LETTER FROM JOHN ROSS,
THE PRINCIPAL CHIEF OF THE CHEROKEE NATION,
GENTLEMAN OF PHILADELPHIA.
The following letter was received in Philadelphia,
about the period of its date, in May last. its appearance was deferred, in
consequence of a desire to accompany it with a few observations upon the
general subject of Indian annals in the United States. The preparation of
these has been so long delayed, that further postponement would be
inexcusable. It has, therefore, been determined to give publicity to the
letter, reserving its intended accompaniment for a future occasion, and a
The writer is sensible of the lameness of his apology
for so long withholding from the public, a production of so much interest
and merit; and seeks to lessen the blame he might incur by expressing the
hope, that it may induce a second communication from the author, detailing
some events which have ocCu rrcd since its composition.
The temper of this epistle, will commend it to the
kind consideration of every calm and dispassionate mind, whilst its facts
and reasonings must carry conviction to all readers. It is a skilful and
comprehensive survey of the Cherokee question, and unfolds in cool language,
a course of conduct which makes the patriotic cheek burn with shame, and the
patriotic heart glow with indignation. May its perusal produce the proper
effect in the proper quarter, and induce those elevated measures which
policy, humanity, and honour concur to recommend. No achievement of national
might is equal, in greatness, to the performance of NATIONAL JUSTICE, and
without this, what is called national honour, is not only an empty name, but
a false and ironical ascription.
Philadelphia, December 26, 1837.
WASHINGTON CITY, May 6th, 1837.
I return you my sincere thanks for your Discourse on
the Surviving Remnant of the Indian Race. We have found so little sympathy
among our white brethren that every instance of its spontaneous exhibition
touches us deeply.
On the present occasion there are many reasons why we
should be more than usually affected. Your vindication of our case is as
generous and unexpected as it is elegant and able. The society of which you
were the organ bears a name which every Indian delights to honour.' William
Penn is one of those white men whose landing upon the shores of what was
then the Indian's country, brought only peace and comfort. His influence was
exerted in the cause of Christian benevolence and philanthropy. Cruelty and
rapacity never followed in his footsteps. The prosperity of the great
commonwealth which he founded, was not fostered by the I)lOOd nor tears of
the nations of the forest. We can fully appreciate the justice of the annual
commemoration, by your society, of an event affording to all his race an
example, which, had it been always followed, would have saved them from the
responsibility and the consequences of many an act of oppression, of
injustice, and of outrage, and ourselves from the agony of many a heartache.
You have touched our case with a
master's hand, and treated the whole subject of Cherokee affairs with great
ability and intelligence. You have brought before your society a rapid
notice of our recent history up to the time of the last action of congress
upon our affairs. I wish you to be made acquainted with what has since
transpired, and to know what has been done and is contemplated hereafter,
with a view to spread before the American people and their government a full
knowledge of our circumstances, for the purpose of awakening that interest
in our behalf upon which we yet rest our hopes of justice, and of which we
shall not to the last despair.
With the history of our nation up to the period above
adverted to, you are sufficiently informed to supersede the necessity for
more than a very rapid retrospect. The friendly intercourse between the
United States and the Cherokees, commenced at a very early period of your
national history. The treaty of Hopewell, by which our nation was received
into the favour and protection of the United States, was dated in 1755. This
instrument fixed the boundary which was then agreed upon. It will be
remarked that the line which it indicates, was designed merely as a
demarcation between the parties to it, and is consequently exclusively
confined to the eastern limits of the Cherokee nation. It begins at the
mouth of the Duck river, in what is now the state of Tennessee, and, running
through portions of both Carolinas and Georgia, terminates at the head of
the south fork of the Oconee, in the last named state. The country which we
then owned, comprehends what is now a fertile and densely populated portion
of the Union.
At a very early period after the organisation of your
present form of government, the illegal encroachments upon our lands, and
the outrages perpetrated upon our rights, attracted time notice of President
Washington. With a view to adjust all the difficulties growing out of these
fruitful sources of discord, another treaty was negotiated in 1791, at
Holston. A different boundary was established, and the Cherokees placed
themselves under the protection of the United States. A reference to this
treaty will show that we had yielded to our neighbours a large portion of
our territory, but by the seventh article we obtained the solemn guarantee
of the United States to all our lands not then ceded.
In the year 1798, a further treaty
was concluded between the parties, at Tellico, by which another large
cession was made, and again by the express provisions of the instrument, the
remainder of their country was for ever guaranteed to the Cherokees. This
was, however, soon followed by another treaty of cession in 1804, two
treaties in 1S05, and early in 1806, another. By each of these treaties
important and valuable districts were ceded. A temporary suspension of these
proceedings now occurred, but in 1816 three several treaties were made, in
1817 another, and these were followed up by that of February 1819. Each of
these instruments contributed to narrow our limits and to curtail our
territory. A peace of permanent policy was avowed, and the treaty of 1819
was regarded as a final measure. Such of the nation as were disposed to
emigrate beyond the Mississippi, and to retain their original hunter habits,
were provided for; those who preferred remaining, and to pursue the arts of
civilisation, were to remain ; property which had been held in common, was
to be enjoyed in severalty; the limits of individual rights were to be fixed
and permanent interests to be held in land.
The Cherokees, who had already made considerable
progress in the pursuits of agriculture, &c., continued rapidly to advance
under this system. Education became more widely diffused, a new alphabet
invented by one of them, became the vehicle for disseminating useful
information in their own language. A newspaper was established, a code of
laws framed, and political institutions, adapted to their circumstances,
were organised. With this change of manners their numbers increased, and
wealth began to accumulate. Such were some of the blessings which the
Cherokees had derived from their intercourse with the whites. They were
contented, prosperous, and happy, and looked forward with confidence to an
augumentation of all their stirces of prosperity. They realised, to a
considerable extent, the benefits which had been promised them. They had
parted with nineteen twentieths of their original possessions, but the rest
was secured to them by sanctions, guarantees, and pledges, which professed
to be sacred and inviolable.
These anticipations were however not to be wholly
fulfilled. Notwithstanding the understandingof all parties that the
arrangements of 1819 were to be permanent and final, that no further
cessions of territory were to be required or made, that we were to be
suffered to retain as private property, the comparatively small remnant of
our original territory which had not been disposed of; it soon appeared that
while one acre remained in our hands it would be viewed with the eyes of
cupidity. Although one of the conditions upon which we had given so much was
that the residue should be guaranteed to us for ever, although the treaty of
1819 was declared to be a final adjustment, although the United States had
stipulated to remove all intruders from our lands, and to protect us against
similar outrages in future, yet none of these provisions in our favour have
for years been of any practical value.
In our memorial to the senate, in
March, 1836, you will find a summary statement of the wrongs under which we
laboured. We then stated that "the Cherokees were happy and prosperous till
the year 1828, when the United States entered into a treaty with the
Cherokees west of the Mississippi, in which, though the Cherokee nation east
was no party, or consulted, certain stipulations were introduced affecting
their interests. From this date the agents of the United States commenced
their interference with the internal affairs of the Cherokee people. A
system was devised and prosecuted to force them to emigrate by rendering
them unhappy where they were."
In June, 1834, a paper, purporting
to be an agreement, was executed between John H. Eaton, a commissioner, on
the part of the United States, and Andrew Ross, Thomas J. Park, John West,
and James Starr. These individuals were members of the Cherokee community,
but were never authorised to act on behalf of the nation, nor did they hold
any appointment or office which would carry with it a presumption that they
had authority so to act. Yet with these men an instrument purporting to be a
treaty, was signed. As soon as it came to the ears of the nation, decisive
steps were taken, a protest from about thirteen thousand Cherokees, was
submitted to the government, disclaiming the proceeding. It was submitted to
the senate for ratification as a treaty properly and duly negotiated, but in
consequence of the representations made to that honourable body, and the
evidence exhibited before it, it was rejected. Upon what ground it could
ever be claimed to be an authoritative national act, is yet to be learned.
By direction of the President this repudiated
instrument was, in November, 1834, submitted to the general council of the
nation for its approval. It was, however, again most deliberately and
During the ensuing winter a delegation from the nation
was at Washington for the purpose of arranging the existing difficulties.
Before terms were agreed upon, and shortly after the conferences had begun,
a few individuals of the nation, equally without authority as those who had
been before prevailed upon to assume such powers, arrived in the city, and
within a few days the regularly appointed delegation was again passed by,
and new negotiations opened with these parties. On the 14th of March, 1835,
an instrument purporting to be a treaty was signed by these parties and
transmitted by the president to the nation for its approval. Every effort
was made to extort this approbation. The annuities due to the nation were
withheld—the fears of some were excited by threats of personal violence,
made by the United States agents,—others were arrested by the military and
placed in confinement,—their press was seized. At one of the meetings of the
nation, the reverend Mr. Schermerhorn, who has performed a conspicuous part
in these transactions, distinctly apprised the Cherokees that if they
remained on this side of the Mississippi, their difficulties would increase,
"that the screws would be turned upon them till they would be ground into
Notwithstanding all these efforts to intimidate the
nation into an approval of this instrument, it was rejected with great
unanimity. A delegation, however, was again appointed to negotiate with the
United States commissioner upon all the subjects of difference. It appeared,
however, that his powers were limited, and in consequence of this and other
causes it was deemed advisable that the delegation should proceed to
Washington, and this determination was announced to the commissioner.
During the interval between the
adoption and execution of this plan, the principal chief of the nation, who
was also the chairman of the delegation, was arrested and imprisoned, his
papers seized and examined, without any cause being assigned and without any
legal process. This act of outrage, followed by no judicial investigation,
was, according to the avowal of one of the actors in it, perpetrated by the
orders of B. F. Curry, a United States agent.
Mr. Curry himself hastened to
Washington, procured an order from. the department forbidding the delegation
to proceed to that place. They notwithstanding did proceed, and on their
arrival at the seat of government apprised the department in the customary
mode of the fact; and that they were ready to proceed in the business which
had brought them on. They were received as usual; propositions were invited
from them with assurances that these propositions should be acted upon.
Within a few days, however,
information reached Washington that the commissioners who remained behind
had negotiated another treaty with a body of unauthorised individuals, and
was bringing on with him a delegation. This instrument, to which less than
one hundred of the nation ever gave their sanction, directly or indirectly,
was in its terms unacceptable to the president: it was again varied in
Washington in some important features; and, notwithstanding every
remonstrance and opposition on the part of the regularly authorised
representatives of the nation, was submitted to the senate, and finally
obtained the ratification of that body by a bare constitutional majority.
I have thus given you a rapid sketch of the
proceedings which terminated in the so called treaty of December, 1835. The
details may be found at large in the congressional documents. This
instrument we consider as the consummation of our wrongs. By its provisions
all the benefits which we deemed secured to us by valid and effective
treaties are in substance annihilated,—all the territory remaining in the
hands of the nation or of individuals, is ceded. This instrument, to which
so small a portion of our people as less than one hundred have ever been
induced, by all the appliances used, to give their sanction, is, we are
told, a solemn and sacred treaty, and its stipulations will be fully and
It was to have been expected that a measure so
monstrous and so glaring, would be followed by acts and misrepresentations
of all sorts for the purpose of sustaining it. Paragraphs, calculated to
produce alarm and consternation, were insidiously thrown into the public
papers the moment this spurious treaty was signed, and some of them before
the news of its ratification by the senate could have reached the nation.
