A delegation from the Cherokee Nation spent the
following winter in Washington, bringing to bear every influence at his
command upon the President and Congress to furnish some relief to the
Cherokees. The only course offered however, was removal. Mr. Case urged that
it was only by removal they could find a safe retreat for themselves since
"as long as any remained in Georgia they were subjects to the laws of that
state, surrounded by white settlements and exposed to all those evils which
had always attended the Indian race when placed in immediate contact with a
white population. It was only by removing that they could expect to avoid
the fate which had already swept away so many Indian tribes." The Cherokees
replied, it was with deep regret they felt constrained to say, that in this
scheme for Indian removal, they could see more of expediency and policy to
get rid of the Cherokee than to perpetuate their race upon any permanent
fundamental principle. If the doctrine that they could not exist continguous
to a white population should prevail and they should be compelled to remove
west of the states and territories of the republic what was to prevent a
similar removal of them from that place for the same reason
The delegation returned home in March without having
secured any promise of relief or any encouragement, whatever, from the
executive. The condition of the Cherokees was now becoming worse and worse.
Deprived of their annuity funds, the country demoralized politically and
economically, the Indians were suffering. They could no longer look for
relief from Washington. The factional fight grew more bitter day by day and
fresh recruits were being added to the party in favor of a treaty.
To add to the confusion, the Georgia legislature, as
has been mentioned before, had passed an act which granted to fortunate
drawers of lots the lands occupied by the improvements of those Indians who
had accepted reservations under former treaties. This act included the
improvements of all who had enrolled for emigration and, after having
accepted pay for their improvements, had remained in the nation. Additional
legislation at the same session was passed to induce removal. The next year
a law granting possession of these lots was a signal for worse depredations
than any formerly committed. Some of the best Cherokee homesteads were
seized, live stock confiscated, and owners ejected from their homes.
Georgians who had never before lived in anything but a one-room log cabin
found themselves ensconced in comfortable and commodious quarters.
Charles Hicks was forced to vacate his pleasant and
comfortable home in the dead of winter and move his family to Tennessee,
where they found shelter in an old sugar camp. Mr. Martin, the Cherokee
treasurer, received notice from the state agent, Colonel Bishop, on January
20 that he must prepare to give entire possession of his premises within the
next thirty days or suffer the penalty of the law. His carved mantels and
marble hearths were part of the prize that fell to another fortunate
Hundreds of other cases might be added, but it is
useless to multiply examples to show that in her determination to cleanse
her soil of the aborigines, the state and her citizens were prepared to go
to any length, though all the while strenuously disavowing any selfish or
sinister motives toward the Indians.
Outrages were perpetrated upon the poor as well as
upon the prosperous. The suffering and destitution of these helpless victims
was pitiful to see; their story is too heartrending to dwell upon. Yet the
Cherokees remained unshaken in their determination not to remove. Devotion
to established customs and to their ancestral homes was deeply rooted. They
chose to bear the ills they had rather than fly to others they knew not of.
When the fall Council met in 1833 it took up the
discussion of the situation and the advantage to be gained by giving up
their tribal identity and becoming citizens of the United States. A memorial
was drawn up, in which, after asserting that they would never voluntarily
give up their homes, they consented to satisfy Georgia by ceding part of
their land on condition that the Federal Government protect them in the
remainder until a definite time to be fixed by the United States, after
which time they should become citizens of the United States. This memorial
was dispatched to Washington by John Ross, heading a delegation. The reply
from the executive lacked originality. Removal was the only remedy for their
In the meantime, there had appeared at the National
Capital three Cherokees representing the faction favoring removal. Andrew
Ross, the leader, suggested to the Commissioner of Indian affairs that if
authorized to do so, he would return to the Cherokee Nation and bring to
Washington a delegation with whom a treaty could be effected for the whole
or a part of the Cherokee territory. Andrew Ross had enrolled for the west
and, according to a law of the nation, had no legal or moral right to take
any hand in the affairs of the eastern nation. President Jackson was able to
overlook these small considerations, however, and Andrew Ross's plan was
accepted. It was agreed that if a treaty should be concluded the United
States would pay the expenses of the delegation.
