Page images

was placed circumstances, so strongly evincive of her great forbearance towards this peculiar people, and patience under entire neglect by the general government, as ought in themselves to have shielded her from the aspersions to which she has been subjected. It never could have been seriously contemplated by any reflecting and intelligent mind, that a permanent Indian government should be established within the chartered limits of any one of the States. The idea would have been chimerical, and is repudiated by public policy, by example and by necessity. France and Spain, from their earliest settlements in North America, adopted the policy of considering the Indians in a state of pupilage, extending over them their protection and care; by this policy they avoided the embarrassments of the English system. Great Britain in the Canadas, the government of the United States, and all the older States, among whom fragments of Indian tribes remained, were ultimately constrained to the adoption of the same policy, and enacted statutes for their protection and restraint. The very compact of 1802 between Georgia and the general government, illustrates the fact, that the idea first suggested was never entertained by the national government. The fullness of the example derived from other States is attempted to be diminished, upon the distinction, that the remnants of their tribes had ceased to exercise the right and power of self government. But when that point of weakness and degradation has been attained, which will authorize the extension of the local law over them, and by whom it is to be ascertained and determined, are questions which have not been solved. Contemplate the Indian character-without an established government of their own, without a knowledge and recognition of general principles to regulate and restrain them; reared in a fondness for war and blood - familiar with cruelties and revenge, without moral influences and without religious principles untamed and untutored; incapable of being softened and instructedIt is obvious that such a people could not sustain a near approach to, and contact with the whites, without rendering the position of both intolerable, and imperiously requiring the superior power to restrain and control the weaker.

[ocr errors]

The dictates of humanity too, instead of being violated, unite with the former considerations in enforcing the propri

ety of controlling or removing them. For in the approximation of the two races, both physical and moral causes have operated to diminish and annihilate the latter, and to render essential a guardianship over them. The American people have not been indifferent to their improvement; the charities of Christianity have not slumbered over this unfortunate race. Efforts have been fruitlessly made, and different means and agencies in vain employed. The Cherokees of Georgia have formed no essential exception to the universal failure. Glowing descriptions have indeed been given of their rapid march in civilization. But we have the testimony of those best acquainted, and most to be relied on, that notwithstanding individual instances of decided improvement and advancement, the great body of the tribe remained, despite of all efforts, unchanged and unchangeable. They have gone forever from the land of their fathers to occupy the regions of the far and distant west. We lament their condition, we regret their fate, we ar, unable to explain the mysteries of Providence towards them.

Another topic, which seems to me to call for a passing notice, results from the institution of slavery among us. With the abstract question of slavery I have nothing to do here. The institution rests upon the constitution and laws of the land; and there, we trust, the sense and intelligence and patriotism of the nation will permit it to repose in safety, notwithstanding the chimerical and visionary ebstract speculations with which the country has latterly been so wantonly agitated. My business with this subject is limited to quite a different purpose. It is an historical fact, to which we have already alluded, that at the settlement of Georgia slavery was inhibited; and it is equally true, that, with some exceptions,* our ancestry were urgent and solicitous in their reiterated appeals to the Trustees for its introduction. My object is to vindicate their conduct on this point; and place them in the position they are entitled to occupy. Properly to estimate their course, it is necessary to look at the state of the public mind on this subject in that day; to look at it with the lights which then existed, and in intimate connection with the circumstances and relations in which the colony of Georgia

*The Highlanders at Darien, and the Germans at Ebenezer, opposed it, and presented counter petitions.

found itself. We live in We live in a world of changing opinions and of increasing light and knowledge. At the period to which we are referring, the slave trade, now universally and justly condemned by all civilized nations, was as universally tolerated by all. England, who, under the persevering and active labors of a Wilberforce, led the way in the great work of suppressing this odious traffic, was then most active in peopling her colonies, wherever they were needed, with slaves. The vast operations of missionary associations for evangelizing the world, which we behold at this day, had not been conceived. It is true that some small and slender associations for this purpose had commenced in England more than a century ago, but these were only the beginnings of a system, the developements of which had not entered into the conceptions of the Christian world. Good and pious men were appealed to on this subject. They looked upon Africa sunk in the darkness of midnight and paganism. They were enabled to realize no access to her, no means of reaching her, no hope for her from the light of the Gospel. They adopted the conclusion, that their condition would be better by being introduced into civilized and Christian communities; where notwithstanding they were required to labor, they might be kindly treated and instructed and enlightened in the knowledge of the truth. Our ancestors were placed here in a country peculiarly and primarily adapted to agriculture, with the example before their eyes of the existence and toleration of the system in all of the elder colonies. I submit, that it was the natural result of these causes combined, that they should have desired to participate in the benefits of a system then justified by the opinion of the world, of the mother country and the example of her sister colonies. We ask only for an equality of position on this subject; and are willing to assume our full proportion of responsibility and accountability to which we may be held by the opinions of the day, so unwarrantably intruded upon the country, at the hazard of its happiness and repose.