Rumours of an armed opposition to its enforcement were fabricated, and one
of these publications was headed, "The Cherokees are up!!!"
For myself, I had calls of too
serious and pressing import to allow of my wasting time in hunting down
these calumnies or exposing these prophecies, which had no other prospect of
being verified than by themselves producing the effects they affected to
foretell. The principal agent in getting up this spurious treaty was the
reverend Mr. Schermerhorn, the same individual who by similar means involved
the country in a war with the Seminolians, by which millions of money, and
lives still rii.orc valuable, have been lost. I was persuaded that however
the cases and the people might differ, it would be attempted to confound the
Cherokees with the Seminolians, and to take alarm at and to exaggerate the
slightest expression of discontent. I knew that the perpetrator of a wrong
never forgives his victim; and that there were some who would excite our
people to open indications of resentment as a pretext for violence and a
justification of themselves. It was therefore made my earnest business, by a
calm and direct course, to endeavour to confirm the often expressed
resolution of the Cherokees, to rely entirely upon remonstrance, and to
pursue such a course as would satisfy the people of the United States and
their representatives, that we had been the victims of injustice. Our people
were assured that when the treaty-making power should discover the real
truth he could not fail to be just.
The agents of the United States
seem to be aware that the Cherokee nation had never sanctioned this
pretended treaty. No sooner had it been hurried through the forms of
ratification than they obtained a military force to overawe the Cherokees
and to oppose every attempt to pursue a faithful and honest enquiry into the
real facts of the case. On my return to my constituents, having been
detained some time by business, I arrived at Athens, in Tennessee, where I
met General Wool, the commander of the troops, who had actually reached our
country before me. The general expressed great satisfaction that I had come,
and informed me that my presence had been much wanted, as he had already
been in the valley towns, and found there a feeling so decidedly hostile to
the treaty as to require the operation of the most powerful counteracting
influences. I assured him that I considered his admission of that fact very
important, as it proved that I had been guilty of no misrepresentation, and
that his own experience would now enable him to show General Jackson that
the impression under which be professed to act in making this arrangement
with the Cherokees was a mistaken one,—he .had made a compact to which only
one side, and what was still worse only the interested one, had consented,
when to ratify a bargain requires the free consent of two. General Wool, in
reply, dwelt on the impossibility of changing the determination of the
president, and hoped, I would advise the people accordingly, and thus
prevent such scenes as had taken place in Florida. I assured him that I
would pledge my life that the Cherokees would never assert their rights by
bloodshed, but that 1 could not as an honest man advise their assent to a
spurious treaty. They might be persuaded to remove, and to remove without
resistance, and would be better reconciled to their fate, if the United
States would only show them the fairness formally to recognise the removal
as the compelled submission of the weaker to the stronger, but they would
not in the face of heaven, put their hands and seals to a falsehood. They
would not say that arrangements were brought about by honest treaty which
were really brought about by deliberate and steadily resisted and exposed
craft and duplicity.
General Wool appeared chagrined at his reception in
the valley towns. After our interview I discovered the cause. On reaching my
destination I learned that various efforts had been made on the arrival of
the army in the valley towns, and in various ways, to obtain an
acknowledgment of the spurious treaty, but without effect. Even the arms of
the people had been demanded, and, although they were actually required by
the farmers for the protection of their fields and stock from birds and
beasts of prey, in order to remove the smallest pretext for suspicion they
were forthwith given up. Some of our people were unable to understand why an
army should be sent among us while we were at perfect peace, to enforce the
stipulations of a treaty, which, if even obligatory, was not to be executed
for two years. Several arrests of men and women, as afterwards appeared,
were attributed to expressions of natural surprise upon this head. None of
these annoyances, however, produced any unfortunate result. The Cherokees,
though unwavering in their objections to the pretended treaty, remained and
will remain inoffensive and unresisting.
About four weeks after my return,
the nation was convened to receive the report of the delegation. The general
was invited to be present, with the troops under his command,—about five
hundred of the army attended. Just before the commencement of the
proceedings, while upon the platform, a package was placed in my hands,
addressed on the envelope to me, and on the inside to the Cherokee people.
It was a notice from General Wool communicating in substance the
determination of President Jackson that no alteration in the treaty would be
made by him, but that its stipulations should be scrupulously fulfilled.
This communication from General
Wool was publicly read and interpreted, and afterwards the paper called the
treaty was in like manner read and interpreted. The people were entirely
silent in relation to the former. They were then asked if they were disposed
to give their assent to the latter. They unanimously answered, No! and
insisted upon a new arrangement, alleging that the one exhibited to them had
been made with irresponsible, unauthorised individuals, and contained terms
and conditions distinctly at variance with their often and publicly
The nation having thus spontaneously and without
advice from their rulers, rejected this spurious treaty, and disclaimed it
as their act, it appeared to me the most prudent course to encourage them in
hoping for better things. It also occurred to me that if those of our
brethren who were already in the west, were to unite with us in endeavouring
to make the truth of the case known, our prospects of ultimately obtaining
justice would be improved. I also knew that this portion of the nation
considered the provisions of the treaty, under which they had emigrated and
received lands beyond the Mississippi in lieu of what was ceded in the east,
as seriously infringed by the document in question. I was further persuaded
that the reason assigned for our opposition to the arrangement, viz., our
distaste for Arkansas, could not be attributed to those who actually resided
there. With these impressions, I recommended the appointment of a delegation
to confer with our brethren in the vest, upon the propriety of sending a
joint embassy to Washington for the purpose of satisfying the government how
much they had been misinformed and deceived, and of making a definitive
arrangement upon terms acceptable to the nation. At the same time, I assured
the people that the treaties already recognised by both parties as existing
between them and the United States, would not be broken, and they might
confidently trust to that security for obtaining a fair and honest
adjustment of controversies, which was all they had ever desired.
The principal resolutions
consequent upon these explanations are the following:-
"Whereas, an instrument has been read and interpreted
to us, purporting to be a treaty made at New Echota, on the 29th of
December, 1835, by the Reverend John F. Sehermerhorn, commissioner of the
United States, and the chiefs, head men, and people of the Cherokee tribe of
Indians, ratified by the senate and approved by the president of the United
States;—and whereas, by the provisions of this instrument all the lands of
the Cherokees are ceded to the United States; the private improvements and
possessions of individuals unjustly alienated from their rightful owners;
the rights of the Cherokees as freemen wrested from the guardianship of
their legitimate representatives; and the management of their affairs placed
in the hands of individuals without responsibility, and under the control of
officers of the United States government :—and whereas the makers of said
compact, who are represented as acting on the part of the Cherokees, and who
assume the style of chiefs and head men, hold no such title or designation
from the Cherokees, nor have they received authority from the nation to form
"Resolvcd, therefore, by the chiefs, national
committee, and council, and the people of the Cherokee nation in general
council assembled, that the said instrument is null and void, and can never
in justice be enforced upon our nation ; and we do hereby solemnly disclaim
and utterly reject said instrument, in its principles and all its
"Resolved, That a respectful memorial to the
government of the United States, be prepared on behalf of the Cherokee
people, praying that the said instrument be set aside as a fraud upon the
government of the United States, and an act of oppression on the Cherokee
"Resolved, That a delegation be invested with full powers to represent the
Cherokee people before the government of the United States, to enter into
arrangements for the final adjustment of all their existing difficulties:
and be it further resolved, that the said delegation be, and they are hereby
instructed to confer with the Cherokees vest of the Mississippi, on the
subject of their acting in concert with us, in efforts to procure the
rescinding of said instrument, which in its provisions is calculated to
affect injuriously the interests and happiness of both parts of the Cherokee
"Resolved, That any irresponsible individuals,
assuming to themselves the power to act in the name of our nation, without
the authority of the same first legitimately obtained, will be deemed guilty
of infringing the prerogatives of the government and violating the rights of
the Cherokee people, who will assuredly never sanction such usurpation, nor
acquiesce in the doings of such people.
"Resolved, That in the course we
have adopted iii reference to the instrument in question, no departure from
the most respectful and friendly feelings towards the president, the
government, and the people of the United States is contemplated; but, on the
contrary, our determination is to maintain and cultivate those friendly
relations which have long subsisted between the government and people of the
United States and our own nation."
In addition to the resolutions as
here quoted, it was at the same tune determined, as no public business
remained to be transacted, to waive the general annual council, which in
course would have taken place a few days subsequently, (the second Monday in
October,) and thus avoid all pretence for charges of a disposition to keep
up agitation by public meetings. The paper from which I have made the
foregoing extract was signed by the chiefs, committee and council, and
people to the number of about two thousand two hundred and fifty-five male
On the 22d of September, 1S36, the chiefs, membes of the national committee
and council, wrote to General Wool, officially communicating the proceedings
of the meeting. They returned their thanks to him for the gentlemanly
deportment of himself and the troops under his command on the council
ground; and they respectfully asked for the restoration of the guns
previously surrendered, under the impression that sufficient evidence must
have been afforded him that no reasonable grounds for their detention
existed. I have not learned that the guns have even yet been returned to the
According to their instructions, the delegation proceeded to Arkansas. The
principal chief and authorities of the western Cherokees, convened a council
to assemble in eighteen days, at the council house at Tollunteeskey. On
calling at Fort Gibson we made known the objects of our visit to the agent,
Governor Stokes. After passing a few days with some of my friends, I
returned to fort Gibson, and was there privately apprised that an order had
been received for the arrest of myself and the other members of the
delegation. It was said that we were to he prosecuted under the intercourse
act of 1834, an act in no manner applicable to us, as Cherokees visiting
Cherokees, its object being confined to intruding citizens of the United
States. Nevertheless, I was advised not to appear at the council. To this
intimation I replied, that 1 could not allow myself to be deterred from the
plain course of duty, and that as I had nothing to conceal. I had nothing to
fear. The council met on the Sdi of December, 1836, and we attended. No
impediment was thrown in our way, and we heard no more of the order. Among
the resolutions adopted at this council were the following:—
"That the course adopted by the
general council of the Cherokee nation east, in regard to the instrument
aforesaid (the pretended treaty) is hereby approved, and inasmuch as said
instrument is equally objectionable to us, and will in its enforcenhent also
effect our best interests and happiness,
"Resolved, That a delegation he
and hereby are appointed to represent the Cherokee nation west, before the
government of the United States, and to co-operate with the delegation from
the east of the Mississippi, in their exertions to procure the rescinding of
the aforesaid instrument; and also with full powers to unite with the
delegation aforesaid in any treaty arrangement which they may enter into
with the government of the United States for the final adjustment of the
Cherokee difficulties, and to promote the advancement of the best interests
and happiness of the whole Cherokee people, and to do all things touching
the affairs of the Cherokees west for their welfare."
We departed with the members
appointed to serve upon this delegation, but the severity of the winter and
the obstruction of our route by the ice in the rivers, prevented our arrival
at Washington until the 9th of February, 1 S37, within a month of the close
of General Jackson's presidency. We attempted to obtain access to the
president, but we were denied an official interview with the president or
the secretary. We then memorialised the senate, which memorial was
presented, but owing-, the press of business, no opportunity occurred for
presenting that which we addressed to the house. Copies of our
correspondence with the department, and of our memorial, will he attached to
this communication, as will also other documents, which shall be presently
alluded to. In this memorial we exhibited an account of the treatment we had
experienced, and urged our claims in the most earnest and respectful manner.
