Sunday, July 29, 2007

The March of Progress

The history of these mountains contains at least one constant theme. Sooner or later someone will stride into your community, take a look around, like what they see, and decide that you’re standing in the way of progress. THEIR progress. When that happens, good luck to you.

John C. Calhoun, writing to Governor Joseph McMinn:

July 29, 1818
The conduct on the part of the Cherokee nation merits the severest censure. After ratification of the treaty, resistance to its fair execution can be considered little short of hostility. The menaces offered to those who choose to emigrate or to take reservations cannot be tolerated. . . . Surrounded as the Cherokees are by the white population, they are in danger of perpetual collisions with them, or, even if disputes can be avoided, to fall under the train of vice and misery to which a savage people are doomed when they come into contact with enlightened and civilized nations. It is vain for the Cherokees to hold to the high tone which they do as to their independence as a nation; for daily proof is exhibited that, were it not for the protecting arm of the United States they would become victims of fraud and violence. If the opposers of the treaty are really the champions of the independence of their nation, they ought to be the advocates of emigration to the Arkansas. There, their claim to independence would be much better founded; and there, at a distance from us, they might, before the white population would crowd on them, acquire the arts of civilized life, and become proper subjects of our regular Government.

George William Featherstonhaugh was a geologist and linguist who traveled through the Cherokee lands of Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina and published A Canoe Voyage up the Minnay Sotor based on his diaries:

July 29, 1837
The fatigue of the day made me sleep well, although on the floor, and at 4 A.M. we started again. As soon as we passed the boundary dividing the two States, into Georgia, we came upon shale and slate dipping to the S.E.; over this we rode fifteen miles, and then came upon limestone again. Lofty mountains were upon our left, appearing to form part of a chain bearing N.E. and S.W.

We met many parties of Cherokees of the lowest class going on foot to the great meeting. Some of them were very drunk and were accompanied by young women carrying their infants. Log huts now increased in number with clearings around them, surrounded by broken-down fences, and bearing evidence of slovenly farming. The white inhabitants were a tall, sallow, gawky-looking set, with manners of the coarsest kind; their children were all pale and unhealthy-looking, suffering, as the mothers told me, from bowel complaints, occasioned evidently by unwholesome food and filth. We passed several farms belonging to the principal Cherokees, containing fine patches of the sweet potato (Convolvulus Batata), maize and pulse of various kinds. Some of the Indian women spoke English, but generally they were shy, and in a few instances refused to answer me. I was not surprised at this at the present juncture. . . .

In the evening I ventured out to look at an ample and most pellucid spring in the vicinity, from whence the settlement takes its name. The water flowed copiously from seams in the limestone, which in its cavernous parts no doubt contained great bodies of it. Here I sat down upon a log; not a breath of air was stirring, and it was still too close and warm to walk with comfort. A Georgian, however, whom I found there, told me that he found it cool at this place compared with his residence in the low country.

On my return to the village, I observed that almost every store in the place was a dram shop, and the evening's amusement of a great part of the population seemed to consist in going about from one to the other; and when they got what they call in this part of the country "high," which means red-hot drunk with whisky, they would go to the tavern and bully the people they found there.

And a generation later T. W. Atkins wrote to J. A. Seddon on July 29, 1863:

The safety and security of…our homes and property are seriously menaced and openly assaulted by herds of disloyal citizens and gangs of deserters from the Confederate army…we shall doubtless fall an easy prey to the malicious hands of marauders, which now openly parade themselves in the different counties, west of the Blue Ridge.

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