H105, American History I

Andrew Jackson and John Ross, annual messages related to Cherokee Removal (1830).

President Andrew Jackson, second annual message to Congress (December 6, 1830).

....It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation.  Two important tribes have accepted the provision made for their removal at the last session of Congress, and it is believed that their example will induce the remaining tribes also to seek the same obvious advantages.

The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States, to individual States, and to the Indians themselves.  The pecuniary advantages which it Promises to the Government are the least of its recommendations.  It puts an end to all possible danger of collision between the authorities of the General and State Governments on account of the Indians.  It will place a dense and civilized population in large tracts of country now occupied by a few savage hunters.  By opening the whole territory between Tennessee on the north and Louisiana on the south to the settlement of the whites it will incalculably strengthen the southwestern frontier and render the adjacent States strong enough to repel future invasions without remote aid.  It will relieve the whole State of Mississippi and the western part of Alabama of Indian occupancy, and enable those States to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power.  It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; free them from the power of the States; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the Government and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.  These consequences, some of them so certain and the rest so probable, make the complete execution of the plan sanctioned by Congress at their last session an object of much solicitude.

Toward the aborigines of the country no one can indulge a more friendly feeling than myself, or would go further in attempting to reclaim them from their wandering habits and make them a happy, prosperous people.  I have endeavored to impress upon them my own solemn convictions of the duties and powers of the General Government in relation to the State authorities.  For the justice of the laws passed by the States within the scope of their reserved powers they are not responsible to this Government.  As individuals we may entertain and express our opinions of their acts, but as a Government we have as little right to control them as we have to prescribe laws for other nations.

With a full understanding of the subject, the Choctaw and the Chickasaw tribes have with great unanimity determined to avail themselves of the liberal offers presented by the act of Congress, and have agreed to remove beyond the Mississippi River.  Treaties have been made with them, which in due season will be submitted for consideration.  In negotiating these treaties they were made to understand their true condition, and they have preferred maintaining their independence in the Western forests to submitting to the laws of the States in which they now reside.  These treaties, being probably the last which will ever be made with them, are characterized by great liberality on the part of the Government.  They give the Indians a liberal sum in consideration of their removal, and comfortable subsistence on their arrival at their new homes.  If it be their real interest to maintain a separate existence, they will there be at liberty to do so without the inconveniences and vexations to which they would unavoidably have been subject in Alabama and Mississippi.

Humanity has often wept over the fate of the aborigines of this country, and Philanthropy has been long busily employed in devising means to avert it, but its progress has never for a moment been arrested, and one by one have many powerful tribes disappeared from the earth.  To follow to the tomb the last of his race and to tread on the graves of extinct nations excite melancholy reflections.  But true philanthropy reconciles the mind to these vicissitudes as it does to the extinction of one generation to make room for another.  In the monuments and fortresses of an unknown people, spread over the extensive regions of the West, we behold the memorials of a once powerful race, which was exterminated or has disappeared to make room for the existing savage tribes.  Nor is there anything in this which, upon a comprehensive view of the general interests of the human race, is to be regretted.  Philanthropy could not wish to see this continent restored to the conditions in which it was found by our forefathers.  What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms, embellished with all the improvements which art can devise or industry execute, occupied by more than 12,000,000 happy people, and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization, and religion?

The present policy of the Government is but a continuation of the same progressive change by a milder process.  The tribes which occupied the countries now constituting the Eastern States were annihilated or have melted away to make room for the whites.  The waves of population and civilization are rolling to the westward, and we now propose to acquire the countries occupied by the red men of the South and West by a fair exchange, and, at the expense of the United States, to send them to a land where their existence may be prolonged and perhaps made perpetual.

Doubtless it will be painful to leave the graves of their fathers; but what do they more than our ancestors did or than our children are now doing?  To better their condition in an unknown land our forefathers left all that was dear in earthly objects.  Our children by thousands yearly leave the land of their birth to seek new homes in distant regions.  Does Humanity weep at these painful separations from everything, animate and inanimate, with which the young heart has become entwined?  Far from it.  It is rather a source of joy that our country affords scope where our young population may range unconstrained in body or in mind, developing the power and faculties of man in their highest perfection.