We selected what we considered the strongest arguments in support of our
application. We adverted to the extraordinary and inexplicable change which
had taken place in the mode of receiving us and our appeals. Among other
things we said, "we have asked and we will reiterate the question—how have
we offended? Show us in what manner we have, however unwittingly, inflicted
upon you a wrong, you shall yourselves be the judges of the extent and
manner of compensation ; show us the offence which has awakened your
feelings of justice against us, and we will submit to that measure of
punishment which you shall tell us we have merited. We cannot bring to our
recollection any thing we have done or any thing we have omitted, calculated
to awaken your resentment against us."
All, however, was in vain. It may
be observed that our appeal to the senate was necessarily presented so late
in the session that we could not have been fully heard, whatever disposition
may have existed in that honourable body to give their full attention to our
the 4th of March Mr. Van Buren assumed the presidential chair. On the 16th
of March we addressed the new president, stating to him fully our position
and wishes, reviewing the circumstances which had occurred, and the hopes we
entertamed of receiving redress at his hands. We entreated the president to
examine for himself into the grounds upon which we rested our charge, that
the document called a treaty was fraudulent and equally an imposition upon
the United States and upon ourselves. We asked, "Will the government of the
United States claim the right to enforce a contract thus assailed by the
other nominal party to it? Will they refuse to examine into charges of such
grave import? Will they act in matters so momentous, irvolvin consequences
so awful, without enquiry?" Such an enquiry we earnestly courted, saying to
the president, We do not arrogate to ourselves so high a standing in your
estimation as to authorise us to ask that you will rely implicitly upon our
statements; but we have deceived ourselves most egregiously, if we have not
presented to the consideration of the government sufficient grounds to
induce hesitation and enquiry. You have at your command hundreds of
individuals to whom you may confide the duty of making the investigation
which we solicit. Select such as you can implicitly believe, associate with
them but a single individual to be appointed by us to direct to the sources
of information, and if we fitil to establish the truth of our allegations,
we shall no longer ask you to delay exercising your power in the enforcement
of your rights. Should it, however, appear from such investigation that this
instrument has been made without authority, that it meets with the almost
unanimous reprobation of our nation, that you have been deceived by false
information, we cannot and we will not believe, that under its colour, and
under the sanction of those principles of justice which impose an obligation
faithfully to perform our contracts and our promises, we shall be forced to
submit to its iniquitous provisions.
We concluded our earnest
supplication with three specific propositions,—
First. That the president would
enter into a negotiation with us, as the duly authorised and regularly
accredited representatives of the Cherokees in reference to every matter
mutually interesting to the United States and the Cherokee nation.
Second. To have a full and
impartial examination of all means of information, for the purpose of
ascertaining whether the Cherokee nation, in conformity with its political
institutions and forms, long recognised by the United States, ever
authorised the execution of the instrument signed at New Echota, and the
additional articles signed at Washington, or ever gave them their sanction
and ratification ; or,
Third. That the instrument in question be now
submitted for approval or rejection to the free and unbiased choice of the
To this communication we received for answer, from Mr.
Secretary Poinsett, on the 24th, of March, that the president regarded
himself as bound to carry into effect all the stipulations of the document
in question, because it had been ratified according to the forms prescribed
by the constitution, under a full knowledge of the considerations now urged
against it, and must therefore be considered as the supreme law of the land.
This being the case, he added that the second and third propositions could
not be entertained, because they would involve an admission that the treaty
was incomplete. In answer to the first proposition, we were promised a
candid examination of any measure we should suggest, if not inconsistent
with, or in contravention of, the determination to enforce the treaty
against which we had protested.
It is due to Mr. Secretary
Poinsett to say, that in accordance with his professions, every courtesy was
extended to us in our intercourse with him. It may not be amiss, however, at
this time to make one or two observations, upon the grounds taken by the
government, and upon which it appears to have finally resolved to act.
In the first place it appears to
its an extraordinary ground, that because a treaty has actually been made
which the one party deems to be of perfect obligation upon both, that
therefore no further official intth'course shall take place between the
parties. It is obvious that the instrument in question is ambiguous, and of
doubtful construction, and it is well known that objections have been made
to it on behalf of the Western Cherokees, who think, and we think justly,
that it most seriously impairs their rights, although we believe it has not
Vet been assumed that they are bound by its provisions, having not, thus
far, at least, been considered as parties to it. There are questions still
open between the parties, which, under any view of the case, it appears to
us, can only be settled by negotiation and further treaty-
Secondly. It strikes us as equally
extraordinary that because our avowed object was to make a treaty which
should annul the provisions of this spurious compact, no negotiations would
be opened with us. Had such a ground ever been presumed to present an
obstacle to negotiation, why was it not discovered when the treaty of
Holston, and every succeeding treaty ever formed with us, was under
consideration. The stipulations of each and every of them, abrogate to a
greater or less extent those which preceded it. How insuperably might it
have been urged against the pretended treaty itself which professes to annul
and abrogate pre-existing treaties, to annihilate public and private rights
held under its sanction.
Thirdly. The idea that the ratification of the senate,
under the circumstances, had at all impaired the rights of either party, is
equally incomprehensible. It was the act of one party alone. It was an act
required by the constitution of the United States to give legal effect to a
compact, which, until that was consummated, was inchoate and imperfect. But
if no treaty had in fact ever been signed, if the instrument was in truth
fraudulent or unauthorised, we are not aware that the action of the senate
could make that valid which before was void, could impose any obligation
upon us who were not previously bound. Indeed, if this doctrine be true to
the extent it has been pressed, the Cherokee nation, or even their
self-constituted representatives, need never have been consulted or their
signatures obtained. The president himself might, of his own mere motion,
dictate the terms of a treaty to the senate, and by the ratification of that
body it becomes binding Upon all who never saw or assented to it.
Fourth. But this doctrine, which
we candidly confess to be beyond our comprehension; does not seem to our
feeble intellects to have any bearing upon the question. For surely, if the
president and senate are empowered to negotiate and make our treaties for
us, without our assent or knowledge, it does not seem very clear how this
power, in this particular so unlimited, can be prevented from at least
listening to our objections, and at their good pleasure substituting one
less offensive, if they please.
Fifth. In what we asked, we
considered ourselves as calling upon the executive to do what it had once
done under similar circumstances, and what, had it been prevailed upon to do
in another, would have saved the expenditure of blood 4nd treasure recently
lavished in Florida. We do not pretend to be very profoundly versed in
constitutional law, or in the diplomatic history of the Union, but we well
know, that on the 12th of February, 1825, a treaty was executed between the
United States and our neighbours, the Creeks, at the Indian Springs, which
was duly ratified by the senate. We know that this treaty was disavowed by
the Creek nation, and that circumstances occurred which produced bloodshed
and threatened the most serious consequences. We know that that instrument
was signed by individuals actually holding the situations among the Indians
which they professed to hold, but that upon the allegation that they had
acted without competent authority, and after the ratification by the senate,
the then executive received and listened to the remonstrances of the nation,
opened a new negotiation, executed a new treaty, which was submitted to the
senate and received the ratification of that body. This last treaty, which
may be found in the seventh volume of the laws of the United States (p.
782), contains this remarkable preamble.
Whereas a treaty was concluded at
the Indian Springs, on the 12th day of February last, between commissioners
on the part of the United States and a portion of the Creek nation, by which
an extensive district of country was ceded to the United States :-
"And whereas a great majority of the chiefs and
warriors of the said nation have protested against the execution of the said
treaty, and have represented that the same was signed on their part by
persons having no sufficient authority to form treaties or to make cessions,
and that the stipulations in said treaty are therefore wholly void:-
whereas the United States are unwilling that
difficulties should exist in the said nation which may eventually lead to an
intestine war, and are still more unwilling that any cessions of land should
be made to them, unless with the fair understanding and full extent of the
tribe making such cession, and for a just and adequate consideration, it
being the policy of the United States in all their intercourse with the
Indians, to treat them justly and liberally, as becomes the relative
situation of the parties."
Such was the preamble of the treaty of January 24th,
1S26: the first article of which declared the previous treaty to be "null
and void to every intent and purpose whatever, and every right and claim
arising from the same is hereby cancelled and surrendered."
These were historical facts with
which we were familiar, and we had not been informed what had occurred since
that period to prevent a similar action, under circumstances not similar
only, because the case more imperatively demanded such action. We could not
understand why the Creeks should be relieved from the burthen of an unjust
and illegal because unauthorised compact, and we should be held to one even
more destitute of any semblance of authority. We could not understand why if
President Adams possessed the constitutional power to negotiate such an
arrangement as we have just adverted to, how or why President Jackson or
President Van Buren would transcend their legitimate functions by
instituting an enquiry into the truth of our allegations, and laying the
result of such investigation before the congress of the United States. Nor
could we comprehend what there was so irregular or improper in our requests
as to furnish a reason for debarring us from our accustomed official
intercourse with the president or war department.
Here, therefore, rests our case at
present. You will perceive that our only object has been to obtain a fair
arrangement upon terms which our nation can approve, to be negotiated with
persons whom they have authorised to act on their behalf. Our object has
been an honest one and sincerely expressed. We had hoped that the government
of the United States would listen to our representations. We know that they
had been led by similar false suggestions and fraudulent devices into the
expenditure of four times the amount of money in attempting to settle their
differences with the Indians by force of arms, which would have sufficed to
accomplish all their desires without exasperation of feeling and without
bloodshed. We asked that an instrument should not be called a treaty
obligatory upon us, to which we never yielded directly or by implication,
any, assent. We asked that if we were to be driven from our homes and our
native country, we should not also be denounced as treaty breakers, but have
at least the consolation of being recognised as the unoff ending,
unresisting Indian, despoiled of his property, driven from his domestic
fireside, exiled from his home, by the mere dint of superior power. We ask
that deeds shall be called by their right names.
We distinctly disavow all
thoughts, all desire, to gratify any feelings of resentment. That
possessions acquired, and objects attained by unjust and unrighteous means,
will, sooner or later, prove a curse to those who have thus sought them, is
a truth we have been taught by that holy religion which was brought to us by
our white brethren. Years, nay, centuries may elapse before the punishment
may follow the offence, but the volume of history and the sacred Bible
assure us, that the period will certainly arrive. We would with Christian
sympathy labour to avert the wrath of heaven from the United States, by
implor.ing your government to be just. The first of your ancestors who
visited as strangers the land of the Indian, professed to be apostles of
Christ, and to be attracted by a desire to extend the blessings of his
religion to the ignorant native. Thousands among you still proclaim the same
noble and generous interest in our welfare; but will the untutored savage
believe the white man's professions, when he feels that by his practices lie
has become an outcast and an exile? Can he repose with confidence in the
declarations of philanthropy and universal charity, when he sees the
professors of the religion which lie is invited to embrace, the foremost in
acts of oppression and of outrage?
Most sincerely and ardently do we
pray that the noble example of 'William Penn may be more generally followed,
and that the rich rewards which attended his exertions may be showered upon
the heads of those who, like him, never outraged the rights or despoiled the
property of the Indian. To such, among their highest earthly comforts, and
among the assurances of still higher enjoyments hereafter, will be the
blessing and prayer of the friendless native.
I have the honour to be, sir, most
IN ILLUSTRATION OF, OR REFERRED TO IN, THE FOREGOING
Proceedings of the Cherokee Nation in General Council—assembled at
Red Clay, September 5th, 1830.
