For the Arkansas Gazette
The Editor of the Times and Advocate, in an article found in his paper, of the 16th ultimo, seems to me to have been most egregiously misled by that ambitious and artful demagogue John Ross. I deemed the communication signed by Mr. Ross' nephew unworthy of rebuke. But when the editor of a newspaper suffers himself so far misled by the partial statement of a man, whose interest and policy it is to deceive, it is time the public should be advised that their organ has been deceived. --That editor seems to take the responsibility of assuming that an "erroneous impression has gone abroad, much to the prejudice of the Ross party." Like many other logicians who rush to conclusions because they are told that the majority are of the same opinion, he assumes it as certain, that the Ross party compose the greatest number of the Cherokee people. Now granting, that this is true, and does it follow that they have a right to annihilate the government of the old settlers, and stealthily and in the most cowardly manner to assassinate the leaders of the emigrants who entertain different views to themselves? Men, too, whose whole lives had been devoted to the work of the civilization and elevation of the Cherokee people. For, without disparagement to others, no impartial person at all acquainted with the history of this unfortunate people can deny that the slain were the most devoted friends of civilization, and the promulgation of the Christian religion, that the Cherokee people ever had. At the very time of the bloody tragedy, one of their number was engaged in the translation of the scriptures, and was the only man in the nation who united the ability, and the religious zeal necessary to the successful prosecution of the benevolent undertaking. He was a devout Christian, educated in the higher schools of the United States, and perfectly acquainted with the Cherokee tongue. For many years he was known as the accomplished editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, and had perhaps effected more in a short life towards the moral improvement of his people, than the whole of the Ross party combined.
I know not by what process of reasoning Mr. Ross brought the editor of the Times to the conclusion that the Ridges and Boudinot "had forfeited their lives, by the murder of Doublehead, and by the betraying the nation in the emigration treaty." Surely Mr. Ross did not inform the editor that Doublehead was killed upwards of thirty years ago, and while John Ridge and Elias Boudinot were yet infants, and when the Cherokee people were in a state of savage darkness, without either laws or constitution, and with no other rule of government that the immediate decree of their council, the faithful execution of which oftener depended upon the bravery and determination of their young men as executioners, than on any validity which was attached to the act itself. But the reputed executioners of Doublehead may be said to have outlived the generation which saw his fall. The Cherokee people afterwards rose from their hunter state, to a nation of civilized men, who claimed "that they would lose nothing by comparison with their neighbors in the surrounding states;" the son of one of the executioners had risen to be the brightest ornament of his people, and had himself passed the meridian of life; the Cherokees had for years enjoyed the benefit of a "prescribed rule of civil conduct," with this identical John Ross as principal chief, and Major Ridge as his chief counselor, and yet no complaint was ever made that Doublehead was wrongfully slain, or that his executioners should be brought to punishment. The Government of the Cherokees was at last totally annihilated by state legislation, and the first act of judicial jurisdiction was the conviction and execution of offenders who had slain their countrymen, but who from too much leniency of Cherokee Law, had escaped punishment.--The killing of Doublehead was a matter of history, and yet no one ever thought his immolation a matter deserving legal investigation. At last a treaty is made, by which, the residue of the Cherokees are joined to those who had come west, either under the "Doublehead treaty," or under subsequent arrangements.--After this transfer of the residue of the people with all their sham chiefs, one of the reputed executioners of Doublehead is found within the limits of the U. States, (entitled to all the protection of its citizens,) and within the jurisdiction of a sovereign state, where the editor of the Times and Advocate has assumed the high station of a faithful sentinel, and every officer is sworn, and every citizen is bound together by a common compact, to execute a code of laws, having for their object, the punishment of all murderous felons and violators of the public peace. With these facts before him, that man must indeed have had an uncommon degree of patience, who could calmly hear an attempted justification of the atrocious act, by one who immediately rallied a guard, and by a decree as an accessory after the fact, (to say no more of him,) adopted the act, and made himself one of the perpetrators, by arrogating the right to pardon the more daring actors in the bloody drama. It may here be remarked, that one of the executioners of Doublehead yet lives, and his favor has recently been sought by Mr. Ross.
