New Echota: May 1, 1830
We have received through the politeness of a Washington correspondent, a copy of the report of the Secretary of War, in answer to a resolution of the Senate of the 25th of January, showing the progress of improvement among the Indians during the last eight years, and their present condition. The documents touching the Cherokees are Extract of a letter from Hugh Montgomery to the Secretary of War-Letters from Abraham A. Heard and Caleb Starr, laid on the table by Mr. White- and a letter from Samuel A. Worcester to William S. Coodey, laid on the table by Mr. Knight.
The letter from Col. Montgomery, though far from being satisfactory, yet is directly opposed to some of the assertions of the Indian Committee in the House. We make the following extract:
And, first, I must be permitted to divide the Cherokees into two classes; and in the first, I would include the descendants of white parentage, or those who are of mixed blood. This class contains a large portion of this nation; (I would say nearly one-half.) With them, civilization, education, and improvement, in all those branches, has been gradual and regular for the last 6, 10, or 20 years. Some of them have been raised, and a greater portion of them have been educated or have finished their education in the white settlements-where they have learned the language, manners, and customs, of civilized life; and owing to the Government of this nation having latterly devolved upon them, or fallen into their hands, to the almost entire exclusion of the old Indian chiefs, their knowledge in making and in the execution of laws, and in many of those other branches thus acquired in their education, has latterly and suddenly been brought to light.
Who does not see that this is a strong testimony against the Committee- they have asserted, as the reader knows, that nineteen out of twenty of the Cherokees are miserable, degraded and declining. Our agent on the other hand says, nearly one-half of the nation have been improving in civilization and education, gradually and regularly, for the last 8, 10, or 20 years.
The estimate which the Col. makes of the number of mixed blood is entirely too large. It would require a person intimately acquainted with every neighborhood in the nation to come within the limits of probability. We apprehend the agent is not the person.
Can it be possible that Col. Montgomery intended to convey the idea, as we conceive his words do, that a greater portion of nearly half the nation have been educated in the white settlements? There is an unaccountable error somewhere. Very few have been sent to the states for education-most of these, it is true, have been of mixed blood, but they have, almost invariably, spoken the English language, previous to leaving their country.- The agent further observes:
"But I must confess that both the means and effects of improvement, in most all those branches, have been chiefly, (though not entirely) confined to this class; for amongst the other class, viz: the full blooded Indians, there are some honorable exceptions, both individuals and families; but of those individuals many have, either in whole or in part, received their education in the settlements, where they too have learned the language, manners, and customs, of a civilized life, and having returned to their native land, are improving their farms, buildings, &c. and stimulating others to improvements, especially in the culture of the soil.
We know not how the writer has received his information, that many of the full Cherokees who form "honorable exceptions," have been educated abroad-this is a great mistake. There are a few such undoubtedly, but they form no comparison to the number of those who have imbibed civilized habits at home, and are now affording such happy influence around them. The English language, and the manners and customs of civilized life, can be acquired here without going into the settlements.
But of the balance, viz: the great mass of the full-blooded Indians, the improvement, if progressing at all, is so slow, that it is scarcely perceptible in the four or five years which I have been amongst them.
What impression do the above extracts of the Agent's letter make on the mind of the candid reader, who is earnestly seeking truth? The question to be decided is this-are the Cherokees improving? Col. Montgomery has certainly answered in the affirmative. Although he can scarcely discover any perceptible improvement among the great mass of the full Cherokees, yet he by no means intimates they are declining-even among them there are honorable exceptions. Unite this "great mass" with other "class" nearly half the whole population who are improving plainly, regularly, and gradually, and from them into one nation, as they are to be found,(we see no occasion for dividing them)-in what light is it possible for them to be considered? Improving or deteriorating? Our agent has certainly given testimony in our favour [sic], although his limited means of information did not allow him to state as much truth, as persons better acquainted with the improving condition of the full Cherokees would not hesitate to assert.
It is true, that a few of their children too, are every year taught at the Missionary establishments, but it is often the case that, when they return to the wilds, where the Indian language, manners, and customs prevail, they soon lose what they learn.
