« PreviousContinue »
glory at this fearful crisis, to enlist as many hearts, and tongues, and pens, and prayers as possible, in the sacred cause of humanity, of national faith, and of eternal justice. I had rather receive the blessing of one poor Cherokee, as he casts his last weeping look back upon his country, for having attempted to prevent bis being driven from it, than to sleep beneath the marble of all the Cæsars.
Shall I be told that all this is idle preaching—that I have entirely mistaken the policy of Georgia in reference to the Cherokees—that she has no thoughts of compelling them to emigrate ?-I am astonished that such an expedient should be resorted to, to quiet the friends of the Indians and to ward off public remonstrance. It is an insult offered to the common sense of the nation. What ? Tell the Indians, We want your country and you had better leave it,-You can never be quiet and happy here?' And then, because they do not take your advice, cut it up into counties, declare all their laws and usages to be null and void, and substitute laws, which it is known they cannot live under; and then turn round and coolly tell the world, 'O, we mean no compulsion! The farthest in the world from it! If these people choose to stay, why by all means let them stay,' These are the tender mercies of which we shall undoubtedly learn more in due time. - You have got a fine farm and I want it. It makes a notch in a corner of mine. I will help you to move five hundred miles into the wilderness, and there give you more and better land, which you may cultivate and enjoy without molestation, as long as grass grows and water runs.' You must go :-however, do just as you please. I shall never resort to any other compulsion, than just to lay you under certain restrictions. Perhaps, for instauce, as I am the strongest and you have more
land than you want, I may take two thirds, or three fourths of it from you; but then there shall be no compulsion ! Stay upon what is left, if you choose. I may also find it necessary to ask you for your house, and if you should not give it up, I may be driven to the disagreeable necessity of chaining you to a ring bolt and giving you a few salutary stripes--not to compel you to flee from your country, (for compulsion, of all things, I abhor,) but just to induce you to emigrate willingly.' This my friends, is the kind of free agency taught in the new school of metaphysics, which the Indians must learn and exercise whether they will or not-but as no such school is yet established in this part of the land, we must be excused in adhering, for the present, to our old fashioned notions of free agency, public faith, and common honesty.
I maintain, then, that it is the bounden duty of the General Government, to protect the Indians, not only in the enjoyment of their country, but of their laws. If it is possible for treaties to bind a nation in any case, then are we bound. If there is any such thing as public faith, then is ours solemnly pledged nearly twenty times over, • to one single tribe. If that great pile of Indian Treaties, now in the office of State, is any thing more than a pile of frauds and insults, then the Government must interpose its strong arm to prevent aggression. Take the following as specimens of these compacts. Treaty of Holston, Art. 7. The United States solemnly guaranty to the Cherokee nation all their lands not hitherto ceded.' Treaty of Tellico. Art. 6. "The United States will continue the guaranty of theirs, that is, the Cherokee country, FOREVER, as inade and contained in former treaties.' And who, let me ask, will stop to inquire,
when the first jubilee of our independence is hardly past, whether our most solemn national pledges shall be redeemed? I feel confident that all the changes which can be rung upon state rights and that terrific imperium in imperio, will never satisfy the American people. The very summary process of disinheriting 70,000 persons by a novel construction of the Constitution, which begs the whole question-will never be sanctioned in the council of twelve million. I repeat it-our government must defend the Indians against all encroachments and usurpations whatsoever, or stand convicted before the world, of a disregard to public faith which it makes one shudder to think of.
Under these circumstances, who can doubt, that if the voice of the whole American people could be heard in the Capitol tomorrow, a majority of them would implore and conjure both houses of Congress to interpose and save the character of the nation ? It is indeed the eleventh hour; but the Indians can be saved. The sovereignty of this great nation resides in the people ; and what should hinder them from speaking in the ears of our rulers, "Jike the voice of many waters?' Let them speak and the thing is done. The Indians can be saved with infinitely less expense of time and trouble, than it costs every four years, to decide whether A or B or C shall be our next President.
But perhaps some will despairingly ask, " What can we do here, in one corner of the land ?' What can we do? We shall never know till we try. Injustice and
lty have carried the day a thousand times through the mere apathy and discouragements of those who might have triumphed like Sampson. I will mention some
things which we can do. We can feel for the persecuted
one still demand • Who are we, and what are our numbers that we should hope to gain a hearing in the high places of power'? I answer, we are, what our public servants delight to call us, the sovereign people--we are all the people, and that is enough. Every man in the nation, however poor, can go to Washington upon this business for nothing, as fast as the wheels of government can carry him. You understand perfectly what I mean. We can all be heard in the Senate house by our petitions, if we please.
We can block up the avenues which lead to it with the multitude of our signatures; and whatever measures the voice of the nation shall demand, will ultimately be taken.
Above all, we can send up our united petitions to the Court of Hea ven, where the cause of the poor and the oppressed is never disregarded. And if the sublime experiment which the southern tribes of Indians are making, of civilization and self government, should fail, through the cruel interference of white men, it is my sol
emn conviction, that it will be owing to the criminal supineness of those, who in heart and conscience are opposed to such interference. For I will not believe, I cannot believe, that the coveters of other men's vineyards, and their abetters in this land, are more than a lean minority of the whole people. If our government was despotic the case would be different. We should not be answerable for measures over which we could exercise no control. But living as we do, under rulers of our own choice, we are answerable if we neglect to exert our influence to the utmost in favor of righteousness, humanity, and public faith.
But suppose the worst--suppose the government should turn a deaf ear to all our remonstrances. Let us not forget, that duties are ours, while events belong to God. If we do what we can, to save the Indians, in this hour of their anguish and jeopardy, their blood will not be found in our skirts, though they should be trodden into the graves of their fathers, or be driven away to perish in deserts so reinote that the ill savor of their carcasses may not come up into the nostrils of their destroyers.
Do we then want motives for action, at this critical, this awsul juncture? Such a crisis does not happen once in a century. Nothing like it is to be found in the bistory of our country hitherto, and I pray God that no such crisis may ever occur again. War has ravaged the land more than once, or twice, with its tempests of fire and blood; but the question was never agitated till now, whether the public faith is to be held sacred, or not. Who would have dared in the days of Washington, or Jefferson, to have broached such doctrines as have recently been promulgated by the highest authority in the nation? How long ago, think you, could any man have