September 15, 2009

Trail of Tears letter found

Letter found that led to Indians' 'Trail of Tears'

By Edward ColimoreForgotten in a private family collection, the letter was discovered this summer, and sold to the Raab Collection, a Philadelphia-based dealer of autographs, historical documents and manuscripts.

It was resold last week by the Raabs to a "major collector of American documents" in New Jersey for a price "well into five figures," said Nathan Raab, vice president of the Raab Collection, who declined to identify the buyer.
Here's what the letter actually says:"Say to them as friends and brothers to listen[to] the voice of their father, & friend," Jackson wrote. "Where [they] now are, they and my white children are too near each other to live in harmony & peace. Their game is destroyed and many of their people will not work & till the earth. Beyond the great river Mississippi, where a part of their nation has gone, their father has provided a co[untry] large enough for them all, and he ad[vises] them to go to it."

Jackson made subtle changes in the letter given to Haley. In the published draft, he told the tribes they must move if they want to "preserve their Nation." That threatening language was removed and replaced with wording--in the final letter--that still implied a threat.

". . . Tell them to listen," Jackson wrote. "[The proposed plan] is the only one by which [they can be] perpetuated as a nation . . . the only one by which they can expect to preserve their own laws, & be benefitted by the care and humane attention of the United States. I am very respectfully yr. friend, & the friend of my Choctaw & Chickasaw brethren. Andrew Jackson."

"What stands out was the tone Jackson takes," said Raab. "It was not uncommon in his letters to find this direct language. Yet he adopts some language that would appeal to these Native American nations when he speaks of himself as their father and calls them his children and brethren."
Comment:  So nice of the "father" to help his "children" that way. "Get out of the house, kids, and don't come back. If you're still here when I look again, I'll whip your hides!"

I'm guessing the Indians of that era understood that this "father" and "children" language was condescending and insulting. They probably went along with it to placate the whites who had so much power over them.

For more on the subject, see 1824's Premise and Removal in Trail of Tears.

Below:  "Nathan (left) and Jonas Raab, of the Raab Collection, with the letter by President Andrew Jackson." (Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I guess they are smiling because of the money being made...sigh