1. George M. Troup to John C. Calhoun, 28 February 1824
I received this day your letter of the 17th instant. Be pleased to present to the President my acknowledgments for the attention which he has given to the requisition of Georgia, and especially for the manifestation of his sincere desire to adopt any measure in his power which may tend to the fulfillment of the convention with the State of Georgia, with the least possible delay.
In compliance with his wishes, I hasten to lay before him my views and expectations, as connected with this fulfillment. In your effort to open a negotiation with the Cherokee deputation for extinguishment of claims, you are met by a flat negative to two fair and liberal propositions: the first, to purchase for valuable consideration in money; the second, to accommodate them with equivalent territory, in favorable situations beyond the Mississippi. Unreasonable as the answer has been, my mind was fully prepared for such a one. It had been made known to me, some time before, that a council had been formed in the nation, for the special purpose of coming to the resolution that the State of Georgia should never acquire, for any consideration, another acre of Cherokee land, either through the agency of the United States, or otherwise, and, in conformity with this resolution, all the measures were preconcerted, to enable the chiefs to present themselves before the President, with a boldness bordering on effrontery, and to receive this first advance to negotiation with the emphatic No! - a word easily pronounced, but, in this instance, most unadvisedly; not the spontaneous offspring of Indian feeling and sentiment, but a word put into his mouth by white men, who are nourished and protected by the power of the United States; who have no common interest or sympathies with those whom they instigate to use it; and who, fixed upon the soil almost without metes or bounds, regard it as a goodly heritage for their descendants, which no power can take away.
From the day of the signature of the articles of agreement and cession, this word ceased to be available to the Indians for any permanent interest of their own. From that day, the power of protestation, which they have so recently interposed, departed from them, and could never be used, but for a little delay or for a better bargain. On that day, the fee-simple passed from the rightful proprietors to Georgia; and Georgia, after a lapse of twenty years, demands nothing of the component authority but a motion of the tenants in possession; the answer is not only No! but Never! and is this a fit and proper one to be given to the people of Georgia, who have endured so long and so patiently; who have parted with an empire for a song; who have waited to see the United States reimbursed all their expenses, and a nett revenue flowing into their coffers, from the land which was their birth-right? a people who, having made a little reservation for themselves by compact, are now told, in answer to their just and reasonable demands, that this compact is only conditional, depending for its fulfillment on the will and pleasure of the Indians; that the primitive aboriginal rights are such now, as they were before the discovery of the country; and that, if Georgia wants land, the United States have enough in Florida, or elsewhere, to give her? How is this insult to be repelled, proceeding, as it does, from the polluted lips of outcasts and vagabonds, who make the chiefs the instruments of reiterating it at Washington? No, sir; this trick of vulgar cunning is only to be met by the firmness and dignity which become the United States Government; which it has never failed to manifest on every occasion calling for it; and which he who is the special depositary of these sacred qualities has always displayed with so much advantage to his high office and to the country. The Indians must be made to understand that no talks will be listened to, but such as proceed from councils strictly Indian in character and composition; that the compact with Georgia is a very different instrument from that which it has been represented to them; that, by it, the word of the United States is passed, and that nothing can redeem it but the cession of all the lands within her limits; that the time has come, when, to postpone this redemption, would be essentially a breach of faith, of which the United States will never permit herself to be suspected; that, consulting the comfort and happiness of the Indians alone, the United States have omitted to press this measure upon them, until the very last hour; that the United States have made sacrifices for Indian interest, and will expect some small ones from the Indians in return; that, if they desired civilization, nothing is more consistent with it than concentration; and that, without regard to acquisition of territory for her own benefit, the United States have acted on this principle from the beginning, as a fundamental one in their system of improvement; that, beyond the limits of Georgia, and within the territory proper of the united States, there are lands enough for the Cherokees and all their generations to come, of which the United States possess the full and absolute dominion, where they may sit down in quiet and peaceful enjoyment, and where none can come to make them afraid; that, on the other hand, if, tired of the arts of civilization, they will betake themselves to their old pursuits, you have made a fair and liberal offer of wilderness enough, abounding in game, where the white man will not speedily come to trespass or annoy; that, in the rejection of both, you can perceive nothing but an unfriendly spirit; and that finally, if they persevere in this rejection, the consequences are inevitable: 1st, that you must assist the Georgians in occupying the country which is their own, and which is unjustly withheld from them; or, 2dly, in resisting the occupation, to make war upon, and shed the blood of your brothers and friends.
Having said so much, it remains only to advert to the other topics contained in your letter to the Indian delegation; and for these, a word will suffice. 1st. The reservation of a part of our territory for the settlement of the Indians. 2dly. Their incorporation into, and amalgamation with, our society. As to the first, the answer is, the articles of agreement having made no provision for such reservation, none can be made without the consent of Georgia; and that Georgia will never giver her assent to any, without an equivalent, (if she would with one,) is absolutely certain. With regard to the second proposition, the answer is, that if such a scheme were practicable at all, the utmost of rights and privileges which public opinion would concede to Indians,would fix them in a middle station, between the negro and the white man; and that, as long as they survived this degradation, without the possibility of attaining the elevation of the latter, they would gradually sink to the condition of the former - a point of degeneracy below which they could not fall; it is likely, before they reached this, their wretchedness would find relief in broken hearts. Most assuredly, nothing will contribute so essentially to that scanty share of human happiness which is left them, as their concentration and insulation, where, having enough for the wants of agriculture, they will, in their seclusion, afford no pretext for the intrusions or annoyances of the white man.
Thus frankly, in compliance with the request of the President, I submit to him my general views on this interesting subject. Thus frankly I will deem it my duty to submit them to the Legislature of the State. They are such, no doubt, as have already suggested themselves; they seem to me the only ones which the attitude assumed by the Indians will suffer us to entertain. I am sorry I cannot support them by matter of fact information of official character; to me, this is impossible. I can only say, generally, that, among men best informed on Cherokee affairs, the minds of a majority of the nation are well prepared to receive your proposition of removal.
In conclusion, I must state, not only my hope, but my conviction, that the President will perceive, in every movement on our part, in relation to this business, a sincere desire to harmonize with the Union; to maintain peace and tranquility with the Indians, until longer forbearance will cease to be a virtue; in fact, to lend ourselves, as we have always done, heart and hand, to the support of every wise and virtuous administration of the General Government. But the President will, at the same time consider, that Georgia has a deep stake in the prompt decision of the present question. Of all the old States, Georgia is the only one whose political organization is incomplete; her civil polity is deranged; her military force cannot be reduced to systematic order and subordination; the extent of her actual resources cannot be counted; the great work of internal improvement is suspended; and all because Georgia is not in the possession of her vacant territory - a territory waste and profitless to the Indians, profitless to the United States, but, in possession of the rightful owner, a resource of strength, of revenue, and of union.
Whilst you present to the President my respects, be pleased to accept for yourself the offer of my high consideration for the part you have taken in this transaction.
George M. Troup
1. G.M. Troup to John C. Calhoun, 28 Feb 1824, in American State Papers, Indian Affairs, vol. II, 475.