Whereas: an instrument has been
read and interpreted to us, purporting to be a treaty made at New Echota, on
the 29th day of December, 1835, by the Rev. John F. Schermerhorn,
commissioner of the United States, and the chiefs, headmen, and people of
the Cherokee tribe of Indians: ratified by the senate and approved by the
president of the United States. And whereas: by the provisions of this
instrument, all the lands of the Cherokees are ceded to the United States;
the private improvements and possessions of individuals unjustly alienated
from their rightful owners: the rights of the Cherokees as freemen wrested
from the guardianship of their legitimate representatives, and the
management of their affairs placed in the hands of individuals without
responsibility and under the crontrol of officers of the United States
government: and whereas, the makers of said compact, who are represented as
acting on the part of the Cherokees, and who assume the style of chiefs and
headmen, hold no such title, or designation from the Cherokees, nor have
they received authority from the nation to form said instrument—
Resolved, therefore, by the chiefs, national
committee, and council, and the people of the Cherokee nation in General
Council assembled: that the said instru. memmt is null and void, and can
never, in justice, be enforced upon our nation. And we do hereby solemnly
disclaim and utterly reject said instrument in its principles and all its
Resolved: that a respectful memorial to the government
of the United States be prepared on behalf of the Cherokee people, praying
that the said instrument be set aside, as a fraud upon the government of the
United States, and an act of oppression on the Cherokee people.
Resolved: that a delegation,
consisting of John Ross, principal chief, Richard Taylor, Samuel Gunter,
George Sanders, Walter S. Adair, John Benge, Stephen Foreman, and James
Brown, be invested with full powers to represent the Chero. kee people
before the government of the United States: to cuter into arrangements for
the final adjustment of all their existing difficulties.
And be it further resolved: that
the said delegation be, and they are hereby, instructed to confer with the
Cherokees west of the Mississippi, on the subject of their acting in concert
with us in our efforts to procure the rescinding of said instrument: which
in its provisions is calculated to affect injuriously the interests and
happiness of both parts of the Cherokee family.
Resolved: that any irresponsible
individuals, assuming to themselves the power to act in the name of our
nation, without the authority of the same first legitimately obtained, will
be deemed guilty of infringing the prerogatives of the government, and
violating the rights of the Cherokee people, who will assuredly never
sanction such usurpation, nor acquiesce in the doings of such persons.
Resolved: that in the course we
have adopted, in reference to the instrument in question, no departure from
the most respectful and friendly feelings towards the president, the
government, and the people of the United States is contemplated. But, on the
contrary, our determination is to maintain and to cultivate those friendly
relations which have long subsisted between the government and people of the
United States and our nation.
And be it further resolved, by the committee and
council aforesaid, with the concurrence of the people of the Cherokee
nation, in General Council assembled, that, in compliance with a Jaw of
congress, which directs that Indian annuities shall be paid to the chiefs or
such persons as the tribe shall appoint; the aforesaid delegation,
consisting of John Ross, principal chief, Richard Taylor, Samuel Gunter,
George Sanders, Walter S. Adair, John Benge, Stephen Foreman, and James
Brown, be, and they are hereby, authorised under the direction of John
Martin, the treasurer of the Cherokee nation, to apply to the government of
the United States, or to the proper officers thereof, and to receive all
sums of money due to said Cherokee nation cast of the Mississippi, from the
United States, and to receipt fbr the same, for, and on account of the said
Resolved: that the doings of the general council, now
assembled, render the meeting of the national committee and council, on the
second Monday in October next, inexpedient. The said meeting is, therefore,
hereby dispensed with.
Red Clay Council Ground, Cherokee Nation East, Sept.
Signed by the chiefs, committee and council, and
people, to the number of about 2,245 male adults, and the following memorial
annexed under their authority, to wit:
To the Honourable the Senate and House of
Representatives of the United States of America.
Most respectfully and most humbly
showeth: that your memorialists, the chiefs, national committee and council,
and people, of the Cherokee nation, in general council assembled, solicit
permission to approach your honourable bodies, under circumstances peculiar
in the history of nations; circumstances of distress and anxiety beyond our
power to express. We earnestly bespeak your patience, therefore, while we
lay before you a brief epitome of our griefs.
It is well known, that for a
number of years past, we have been harassed by a series of vexations, which
it is deemed unnecessary to recite, in detail; but the evidence of which our
delegation will be prepared to furnish.
With a view to bringing our
troubles to a close, a delegation was appointed on the 3d of October, 1835,
by the general council of the nation: clothed with full powers to enter into
arrangements with the government of the United States, for the final
adjustment of all our existing difficulties. The delegation failing to
effect an arrangement with the United States commissioner, then in the
nation, proceeded, agreeably to their instructions, in that ease, to
Washington city, for the purpose of negotiating a treaty with the
authorities of the United States.
After the departure of the
delegation, a contract was made by the Rev. John F. Sehermerhorn and certain
individual Cherokees, purporting to be a "Treaty, concluded at New Echota,
in the state of Georgia, on the 9th day of December, 1835, by General
William Carroll and John F. Schcrmcrhorn, commissioners on the part of the
United States, and the chiefs, headmen, and people, of the Cherokee tribe of
Indians." A spurious delegation, in violation of a special injunction of the
general council of the nation, proceeded to Washington city, with this
pretended treaty; and by false and fraudulent representations, supplanted in
the favour of the government, the legal and accredited delegation of the
Cherokee people; and obtained for this instrument, after making important
alterations in its provisions, the recognition of the United States
government. And now it is presented to us as a treaty, ratified by the
senate and approved by the president, and our acquiescence in its
requirements demanded under the sanction of the displeasure of the United
States, and the threat of summary compulsion in case of refusal. It comes to
us, not through our legitimate authorities, the known and usual medium of
communication between the government of the United States and our nation,
but through the agency of a complication of powers, civil and military.
By the stipulations of this
instrument, we are despoiled of our private posses. sions, the indefeasible
property of individuals. We are stripped of every attribute of freedom and
eligibility for legal self-defence. Our property may be plundered before our
eyes. Violence may be committed on our persons: even our lives may be taken
away and there is none to regard our complaints. We are denationalised! We
are disfranchised! We are deprived of membership in the h&iman family! We
have neither land nor lionic nor resting place that can be called our own.
And this is effected by the provisions of a compact which assumes the
venerated, the sacred appellation of Treaty. We arc overwhelmed! Our hearts
are sickened! Our utterance is paralised, when we reflect on the condition
in which we are placed by the audacious practices of unprincipled men; who
have managed their stratagems with so nineli dexterity as to impose on the
government of the United States, in the face of our earnest, solemn, and
The instrument in question, is not the act of our
nation. We are not parties to its covenants. It has not received the
sanction of our people. The makers of it sustain no office or appointment in
our nation, under the designation of chiefs, headmen, or any other title, by
which they hold or could acquire authority to assume the reins of
government, and to make bargain and sale of our rights, our possessions, and
our common country. And we, are constrained, solemnly, to declare, that we
cannot but contemplate the enforcement of the stipulations of this
instrument on us, against our consent, as an act of injustice and
oppression, which we are well persuaded can never knowingly be countenanced
by the government and people of the United States; nor can we believe it to
be the design of those honourable and high-minded individuals, who stand at
the head f the government, to bind a whole nation by the acts of a few
unauthorised individuals. And, therefore, we, time parties to be affected by
the result, appeal with confidence to the justice, the magnanimity, the
compassion of your honour-.able bodies, against the enforcement on us of the
provisions of a compact, in the formation of which we have had no agency.
In truth, our cause is your own,
it is the cause of liberty and of justice. It is based upon your own
principles, which we have learned f'rom yourselves; for we have gloried to
count your 'Washington and your Jefferson our great teachers. We have read
'their communications to us with veneration. We have practised their
precepts with success. And the result is manifest. The wilderness of forest
has given place to comfortable dwellings and cultivated fields—stocked with
the various domestic animals. Mental culture, industrious habits, and
domestic enjoyments, have succeeded the rudeness of the savage state. We
have learned your religion also. We have read your sacred books. Hundreds of
our people have embraced their doctrines, practised the virtues they teach,
cherished the hopes they awaken, and rejoiced in the consolations which they
afford. To the spirit of your institutions and your religion which has been
imbibed by our community, is mainly to be ascribed that patient endurance
which has characterised the conduct of our people under the lacerations of
their keenest woes. For, assuredly, we are not ignorant of our condition: we
are not insensible to our sufferings. We feel them! We groan under their
pressure! And anticipation crowds our breasts with sorrows yet to come.
We are, indeed, an afflicted
people! Our spirits are subdued! Despair has well nigh seized upon our
energies! But we speak to the representatives of a Christian country; the
friends of justice; the patrons of the oppressed. And our hopes revive, and
our prospects brighten, as we indulge the thought. On your sentence our fate
is suspended. Prosperity or desolation depends on your word. To you,
therefore, we look! Before your august assembly we present ourselves, in the
attitude of deprecation and of entreaty. On your kindness, on your humanity,
on your compassions, on your benevolence, we rest our hopes. To you we
address our reiterated prayers. Spare our people! Spare the wreck of our
prosperity! Let not our deserted homes become the monuments of desolations!
But we forbear! We suppress the agonies which wring our hearts, when we look
at our wives, our children, and our venerable sires! We restrain the
forebodings of anguish and distress, of misery and devastation and death,
which must be the attendants on the execution of this ruinous compact.
In conclusion, we commend to your
confidence and favour our well beloved and trustworthy brethren and fellow
citizens, John Ross, principal chief, Richard Taylor, Samuel Gunter, John
Benge, George Sanders, Walter S. Adair, Stephen Foreman, and James Brown,
who arc clothed with full powers to adjust all our existing difficulties, by
treaty arrangements with the United States, by which our destruction may he
averted, impediments to the advancement of our people removed, and our
existence perpetuated as a living monument, to testier to posterity the
honour, the magnanimity, the generosity of the United States. And your
memorialists, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Copy of a letter from the
authorities of the Cherokee Nation to Brigadier General John E Wool,
September 80th 1836.
RED CLAY COUNCIL GROUND, CHEROKEE NATION, Sept. 30,
Brigadier General John. E. Wool, commanding U. S. A. in Cherokee Nation.
SIR—The undersigned ehiofs and
representatives of the Cherokee people, beg leave to address you as the
commanding General, entrusted with the execution of the orders of the
president of the United States, concerning the instrument purporting to be a
treaty between the United States and the Cherokee nation east of the
Mississippi; and have the honour to state that your communication of the
19th inst. to the Cherokee people respecting your instructions on the
subject, was promptly read and interpreted to them in general council
assembled. The result of their deliberations, and the expression of
sentiments adopted by upwards of twenty-one hundred male adults on this
occasion, the undersigned would also most respectiilly communicate through
you to the government of the United States, to wit: the chiefs, national
committee and council, and the people of the Cherokee nation, in general
council assembled, have resolved, that tile instrument purporting to be a
treaty made at New Eehota, on the 29th day of December, 1835, by John F.
