Reading Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1836 "Cherokee Letter" to President Martin van Buren, I felt as if I was reading something new. Not that the issue is new. It's an old crime:
The newspapers now inform us that, in December, 1835, a treaty contracting for the exchange of all the Cherokee territory was pretended to be made by an agent on the part of the United States with some persons appearing on the part of the Cherokees; that the fact afterwards transpired that these deputies did by no means represent the will of the nation; and that, out of eighteen thousand souls composing the nation, fifteen thousand six hundred and sixty-eight have protested against the so-called treaty. It now appears that the government of the United States choose to hold the Cherokees to this sham treaty, and are proceeding to execute the same.What sounds fresh is Emerson's disbelief that the country had sunk so far in so short a time.
In the name of God, sir, we ask you if this be so. Do the newspapers rightly inform us? [...] Will the American government steal? Will it lie? Will it kill? -- We ask triumphantly. Our counselors and old statesmen here say that ten years ago they would have staked their lives on the affirmation that the proposed Indian measures could not be executed; that the unanimous country would put them down. And now the steps of this crime follow each other so fast, at such fatally quick time, that the millions of virtuous citizens, whose agents the government are, have no place to interpose, and must shut their eyes until the last howl and wailing of these tormented villages and tribes shall afflict the ear of the world.