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taking possession of the Cherokee lands, and extending her sovereignty
over the Cherokee people. But as this cannot be effected without doing
manifest violence to the Indian rights, she brings forward arguments to
show, that _she_ never acknowledged the independence of the Cherokee
nation; that that nation, from the time of the first settlement made by
Europeans in America, stood in the position of a conquered people; that
the sovereignty consequently dwelt in the hands of Great Britain; and
that, on the Declaration of independence, Georgia, by becoming a free
state, became invested with all the powers of sovereignty claimed or
exercised by Great Britain over the Georgian territory: and further, that
in November, 1785, when the first and only treaty was concluded with the
Cherokees by the United States, during the articles of confederation, both
she and North Carolina entered their solemn protests against this alleged
violation of their legislative rights. The executive government pretends
not to argue the case with Georgia, and is left no alternative but either
to annul its _conditional_ treaty with that state, or to cancel _thirteen
distinct treaties_ entered into with the Indians, despoil them of their
lands, and rob them of their independence. Jackson's message says, "It is
too late to inquire whether it was just in the United States to include
them and their territory within bounds of new states, whose limits they
could control. That step cannot be retracted. A state cannot be
dismembered by Congress, or restrained in the exercise of her
constitutional powers." Here the executive government acknowledges that it
made promises to Georgia, which it has been unable to perform - that it
guaranteed to that state the possession of lands over which it had no
legitimate control, on the mere assumption of being able to make their
purchase.

The Cherokees in their petition and memorials to Congress show, that Great
Britain never exercised any sovereignty over them; - that in peace and in
war she always treated them as a free people, and never assumed to herself
the right of interfering with their internal government: - that in every
treaty made with them by the United States, their sovereignty and total
independence are clearly acknowledged, and that they have ever been
considered as a distinct nation, exercising all the privileges and
immunities enjoyed by any independent people. They say, "In addition to
that first of all rights, the right of inheritance and peaceable
possession, we have the faith and pledge of the United States, over and
over again, in treaties made at various times. By these treaties our
rights as a separate people are distinctly acknowledged, and guarantees
given that they shall be secured and protected. So we have also
understood the treaties. The conduct of the government towards us, from
its organization until very lately - the talks given to our beloved men by
the Presidents of the United States - and the speeches of the agents and
commissioners - all concur to show that we are not mistaken in our
interpretation. Some of our beloved men who signed the treaties are still
living, and their testimony tends to the same conclusion." * * * * "In
what light shall we view the conduct of the United States and Georgia in
their intercourse with us, in urging us to enter into treaties and cede
lands? If we were but tenants at will, why was it necessary that our
consent must first be obtained before these governments could take lawful
possession of our lands? The answer is obvious. These governments
perfectly understand our rights - our right to the country, and our right
to self-government. Our understanding of the treaties is further supported
by the intercourse law of the United States, which prohibits all
encroachment on our territory."

The arguments used by the Cherokees are unanswerable; but in what will
that avail them, when injustice is intended by a superior power, which,
regardless of national faith, has determined on taking possession of their
lands? The case stands thus: the executive government enters into an
agreement with Georgia, and engages to deliver over to the state the
Indian possessions within her claimed limits - without the Indians _having
any knowledge of, or participation in the transaction._ Now what, may I
ask, have the Indians to do with this? Ought they to be made answerable
for the gross misconduct of the two governments, and to be despoiled,
contrary to every principle of justice, and in defiance of the most plain
and fundamental law of property? It puts one in mind of the judgment of
the renowned "Walter the Doubter," who decided between two citizens, that,
as their account books appeared to be of equal _weight_, therefore their
accounts were balanced, and that _the constable_ should pay the costs. The
United States government has made several offers to the Cherokees for
their lands; which they have as constantly refused, and said, "that they
were very well contented where they were - that they did not wish to leave
the bones of their ancestors, and go beyond the Mississippi; but that, if
the country be so beautiful as their white brother represents it, they
would recommend their white brother to go there himself."

