Voyage up the Mississippi (continued)—The Arkansas—Treatment of the Indians—M. de Tocqueville—“Napoleon” and Lynch Law—Memphis, and its Advertisements—A Scene witnessed there—The Ohio—Nashville, and Amos Dresser.
At 4 o’clock P.M. of February the 14th, we reached the mouth of the Arkansas. This is a noble river, navigable for 2,000 miles! Not twenty years ago, the remnants of the four great Indian nations of the southern part of what is now the United States, amounting to about 75,000 souls, were urged to remove to the banks of this river, with an assurance of an undisturbed and permanent home. These four nations were the Choctaws, the Chickasaws, the Creeks, and the Cherokees. They were established upon a territory, which they occupied before the settlement of any Europeans in their vicinity, and which had been confirmed to them by solemn treaties again and again. The Anglo-Americans of the States of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi were however annoyed at their proximity, because it was unfavourable to the “peculiar institution” of America. Slaves occasionally made their escape to these children of the forest, and found sympathy and succour. This would not do. The Indians must be removed. But how was it to be accomplished? Annoy them; harass them; wrong them in every possible way, so that they may be sickened with the place. Georgia, accordingly, first attempted to establish a division line for the purpose of limiting the boundaries of the Cherokees. Then, in 1829, the State of Alabama divided the Creek territory into counties, and subjected the Indian population to the power of white magistrates. And, in 1830, the State of Mississippi assimilated the Chocktaws and Chickasaws to the white population, and declared that any one who should take the title of Chief should be punished with a fine of 1,000 dollars and a year’s imprisonment. Under these accumulated annoyances, the Cherokees, on the 18th of December, 1829, addressed to Congress the following powerful and touching appeal:—
“By the will of our Father in heaven, the Governor of the whole world, the red man of America has become small, and the white man great and renowned. When the ancestors of the people of the United States first came to the shores of America, they found the red man strong, though he was ignorant and savage; yet he received them kindly, and gave them dry land to rest their weary feet. They met in peace, and shook hands in token of friendship. Whatever the white man wanted and asked of the Indian, the latter willingly gave. At that time the Indian was the lord, and the white man the suppliant. But now the scene has changed. The strength of the red man has become weakness. As his neighbours increased in numbers, his power became less and less; and now, of the many and powerful tribes who once covered the United States, only a few are to be seen,—a few whom a sweeping pestilence has left. The northern tribes, who were once so numerous and powerful, are now nearly extinct. Thus it has happened to the red man of America. Shall we, who are remnants, share the same fate?”