Page images
PDF
EPUB

back. If they took our advice, well. If not, we knew how to enforce it. And where are those once terrible nations now ? Driven alternately by purchase and by conquest, from river to river, and from mountain to mountain, they have disappeared with their own gigantic forests, and we, their enlightened heirs at law and the sword, now plough up their bones with as much indifference as we do their arrows. Shall I name the Mohegans, the Pequots, the Iroquois, and the Mohawks ? What has become of them, and of a hundred other independent nations which dwelt on this side of the Mississippi, when we landed at Plymouth and at Jamestown? Here and there, as at Penobscot, and Marshpee, and Oneida, you may see a diminutive and downcast remnant, wandering like troubled ghosts among the graves of their mighty progenitors. Our trinkets, our threats, our arms, our whiskey, our bribes, and our vices, have all but annihilated those vast physical and intellectual energies of a native population, which for more than a hundred and fifty years, could make us quake and fee at pleasure, throughout all our northern, western, and southern borders.

There is something more than metaphor, more than the wild flowers of Indian rhetoric, in the speech of a distinguished chief to General Knox, about the close of the last century. • Brother, I have been looking at your beautiful city—the great waters—your fine country, and I see how you all are. But then I could not help thinking that this fine country, and this great water were once ours. Our ancestors lived bere ; they enjoyed it as their own place ;-it was the gift of the Great Spirit to them and their children. At last the white people came here in a great canoe. They asked us only to let them tie it to a tree, lest the waters should carry it away ; we con

very fond.

sented. They said some of their people were sick, and asked leave to land them and put them under the shade of the trees. The ice then came and they could not go away. They begged for a piece of land to build wigwams for the winter: we granted it to them. Then they asked for some corn to keep them from starving : and we kindly furnished it to them.

Afterwards more came. They brought spirituous and intoxicating liquors with them, of which the Indians were

They persuaded us to sell them some land. Finally they drove us back frorn time to time, into the wilderness, far from the water and the fishes. They have destroyed the game; and our people have wasted away ; and now we live miserable and wretched, while you are enjoying our fine and beautiful country. This makes me sorry, brother, and I cannot help it.'

Here is truth and nature ; nor is there less of either in the speech of the famous Logan to Lord Dunmore, Governor of Virginia.

My cabin, since I had one of my own, has ever been open to any white man who wanted shelter. My spoils of hunting, since first I began to range these woods, have I ever imparted to appease his hunger, to clothe his nakedness. But what have I seen? What! But that at my return at night, laden with spoil, my numerous family lie bleeding on the ground by the hand of those who had found my little hut a certain refuge from the storm, who had eaten my food, who had covered themselves with my skins. What have I seen ? What! But that those dear little mouths for which I had all day toiled, when I returned to fill them, had not one word to thank me for all that toil.

What could I resolve upon! My blood boiled within

[ocr errors]

me. My heart leaped to my mouth! Nevertheless I bid my tomahawk be quiet and lie at rest for that war, because I thought the great men of your country sent them not to do it. Not long after, some of your men invited our tribe to cross the river and bring their venison with them. They came as they had been invited. The white men made them drunk, murdered them, and turned their knives even against the women. Was not my own sister among them? Was she not scalped by the hands of the very man whom she had taught to escape his enemies, when they were scenting out his track?

What could I resolve upon ? My blood boiled thrice hotter than before. Thrice again my heart leaped to my mouth. I bade no longer my lomahawk be quiet and rest for that war.

I sprang from my cabin to avenge their blood, and fully have I done it in this war, by shedding yours, from your coldest to your hottest sun. I am now for

peaceto peace have I advised most of my countrymen. Nay, what is more, I have offered, I will offer myself a victim, being ready to die if their good requires it.

Think not that I fear death. I have no relatives left to mourn for me. Logan's blood runs in no veins but these. I would not turn on my heel to save my life; and why should I ? For I have neither wise nor child nor sister to howl for me when I am gone!'

Gone is the mighty warrior, the terrible avenger, the heart-bursting orator. Gone is the terror and glory of his nation ; and gone forever from our elder states, are the red men, who, like Saul and Jonathan, were swister than eagles, and stronger than lions, and who with the light and advantages which we enjoy, might have rivalled us in wealth and power—in the senate and forum,--as I

am sure that they would have surpassed us in magnanimity and justice.

But while the besoin of destruction has thus swept> away more than nine tenths of the aboriginal sovereignties of the country, a few of the more southern tribes have hitherto escaped, though greatly reduced both in numbers and territory. And where is the philanthropist who has not rejoiced to see these tribes emerging so rapidly from pagan darkness and coming into the light of well regulated, civil, and Christian communities? How delightful has it been to dwell on the hope that the Cher okees, the Choctaws, and their aboriginal neighbors, on this side the great river of the west, would be permitted to make their new and glorious experiment upon the soil which God gave to their fathers. How lately did the visions of their future intellectual and moral greatness shed the glories of a new creation upon all their mountains and plains !

1 But what cloud is that which now darkens their heavens ? What voices of supplication and woe are heard from all their dwellings? The crisis of their fate has suddenly come. The decree has gone forth. The most unjust and oppressive measures are in train, either to drive 70,000 unoffending people from the soil on which they were born, into distant wilds whore most of them will perish, or to dissolve their independent governments, rob them of their lands, and bring them under strange laws, the very design of which is to break down their national spirit, and insure their speedy extermination.

To go fully into the great question of Indian rights which is now pending before the American people, and which ought to rouse up all the holy sympathies of humanity, justice, and religon in the land, would require a

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 char[ tered 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 ludian 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 cesston, to the United States, till more than three fourths of their original terri

« PreviousContinue »