Georgia presses upon the executive; which, in this dilemma, comes forward
with affected sympathy - deplores the unfortunate situation in which it is
placed, but of course concludes that faith must be kept with Georgia, and
that the Cherokee must either go, or submit to laws that make it far
better for him to go than stay. It is true Jackson says in his message,
"This emigration should be voluntary; for it would be cruel as unjust to
compel the Aborigines to abandon the graves of their fathers, and seek a
home in a distant land." But General Jackson well knows that the laws of
Georgia leave the Indian no choice - as no community of men, civilized or
savage, could possibly exist under such laws. The benefit and protection
of the laws, to which the Indian is made subject, are entirely withheld
from him - he can be no party to a suit - he may be robbed and murdered with
impunity - his property may be taken, and he may be driven from his
dwelling - in fine, he is left liable to every species of insult, outrage,
cruelty, and dishonesty, without the most distant hope of obtaining
redress; for in Georgia _an Indian cannot be a witness to prove facts
against a white man._ Yet General Jackson says, "this emigration should be
_voluntary_;" and in the very same paragraph, with a single sweep of the
pen, he annihilates all the treaties that have been made with that
people - tramples under foot the laws of nations, and deprives the Indian
of his hunting-grounds, one of his sources of subsistence. He says, - "But
it seems to me visionary to suppose that, in this state of things, claims
can be allowed on tracts of country on which they have neither dwelt nor
made improvements, merely because they have seen them from the mountain,
or passed them in the chase." It certainly may be unphilosophical to
permit any man to possess more ground than he can till with his own hands;
yet surely arguments that we do not admit as regards ourselves, we can
with no sense of propriety use towards others, particularly when our own
acts are directly in the very teeth of this principle. There is more land
at present within the limits and in the possession of the United States
than would be sufficient to support thirty times the present
population - yet to this must be added the hunting-grounds of the Indians,
merely because "it is _visionary to suppose_ they have any claim on what
they do not _actually occupy!"_

I have now before me the particulars of thirteen treaties[15] made by the
United States with the Cherokee nation, from the year 1785 down to 1819
inclusive; in all of which the rights of the Indians are clearly
acknowledged, either directly, or by implication; and by the seventh
article of the treaty of Holston, executed in 1791, being the first
concluded with that people by the United States, under their present
constitution, all the lands not thereby ceded are solemnly guaranteed to
the Cherokee nation. The subsequent treaties are made with reference to,
and in confirmation of this, and continually reiterate the guarantees
therein tendered.

To talk of justice, and honour, would be idle and visionary, for these
seem to have been thrown overboard at the very commencement of the
contest; but I would ask the American _people_, is their conduct towards
the Indians politic? - is it politic in America, in the face of civilized
nations, to violate treaties? is it politic in her, to hold herself up to
the world as faithless and unjust - as a nation, which, in defiance of all
moral obligation, will break her most sacred contracts, whenever it
becomes no longer her interest to keep them, and she finds herself in a
condition to do so with impunity? is she not furnishing foreign statesmen
with a ready and powerful argument in defence of their violating treaties
with her? can they not with justice say - America has manifested in her
proceedings towards the Cherokee nation, that she is faithless - that she
keeps no treaties longer than it may be her _interest_ to do so - and are
_we_ to make ourselves the dupes of such a power, and wait until she finds
herself in a condition to deceive us? I could produce many arguments to
illustrate the impolicy of this conduct; but as I intend confining myself
to a mere sketch, I shall dwell but as short a time as may be consistent
on the several facts connected with the case.

That the Aborigines have been cruelly treated, cannot be doubted. The very
words of the Message admit this; and the tone of feeling and conciliation
which follows that admission, coupled as it is with the intended injustice
expressed in other paragraphs, can be viewed in no other light than as a
piece of political mockery. The Message says, "their present condition,
contrasted with what they once were, makes a most powerful appeal to our
sympathies. Our ancestors found them the uncontrolled possessors of these
vast regions. By persuasion and force, they have been made to retire from
river to river, and from mountain to mountain, until some of the tribes
have become extinct, and others have left but remnants, to preserve for a
while their once terrible names." Now the plan laid down by the president,
in order to prevent, if possible, the total decay of the Indian people,
is, to send them beyond the Mississippi, and _guarantee_ to them the
possession of ample territory west of that river. How far this is likely
to answer the purpose _expressed_, let us now examine.