As to the betraying the Nation in the "emigration treaty," I would ask if the editor of the Times and Advocate is ignorant of the circumstances under which that treaty was made, and of the events attending it? Had he ever had a copy of it, he would have found that, in truth, this same man Ross and his delegation sold the entire country, "for whatever sum the Senate of the United States should award." The Senate awarded "five millions of dollars," and at a General Council of the Cherokee people, the details of the Treaty were agreed upon: and this is the betrayal complained of. But suppose that all that Mr. Ross may have told the Editor of the Times, or may have elsewhere said, were true, and a majority of the people were really opposed to emigration; and who that knows the history of the Cherokee people for the last few years--that this same man Ross, and nearly all the gentlemen whom the Editor of the Times saw with him, and hundreds of others, had been turned out of their homes--that the Cherokee Government had been annihilated--State jurisdiction extended--a hundred towns built up by the whites--and more than twenty thousand voters interspersed among, or rather overwhelming the Cherokees, exercising exclusive jurisdiction over the soil, and receiving fee simple grants from the State for subdivisions of it--who, I ask, under these circumstances, can believe that those merited death who advised a removal to a land rich in soil, salubrious in climate, and unsurrounded by States? Far more honorable and philanthropic is dying, under such circumstances, in the cause of emigration, than canting about the will of the ignorant multitude, whom he had first deluded into the opinion that the whites were their sworn enemies, that he could relieve them of their difficulties by protesting and remonstrating, and that the land offered them was "a barren desert," and "certain grave yard!" and then conniving at the murder of those whose power and influence he feared, and who, the authorized communication of his nephew, published in the same credulous paper, acknowledges even the only barrier in his way to universal power.
It is true that the advocates of this Treaty expected nothing less than assassination from this man's influence. But they had counted the cost. They were willing to the sacrifice, if the remnant of their people could thus be preserved!
As to the merits of the controversy between the old and new settlers, language would be wasted in attempting to convince those who favor Ross' pretensions. I would as soon be found trying to convince such that the young queen of England has no right to cross the Atlantic with the residue of the Anglo-Saxon race, plant the red lion in the United States, and attempt the prostration of the American eagle. I should not subscribe to their doctrines, even though they should be joined by a certain respectable party, claiming to be a majority, who contend that the American rulers are unfaithful and incompetent, and our very form of government "unsuited to both communities." Should the pretender cause such of her old subjects as opposed her pretensions to be inhumanly slaughtered, I should not question the right of the American Government to bring the offenders to justice. Let those who think differently, join the large party of emigrants to Texas, (who will doubtless be a majority of the country,) and set about making an entire change of the young Republic.
The Editor of the Times vouches that "Mr. Ross believes that the Cherokees have a right to make their own laws, and to punish all offenders by them." It was the law of the Cherokees west, when the Ridges and Boudinot were murdered, to punish murderers with death; and if Mr. Ross found room in his safes of genuine U. States money for the code of the Cherokee Nation east, he brought along a similar provision. Why then did he invest himself and the murderers, for months, with a banditti guard, and by every stratagem in his power screen them from justice? The Editor of the Times appears satisfied that Ross "does not know the murderers." Now I hazard the assertion that there is not a friend of Mr. Ross in the Nation so charitable as to believe that he did not direct and advise the measure. The charge has been made against him, and neither Mr. Ross nor his friends have ever disavowed it.
As to Mr. Ross' friendship to the United States Government, or the "proofs" upon which it is founded, I hope that the subsequent history of the country may verify the Editor's assumption.
In writing this article, I have no disposition to elicit a controversy with Mr. Ross, or any of his amanuenses. Experience has too woefully taught me that they do not defend their principles with paper or argument. The knife, the ambush, and the bullet, are their means of disposing of their enemies. But if they desire to know who it is that dares expose their principles and atrocities, let them be answered that she is the daughter of him whom a dozen of their young men shot from a lofty precipice, the sister of the man who was awakened from his slumbers by twenty-five ghastly wounds, and the cousin of him whom they slaughtered with a tomahawk and Bowie-knife, just as he was answering their petition for charity.
Van Buren, 21st DEC., 1839.
Little Rock Public Library, Little Rock, Arkansas
Microfilm on second floor
Microfilm labeled "Arkansas Gazette Weekly from September 11, 1839 to August 10, 1842 Reel G"