The Charlotte News

Saturday, July 29, 1939


Site Ed. Note: In "Burnt Child", Cash casts his keen sociological analysis on the history and plight of the Cherokee, a rare look through his eyes at Native Americans.

And as to "Growers' Lament", what was true in 1939 remains today, as the 2004 approval of the tobacco buy-out, though in all probability ultimately accomplished more for partisan gain last election year--to remove a thorn from the side of a candidate for a much-needed Republican takeover of a Senate seat in one of the principal tobacco states--than for reasons of astute sensitivity to the problem, bears modern witness.

Growers' Lament

The Hope of Tobacco Men in Georgia

If you, little reader, had spent a good deal of time and money nursing your seed tobacco plants, covering them up in the beds on frosty nights with as much tender care as though they had been the children, had set them out in the great fields, and sprayed them religiously to keep the bugs and rust away, had chopped off old "General Green's" head wherever it thrust up through the soil, and seen your tobacco flower and then ripen, and had picked it and barned it and cured it, tending fires that mustn't go out throughout the stifling Summer nights--

You too, little reader, would be sore as a wet hen if you carted it hopefully to the early Georgia market and heard the man there sing-song it away for only half as much again a pound as the hardy, surfeitous cotton brings. You would say to yourself that wasn't worth the long struggle, and you would think about turning the tag on your pile, indicating no sale, but you would think again and remember the pressing need for money at home.

And so, according to your nature, you would either grouse bitterly about the injustice of it and implore the governor of your state--in Georgia's case, old man Rivers himself--to do something about it, pleading that the public good demanded as much, or, being a candid soul, you would have to admit, as one Georgia grower admitted, that "the idea in this section is to plant all you can and hope that something goes wrong in South Carolina and North Carolina."

Loud Bluster

Which Is Nevertheless Not Without Its Perils

There is a good deal of bluster in the demands and threats of the Japanese newspaper, Kokumin, which serves as the organ of the army and the ultra-nationalist elements. So far as denunciation of the nine-power-pact goes, that is a totally empty threat. The Japanese Government long ago made it a dead letter by openly and cynically violating it. But such statements as that, "in that case (the abrogation of the nine-power treaty) the United States should be prepared to face a situation wherein her rights and interests in China can no longer be tenable," have an ominous ring about them. And the same impression is borne out by the Foreign Office's pronouncement that "if the American Government desires to conclude a new treaty in conformity with the new situation in East Asia, the Japanese Government, of course, will be glad to do so."

All this may be, and probably is, intended for bluff. But even so, it is dangerous. The tenability of the United States' rights and interests in China do not, of course, at all depend on Japanese permission or on any "new situation" she may claim to have established there. It depends on three things: (1) the power of the American economic system as against the Japanese economic system, (2) the power of the American Navy as against the Japanese Navy, and (3) the will of the American Government and people to put these powers to the test if necessary. No one can be absolutely sure how such a test might turn out. And certainly, the American people want no war, either economic or naval, if it can reasonably be avoided. Nevertheless, if the Japanese think they can bluff the United States into recognizing their "conquest" of China and surrendering its rights and interests there, they are probably grossly and perilously deceiving themselves. There is every evidence that the national mind is rapidly hardening into a humor for any test at all rather then submit to that.

Judge's Temper

It Has No Place In The Assessing Of Sentences

At Rockingham, one Lester McDonald, young Richmond County man, heard Judge Hoyle Sink sentence him to from twelve to fifteen years for assault with a deadly weapon and robbery--and laughed.

"Judge Sink," says the dispatch published in The Charlotte News Friday afternoon, "didn't like the laugh and instructed the clerk of court to strike out the first judgment and change it to from fifteen to twenty-five years in order that McDonald might have more time to laugh."

It is easy to understand the Judge's resentment at the fellow's bravado. And it is likely that he ought to have had some extra punishment for contempt of court, though it is the practice in most courts to ignore such conduct in men who have just been socked with long sentences.

But the fact remains that the Judge clearly and unmistakably exceeded the limits of his rightful authority. For, if this report is accurate, what he did was to make his own emotions the criterion of justice. And a judge in North Carolina, in the United States, is no autocrat set up to do that.

His proper function is dispassionately to assess the punishment of a convicted person according to the guilt determined by a jury. Maybe the fellow deserved all he got. But the Judge apparently didn't think so until he lost his temper.

Burnt Child

The Cherokee Has Some Ground For Suspicions

The Cherokee Indians descended on Washington last week to protest legislation designed to allow the Blue Ridge Parkway to condemn a right-of-way for a road through their reservation in Western North Carolina. They wanted the right-of-way survey specifically laid down in the bill itself, and also specific grant of the right to use the road--else they fear that somebody will presently attempt to take more of the 60,000 acres that make up the reservation.

Said Fred B. Bower, Assistant Chief of the Cherokees:

"The Indian learned by bitter experience over centuries past that we can't take people's word."

And he had ground. It is not quite accurate to say, as one of the Indians, Allie Lee Jemison, did say, that the Cherokee once owned all North Carolina and Georgia. Apparently their holdings in North Carolina never included anything but the Western section of the state. But when Fernando de Soto first encountered them in the sixteenth century, they were masters of a very wide territory extending through not only North Carolina and Georgia but also Tennessee, Alabama and Western Florida. A branch of the Iroquois stock, they came down from New York State in some earlier period, and their name suggests strongly that they had originally established themselves wholly in the mountains for in the original it means "cave people"--though it is possible, of course, that they acquired that name before leaving the North. Anyhow, the chief divisions were still settled about the headwaters of the Tennessee and Savannah Rivers when white men first came into contact with them.

And the lands that were theirs then were to remain in their hands until after the middle of the nineteenth century. When the English first came on the scene, the Cherokees readily joined forces with them in opposing the attempt of other nations to seize the Southern country; in 1730 they formally recognized the English King as their overlord, in 1755 ceded lands for English forts. In 1761, however, they rose up against the encroachments of the settlers and were put down only after a stout fight. In the Revolution they joined the Tories, and that led to their subjugation by the United States and the amputation of a part of their lands--those which lay to the south of the Savannah and the east of the Chattahoochee. In 1785, however, they recognized the supremacy of the United States, and were formally confirmed in the rest of their possessions.

But by 1830, the white settlers were closing on them again and demanding that they all be removed. Exodus after exodus followed. In 1838 they were forcibly removed by the Government to the Indian Territory in the West, save for a remnant left on the reservation in Western North Carolina. But even there they were not to have peace. Faced again with the encroachments of white men, they reluctantly sold the great part of their holdings in Oklahoma to the Government, at a price which represented a tiny fraction of its value.

Thus, no one can much blame them if they feel a little suspicion about the white man's promises. Just now nobody is particularly interested in grabbing their holdings. But if anybody should ever decide to--then, by the record, they would stand to be dispossessed again.


Framed Edition
[Return to Links-Page by Subject] [Return to Links-Page by Date] [Return to News--Framed Edition]
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.