These remove hundreds and almost thousands of miles at their own expense, purchase the lands they occupy, and support themselves at their new homes from the moment of their arrival.  Can it be cruel in this Government when, by events which it can not control, the Indian is made discontented in his ancient home to purchase his lands, to give him a new and extensive territory, to pay the expense of his removal, and support him a year in his new abode?  How many thousands of our own people would gladly embrace the opportunity of removing to the West on such conditions!  If the offers made to the Indians were extended to them, they would be hailed with gratitude and joy.

And is it supposed that the wandering savage has a stronger attachment to his home than the settled, civilized Christian?  Is it more afflicting to him to leave the graves of his fathers than it is to our brothers and children?  Rightly considered, the policy of the General Government toward the red man is not only liberal, but generous.  He is unwilling to submit to the laws of the States and mingle with their population.  To save him from this alternative, or perhaps utter annihilation, the General Government kindly offers him a new home, and proposes to pay the whole expense of his removal and settlement.

In the consummation of a policy originating at an early period, and steadily pursued by every Administration within the present century — so just to the States and so generous to the Indians — the Executive feels it has a right to expect the cooperation of Congress and of all good and disinterested men.  The States, moreover, have a right to demand it.  It was substantially a part of the compact which made them members of our Confederacy.  With Georgia there is an express contract; with the new States an implied one of equal obligation.  Why, in authorizing Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, and Alabama to form constitutions and become separate States, did Congress include within their limits extensive tracts of Indian lands, and, in some instances, powerful Indian tribes?  Was it not understood by both parties that the power of the States was to be coextensive with their limits, and that with all convenient dispatch the General Government should extinguish the Indian title and remove every obstruction to the complete jurisdiction of the State governments over the soil?  Probably not one of those States would have accepted a separate existence — certainly it would never have been granted by Congress — had it been understood that they were to be confined for ever to those small portions of their nominal territory the Indian title to which had at the time been extinguished.

It is, therefore, a duty which this Government owes to the new States to extinguish as soon as possible the Indian title to all lands which Congress themselves have included within their limits.  When this is done the duties of the General Government in relation to the States and the Indians within their limits are at an end.  The Indians may leave the State or not, as they choose.  The purchase of their lands does not alter in the least their personal relations with the State government.  No act of the General Government has ever been deemed necessary to give the States jurisdiction over the persons of the Indians.  That they possess by virtue of their sovereign power within their own limits in as full a manner before as after the purchase of the Indian lands; nor can this Government add to or diminish it.

May we not hope, therefore, that all good citizens, and none more zealously than those who think the Indians oppressed by subjection to the laws of the States, will unite in attempting to open the eyes of those children of the forest to their true condition, and by a speedy removal to relieve them from all the evils, real or imaginary, present or prospective, with which they may be supposed to be threatened....

Chief John Ross, annual message to the General Council (October 11, 1830).

We are permitted, once more, to witness the dawn of that day, which, by the provision of the Constitution, is designated for the annual convention of the General Council.  For this inestimable privilege, our thanks are due to Him who holds the destiny of man and governs the Universe.  In the tempestuous scenes of revolving time, we have had our day of trial and affliction; yet through His merciful interposition, we have experienced seasons of joyful hope — and should trouble and difficulties still rise up as vivid clouds, o’er our aching breasts, and threatening destructive chime its doleful note in our ears, hope and faith in Him can remove them.

In pursuance of duty, I will suggest, for your consideration, such topics as in my opinion, the public good seem to require, and holding your seats, as you do, by the free choice of the majority of the people it devolves upon you to adopt such measures as will promote the public welfare.

To meet the exigency of the times, a law was passed at the late extra session, authorizing the Principal Chief to take measures for defending the rights of this nation before all courts of law and equity in the United States, against the acts of any individual state attempting to exercise jurisdiction within our limits, to the end that the question, touching the right of sovereignty, may be taken up before the Supreme Court of the United States for adjudication.  In the decision of this important question, this nation has every thing that is sacred at stake, and Georgia nothing.  Yet the constituted authorities of the latter feign to be very sensitive on all occasions, when the subject is only touched — at the same time, by their own laws, the lives, liberty, & property of the Cherokees are left exposed to the mercy of the assassin, the tyrant, and the robber, provided the foul deed can but escape the eye of an honest whiteman, and the most common privilege of freemen is denied to them.