Schermnerhorn, commissioner of the United States, and the chiefs, headmen,
and people of the Cherokee tribe of Indians, is a fraud upon the government
of the United States and an act of oppression on the Cherokee people—that
those who are represented as acting on the part of the Cherokees, and who
assume the style of 11 Chiefs and headmen," hold no such title or
designation from the Cherokees, nor have they received authority from the
nation to form said instrument. Therefore said instrument is null and void,
and can never in justice be enforced upon the nation, as they do most
solemnly disclaim and utterly reject said instrument in its principles and
all its provisions: that a respectful memorial to the government of the
United States be prepared on behalf of the Cherokee people, praying that the
said instrument may be set aside; that a delegation, consisting of John
Ross, principal chief, Richard Taylor, Samuel Gunter, George Sanders, Walter
S. Adair, John Benge, James Brown, and Stephen Foreman, be and are appointed
with full power to represent the Cherokee people before the government of
the United States, and to enter into arrangements for the final adjustment
of all their existing difficulties. That this delegation are instructed to
confer with the Cherokees west of the Mississippi, on the subject of their
acting for time interests and happiness of tile whole Cherokee family ;—that
any irresponsible individuals, assuming to themselves the power to act in
the name of the nation, without authority first legitimately obtained, will
be deemed guilty of infringing the prerogatives of the nation, and violating
the rights of the Cherokee people, who will assuredly never sanction such
usurpation, nor acquiesce in tile doings of such persons. That in the course
they have adopted, in reference to the instrument in question, no departure
from the most respectful and friendly feelings towards the president, the
government, and people of the United States is contemplated. But, on the
contrary, their determination is, to maintain and cultivate those friendly
relations which have long subsisted between the government and people of the
United States and their nation. That in compliance with a law of congress,
which directs that "Indian annuities shall be paid to the chiefs or such
person as the tribe shall appoint." The above-named delegation have been
antiiorised and appointed to receive from the proper officers of the
government of the United States, all sums of money due the Cherokee nation
east of the Mississippi, and to receipt for the same for and on account of
the said Cherokee nation. That the doings of the general council, now
assembled, render tile meeting of the committee and council on the second
Monday in October next, inexpedient, and said meeting is therefore dispensed
In thus frankly communicating the sentiments of the Cherokee people, and the
doings of the general council, the undersigned beg leave to reassure you,
that they are actuated from the purest motives and the most friendly
feelings towards the public functionaries and the private citizens of the
United States—that the only hope of the Cherokees for a further hearing from
the government on the subject of their grievances, and for a more
satislhctory and final adjustment of their existing difficulties, rests on
the justice of their case, and the tin-remitting confidence entertained in
the good faith, magnanimity, and justice of the president and the congress
of the United States; and to realise which they desire, that the whole truth
may be fairly stated respecting the manner and circumstances under which the
instrument complained of was negotiated, and that the same may be fully
understood and impartially investigated.
The Cherokees are deeply sensible
of their peculiar and dependent situation, consequently they are not
ignorant that their very existence as a people, is at the mercy of the
United States, and subject to their will and pleasure. Their course is
plain, and has ever been directed in the path of peace and friendship—though
not influenced by the dastardly feelings of fear, but by those pleasing ties
of confidence and social relations which have so long and so happily
subsisted between them and their white brethren. Much may be said by way of
objections in detail of the instrument in question, but it is deemed
unnecessary. The natural interests and welfare of the whole Cherokee family,
those in the east as well as those in the vest, would require that, in any
final arrangement, their approbation should be equally consulted, in order
that harmony among themselves may be ensured; policy as well as common
justice would seem to require this.
In conclusion, will you please to
permit us to state, that, in compliance with the desire of the Cherokees of
the Valley Towns, it is respectfully asked that their guns may now be
restored to them, which have been surrendered up in compliance with your
orders; as it is to be hoped there will not be found any necessity for
retaining them longer.
The undersigned beg you to accept their cordial thanks
and sincere regard for your honourable course in the discharge of your
military duties here, and also for the gentlemanly deportment of the
officers, and the orderly conduct of the soldiers under your command, during
the sitting of the general council.
With great respect, they have the
honour to be, sir,
obedient, humble servants,
John Ross, Principal Chief; George Laury, Assistant
Principal Chief; Richard Taylor, Pres. N. Corn.; Thomas Foreman, George
Still, James Hawkins, Nahoolahi, John F. Bald-ridge, Old Fields, Hair
Conrad, Chunooleheskec, James D. Woflord; Stephen Foreman, Clerk of N. Corn.
Going Snake, Speaker, N. Council;
Archibald Campbell, The Bark, Chunuhgee, Young Glass, Sleeping Rabbit, John
Watts, James Spears, Sittewakee, Charles, Chuwalookee, John Wayne, White
Path, John Otterfighter, So;t-Shell Turtle, Bean Stick, Walking Stick,
Taquoh, Money Crier; Jesse Busheyhead, Clerk of N. Council.
GENERAL ORDER.—No. 74.
HEAD-QUARTERS, Aanv E. T. & C. N. FoRT CASs, Nov. 3d,
am instructed by the President of the United States, through the War
Department, to make known to Mr. John Ross-, and all others whom it may
concern, that it is his determination to have the late Treaty, entered into
between the United States and the Cherokee People, and ratified by the
Senate, the 25th May, 1836, "religiously fulfilled in all its parts, terms
and conditions, within the period prescribed," and that "no delegation which
may be sent" to Washington "with a view to obtain new terms, or a
modification of those of the existing treaty, will be received or
recognised, nor will any intercourse be had with them, directly or
indirectly, orally or in writing;" and that the President regards the
proceedings of Mr. Ross and his associates in the late Council held at Red
Clay, "as in direct contravention of the plighted faith of their people, and
a repetition of them will be considered as indicative of a desigu to prevent
the execution of the Treaty, even at the hazard of actual hostilities, and
they will be promptly repressed."
It is further made known by
instructions from the War Department, that "if any of our citizens enter the
Cherokee country and incite opposition to the execution of the treaty,"
"they will be proceeded against according to the laws of the State, if any
exist on the subject, in which they may enter;" and if there should be "no
law of the State which can be brought to bear on them, and under which they
may be removed," "it is the opinion of the President," as expressed through
the War Department, "that they may be removed" out of the country, "under
the 6th article of the treaty," in which the United States guarantee that
the Cherokees shall be "protected against interruption and intrusion from
citizens of the United States who may attempt to settle in the country,"
unless it is with the express consent "of the Committee who are acting under
the 12th Article of the Treaty, and by the terms of that Article they alone
are authorised to give it."
All officers of the Army, whether commanding
Volunteers or Regular Troops, under my command, are required and directed to
make known to all persons residing, or who may come within the range of
their respective commands, the contents of this order. And to make diligent
search and enquiry in regard to all citizens who may enter the Cherokee
country, and incite opposition or interfere with the due execution of the
treaty, and report their names and places of residence without delay, to
General Head Quarters, in order that they may be proceeded against,
according to the laws of the country, and the instructions of the President
of the United States. They are also required and directed to prevent all
meetings and to break up all Councils coming to their knowledge, assembled
in the Cherokee country, for the purpose of opposing the treaty, or
discussing its non-execution.
JOHN E. WOOL, Brigadier General Commmanding.
Credentials, 4.C. of the Uterokee
Deh.gates from the Western Chero.kees—A Copy—(the original in the Office of
Indian Affairs). 18th December, 1836.
Whereas, the instrument purporting
to be a treaty made at New Eehota, on the 2Jth day of December, 1835, by
Gen. Vim. Carroll and John F. Schermer-horn, commissioners on the part of
the United States, and the chiefs, headmen and people of the Cherokee tribe
of Indians, ceding to the United States all the lands owned, claimed or
possessed by the Cherokee nation, east of the river Mississippi, and
providing for their removal to the country designated and set apart for the
Cherokees, west, under former treaties: And, whereas, the cliief, national
committee and council, and the people of the Cherokee nation, east, in
general council, assembled at Red Clay, on the 28th of September, 1836, have
solemnly declared, that the makers of said compact, who are represented as
acting on the part of the Cherokees, and who assume the style of chiefs and
headmen, hold no such title or designation from the Cherokees, nor have they
received authority from the nation to form said instrument: And, therefore,
disclaim and utterly reject the same in its principles and all its
And, whereas, a delegation have been appointed to make
a respectful memorial to the government of the United States, in behalf of
the Cherokee people, praying that the said instrument be set aside as a
fraud upon time government of the United States, and an act of oppression on
the Cherokee people; and invested with full powers to enter into
arrangements for the final adjustment of all their difficulties.
And, whereas, said delegation
have, in pursuance of their instructions, conferred with us on the subject
of our acting in concert with them in their efforts to procure the
rescinding of said instrument, which, in its provisions, is calculated to
affiet, injuriously, the interests and happiness of both parts of the
Therefore, Resolved, by the chiefs, committee and
council of the Cherokee nation, west of the Mississippi river, in council
assembled, that time course adopted by the general council of the Cherokee
nation, east, in regard to the instrument aforesaid, is hereby approved—and,
inasmuch as said instrument being equally objectionable to us, and will, in
its enforcement, also affect our best interests and happiness—
Resolved, That a delegation,
consisting of John Looney, third chief, John Dun, Joseph Vann, Aaron Price,
and Dutch, be, and they are hereby appointed to represent the Cherokee
nation, west, before the government of the United States, and to co-operate
with the delegation from the cast of time Mississippi, consisting of John
Ross, Samuel Gunter, James Brown, John Binge, George Sanders and others, in
their exertions to procure the rescinding of the aforesaid instrument; and
also, with full powers to unite with the delegation aforesaid, in any treaty
arrangement which they may enter into with the government of the United
States, for the final adjustment of time Cherokee difficulties, and to
promote the advancement of the best interests and happiness of the whole
Cherokee people; and to do all things touching the affairs of the Cherokees,
west, for their welfare.
Be it further Resolved, That time delegation aforesaid
be, and they are hereby authorised to receive from the chiefs all the public
moneys in their hands, to defray their expenses; and also to draw on time
government of the United States for the annuities, or such other sums of
money as may be necessary to defray the expenses of said delegation.
Cherokee Council House,
Toiluntusky, west of the river Mississippi, Dec. 8th, 1836.—
Signed by the Committee and
Council of the Cherokee nation, west.
GEORGE GUESS, his X mark. DUTCH,
his X mark.
his X mark. CnARLE5 CAMPBELL, his k mark.
AARON PRICE, his X mark. JAMES CAREY, his X mark.
JOHN RoGERs, his X mark. GEORGE BREWER, his X mark.
WILLIAM ELDERS, his X mark. CLIMBING BEAR, his X mark.
CHARLES ROGERS, his X mark.
JOHN DREW.his X mark.
PULLUM, his X mark.
Approved and signed by the chiefs of the Western
JOHN JOLLY, his X mark, 1st chief.
JOHN Baowx, 2d chief.
JOHN LOONEY, his X mark, 3d chief.
The Cherokee Delegation to the
Honourable Secretary of War, 13th February, 1837.
WASHINGTON CITY, at Mrs.
Arguelles', Feb. 13, 1837. Hon. B. F. Butler, Secretary of War.
Sir—The undersigned delegates, duly authorised, and
representing the Cherokee nation east and west of the Mississippi, present
their compliments to the Hon. Secretary, and beg leave, through his
department, to notify the government of their arrival in the city, on
business relative to the interests of the whole Cherokee people, and will be
happy to do themselves the honour of paying their personal respects to the
Honourable Secretary, and His Excellency the President, at such time as may
be convenient and their pleasure to designate.
Very respectfully, your obedient
JOHN Ross, DUTCH, his X mark.
JOHN LOONEY, his X mark. SAMUEL GUNTER, his X, mark.
R. TAYLOR, JOHN BENGE, his X mark.
AARON PRICE, his X mark. GEORGE SANDERS, his X mark.
JAMES BRoWN, W. S. COODEY.
The Cherokee Delegation to the
Honourable Secretary of War, 22d February, 1837.
