Our manifest destiny [is] to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions. John L. O'Sullivan, 1845
Letter to Congress, Cherokee nation, Dec. 1829. The land on which we stand, we have received as an inheritance from our fathers, who possessed it from time immemorial, as a gift from our common father in heaven. We have already said, that when the white man came to the shores of America, our ancestors were found in peaceable possession of this very land. They bequeathed it to us as their children, and we have sacredly kept it as containing the remains of our beloved men. This right of inheritance we have never ceded, nor ever forfeited. Permit us to ask, what better right can a people have to a country, than the right of inheritance and immemorial peaceable possession?
Worcester v. Georgia--Supreme Court decision on the right of the State of Georgia to Remove the Cherokee Chief Justice John Marshall laid out in this opinion the relationship between the Indian Nations and the United States is that of nations....The court ruled that the Cherokee Nation was a "distinct community" with self-government "in which the laws of Georgia can have no force." It established the doctrine that the national government of the United States, and not individual states, had authority in American Indian affairs. President Andrew Jackson is supposed to have said: "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!"....Worcester may be seen as a prudential decision, for avoiding the possibility of political conflict between the Court and the Executive, while still delivering what appeared to be a pro-Indian decision. Marshall's language in Worcester may have been motivated by his regret that his earlier opinions in Fletcher and Johnson had been used as a justification for Georgia's actions. Justice Story considered it similarly, writing in a letter to his wife dated March 4, 1832: "Thanks be to God, the Court can wash their hands clean of the iniquity of oppressing the Indians and disregarding their rights."
"To the Cherokee Tribe of Indians" from President Andrew Jackson You are now placed in the midst of a white population. Your peculiar customs, which regulated your intercourse with one another, have been abrogated by the great political community among which you live; and you are now subject to the same laws which govern the other citizens of Georgia and Alabama. You are liable to prosecutions for offences, and to civil actions for a breach of any of your contracts.-Most of your people are uneducated, and are liable to be brought into collision at all times with their white neighbors. Your young men are acquiring habits of intoxication. With strong passions, and without those habits of restraint, which our laws inculcate and render necessary, they are frequently driven to excesses which must eventually terminate in their ruin. The game has disappeared among you, and you must depend upon agriculture and the mechanic arts for support. And, yet, a large portion of your people have acquired little or no property in the soil itself, or in any article of personal property which can be useful to them. How, under these circumstances can you live in the country you now occupy? Your condition must become worse & worse, and you will ultimately disappear, as so many tribes have done before you.... I have no motive, my friends, to deceive you. I am sincerely desirous to promote your welfare. Listen to me, therefore, while I tell you that you cannot remain where you now are. Circumstances that cannot be controlled, and which are beyond the reach of human laws, render it impossible that you can flourish in the midst of a civilized community. You have but one remedy within your reach. And that is, to remove to the west and join your countrymen, who are already established there. And the sooner you do this, the sooner you can commence your career of improvement and prosperity.... Why, then, should any honest man among you object to removal? The United States have assigned to you a fertile and extensive country, with a very fine climate adapted to your habits, and with all the other natural advantages which you ought to desire or expect.
Tocqueville on the Trail of Tears In the whole scene there was an air of ruin and destruction, something which betrayed a final and irrevocable adieu; one couldn't watch without feeling one's heart wrung. The Indians were tranquil, but sombre and taciturn. There was one who could speak English and of whom I asked why the Chactas were leaving their country. "To be free," he answered, could never get any other reason out of him. We ... watch the expulsion ... of one of the most celebrated and ancient American peoples. —- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in AmericaNearly 17,000 Choctaws made the move to what would be called Indian Territory and then later Oklahoma. About 2,500– 6,000 died along the trail of tears.
Excerpt: “Our Hearts are Sickened”: Letter from Chief John Ross of the Cherokee, Georgia, 1836 In truth, our cause is your own; it is the cause of liberty and of justice; it is based upon your own principles, which we have learned from yourselves; for we have gloried to count your [George] Washington and your [Thomas] Jefferson our great teachers; we have read their communications to us with veneration; we have practised their precepts with success. And the result is manifest. The wildness of the forest has given place to comfortable dwellings and cultivated fields, stocked with the various domestic animals. Mental culture, industrious habits, and domestic enjoyments, have succeeded the rudeness of the savage state. We have learned your religion also. We have read your Sacred books. Hundreds of our people have embraced their doctrines, practised the virtues they teach, cherished the hopes they awaken, and rejoiced in the consolations which they afford. To the spirit of your institutions, and your religion, which has been imbibed by our community, is mainly to be ascribed that patient endurance which has characterized the conduct of our people, under the laceration of their keenest woes. For assuredly, we are not ignorant of our condition; we are not insensible to our sufferings. We feel them! we groan under their pressure! And anticipation crowds our breasts with sorrows yet to come. We are, indeed, an afflicted people! Our spirits are subdued! Despair has well nigh seized upon our energies! But we speak to the representatives of a Christian country; the friends of justice; the patrons of the oppressed. And our hopes revive, and our prospects brighten, as we indulge the thought. On your sentence, our fate is suspended; prosperity or desolation depends on your word. To you, therefore, we look! Before your august assembly we present ourselves, in the attitude of deprecation, and of entreaty. On your kindness, on your humanity, on your compassion, on your benevolence, we rest our hopes. To you we address our reiterated prayers. Spare our people! Spare the wreck of our prosperity! Let not our deserted homes become the monuments of our desolation! But we forbear! We suppress the agonies which wring our hearts, when we look at our wives, our children, and our venerable sires! We restrain the forebodings of anguish and distress, of misery and devastation and death, which must be the attendants on the execution of this ruinous compact.
Excerpt from-The Cherokees’ Appeal How can we leave our father’s land! How can we leave our native place! These long−loved hills that round us stand— Where once was seen the wild deer chase?
These pleasant valleys—gentle slopes— These fruitful fields that round us rise, Yield sustenance that crowns our hopes— Repay our toil with rich supplies. But wheresoe’er we’re doom’d to roam, No place, like this, will feel like home. We cannot leave our fathers’ graves! We cannot leave our native place! And go beyond Arkansas’ waves, To mingle with another race. These western wilds are far away, Among the regions of the west; Where wolves and panthers thirst for prey, And eagles build their airy nest: Where our forefathers ne’er pursu’d, The wild game thro’ Arkansas wood; Nor ever were their footsteps traced Among the regions of this waste.
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