We are unable to say what proportion of the children in the missionary schools are full Cherokees-more than one half we presume. It is true, for the reasons given by Col. Montgomery, that some lose what they learn, but it is far from being general. Many have received permanent advantages from these schools. We hope our agent is not of the number who lightly esteem the effects of missionary exertions among the Indians.- The writer closes by paying some tribute to Guess' Cherokee Alphabet.
The next documents which we shall notice, are the letters of Abram A. Heard, and Caleb Starr. They are in the form of a catechism-thirteen questions proposed by the Hon. Prior Lee, and answers given by these two men. The letter of A. A. Heard is dated, Pleasant View, 12th March, 1830; and of Caleb Starr, Long Savannah, March 12th 1830, the same day with the other. The answers throughout are so much alike, that there is no doubt but they were penned by the same hand, probably by Mr. Heard for we very much question whether Starr, although he sets himself up as a judge of the extent of education among the Cherokees, can write his own language. Of Mr.Heard, we know nothing-but of the other we have heard from boyhood, first as a white citizen, than as a traitor to the interests of this nation and latterly, as a chief among the Cherokees. (See Dr. Ely's article on the preservation, colinization [sic] &c. of the Indians.) He now lives, we believe, on Monroe County, Tennessee, on a reservation, richly earned, no doubt, by his efforts to induce the poor Indians to emigrate. We might say considerably more of this man, but we will refrain-in this nation he is well known.
As the two letters are precisely alike in substance, and very much so in words, our purpose will be fully answered in inserting but one of them,-that of Starr's. It will be seen that the Hon. Prior Lee has acted more like a lawyer in questioning his witness, than a disinterested man, as all members of Congress should be. He has proposed just such queries as he supposed would bring the desired answers-& the answers have no doubt met his approbation. But what is the testimony of a witness worth until he is thoroughly questioned? Many of the answers given below may not be, strickly [sic] speaking, false, yet Starr, as much disposed as he is to injure us, would give entirely different answers to another series of questions. We propose to examine him at some length.
Question 1. Have you been much acquainted with the Cherokees during the last
Answer. I have been intimately acquainted with them for the last forty-two years.
Within that space of time, where you ever a chief among the Cherokees, as Dr. Ely has informed the public, or had you ever a voice in their councils?
2. Have their means of traffic increased, or diminished, since your acquaintance with them?
A. Diminished very much.
Have their means of traffic in other articles, such as corn, pork, beef, &c. increased or diminished?
Answer. Increased very much.
3. Have the common Indians improved or grown worse, as to the means or comforts of living?
A. They have grown worse, with the exception of those who have the benefit of public roads.
Have the means of living, as they were to be found in the nation, when you came into it, forty two years ago, improved or grown worse?
Answer. They have grown worse.
How then do the common Indians obtain their living?
A. By agriculture altogether.
Has agriculture, since your acquaintance with the Cherokees, improved or grown worse among them?
A. Improved greatly.
Do they not raise vastly more corn, potatoes, beans, and other vegetables-do they not own more cattle, horses, hogs, and other domestic animals-do they not raise more cotton and manufacture more clothing- and do they not live in better houses than they formerly did?
A. Yes. There is no comparison between the Cherokees now, and those with whom I first became acquainted.
Can you mention other particulars which you think their means of living have improved.
A. When I first came into the country they cultivated the soil with the hoe entirely- now they have ploughs, and horses to draw them; and whenever any of the farming utensils need repairing, they have blacksmiths at convenient distances. Forty years ago, waggon [sic] wheels had not made the first track in the nation, now they have roads in every directions.- At the time women had to pound all their meal now mills are to be found in every part of the nation. They have greatly improved in their manner of living, dress &c.
4. Have such Indians menifested [sic] greater disposition to work?
A. Their necessity compels them to use more industry than formerly.
The Indian committee in the House of Representatives have asserted that the maxim " an Indian cannot work," has lost none of its universality among the Cherokees- is it so?
A. No. "Necessity compels them to use more industry than they formerly did."
How many are there among the whites of whom it may not be properly said "necessity compels them to use industry?"
A. Very few, if any.
Have you any criterion or rule, to judge of the inclination of the Cherokees to labour [sic].
The declaration then made by you, "but their inclination is not greater than formerly," is merely an opinion of yours, gratuitously given?
5. Has the game in that quarter been increasing or diminishing?
A. There is now no game in the country with attention.
Is there a single Cherokee family in the nation who depends upon the chase for subsistence?