The Cherokees, by their intercourse with and proximity to the white
people, have become half civilized; and how is it likely that _their_
condition will be improved by driving them into the forests and barren
prairies? That territory is at present the haunt of the Pawnees, the
Osages, and other warlike nations, who live almost entirely by the chase,
and are constantly waging war even with each other. As soon as the
Cherokees, and other half-civilized Indians, appear, they will be regarded
as common intruders, and be subject to the united attacks of these people.
There are even old feuds existing among themselves, which, it is but too
probable, may be renewed. Trappers and hunters, in large parties, yearly
make incursions into the country beyond the boundaries of the United
States, and in defiance of the Indians kill the beaver and the
buffalo - the latter merely for the _tongue and skin_, leaving the carcase
to rot upon the ground.[16] Thus is this unfortunate race robbed of their
means of subsistence. Moreover, what guarantee can the Indians have, that
the United States will keep faith for the future, when it is admitted that
they have not done so in times past? How can they be sure that they may
not further be driven from river to river, and from mountain to mountain,
until they reach the shores of the Pacific; and who can tell but that then
it may be found expedient to drive them into the ocean?

The policy of the United States government is evidently to get the Indians
to exterminate each other. Its whole proceedings from the time this
question was first agitated to the present, but too clearly indicate this
intention; and if we wanted proof, that the executive government of the
United States _would act_ on so barbarous and inhuman a policy, we need
only refer to the allocation of the Cherokees, who exchanged lands in
Tennessee for lands west of the Mississippi, pursuant to the treaty of
1819. It was well known that a deadly enmity existed between the Osages
and Cherokees, and that any proximity of the two people, would inevitably
lead to fatal results; yet, with this knowledge, the executive government
placed those Cherokees in the country lying between the Arkansaw and Red
rivers, _immediately joining the territory of the Osages._ It is
unnecessary to state that the result was _as anticipated_ - they daily
committed outrages upon the persons and properties of each other, and the
death of many warriors, on both sides, ensued.

The sympathy expressed in that part of the Message relating to the
Indians, if expressed with sincerity, would do much honour to the feelings
that dictated it; but when we come to examine the facts, and investigate
the implied allegations, we shall find that they are most gratuitous; and,
consequently, that the regret of the president at the probable fate of the
Indian, should he remain east of the Mississippi, is grossly hypocritical.
He says, "surrounded by the whites, with their arts of civilization,
which, by destroying the resources of the savage, doom him to weakness and
decay:[17] the fate of the Mohegan, the Narragansett, and the Delaware, is
fast overtaking the Choctaw, the Cherokee, and the Creek. That this fate
surely awaits them, if they remain within the limits of the States, does
not admit of a doubt. Humanity and national honour demand that every
effort should be made to avert so great a calamity." From what facts the
president has drawn these conclusions does not appear. Neither the
statements of the Cherokees, nor of the Indian agents, nor the report of
the secretary of war, furnish any such information; on the contrary, with
the exception of one or two agents _at Washington_, all give the most
flattering accounts of advancement in civilization. The Rev. Samuel A.
Worcester, in his letter to the Rev. E.S. Ely, editor of the
"Philadelphian," completely refutes all the unfavourable statements that
have been got up to cover the base conduct of Jackson and the slavites.
This gentleman has resided for the last four years among the Cherokees,
and has surely had abundant means of observing their condition.

