« PreviousContinue »
gained a hearing to arguments which, if admitted, go to annihilate the faith of all our treaties?
I repeat the assertion, that we have come to such a crisis, as neither we nor our fathers ever saw before. The great question is to be finally settled within a few months, perhaps weeks, whether whole, peaceable nations shall be dispossessed, or virtually enslaved, under the eye and with the approbation of a government, which is solemnly pledged to protect them. And do we want motives to remonstrate against this crying injustice? Really the motives are so many and so urgent,--they throng so importunately about my path, that I know not what to do with them. Thrusting the greater part of them aside, I can only bestow a moment upon some of the most prominent.
And the first motive is drawn from the immutable and eternal principles of humanity and justice. Humanity pleads for the Indians with all her inexhaustible sympathies and with all her eloquent tongues. They are distressed. They are vexed. They are persecuted. The bosoms of tens of thousands of unoffending people are heaving with a mighty and common agony-occasioned by the encroachments and menaces of those who ought to be their protectors. And where, if we do not speak and act, is our humanity.
Justice too, with all its irrefragable arguments, urges us to remonstrate and to act. The most sacred rights of four nations, living under our protection and confiding in our republican faith are invaded. And they cry to us for help. The heritage which God gave them is to be wrested from them; or, if permitted to retain the small portion of it which is now under cultivation, they are to be thrust down from their moral and political elevation, into
the depths of despondency and ruin. And can any one who knows all this, sit still and be quiet.
What if only ten poor families in a remote corner of Maine or Missouri were threatened with similar outrage ? Every man in the nation would rise up and blow the trumpet. What if some lordly oppressor, having already ten times as much land as he could cultivate, should go to these families and say, “You must move off.
I want your little farms, and will not take a denial.'--Ten millions of voices would answer in thunder, "You shan't have them! No, never! These families have rights as well as you, and they shall be protected at all hazards.' And where, I ask, is the difference? In the case supposed there are ten families, and in that of the Indians now under consideration, there are ten or fifteen thousand ! Where is the difference? Ah, the ten are white men, and the ten thousand are red men! Where is the difference ? The former are protected in their rights by the constitution, and the latter by the solemn faith of treaties ! There is the mighty difference !!
A second motive, then, for stirring up all the moral power of this nation at this time, is found in the danger which threatens our own liberties. This suggestion I ain aware, will be ridiculed by many, and regarded by most as the offspring of a terrified imagination. Let those who choose, cry, 'Peace, and safety, and fold their arms and wait for the march of events. But if the people sit still, and look calmly on, while the Indians are abandoned to their fate, in violation of the most solemn national compacts, what security have we that the same government which deliberately breaks its treaties in the face of heaven and earth, will not ten, or twenty years hence, find some plausible pretext for turning its power and pat
ronage against the constitution itself? And if it should, how long, think you, will these paper and parchment bulwarks of ours stand? How long will it be a blessing to be born and live in America, rather than in Turkey, or under the Autocrat of all the Russias ?
Do you tell me that there is no possible danger—that no man, or number of men, will ever dare to assail our free and glorious institutions. Let the history of past republics, or rather let their tombstones decide this point between us. So it would have been said, when Washington and Jefferson were at the head of affairs, that nobody would ever dare to disinherit, or enslave the Indians, protected as they are by almost a hundred and fifty treaties. And yet it is about to be done. And how much better is our parchment than theirs ? If such encroachments, acquiesced in, do not prepare the way for putting shakles upon our children, they must be protected by higher munitions than constitutional bulwarks. This I am willing to leave upon record, and run the risk of its being laughed at, fifty years hence.
A third motive for earnest remonstrance at the present crisis, is found in the grand experiment which we as a nation are now making, before the whole world, of the superior excellence and stability of republican in stitutions. How many thousand times has the parallel been proudly drawn by our statesmen and orators, between this country and every other nation under heaven. How triumphantly has it been proclaimed in the ears of all mankind, that here, at least, all the rights of the weak as well as the strong have found a sure protection. But let the stroke which is now impending, fall upon the heads of the poor defenceless Indians, and who will not be heartily and forever ashamed of all this boasting ? Who
will ever dare to say another word about the partition of Poland ? Who, in a foreign land, will ever hereafter be willing to own that he is an American ? How will all the enlightened friends of free institutions in other countries mourn over this indelible stigma upon our national character ; and how will the enemies of equal rights triumph in our disgrace. Verily, 'we are made a spectacle to the world and to angels and to men
The last motive which I have time to mention, and can but just allude to, is, that there is a just God in heaven, and that sooner or later his wrath will wax hot against the nation that tramples upon the rights of its defenceless and imploring neighbors. Tell me not of your twelve millions of people—of the exploits of your armies and navy-of the unparalleled growth and inexhaustible resources of the country. What will all these avail when God shall come out of his place to make inquisition for blood ?' Prouder and mightier nations than this have fallen, and how can we expect to escape, if we use oppression and exercise robbery, and vex the poor and needy?'
The Cherokees and Choctaws cannot, indeed, resist our arms. They lie at the mercy of their white neighbors. They are like little trembling flocks of kids, surrounded by lions. But though they are too weak to meet us in the field, they are not too weak to lift up
their cries to heaven against us. Though they are too few to defend their country against our rapacity, there are enough of them to appear as swift witnesses against us' in the Court above; and they will assuredly have the right of testifying secured to them there, however they may be restricted and oppressed in courts below. Their numbers are more than sufficient to bring down the judgments of