« PreviousContinue »
volume ; but the facts in the case, on which the verdict of all generations must rest, may be stated in a few words.
What then are the facts in the case before us-facts which it is impossible to dispute without first burning up all the records at Washington ? What are the rights of the Cherokees and of the other Tribes within the chartered limits of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi ? What is their present condition? What are the evils which now threaten them? And what is the course, which the general government is solemnly bound to pursue in this emergency?
The Indian tribes, then, whose fate at this moment hangs in awful suspense, are, and always have been, distinct national sovereignties. In their present location they have all the rights of preoccupancy. The first white settlers found them in the undisputed possession of the wilderness, which they are now so fast turning into a fruitful field--and of much larger and more fertile territories, which they have ceded to the United States. The land was theirs by the highest possible title. The Creator and Proprietor of all lands gave it to them. Our government has always treated them as bodies politic, enjoying not merely the right of occupancy, but of absolute property and self-control on their respective reservations.
Solemn Treaties have been made with them, by all our Presidents. In every one of these treatises the faith of the nation is pledged; and I bless God that hitherto that faith has never been violated. Such is the solemn and cruel mockery, (if the treaties be not binding,) by which the Cherokees, and other tribes at the south, have been induced to make cession after cession, to the United States, till more than three fourths of their original terri
tory, including nearly all the most fertile tracts, are in our hands. And they indulged the hope, no doubt, that a magnanimous people would at last be satisfied to leave them their sterile mountains, and few remaining vallies without molestation-certainly without violent seizure. But in this, alas, they find themselves grievously disappointed. "Give, give,' is the insatiable cry, which continues to vex their ears and sadden their hearts.
They are are now distinctly told, You can no longer be tolerated as distinct nations here. A sovereign and independent state cannot permit the existence of other sovereignties within its limits. We want your lands, and we are determined to have them. You must set your faces with your wives and children towards the Rocky Mountains, and settle down where you will have more room and be better off. Do you say you will not go? Then stay, and take the consequences. We shall soon make you repent of your obstinacy. Put out your council fires-demolish your court-houses—burn up your laws
- depose your chiefs—and come under our jurisdiction. This is the alternative which is now presented to 70,000
women and children, in the 19th century, and under the sanction of the most enlightened and christian republic on earth!! O tell it not in Gath! If such a construction of the most solemn treaties, and guaranties is to prevail; if the faith of this great nation is thus to be given to the four winds, then let me plead for the Indians while I may-for who can tell how long I shall be permitted to enjoy this, or any other constitutional right?
But why are the Choctaws, and Cherokees, so unwiling to remove ? What is their present condition?' and what are the prospects which are opening upon them, if
permitted to remain where they are? Full answers to these questions, would require hours, instead of a few moments. The truth is, that a mighty change is taking place in the character, and condition, of the southern Indians. Under the influence of industrious habits, of education, of religion, and of efficient laws, they are waking up to a new existence. It may be doubted, whether civilization ever advanced faster in any part of the world, than it is now advancing in some of their districts. Having abandoned the chase, multitudes of them are living in the enjoyment of independence and plenty, in comfortable houses, and upon their own well cultivated farms. They wear their own domestic fabrics. They have their mills, their mechanics, their labor-saving machinery, their schools, and their own Cadmus, too, under whose instruction, a nation may almost literally learn to read in a day. They have, too, their legislative assemblies; their courts of civil and criminal jurisdiction; their juries; and nearly all the safe-guards of life, liberty, and property, which exist in the best regulated communities. For the suppression of intemperance, gaming, and other kindred vices, it may safely be affirmed, that they have as good laws as any of their English neighbors, and they execute thein far better. To give a single example. "A case occured in the Cherokee nation last spring, where one of the judges of the circuit court, on finding the air of the court house strongly impregnated with whiskey, .ordered the sheriff to follow certain suspected persons to their haunts in the woods, where he found and poured out the contraband article before their eyes. By the same judge, six men were fined fifty dollars each for gambling, and one was fined for profane swearing.' Add to all this, the Christian religion is taking deep root and rap
idly filling the wilderness with churches and songs of salvation, under the instructions of pious teachers, and the remarkable effusion of the Holy Spirit.
Now in view of these facts and brightening prospects, can it be wondered at, that the Indians are unwilling to remove? And who that has a home of his own and a heart of Aesh in his bosom, can wish them to go, contrary to their will ? Who that is not dead to sympathy, and deaf to justice, can resist the imploring appeal, which was lately made by a Choctaw chief, to the agent of our government? I wish a copy of it could be placed in every dwelling in the land, and read every evening in every domestic circle, till every child should learn it by heart.
"We do not wish to sell our land and remove. This land our great Father above gave us. We stand on it. We stood on it before the white man came to the edge of the American land. It belongs to no one in any place but ourselves. Our land is not borrowed land. White men came and sat down here and there all around us. When they wished to buy land of us, we have had good councils together., The white man always said, the land is yours, it is yours.' Poor, simple souls! These savages thought the white men meant as they said, and would do as they promised !
“We have always been true friends to the American people. We have not spoiled the least thing belonging to an American. But now we are told, that the king of Mississippi is about to extend his laws over us. We, the chiefs and beloved men in this nation, are distressed. Our hands are not strong; we are a small people; we do not know much. We are distressed. Colonel Ward knows, that we have just begun to build new houses, and
and make new fields, and purchase iron. We have begun to make axes, hoes, and ploughs.' We have some schools. We have begun to learn, and we have also begun to embrace the gospel.'
We are like an infant that has just begun to walk; we have just begun to rise and go. And now our great father who sits in the white house looking this way, says to us : Unless you go yonder, the white man will extend his laws over you.' We do not say, that his words are lies, but we are distressed. Oh that our great father would love us! Oh that the king of Mississippi would love us! The American people say they love liberty ; they talk much about it. They boast of their own liberty. Why will they take it from the red men ?'
Take it from the red men! With our consent neither the lands, nor the liberty of these red men shall ever be taken from them. Never! What! either drive them into the great western desert; then over the Rocky Mountains; and finally into the Pacific Ocean: or else dissolve their governments, and crush them where they are! God forbid that such inhumanity, that such injustice should ever stain the pages of our history. With my consent, such a record shall not go down to posterity. But how can I hinder it? I am but a humble individual. I can have but little influence anywhere, and none where influence it most needed. But as yet, Jam free. I bless God, that I have a heart which cannot help being distressed for the poor, persecuted Indians. I have a voice, too, feeble though it be, and no man, without the scimitar or the bow-string shall hinder my pleading for the oppressed. I have a right to petition, to remonstrate, to implore, and God forbid that I should be silent. It shall be my aim and my