WASHINGTON CITY, February 22d,
1837. Hon. Benj. F. Butler, Secretary of War, ad interim.
Sir—The undersigned, a delegation duly authorised by
and representing the Cherokee nation on the cast and vest of the
Mississippi, did themselves the honour, on their arrival at this city, to
apprise you of the circumstance in the same manner that they have been
accustomed to do. To their note of the 13th inst. they have not yet received
an anwser. May we be again permitted to bring the matter to your notice, and
to inform you, that, in addition to other matters to viiieh their powers
extend, and which are very comprehensive, they are especially charged with
the subject of the money payable to the nation.
We have the honour to be, sir,
JOHN ROSS, DUTCH, his X mark.
JOHN LOONEY, his X mark. JOHN BENGE, his X mark
H. TAYLOR, GEORGE SANDERS, his X mark.
AARON PRICE, his X mark. W. S. CHODEY.
The Memorial and Petition of the
Cherokee Delegation to the Senate and House of Representatives in congress
assembled, February 22d, 1837.
To the Honourable the Senate and
House of Representatives of the United States, in Congress assembled.
The memorial and petition of the
undersigned, a delegation appointed by the Cherokee nation in full council,
That the Cherokee nation, deeply sensible of the evils
under which they are now labouring, and the still more frightful miseries
which they have too much reason to apprehend, have, in the most formal and
solemn manner known to them, assembled in general council, to deliberate
upon their existing relations with the government of the United States, and
to lay their ease with respectful deference before your honourable bodies.
Invested with full powers to
conclude an arrangement upon all the matters which interest them, we have
arrived at the seat of government, and in accord. ance with our usual forms
of proceeding, have notified the honourable tile secretary of war that we
had reached this place, and through him solicited an interview with the
executive. This request has not yet been granted, nor has it to this day
received an official answer; but we have reason to apprehend, from
circumstances which have reached us, that we shall be denied this
application, and are thus compelled, in the discharge of our duty to our
constituents, to submit to your honourable bodies the memorial of which we
are title bearers.
On former occasions we have in much detail laid before
you the prominent facts of our ease. We have reminded you of our long and
intimate connection with the United States, of the scenes of peril and of
difficulty which we have shared in common; of the friendship winch had so
long been generously proffered and affectionately and gratefully accepted;
of the aids which were supplied us in promoting our advancement in the arts
of civilised life; of the political principles which we had imbibed, of the
religious faith we have been taught.
We have called your attention to
the progress which, under your auspices, we have made; to tile improvements
which have marked our social and individual state; our huids brought into
cultivation, our natural resources developed, our farms, work-shops, and
factories approximating in character and value to those of our brethren
whose example we had diligently imitated.
A smooth and beautiful prospect of
future advancement was open before us. Our people had abandoned the
pursuits, time habits and the tastes of the savage, and had put on the
vestments of civilisation, of intelligence, and of a pure religion. The
progress we had made furnished its with the most assured hopes of continued
improvement, and we indulged in the anticipation, that the time was not far
distant when we should be recognised on the footing of equality by the
brethren from whom we had received all which we were now taught to prise.
This promise of a golden sunshine
is now overspread. Clouds and darkness have obscured its brilliancy. The
winds are beginning to mutter their awful forebodings; the tempest is
gathering thick and heavy over our heads, and threatens to burst upon us
with terrific energy and overwhelming ruin.
In this season of calamity where
can we turn with hope or confidence? On all former occasions of peril or of
doubt, the government of the United States spread over us its broad and
paternal shield. It invited us to seek an asylum and a protection under its
mighty arm. It assisted us with its encouragement and advice; it soothed us
with its consoling asuranccs; it inspired us with hope, and gave us a
feeling of co;fidcncc and security.
But, alas! this, our
long-cherished friend, seems now to be alienated from us: this our father,
has raised his arm to inflict the hostile blow this strength, se long our
protection, is now exerted against us, and on the wide scene of existence no
human aid is let us, Unless you avert your arm we are destroyed. Unless your
feelings of affliction and compassion are once more awakened towards your
destitute and despairing children, our annihilation is complete.
It is a natural enquiry among all
who commiserate our situation, what are the causes which have led to this
disastrous revolution,—to this entire change of relations'! By what agency
have such results been accomplished?
We have asked, and we reiterate
the question, how have we offended? Show us in what manner we have, however
unwittingly, inflicted upon you a wrong; you shall yourselves be the judges
of the extent and manner of compensation. Show us the offence which has
awakened your feelings of justice against us, and we will submit to that
measure of punishment which you shall tell us we have merited. We cannot
bring to our recollections any thing we have done, or any thing we have
omitted calculated to awaken your resentment against us.
But we are told that a treaty has
been made, and all that is required at our hands is to comply with its
stipulations. Will the faithful historian, who shall hereafter record our
lamentable fate, say the Cherokee nation executed a treaty by which they
freely and absolutely ceded the country in which they were born and
educated,—the property they had been industriously accumulating and
improving,—aun, abandoning the high road by which they had been advancing
from savagism, had precipitated themselves into worse than their pristine
degradation? Will not the reader of such a narrative require the most ample
proof before he will credit such a story? Will lie not enquire where was the
kind and parental guardian who had heretofore aided the weak, assisted time
forlorn, instructed the ignorant, and elevated the depressed? Where was the
government of the United States with its vigilant care over the Indian when
such a bargain was made? How will lie be surprised at hearing that the
United States was a party to the transaction—that the authorities of that
government, and the representatives of that people, which had for years been
employed in leading the Cherokee from ignorance to light, from barbarism to
civilisation, from paganism to Christianity,—who had taught them new habits
and new hopes, was the very party which was about to appropriate to itself
the fruits of the Indian's industry, the birth places of his children and
the graves of his ancestors!
If such a recital could command credence, must it not
be on the ground that experience had shown the utter failure of all the
efforts, and the disappointment of all the hopes of the philanthropist and
the Christian? That the natives of this favoured spot of God's creation were
incapable of improvement, and unsuscepti. ble of education,—and that they,
in wilful blindness, spurning the blessings which had been proffered and
urged upon them, would pertinaciously prefer the degradation from which it
had been attempted to lead them, and the barbarism from which it had been
sought to elevate them?
How will his astonishment be augmented when he learns
that the Cherokee people almost to a man denied the existence and the
obligation of the alleged compact—that they proclaimed it to have been based
in fraud and concocted in perfidy—that no authority was ever given to those
who undertook in their names and on their behalf to negotiate it;—that it
was repudiated with unexampled unanimity when it was brought to their
knowledge ;—that they denied that it conferred any rights or imposed any
Yet such must be the story which the faithful
historian must record. In the name of the whole Cherokee nation we protest
against this unhallowed and unauthorised and unacknowledged compact. We deny
its binding force. We recognise none of its stipulations. If contrary to
every principle of justice it is to be enforced upon us, we shall at least
be free from the disgrace f self.humiliation. We hold the solemn disavowal
of its provisions by eighteen thousand of our people.
We, the regularly commissioned
delegation of the Cherokee nation, in the face of Heaven, and appealing to
the searcher of all hearts for the truth of our statements, ask you to
listen to our remonstrances. We implore you to examine into the truth of our
allegations. We refer you to your own records—to your own agents, to men
deservedly enjoying your esteem and confidence, as our witnesses; and we
proffer ourselves ready, if you will direct the enquiry, to establish the
truth of what we aver. If we fail to substantiate our statements, overwhelm
us with ignominy and disgrace,—cast us off from you for ever. If, however,
on the other hand, every allegation we make shall be sustained by the most
convincing and abundant proof; need we make further and stronger appeals
than the simple facts of the case will themselves furnish, to secure your
friendship, your sympathy, and your justice.
We will not and we cannot believe,
after the long connection that has subsisted between us—after all that has
been done, and all that has been promised, that our whole nation will be
forcibly ejected from their native land and from their social hearths
without the pretence of crime, without charge, without evidence, without
trial: that we shall be exiled from all that we hold dear and venerable and
sacred, and driven into a remote, a btrange, and a stcril region, without
even the imputation of guilt. We will not believe that this will be done by
our ancient allies, our friends, our brethren. Yet, between this and the
abrogation of the pretended treaty, there is no medium. Such an instrument,
so obtained, so contaminated, cannot cover the real nature of the acts which
it is invoked to sanction. If we are thus to suffer, no disguise can be
useful or availing. If power is to be exerted, let it come unveiled. We
shall but submit and die.
If, however, as our long experience has taught us to
hope, we yet retain any hold upon your sympathies and claims upon your
justice; if, entertaining doubts as to the truth of our statements, you will
investigate before you determine, and enquire before you decide such
momentous questions, irrevocably and for ever, we entreat delay until the
subject shall be fully and fairly examined. You will constitute the
enquiring power—you will be the tribunal to judge upon the whole matter. You
can, at any time, carry into execution your own decisions. Without the means
of resistance, without the disposition in any way to injure you, we shall
yield to what you shall ultimately determine to be a just and righteous
Should the result of your
investigations sustain our assertions, and you should stay your hand already
uplifted against us, we are clothed with full powers to make an arrangement
of every subject of difference, and to negotiate a treaty obligatory upon
our nation, and competent to secure to the people of the United States all
which their own sense of justice will lead them to require.
May we not indulge the confident
assurance that, as you can sustain no injury by this delay, the present
execution of the alleged treaty may at least be suspended,--that, as
investigation will tend only to elicit the whole truth, it may be promptly
and efficiently made;—that, as a liberal justice has marked your intercourse
with us, nothing will be required of us which is not thus sanctioned. If
this be granted to us, the grateful prayers of a united and rescued nation
will be daily presented before the throne of Divine mnerey, invoking upon
your heads the choicest blessings of heaven, perpetuity upon your
institutions, and every happiness upon your people.
Washington City, February 22d,
JOHN Ross SAMUEL
GUNTER, his X mark.
TAYLOR, GEORGE SANDERS, his X mark.
JAMES BROWN, JOHN BENGE, his X mark.
Delegates from the Eastern
JOHN LOONEY, his X mark. WILLIAM DUTCH, his X mark.
AARON PRICE, his X mark. WILLIAM S. COODEY.
Delegates from the Western
B. F. Butler, Secretary of War, ad interim, to the
Cherokee Delegation-24th February, 1837.
WAR DEPARTMENT, February 24th,
Gentlemen—In answer to your letters of the 12th and 22d inst. I have the
honour to inform you, that, as the president does not recognise you in any
such official character as that described in your communications, no
interview can be had with you in that character, either by him or by the
Should you think proper, as individuals, to call at
the department, it will give me pleasure to meet you; and any suggestions
you may make, in that character, and which it may be proper for the
department to consider, will receive due consideration.
Your most obedient servant,
(Signed) B. F. BUTLER,
Secretary of War, ad interim.
To Messrs. JOHN Ross, JOHN LOONEY
and others, Washington City.
The Cherokee Delegation to the Hon. Secretary of War,
28th February, 1837.
WASHINGTON, February 28th, 1837.
Hon. B. F. Butler, Secretary of War, ad interim.
Sir—We had the honour, yesterday, to receive your
communication under date of the 24th inst.
We are filled with surprise at
learning that, as the president does not recognise us in the official
character described in our communications, an interview with us is declined
by the executive. From the earliest periods of our mutual history, the
Cherokee nation has been accustomed to transact its business with the
government of the United States through the medium of delegations. Some of
us have long been known to the executive as having constituted parts of
those delegations, and this is the first instance in which such an interview
as was asked has been denied.