We left the colonists, after years of languor and despondency, prosperous and flourishing. The Spaniard had been driven back into his strong hold the Indian had been subdued by friendly intercourse and kindness, or repelled in his hostile attacks, had been compelled to sue for peace.

They were now to encounter an enemy of a different cha


racter and of vast resources and power; and to endure a conflict more terrible than any they had known. That enemy was the parent country from whom they sprung; that conflict their great Revolutionary struggle.

Of the causes which led to this extraordinary result I may not speak; they are contained in that undying instrument, the Declaration of Independence- they are interwoven with the national history. Nor may I enter into details of the long and bloody war which followed. They have been eloquently delineated in many a patriotic address dedicated to the celebration of our national anniversary jubilee. The situation of Georgia, however, in the commencement of this struggle was peculiar, and merits notice. She was the youngest and feeblest of the colonies. The number of her white inhabitants small and scattered, in the midst of a large slave population. Her frontier was occupied by powerful tribes of warlike savages; and a royal governor presided over her councils of great talents and energy, and whose course of administration had commended him to the esteem of the people. In such circumstances, it required stout hearts and ardent devotion to liberty to plunge at once into the vortex of revolution. That plunge was however made.

What means that shout that rends the air and strikes with amazement upon the senses of the royal governor? A libertypole stands erect in the streets of Savannah, and Tondee's tavern reëchoes with the cheers of a band of noble republicans, willing martyrs, if need be, in the cause of liberty.

The arrival of General Gates in Boston with a British fleet and army, and the events which immediately followed, lighted the torch of revolution and resistance, which, blazing through the colonies, flamed as purely and brightly in Georgia as among the patriotic sons of liberty in New England. The magazine in this city was immediately seized in the dead of night by a party of gentlemen, and the powder conveyed away and secured in their own houses. A ship, then recently from England, under command of captain Maitland lying at Tybee, was approached by a party of men in two boats, taken, and thirteen thousand pounds of powder obtainedfive thousand pounds of which were sent to the inhabitants of Boston.* The provincial house of assembly ordered the

* These boats were commanded by Com. Bowen and Col Joseph Habersham.

arrest of Governor Wright; that order was immediately executed by volunteers raised and commanded by a youthful but devoted son of liberty.* The Governor was paroled to his house, from whence he escaped in the night, and took refuge on board a British armed ship lying at Tybee.

Such were the energetic and spirited measures immediately taken in Savannah by her republican and patriotic sons, at the commencement of difficulty with England. The spirit of resistance, awakened throughout the country, had not, as yet, looked beyond a redress of grievances. But these decided and bold measures betokened a higher aim, and excited the public feeling to a preparation for it. The word "Independence" began to be whispered at first with caution, and only by the bold and decided; but it soon burst forth in the noble instrument which announced to the world their wrongs and proclaimed their separation from the British Crown. It was reëchoed from Massachusetts to Georgia with an emphasis that startled the monarch on his throne. and arrayed against infant America, the mighty power and vast resources of old England. Now was fairly commenced that mighty conflict, which, amidst all the eventful vicissitudes and appalling discouragements of so unequal a contest, was destined to terminate only, when the British lion had crouched beneath the talons of the American eagle.

Liberty, banished from her ancient habitations, an exile and a wanderer on the continent of Europe, took a temporary refuge under the limited monarchy of England; but as a Hampden fell, and the life-blood of a Sidney flowed, she uttered the shriek of despair, and crossing the ocean, sought an asylum on these western shores. Her enemies pursued her here, and threatened her extermination from the earth. For seven long years nourished and sustained by the blood of heroes and patriots and martyrs, behold her now more beautiful and lovely than ever, and enraptured with the land which had so freely sacrificed in her cause, she has, as we fondly hope, forever fixed her abode in these United States.

Will that cherished hope be realized? Interesting inquiry! interesting to the present generation, to posterity, to the world. Our fathers rested not when they had achieved their independence they labored to secure it, and to transmit

[ocr errors]

* Colonel Habersham.

« PreviousContinue »