Returning home, Andrew Ross assembled about two dozen
of the treaty faction at the agency and succeeded in organizing the Treaty
party with William Hicks as principal chief and John McIntosh, second chief.
A legislature was appointed and other steps taken to supplant the regularly
constituted government. Eight of their number, selected as a delegation to
Washington, arrived at the National Capital in May, a little more than two
months after Ross had first broached the subject of removal to the
Commissioner of Indian Affairs.
Honorable J. H. Eaton was appointed commissioner to
confer with them. After negotiations were commenced he notified John Ross of
what was being done and invited him to cooperate with them. The chief
refused this proposal, hotly saying, "in the face of Heaven and earth,
before God and man, I most solemnly protest against any treaty being entered
into with those of whom you say one is in progress so as to affect the
rights and interests of the Cherokee Nation East of the Mississippi River."
Ross then notified the Cherokee Council of the business in progress, and a
protest signed by thirteen thousand Cherokees was sent up to Congress only
to have it disregarded under the plea that some of the signatures were
fictitious. The proceedings continued and a preliminary treaty was drawn up,
June 19, but when it was presented to the Cherokees they refused to ratify
it. The whole business had proved a fiasco, so far as the Federal Government
was concerned. The Council called to ratify it held a stormy session, for
members of both parties attended. and the affair caused intense excitement
through the Cherokee Nation. Accusation, recrimination and threats were
freely bandied about, and a tribal war seemed imminent.
When the regular session of the Cherokee Council met
at Red Clay, in October, excitement still ran high. The disposition of the
Federal executive to recognize the "Treaty Party" spread consternation and
aroused indignation throughout the main body of the tribe now beginning to
call themselves the National Party.
A delegation was sent to Washington instructed to
circumvent the treaty men at all hazards. If a treaty must be made, as they
were beginning to fear was inevitable, then it should be made with the
regularly constituted government of the tribe. In the winter of 1835,
therefore, two rival delegations, one headed by John Ross, the other by
Major Ridge, again went up to Washington.
The Secretary of War first recognized the Ross
deputation, offering them practically the same terms as had been recently
rejected by the Council. They declined to accept them. He then turned to the
Ridge faction and commissioned the Reverend J. F. Schermerhorn to negotiate
a treaty with them. Hearing of this before negotiations had been opened,
Ross asked the President to permit him to submit a proposition for a treaty.
The request was granted and operations with Ridge were suspended for a time.
It was two weeks before Ross presented his proposition, which offered to
cede the Cherokee Country East for twenty million dollars. This sum the
President considered too exorbitant to be considered seriously, and charged
Ross with insincerity and with filibustering. In order to prove his
sincerity and at the same time test the temper of the Senate, among whose
members the Cherokees had strong friends, Ross next offered to allow the
Senate to decide the sum tentatively, the question ultimately to be
submitted to the Cherokee Nation. This move proved an unfortunate one for
John Ross and the Cherokees. His proposal was at once accepted and a
statement of all the facts in the case, in the form of a memorial, was sent
to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, with Senator King, of Georgia, as
chairman. In less than a week the Secretary of War informed Chief Ross that,
in the opinion of the Senate, not more than five million dollars should be
paid the Cherokees for their possessions east of the Mississippi River. He
then invited the Ross delegation to enter into negotiations on that basis.
The invitation was declined.
Meanwhile, in order to make assurance doubly sure,
President Jackson had ordered Schermerhorn to proceed with the negotiations
with the opposing party. On February 28, an agreement was drawn up with them
in which the consideration for the Cherokee lands east was fixed at four
million five hundred thousand dollars. This treaty was taken up after Ross
had rejected the Senate proposition and, on March 14, was signed with the
express stipulation that it should receive the approval of the Cherokee
people, in full Council assembled, before it should be considered binding.
President Jackson's next concern was to have the
treaty ratified. To this end he issued an address to the Cherokees, calling
them "Brothers," inviting them to a calm consideration of their condition
and prospects and urging upon them the benefit certain to inure to their
nation by the ratification of the treaty and their removal to the western
country. This address he dispatched by Mr. Schermerhorn, who had been
appointed Commissioner to complete the negotiations of the treaty in the