitous.-- "No Indian or others having the privilege of an Indian shall, under any pretence whatever, set up any claim or demand against any member of the same tribe, after such member shall have enrolled his or her name for emigration, so as to detain such emigrant from removing at the time stipulated," &c.
The 7th section will shew the value of this proviso: "No contract, either verbal, or written, alleged to have been made by a white man and an Indian, shall be binding, except the same can be established by the testimony of two respectable witnesses."
The last section, like the postscript of a letter, contains the predominant feeling which dictated the composition to which it is attached. "And be it further enacted, that if any person shall, by threats or menaces, or otherwise, deter or prevent any Indian or Indians from enrolling for emigration, he or they shall be held and deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, upon conviction, fined not less than one hundred dollars, nor more than five, or imprisoned in the penitentiary, at the discretion of the court."
Unfortunately, as this clause indicates, there are dissensions among these people. It would be singular, indeed, if there were none, when so many would profit by fomenting them.
President Jackson, in his message of 1831 to Congress, says, "Time and experience have proved that the abode of the native Indian within their limits (the States) is dangerous to their peace, and injurious to themselves. In accordance with my recommendation at a former Session of Congress, an appropriation of half a million of dollars was made to aid the voluntary removal of the various tribes beyond the limits of the States. At the last Session I had the happiness to announce that the Chickasaws and Choctaws, had accepted the generous offer of the government, and agreed to remove beyond the Mississippi river.
What is meant by the word voluntary, may be seen in an "Address to the American People," by George W. Harkins, chief of the Choctaw tribe. It was written with a pencil on board the steam-boat that conveyed these unfortunate emigrants towards the place of their exile, and was sent to "the Natchez," the editor of which inserted it in the columns of that paper. "Although your ancestors," says the writer, "won freedom on the field of danger and glory, our ancestors owned it as their birthright; and we have had to purchase it from you as the vilest slaves buy their freedom. Yet it is said that our present movements are our own voluntary acts:- such is not the case. We found ourselves, like a benighted stranger, following false guides, until he was surrounded on every side with fire or water. The fire was certain destruction; and a feeble hope was left him of escaping by water. A distant view of the opposite shore encourages the hope: to remain would be inevitable annihilation. Who would hesitate? or who would say that his plunging into the water was his own voluntary action? Painful indeed is the mandate of our expulsion. We regret that it should proceed from the mouth of our professed friend, for whom our blood was co-mingled with that of his bravest warriors on the field of danger and death. But such is the instability of profession. The man who said that he would plant a stake, and draw a line around us that never should be passed, was the first to say he could not guard the line, and wiped out all traces of the line. I will not conceal from you my fears that the present grounds may be removed; I have my foreboding. Who of us can tell, after what has been done, what the next force may be? I ask you, in the name of justice, for repose for myself and my injured people. Let us alone. We will not harm you. We want rest. We hope, in the name of justice, that another outrage may never be committed against us; and that we may, for the future, be cared for as children, and not driven about as beasts, which are benefitted by a change of pasture."
The Cherokees, and indeed every other tribe, are thus left, like the slaves, to the justice of the authorities of the State where they reside;- the very worst security they could have for their rights; since those who make the laws, and those who are to be bound by them, are identified. The republican form of government affords the best check on the selfishness of those who compose it against each other, and the worst against their dependants. The federal system is not more protective of the citizens than it is oppressive to the slaves and the aborigines. It is curious to observe, in the treatment they have both received, the same principles in operation, and the same professions put forward. Under the plea of kindness they are plundered of their lands and their labor, and driven from their native country to find a grave in the waves of the Pacific, or the pestilent marshes of Africa. The legislature of Georgia uses the same sort of language, when speaking of the Indians, that the Colonization Society employs to describe the descendants of Africa. "Year after year the tribes within the States have been seen to decrease in numbers, and to sink lower and lower in depravity and sin. The parental arm of the government has been extended to their relief; and the federal and State governments have united their efforts to remove them from their present habitations, and locate them beyond the Mississippi: there, under the protection of the government, and free alike from the crimes and cupidity of the white man, to live in their own peculiar way --the happy and lordly masters of the forest."
The wrongs of the
Cherokees excited a strong feeling in their favor throughout the free States,
--a feeling that seems to have cooled down very much at present. As it
was not, however, accompanied with any wish to restore them to their rights
as men, or dictated by a conviction of their claims to equal consideration
with the whites, it never was of much value. It is worse than idle to declaim
against oppression, and yet support the principle on which it is founded.