We are utterly unable ourselves to conjecture, and
shall be equally at a loss to inform our nation, upon our return, what has
led to this determination of the president. It surely must originate in some
misapprehension on the one side or the other.
We cannot believe, without the most explicit
declaration to that effect, that the executive has resolved to receive no
further communications from, or to transact no further business with, our
nation. It is difficult to believe, without similar assurances, that the
mode of communication, for so long a period sanctioned by both parties, is
to be changed without some other channel of intercourse being substituted.
Nor can we believe that the executive can have declined the interview on
account of any deficiency or irregularity in our powers all is in conformity
with our long-established usages—all is in accordance with the practice
which has so long prevailed.
May we, therefore, hope that you will be pleased to
apprise us of the objec. tions which exist to our recognition, that if any
misapprehension as to facts exists, it may be rectified; if any
irregularity, on our side, has been committed, it may be cured; and that we
may be enabled to inform our people, on our return, of the true nature and
extent of the difficulties which intercept their accustomed friendly
intercourse with the president.
Your last suggestion, of a
disposition to see us at time department, in our individual character, has
been considered. Our nation has protested against the interference of
unauthorized individuals between them and the government of the United
States. They regard this as the fruitful source of the evils under which
they now suffer; and, guided by their instructions, and anxious to conforin
to their wishes, we are compelled, reluctantly, to decline any other than an
official interview with the department.
Your obedient servants,
JOHN Ross. JOHN BENGE, his X mark.
JOHN LooNEY, his X mark. GEORGE SANDERS, his X mark.
R. TAYLOR. AARON PRICE, his X mark.
JAMES BROWN. WM. DUTCH, his X mark.
SAMUEL GUNTER, his X mark. W. S. CO0DEY.
Hon. B. F. Butler, Secretary of
1Vmr, ad interim, to the Cherokee Delegation—March 11th, 18:37.
WAR DEPARTMENT, March 11th, 1837.
Gentlemen—TIme press of business
connected with the termination of the session of congress, has prevented all
earlier reply to your letter of the 28th ultimo.
In your letters of the 13th and 22d ultimo, you
described yourselves as a delegation duly authorised by, and representing, "
The Cherokee nation, east and west of the Mississippi." The official
character, thus claimed, the president could not recognise, fbr the
I. All the relations existing between the United
States and the Cherokee nation, east of the Mississippi, are defined and
settled by the treaty made with that part of the nation, and ratified by the
president and senate in May, 1836, and the provisions of previous treaties
not inconsistent therewith. Since tIme conclusion of that treaty, nothing
remains for discussion with that part of the nation, except such matters as
belong to the execution of the treaty; and, in regard to all such matters,
the twelfth article of the treaty appoints a committee of twelve persons to
transact the same on the part of the Indians.
2. The relations existing bct'cen
the United States and the Cherokee nation, west of the Mississippi, are also
defined and settled by certain treaty provisions; and, though delegations
may, from time to time, be authorised to act for that part of the nation,
yet, in the present posture of affairs, no such delegation as yours was
described to be—that is—a delegation professing to represent the na tion on
both sides of the Mississippi, to the exclusion of the committee above
referred to, can be recognised.
3. The claim to the official authority described in
your letters, when taken in connection with the fhet, that some of your
number have denied the fairness and validity of the late treaty, and have
taken measures to defeat its execution, made it improper, in the judgment of
the president, to recognise you in such character, unless lie was willing to
re-open the discussions settled by the treaty. This, as you well know, he
had previously decided, could not be done. In order, therefore, to avoid
useless and irritating discussions, as well as from a deliberate sense of
duty, he was constrained to give me the direction stated in my letter.
I forbear to enlarge on topics,
the discussion of which cannot be productive of any good; and will,
therefore, merely repeat the assurance, that any suggestion you may have
occasion to make, as individuals, or any business you may be authorised to
transact, consistently with the treaty stipulations existing between time
United States and the Cherokee people, will receive a prompt and liberal
Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
B. F. BUTLER,
Secretary of War, ad interim.
JNO. Ross and others, Washington City,
Copy of a Letter to the lion. Joel
R. Poinsett, Secretary of War—March 16th, 1837.
WAShINGTON CITY, March 16th, 1837.
Hon. Joel R. Poinsett, Secretary
Sir—The undersigned representatives of the Cherokee nation, cast and west of
the river \lisrissippi, beg leave, herewith, to lay before you their
credentials: and, also, to submit, through your department, the enclo$ed
communication for the consideration of the president of the United States.
Trusting, from the importance of the subject, that a reply, embracing the
decision of the executive, will be returned as soon as practicable.—With
great respect, we have the honour to be, sir,
Your obedient servants,
JNO. Ross. GEORGE SANDERS, his X
II. TAYLOR. JOHN
LOONEY, his X mark.
BROWN. AARON PRICE, his X mark.
SAMUEL GUNTER, his X mark. WM. DUTCH, his X mark.
JOHN BENGE, his X mark. W. S. COODEY.
Address of the Cherokee Delegation
to the President of the United States-16th March, 1837.
To the President of the United
Sir—The people constituting the Cherokee nation, beg leave to congratulate
you on your accession to the lofty and dignified situation which you have
been called upon, by your countrymen, to fill. That this event may prove,
under the blessing of Providence, equally beneficial to those over whom you
now preside, as honourabic to the individual upon whom so valued a trust has
been reposed, is our most earnest and sincere prayer.
Among those who have been placed under your protecting
influences, may we not be permitted to number ourselves, and may we not be
allowed, after the manner of our fathers, to address the president of the
Union, as their guardian and their friend, as holding in his hands the equal
scales of justice and the power to enfbrce his decisions. -
It is in this character that the
Cherokee nation venture to approach the executive, to ask for a hearing;
that their claims be investigated, and that such measure of justice be meted
to them as shall appear to be due. Beyond this they have nothing to ask;
within these limits they will not indulge an apprehension that they shall
meet with a refusal.
The undersigned have been, in full council of the
nation, appointed a delegation to conir with the executive; they are clothed
with powers to open negotiations and to adjust, upon the most liberal terms,
all the subjects in which the United States take an interest.
The government has been apprised,
in part, of the insuperable objections to the acknowledgment, by the nation,
of the (so called) treaty, submitted to the senate for its ratification in
1836. If you will listen to us, we will briefly refer to some of them; and
we beg your excellency to understand us, in this matter, as speaking what we
believe to be the feeling and language of more than nine. tenths of our
The individuals who
now address you as the representatives of the Cherokee nation are, in a
degree, the same who, under a similar authority, came to the seat of
government during the latter part of the year 1835, for the purpose of
executing the same duties with which they are now charged. The
circuinstances which induced them thus to visit Washington, are detailed in
their memorial to the senate during its then session. Subsequent to the
annunciation of their plan of operations, an individual hastened on in
advance of them, and returned, with great rapidity, the bearer of
communications expressive of the wish of the executive, that we should
abandon this case, and negotiate in the nation itself. Apprehensive of sonic
misunderstanding on the subject, and finding it too late to institute a new
plan of operations, we proceeded on our journey, and reached the seat of
Our reception was kind, and we were acknowledged to be
entitled to the character which we claimed to possess. Our credentials were
exhibited, and in an official interview with the president, we were informed
by him, that whenever we should present any proposition for the
consideration of the government, through the war department, it should be
immediately attended to.
While engaged in preparing our communications, in
pursuance of this proffer, we learned that intelligence had been received
that a treaty had in fact been entered into at New Echota. it was from this
period that our troubles began to assume a more positive character. To this
instrument, subsequently received, and, after many most material changes in
its substantial provisions, submitted to the senate for its ratification,
are we to attribute the distress under which our nation now labours, and the
dangers which impend over us.
The Cherokee nation never authorised the formation of
this spurious compact. They never conferred upon the individuals who signed
it any authority to give it their assent. They have never recognised its
validity, and never can. They have protested against it as a fraud upon
themselves, and upon the United States. They have proffered themselves able
to establish all these allegations by the most abundant proof. They ask of
you, sir, that these allegations be examined fully, and by impartial
evidences, enjoying your entire confidence. By the results of such an
investigation, by your own judgment UOfl the fairness, the justice, the
legality of this act, and the proceedings connected with it, they must
necessarily abide. Will the government of the United States claim the right
to enforce a contract thus assailed by the other nominal party to it? Will
they refuse to examine into charges of such grave import? Will they act in
matters so momentous, involving consequences so awful, without inquiry? The
memorials we have so fondly cherished, of the affectionate feelings, the
pure virtue, the justice which have been exhibited towards our people, by
Washington, by Jefferson and others, your honoured predecessors, the faith
of the government, so repeatedly and so solemnly pledged to our fathers and
ourselves, the sanctions of that holy religion which you have taught us, in
which we have learned so to do unto others as we should wish them to do unto
us; all forbid us to apprehend that the United States will knowingly and
deliberately wrong those who have aided them in their hour of peril; who
have leaned upon their protecting arm; who have confided in their
friendship; who have trusted every thing to their honour and their justice.
On such an occasion as the
present, we shall not intrude upon your valuable time by presenting in
detail all the circumstances upon which the Cherokee nation rest their
objections to the paper called the Treaty of New Eehota. At the same time we
feel it a duty we owe to you, as well as to ourselves, not to leave this
matter resting upon generalities, however strong, without some degree of
1. We aver that the Cherokee nation never authorised
In all negotiations with ourselves, and we believe
every other Indian nation, the government of the United States have
conducted them with the regularly authorised agents of the other party. The
internal arrangements of our nation, by which certain persons are clothed
with powers to represent and act for the whole, have been long known and
constantly recognised. No government has ever claimed the right to pass by
the regular representatives of another people, to carry on negotiations with
any who may claim, without exhibiting fbil authority from those whom they
profess to represent, and whom they undertake to bind.
In this instance, those who were
regularly invested with this authority, were at Washington. The initiatory
steps had been taken to commence negotiations. Were the powers which had
been given, and which were then in the act of being exercised, ever revoked
or superseded? We have never heard of any such proceeding. All that we have
heard, and all that we have seen, negatives such an idea. The letter from
Mr. Secretary Cars, of January 16, 1836, which announces to us that Mr.
Schernuerhorn had reported the formation of the treaty, is addressed to us
in our official character. The letter of the 13th February apprises us, for
the first time, that this official character cannot be recognised. If the
proceedings at New Echota were not, in fact, the authoritative proceedings
of the nation, they must be disregarded as inadequate to operate a
cancellation of our powers.
Admitting, however, for a moment, that these
proceedings were regular, the parties who came on as delegates under the
council at New Echota, on the 6th February, 1836, address a letter to the
Cherokee delegation now in Washington City, in which they speak of "your
constituents at home," and in which they assure us that "in doing what the
people have done at New Echota, it was with no view to lay any obstacles in
your way." In a subsequent passage they say, "We assure you of the heartfelt
satisfaction that it would give us, and certainly our constituents, if you
have settled, or can settle, our difficulties with the government, by a
treaty." Still furIher, "We are instructed, in ease that you have not
already made, or are able to make, a better;" and they conclude with a
proffer of any assistance in their power, to those whom they address.
It would be difficult to gather, from this
communication, the fact that "our constituents" had revoked the powers which
had been previously given. The continuance of them is expressly recognised.
The letter of E. Herring, of
February 13, 1836, which first informs us that our official character is
denied, places such denial upon the single ground of our having come on to
Washington after being notified by the president that a delegation would not
be received in Washington. We were also informed, by the secretary, that Mr.