Mr. Wm. Rogers has been appointed an agent in behalf of the nation to attend to all cases that may occur in the courts of DeKalb, Gwinnett, Hall and Habersham counties, and the professional services of Thomas W. Harris and Wm. H. Underwood Esquires, have been engaged.  The character and talents of these gentlemen stand high — they will attend to all cases that have or may occur in the five contiguous counties of Georgia that claim the right of exercising jurisdiction within our limits.

The arrest of one of our citizens at New Echota, by the [white] deputy Sheriff of Gwinnett county, under a writ of ne exeat, issued by [white] Judge Clayton, and his imprisonment in the jail of that county is a stamp of grinding oppression; and when he was brought before the court for trial, the same judge who had granted the writ, discharged him, on the ground that the affadavit made by the prosecutor was insufficient to have warranted the issuing of such a writ.  Also the arrest of three other citizens of this nation by the sheriff of Hall county, under a writ of attachment issued by judge Clayton against them, for disobeying a Bill of injunction which he had previously granted against them for digging gold within our territorial limits; and after conducting them into Georgia before the court then in session at Watkinsville, Judge Clayton ordered them to stand committed until all costs were discharged, thereby compelling them to pay a heavy cost, to avoid going to jail, and at the same time binding them in a large bond to appear before the court at Gainsville to stand their trial; and when appearing before that court, they were dismissed by the judge without a trial, on the ground that the Governor could not be a prosecutor in such a case.  This is another instance of great injustice and oppression.

The case of [Cherokee] Judge Sanders for punishing a whiteman under the laws of the nation, for the crime of horse stealing; and that of Corn Tassel, who is charged with committing murder upon another Cherokee within the limits of the nation, have been postponed by the judge for the purpose of referring the pleas to the jurisdiction of the court, to a convention of judges at Milledgeville on the first week in November next, although he had himself once decided against them.  Thus you will see the manner in which the rights of our citizens have been tantalized by the officers of Georgia, under their laws.

There is another circumstance worthy of being noticed.  The deputy Sheriff of Gwinnett county, on a case of debt, penetrated into the nation and arrested a respectable Cherokee woman, and took her off captive from the arms of her husband and the cries of her children, for the jail of a distant land of about one hundred miles; but after traveling fifteen miles, she was released by giving bail.  There are many other acts of equally grievous character perpetrated against our citizens under the laws of Georgia, and these are but a specimen of the effects of the exercise of jurisdiction over the Cherokees by Georgia; in which grievous evils the President of the United States [Andrew Jackson] has told us he cannot interpose his authority in our behalf.

The privilege directed under the sanction of the President to the agent, for the citizens of the United States to occupy the improvements which have been left by the emigrants, seem to have been extended by the agent without limitation, or without a just regard for the character of such occupants, and the instructions of the Secretary of War directing him to grant permits subject to their conduct until the order has been either countermanded or dispensed with at the discretion of the agent.  A list of places, which are said to have been abandoned by the emigrants was furnished to the officer commanding the detachment of Troops ordered on the Ala[bama]. & Tennessee lines to remove intruders, accompanied with a note made by the agent, saying, that there were, no doubt, many white families on these places who had not applied for nor obtained permits, and that such were not to be interrupted.  This strange procedure has placed upon our soil some of the most vicious and base characters that the adjoining states can produce, who are very active in annoying our citizens, by stealing from them horses and other property; to enable them to perform their nefarious purposes with more effect, they have sought to form a link with such of our bad citizens as they can associate into their club.  This state of things is truly grievous and much to be lamented — but if the authorities of the General Government will not order the necessary antidote, how can the evil be effectually remedied without resorting to such measures as would bring down upon us the censure and disapprobation of the officers of the General Government?  Acts of the most innocent character, however necessary and expedient, when performed under the authorities of this nation, in these days, are too apt to be misrepresented & magnified into an offense....