The Removal of the Cherokee Nation: Manifest Destiny or National Dishonor?

By Louis Filler; Allen Guttmann | Go to book overview

Helen Hunt Jackson:


GEORGIA'S DISHONOR

Helen Hunt Jackson, of Amherst, Massachusetts, is known chiefly for two books, both of which deal with the problem of the American Indian. Ramona, a novel published in 1884, dramatizes the plight of the Indians in California. A Century of Dishonor, published in 1881, remains the best known of the innumerable indictments of state and federal Indian policy.

IN the whole history of our Government's dealings with the Indian tribes, there is no record so black as the record of its perfidy to this nation. There will come a time in the remote future when, to the student of American history, it will seem well-nigh incredible. From the beginning of the century they had been steadily advancing in civilization. As far back as 1800 they had begun the manufacture of cotton cloth, and in 1820 there was scarcely a family in that part of the nation living east of the Mississippi but what understood the use of the card and spinning-wheel. Every family had its farm under cultivation. The territory was laid off into districts, with a councilhouse, a judge, and a marshal in each district. A national committee and council were the supreme authority in the nation. Schools were flourishing in all the villages. Printing-presses were at work.

Their territory was larger than the three States of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut combined. It embraced the North-western part of Georgia, the North-east of Alabama, a corner of Tennessee and of North Carolina. They were enthusiastic in their efforts to establish and perfect their own system of jurisprudence. Missions of several sects were established in their country, and a large number of them had professed Christianity, and were living exemplary lives.

There is no instance in all history of a race of people passing in so short a space of time from the barbarous stage to the agricultural and civilized. And it was such a community as this that the State of Georgia, by one high-handed outrage, made outlaws!--passing on the 19th of December, 1829, a law "to annul all laws and ordinances made by the Cherokee nation of Indians"; declaring "all laws, ordinances, orders, and regulations of any kind whatever, made, passed, or enacted by the Cherokee Indians, either in general council or in any other way whatever, or by any authority whatever, null and void, and of

____________________

Helen Hunt Jackson, "Georgia's Dishonor," from A Century of Dishonor ( New York: Harper and Brothers, 1881), pp. 270-279.

-98-

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