The letter of David Brown (a Cherokee), addressed, September 2, 1825, to
the editor of "The Family Visitor," at Richmond, Virginia, states, that
"the Cherokee plains are covered with herds of cattle - sheep, goats, and
swine, cover the valleys and hills - the plains and valleys are rich, and
produce Indian corn, cotton, tobacco, wheat, oats, indigo, sweet and Irish
potatoes, &c. The natives carry on a considerable trade with the adjoining
states, and some of them export cotton in boats down the Tennessee to the
Mississippi, and down that river to New Orleans. Orchards are
common - cheese, butter, &c. plenty - houses of entertainment are kept by
natives. Cotton and woollen cloths are manufactured in the nation, and
almost every family grows cotton for its own consumption. Agricultural
pursuits engage the chief attention of the nation - different branches of
mechanics are pursued. Schools are increasing every year, and education is
encouraged and rewarded." To quote David Brown verbatim, on the
population, - "In the year 1819, an estimate was made of the Cherokees.
Those on the west were estimated at 5,000, and those on the east of the
Mississippi, at 10,000 souls. The census of this division of the Cherokees
has again been taken within the current year (1825), and the returns are
thus made: native citizens, 13,563; white men married in the nation, 147;
white women ditto, 73; African slaves, 1177. If this summary of the
Cherokee population, from the census, is correct, to say nothing of those
of foreign extract, we find that in six years the increase has been 3,563
souls. National pride, patriotism, and a spirit of independence, mark the
Cherokee character." He further states, "the system of government is
founded on republican principles, and secures the respect of the people."
An alphabet has been invented by an Indian, named George Guess, the
Cherokee Cadmus, and a printing press has been established at New Echota,
the seat of government, where there is published weekly a paper entitled,
"The Cherokee Phoenix," - one half being in the English language, and the
other in that of the Cherokee.

The report of the secretary of war, upon the present condition of the
Indians, states of the Chickesaws and Choctaws, all that has been above
said of the Cherokees. But of the last-mentioned people, the secretary's
accounts appear to be studiously defective. Yet the fact is notorious,
that both the Chickesaws and Choctaws are far behind the Cherokees in
civilization.

With these facts before our eyes, what are we to think of the grief of the
president, at the decay and increasing weakness of the Cherokees? Can it
be regarded in any way but as a piece of shameless hypocrisy, too glaring
in its character to escape the notice even of the most inobservant
individual. It has been said that the question involves many
difficulties - to me there appears none. The United States, in the year
1791, guarantee to the Indians the possession of all their lands not then
ceded - and confirm this by numerous subsequent treaties. In 1802, they
promise to Georgia, the possession of the Cherokee lands "_whenever such
purchase could be made on reasonable terms_" This is the simple state of
the case; and if the executive were inclined to act uprightly, the line of
conduct to be pursued could be determined on without much difficulty.
Georgia has no right to press upon the executive the fulfilment of
engagements which were made conditionally, and consequently with an
implied reservation; and the United States should not violate _many
positive treaties_, in order to fulfil _a conditional one_.[18]

I shall now advert to some of the charges touching the character of the
Indians. It is said, that they are debauched and insincere. This charge
has been particularly made against the Creeks, and I believe is not
altogether unfounded. Yet, if this be now the character of the once
warlike and noble Creek, let the white man ask himself who has made him
so? Who makes the "firewater," and who supplies the untutored savage with
the means of intoxication? The white-man, when he wishes to trade
profitably with the Indian, fills the cup, and holds it forth - he says,
'drink, my brother, it is good' - the red-man drinks, and the wily white
points at his condition, says he is uncivilized, and should go forth from
the land, for his presence is contamination!

As to the charge of hypocrisy - this too has been taught or forced upon the
Indians by the conduct of the whites. Missionaries have been constantly
going among them, teaching dogmas and doctrines, far beyond the
comprehension of some learned white-men, and to the savage totally
unintelligible. These gentlemen have told long stories; and when posed by
some quaint saying, or answered by some piece of traditional information,
handed down from generation to generation, by the fathers and mothers of
the tribe, have found it necessary to purchase the acquiescence of a few
Indians by bribes, in order that their labours might not seem to have been
altogether unsuccessful. This conduct of the Missionaries was soon
_understood_ by the Indians, and the temptation held out was too great to
be resisted. Blankets and gowns converted, when inspiration and gospel
truths had failed.