A. I think not, for "there is now no game worth attention."
6. Of the head man who manage and control the affairs of the nation?
A. John Ross, Major Ridge, Louis Ross, John Martin, Walter Adair, George Sanders, Thomas Foman, George Lowry, Richarad Taylor, and a few others besides circuit and district judges.
Of the above ten persons, is not Major Ridge a full Cherokee- is not John Martin Treasurer, and Walter Adair Circuit Judge- are not John Ross and George Lowrey (n.b) Principal Chiefs?
You have named but four persons of mixed Cherokees, who belong to the Committee. Can you think of ten others who are members of the Cherokee Legislature?
A. Woman killer, White path, Going Snake, speaker of the Council, Sleeping Rabbit, Tsu-av-gee, Chuleo, Soft Shell Turtle, Walking Stick, Tsa-wa-loo-gee, Nah-hoo-lah, &c.
7. Does the number of principal men exceed thirty?
A. I think not. There are not more than ten principal men who hold the reigns of government in their hands.
Do you recollect the precise number composing the Committee?
How many composing the Council?
There are then thirty persons who form the Legislative authority of the Nation.- In what way do these come into power?
A. By the suffrage of the people.
The government then is elective?
8. What is the probable number of those who may be ranked, as to property and standing, between the head men and the common Indians?
A. One-tenth, or twelfth of the citizens of the nation.
When you say that one tenth, or twelfth of the citizens of the nation are men of property and standing, do you intend to be understood as saying, that nine-tenths are ignorant, miserable, debased, and declining?
A. By no means.
9. What proportion of these first and second classes are either white men or mixed blood?
10 Do you know of any who have been educated in the nation so as to be even moderately good scholars; and if so how many?
A. But very few; not more than ten or twelve.
I suppose you mean only these with whom you are personally acquainted?
A. I mean no others.
You have heard of many others, have you not?
A. Yes, at the least calculation, fifty.
11. Are not the common Indians generally as ignorant, miserable, and debased, as in former times, or more so?
A. A great number of them are more so.
Are not the common Indians less ignorant, less miserable and less debased than in former times?
A. A great number of them are vastly more intelligent, and greatly improved in other respects.
What makes you think a great number of them are more intelligent than formerly?
A. Simply, because they can read and write, and they have a newspaper circulating among them.
12 Do the common Indians get any of the annuity money, or how is that sum disposed of in the nation?
A. The common Indians get none. It is put into a treasury for the support of the government.
Did the common Indians formerly get any of the annuity money?
A. Not a cent.
Did the Chiefs and mixed Cherokees receive any?
In what way then was the annuity money disposed of?
A. It was laid out for goods, and paid to traders for debts due them from individuals of the nation.
Were you not one a trader in skins?
You have then probably received some of the annuity money?
A. I have.
What was done with the goods?
A. They were distributed to the people.
In what why [sic] was this accomplished?
A. By calling the nation together annually at the residence of the agent.
How many do you suppose were congregated on these occasions?
A. Three or four thousand, men women and children.
How far had they to come?
A. Many of them upwards of one hundred miles.
What did each receive?
A. Probably the worth of a blanket to each family.
What was the effect of such meetings on the nation.
A. Demoralizing in the extreme. Besides their natural tendency to make the people indolent, they were always accompanied with drunkenness and its attendant evils. I have seen hundreds drunk at one time.- Many who have gone to these annuities have returned ten times worse off than when they went.
Since the change, have you noticed any such evil effects in receiving the annuities?
A. No, for the money "is put into a treasury for the support of the Government."
What is the amount of money received from the United States for Annuities?
A. I think not more than $6,000.
Is this sum sufficient to support their annual councils, and enrich the members, judges, civil officers, &c.
A. By no means, for the compensation of the members of the Cherokee Legislature is now but $1.50 per day, and their sessions generally last but one month.
13. What portion of the nation do you think would be willing to emigrate to the West of the Mississippi, if they thought that there was a good country for them there, and if they were furnished with comfortable means for removing, and for a year's subsistence thereafter?
A. Three-fourths of the nation, if they thought that the country, was healthy and fertile, and could have a permanent home.
You think then, the assertion that the Chiefs oppose emigration is unfounded?
