And It Still Stinks
by Hardly Waite, Pure Water Gazette Senior Editor
In 1838 and 1839 the United States government committed a vicious act of genocide, our own version of the holocaust, against the Cherokee Indians, a peaceful, civilized 16,000-member tribe living in Georgia. The Cherokees’ crime was that gold had been found on the land they occupied, and the state of Georgia wanted their land for settlement. Although the U. S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshall had ruled that the Cherokees constituted an independent nation and the state of Georgia had no jurisdiction over its territory, President Andrew Jackson refused to enforce the court’s ruling (thereby violating his oath of office in which he swore to uphold the Constitution) and Georgia took away the Cherokees’ land by sponsoring a public lottery.
In spite of vehement protests of such notable Americans as Senators Davy Crockett and Henry Clay and America’s greatest writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Congress, by a margin of a single vote, decreed the “relocation” to Oklahoma. of 16,000 Cherokees. The relocation, known as the Trail of Tears, consisted of a brutal forced march in which fully a fourth of the Cherokee tribe died. The suffering was unspeakable. There was no justification and there can be no explanation other than greed.
While the relocation was being plotted by government officials and a fake treaty was signed to make the theft of the Indian land appear legitimate, Emerson wrote a moving letter of protest to President Martin Van Buren. In part, he said:
Such a dereliction of all faith and virtue, such a denial of justice, and such deafness to screams for mercy were never heard of in times of peace and in the dealing of a nation with its own allies and wards, since the earth was made. Sir, does this government think that the people of the United States are become savage and mad? From their mind are the sentiments of love and good nature wiped clean out? The soul of man, the justice, the mercy that is in the heart’s heart in all men form Maine to Georgia, does abhor this business.
You, sir, will bring down that renowned chair in which you sit to infamy if your seal is set to this instrument of perfidy; and the name of this nation, hitherto the sweet omen of religion and liberty, will stink to the world.
Ralph was right. And it still stinks.