Mr. Houston of Tennessee, after having attained the honour of being
governor of his state, and having enjoyed all the consideration
necessarily attached to that office, at length became tired of civilized
life, and retired among the Creeks to end his days. He has resided long
among them, and knows their character well; yet, in one of his statements
made to the Indian board at New York, he says, that the attempts to
Christianize the Indians in their present state, he was of opinion, much
as he honoured the zeal that had prompted them, were fruitless, _or
worse._ The supposed conversions had produced no change of habits. So
degraded had become the character of this once independent people, that
professions of religious belief had been made, and the ordinances of
religion submitted to, "when an Indian wanted a new blanket, or a squaw a
new gown."[19] Thus, according to governor Houston, the only fruits
produced by the boasted labours of the missionaries, have been
dissimulation and deceit; and demoralization has been the result of
teaching _doctrinal_ Christianity to the children of the forest. Yet we
must, in candour, acknowledge that Mr. Houston is not singular in that
opinion, since we find, so far back as the year 1755, Cadwallader Calden
express himself much to the same effect. "The Five Nations," he says, "are
a poor and generally called barbarous people, bred under the darkest
ignorance; and yet a bright and noble genius shines through these black
clouds. None of the greatest Roman heroes have discovered a greater love
of country, or contempt of death, than these people, called barbarous,
have shown when liberty came in competition. Indeed I think our Indians
have outdone the Romans in this particular. Some of the greatest of those
Roman heroes have murdered themselves to avoid shame or torments; but our
Indians have refused to die meanly or with little pain, when they thought
their country's honour would be at stake by it; but have given their
bodies willingly to the most cruel torments of their enemies, to show, as
they said, that 'the Five Nations' consisted of men whose courage and
resolution could not be shaken. But what, alas! have we Christians done to
make them better? We have, indeed, reason to be ashamed that these
infidels, by our conversation and neighbourhood, are become worse than
they were before they knew us. Instead of virtue, we have only taught them
vice, that they were entirely free from before that time."[20] The Rev.
Timothy Flint, who was himself a missionary, in his "Ten Years' Residence
in the Valley of the Mississippi," observes, page 144, - "I have surely
had it in my heart to impress them with the importance of the subject
(religion). I have scarcely noticed an instance in which the subject was
not received either with indifference, rudeness, or jesting. Of all races
of men that I have seen, they seem most incapable of religious
impressions. They have, indeed, some notions of an invisible agent, but
they seemed generally to think that the Indians had their god as the
whites had theirs." And again, "nothing will eventually be gained to the
great cause by colouring and mis-statement," alluding to the practice of
the missionaries; "and however reluctant we may be to receive it, the real
state of things will eventually be known to us. We have heard of the
imperishable labours of an Elliott and a Brainard, in other days. But in
these times it is a melancholy truth, that Protestant exertions to
Christianize them have not been marked with apparent success. The
Catholics have caused many to hang a crucifix around their necks, which
they show as they show their medals and other ornaments, and this is too
often all they have to mark them as Christians. We have read the
narratives of the Catholics, which detailed the most glowing and animating
views of success. I have had accounts, however, from travellers in these
regions, that have been over the Stony mountains into the great missionary
settlements of St. Peter and St. Paul. These travellers (and some of them
were professed Catholics) unite in affirming that the converts will escape
from the missions whenever it is in their power, fly into their native
deserts, and resume at once their old mode of life."

That the vast sums expended on missions should have produced so little
effect, we may consider lamentable, but it is lamentably true; for in
addition to the mass of evidence we have to that effect, from
disinterested white men, we have also the speeches and communications of
the Indians themselves. The celebrated Seneca chief, Saguyuwhaha (keeper


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Online LibraryS.A. FerrallA Ramble of Six Thousand Miles through the United States of America → online text (page 11 of 15)