A. I think so, for the people think the country west of the Mississippi is unhealthy and not fertile, and they think they can have no permanent home there-and these are the great grounds of their objections.
How do they know the country is unhealthy, &c.
A. Many of them have been there.
Do you think it possible to make them believe otherwise?
A. I think not; besides they would soon find it out when they got there.
Now we seriously ask Caleb Starr, are not the answers we have proposed for him just and true? If he has any conscience to satisfy he cannot but answer, yes!
N.B. Lowry's name is spelled both ways in the text.
The report of the Secretary of War also contains a letter from Col. John Crowell, agent for the Creeks East of the Mississippi, which gives an account of the condition of that tribe. We beg the serious attention of every reader to the following extract.
Agriculture had improved, and was improving very considerably among them in the years of 1822,'23'24, but since that period it has been declining; the greater part of the nation seem to have given up to intoxication, and their near connection with the whites, affords them facilities to procure liquors and hundreds of families will sell the last peck of corn and potatoes for liquor, and leave the women and children in the most miserable state of starvation.
Agricultures was improving to the year 1824. Now, we ask,in the name of truth and justice, what put a stop to it? That destructive and unrighteous scheme of emigration to the west! according to the testimony of col. Crowell himself, when the poor Creeks, in 1825 were defrauded out of a large extent of their country, by Commissioners of the United States, and when, with the corrupting influence of gold, their chiefs were divided, and they began to be transported to the "slaughter house" of the west, their improvement was checked. Yes, it was in 1825, when the present policy of the Government was commenced; and see its effects on the poor Creeks; and yet, those who have put the deadly poison to our lips, will taunt us for our ignorance & degradation! When will justice be done to the Indian? When will he be treated like another man?
Luther Blake, sub-agent for the Creeks west of the Mississippi, in a letter to Col. M'Kenney, says:
I have since led a part of Creeks to the West, and have been acting as sub-agent for them since September last. I have passed through the Cherokee country West, and I never have witnessed such a striking change for the better in any people, as exists among the emigrant Creeks, nor seen a people more delighted with their change. So with the Cherokees.
So with the Cherokees. We might very properly ask this Luther Blake- When you passed through the "Cherokee Country west," had the emigrants arrived there? If so, were they settled down? Everybody knows the emigrants, except a few families, did not go until last winter. Again, we might inquire- Have you ever been in this nation, so as to be well prepared to judge of the "striking change for the better" in those Cherokees? It is surprising that such naked statements will be sent abroad as facts and testimonies!
The report which we have been considering contains some documents which do
full justice to the Indians, and which are worthy of the persons who wrote them.
Among these are a letter from the Rev. C. Kingsbury, to Col. Thos. L. M'Kenney,
showing the condition and improvement of the Choctaws, and a letter from Samuel
A. Worcester, to Mr.William S. Coodey, on the improvement and present condition
of the Cherokees. When a man tells the truth there is no danger of particularizing.
We thank these two Gentlemen for giving particulars. So ought Caleb Starr, A.
A. Heard, Luther Blake &c., to have done. This way of evading truth is unworthy
a man of veracity.- In our next we shall publish the letter of Mr. Worcester.
Pg. 3 Col. 3a
Extract of a letter to the editor dated,
Washington City, April 9.
It is with much pleasure that I now have it in my power to inform you that
the long expected and dreaded Indian discussion has began [sic] in the Senate.
It commenced three days since. The first day our ancient friend Judge White
of Tennessee spoke nearly three hours in opposition to the Indians, and entirely
abandoned the conscientious opinions he entertained heretofore. He was followed
by the Hon. Mr. Frelinghuysen of N.J.in an able speech of some length, having
spoken two days, & will I presume conclude today. His arguments are clear
and powerful, and to me conclusive and irresistible. He is a fine speaker. The
Bill reported by the Indian Committee you have seen; Mr. F. offered an amendment
that until the Indians were willing to remove, they shall be protected in all
their rights of soil and sovereignty, heretofore enjoyed. This is what we want.
If they do this,they may,and perhaps wilL, pass the Bill making the appropriation.
If they give us this protection it is all we can ask. True we would rather not
have the appropriation made, but in these days of new lights and orders, we
have to do the best we can and no more.