Schermerhorn had contemplated bringing a delegation from the other Indians
of the Cherokee nation, but that he had instructed him not to bring on a
single person. To us, not very conversant with such matters, and to whom
this species of difficulty was equally unknown and unexpected, it wore the
appearance of singularity that, notwithstanding the proposition to Mr.
Schermerhorn, lie did, in fact, bring with him what purported to be a
delegation; that they were received as such; and that, although Mr. Herring,
in his letter of the above date, appears to draw a distinction between their
case and our own, that they were sent on to effect a ratification, and not
to make a new treaty; yet when, by the absolute refusal of the president to
recognise some of the most pro. minent provisions in that instrument, and in
reference to which the council, from which they received their authority,
had been so distinct in the expression of their views, and in which the
commissioner did not appear to think he had transcended his powers, so that
it became necessary, in fact, to make, substantially, a new arrangement,
these objections were all permitted to sleep, so far as regards them. Even
in relation to those who held the first authority, the ground was changed in
the very same letter of Mr. Herring, who informed us that, provided we would
sign the treaty, as it then was, we also should be recognised.
If under all these circumstances, we have been unable
distinctly to understand the views of the government, or to reconcile all
their proceedings with what appeared to us to be their language, the whole
difficulty ought not to be attributed to any deficiency on our part.
In point of fact, however, the
meeting at New Eehota did not folly represent the Cherokee nation.
Statements have been made, from different sources, show. in the number there
present. The largest number, including men, women, and children, Indians and
negroes, does not exceed seven hundred; while highly respectable witnesses
positively aver, that not more than three hundred were assembled, and only
seventy-nine approved of what was done. In determining whether such an
instrument imposes on the Cherokee nation the obligation of performing its
stipulations, surely it is important to understand by how many it was
sanctioned, and by what authority they undertook to bind others who were not
professed parties. The very manner in which these proceedings purport to be
verified are so singular to our eyes—so different from what has been
customary on similar occasions, that this circumstance alone is calculated
to awaken suspicion, and to strengthen our statements.
Sustained, however, as we are, we
unhesitatingly assert the fact, that less than one hundred individuals, of
the Cherokee nation, irregularly convened, and acting irregularly, ever
sanctioned this instrument, so fir as oven to assent to the appointment of
the individuals by whom it was signed.
This we consider as not only
unjust to us, but equally so to the United States. In the instructions given
to the commissioners it is expressly stated, that although there can be no
objection to a free interchange of opinion, and a conditional arrangement on
all disputed points between them and a committee, fairly and publicly
chosen, should the Cherokees think it proper to commit the details, in the
first instance, to such a committee; but the final action upon the subject
must he had by the people themselves in open council. "If there is any
dispute as to the decision of the majority, an actual census will be taken
of the persons present, exhibiting their names; and they will pass before
the commissioners and state whether they are in favour of or against the
arrangement proposed; and this census, together with the result, will be
certified by the commissioners, and transmitted with their other proceedings
to the seat of government." In a previous communication made by these same
commissioners to one of the undersigned, as the "principal chief Cherokee
nation," it was distinctly asserted, that "the commissioners, in their
instructions, are required to obtain the consent of a majority of your
headmen and warriors to a treaty to make it ralid, and for this purpose it
is necessary to have an accurate cen'us of the nation taken now." In the
address of the president on the 16th of March, 1835, to the nation, we were
given to understand, that with the nation at large rested the power of
ultimately acceding to or not the proposed terms. It was the understanding
of this delegation and of the nation, that this course should be pursued,
and the very notice under which the council at New Eclicta was convened,
called upon time individuals of the nation to act for themselves in the
business,—and implied the right of the nation collectively to assent to or
dissent from the terms proposed.
If after all this public and
mutual understanding, an instrument, which originated in a meeting where not
one-twentieth part of the nation was convened, most essentially varied after
having been submitted to their inspection, and ultimately approved only by
the small number who actually affixed their signturcs to it, can be
considered obligatory upon the whole Cherokee nation, upon the same
principles another compact which we may choose to sign with any twenty
citizens of' the United States, holding no public station, authorised by no
national act, might, had we the power, be enforced against you to the extent
of stripping every citizen of his home and of his property.
Nor can there be any foundation
for the belief that the Cherokee nation have ever assented to the instrument
in question1 by any subsequent act which could be considered as a
ratification. The whole nation had been led to believe from the official
language addressed to them, that whatever might be done by any of their
agents, would not be held obligatory until it had received the approbation
of the nation. Not only has no such sanction ever been obtained, but it has
never been asked at their hands. So far from this being the case, every
means has been resorted to, to stifle the expression of public opinion among
them. A large body of troops has been stationed in the Cherokee nation,
prepared to put down any meeting convened to deliberate upon the subject.
The commanding general, whose high character is a guaranty that lie is
acting in obedience to precise instructions, in his general order of
November 3, 1836, has, in terms too plain and significant to be
misunderstood, apprised us of the consequences which will follow any attempt
to ascertain and concentrate the opinions of our people. Several instances
have already occurred in which arrests have been made of individuals
supposed to be inimical to the treaty, as it is called. In short, the whole
weight and influence of the government has been exerted to aid the small
faction which has usurped the right to bind u, to alarm the timid, to
overpower the resolute, to persuade the confiding, to compel the weak among
us to give their sanction to this instrument :—with what success the
government of the United States has been apprised. We hold in our hands a
document showing that the great hulk of the nation has repudiated the
measure—that it denies its obligatory force—that it refuses to ratify the
act. Within a few weeks, since the undersigned have been at the scat of
government, at a special meeting of the nation, held at New Eehota, convened
by the agent and held in the presence of the commanding general, when the
question was presented for their decision as to tIme disposition to be made
of the imioncy due the nation, under former treaties, it was found that but
ninety-seven votes could be procured in favour of the Individuals who had
assumed to act as the agents and representatives of the nation, and of this
small number no one voted in the regular way and upon the ground; while
twelve hundred and sixty-nine gave their votes against this party. Such, as
we are informed, was the result of the meeting on the 15th ultimo.
These arc, we submit to your
excellency, manifestations not to be misunderstood of the state of opinion
and of feeling among us. We are aware that efforts have been made to injure
us in the estimation of this government—as individuals our characters have
been assailed—our motives misrepresented—our conduct and our acts distorted.
We cannot, however, but believe that among the many high-minded and
honourable men who know us, and enjoy your confidence, some may be found who
have done and will do us justice.
We do not arrogate to ourselves so high a standing in
your estimation as to authorise us to ask that you will rely implicitly upon
our statements; but we have deceived ourselves most egregiously if we have
not presented to the con. sideration of the government sufficient grounds to
induce hesitation and enquiry. You have at your command hundreds of
individuals to whom you may confide the duty of making the investigation
which we solicit. Select such as you can implicitly believe; associate with
them but a single individual to be appointed by us to direct to the sources
of information, and if we fail to establish the truth of our allegations, we
shall no longer ask you to delay exercising your power in the enforcement of
your rights. Should it, however, appear from such investigation, that this
instrument has been made without authority, that it meets with the almost
unanimous reprobation of our nation, that you have been deceived by false
information, we cannot and we will not believe that under its colour, and
under the sanction of those principles of justice which impose an obligation
faithfully to perform our compacts and our promises, we shall be forced to
submit to its iniquitous provisions. Sooner would we ask you to make no
investigation, institute no inquiry—satisfy yourselves, endeavour to satisfy
mankind and your God that all is right—assert the imperative duty of
conforming to treaty stipulations—stand upon the high ground of power,
employ your strength and drive to desperation, to exile, and to death, those
whom you have called your children, and who have placed themselves under
your protection. Our fate is in your hands. May the God of truth tear away
every disguise and concealment from our case. May the God of justice guide
your determination, and the God of mercy stay the hand of our brother,
uplifted for our destruction.
During the recent session of congress, the undersigned
addressed a memorial to that honourable body. The late period of the
session, and the multiplied engagements which attend such a period,
precluded any definitive action upon it. In- the senate it was merely
ordered to lie on the table, and in the house of representatives no
opportunity occurred to present it. At the ensuing session it will be again
submitted, should it, contrary to all our hopes, be then considered
necessary. We have the honour of submitting a copy of that memorial to your
excellency, and pray for that your most earnest consideration.
The documents we have with us, and
which have been seen by the commissioner of Indian affairs and by the
secretary at war, show that we are now fully empowered, as we were in 1836,
to negotiate upon all matters with the United States. We are prepared at
once to enter upon such negotiation, and we believe that all difficulties
may be arranged to the mutual satisfaction of all parties.
In conclusion, we pray your
excellency to understand our propositions as being specifically either-
1. To enter into a negotiation
with the undersigned in reference to every matter mutually interesting to
the United States and to the Cherokee nation.
2. To have a full and impartial
examination of all sources of information, for the purpose of ascertaining
whether the Cherokee nation, in conformity with its political institutions
and forms, long recognised by the United States, ever authorised the
execution of the instrument signed at New Echota, and the additional
articles signed at Washington, or ever gave to them their anetiomm and
3. That the instrument in question he now submitted
for approval or rejection to the full, free, and unbiased choice of the
Cherokee nation, in general council assembled.
We have the honour to be, sir, very respectfully, your
most obedient servants,
John Ross, R. Taylor, James Brown, Samuel Gunter, John
Benge, George Sanders, representatives of the Eastern Cherokees. John
Looney, Aaron Price, Win. Dutch, W. S. Coodey, delegates from the Western
Cherokees. Washington City, March 16, 1837.
ADDRESS TO THE CHEROKEES.
HEAD QVARrans, Aaaiv CHEROKEE NATION, NEW ECHOTA, GA.
March 22d, 1837.
CHEROKEES—It is nearly a year
since I first arrived in this country. I then informed you of the objects of
my coming among you. I told you that a treaty had been made with your
people, and that your country was to be given up to the United States by the
25th May, 1838, (a little more than a year from this time,) when you would
all be compelled to remove to the West. I also told you, if you would submit
to the terms of the treaty I would protect you in your persons and property,
at the same time I would furnish provisions and clothing to time poor and
destitute of the Nation. You would not listen, but turned a deaf ear to my
advice. You preferred the counsel of those who were opposed to the treaty.
They told you what was not true—that your people had made no treaty with
time United States, and that you would be able to retain your lands, and
would not be obliged to remove to the West, the place designated for your
new lionies. Be no longer deceived by such advice! It is not only untrue,
but if listened to, may lead.to your utter ruin. The President, as well as
Congress, have decreed that you should remove from this country. The people
of Georgia, of North Carolina, of Tennessee and of Alabanta, have decreed
it. Your fate is decided, and if you do not voluntarily get ready and go by
the time fixed in the treaty, you will then be forced from this country by
the soldiers of the United States.
Under such circumstances what will
be your condition? Deplorable in the extreme! Instead of the benefits now
presented to you by the treaty, of receiving pay for the improvements of
your lands, your houses, your cornfields, and your ferries, and for all the
property unjustly taken from you by the white people, and at the same time,
blankets, clothing and provisions for the poor, you will be driven from the
country, and without a cent to support you on your arrival at your new
homes. You will in vain flee to your mountains for protection. Like the
Creeks, you will be hunted up and dragged from your lurking places, and
hurried to the West. I would ask, are you prepared foi such scenes? I trust
not. Yet such will be your fate if you persist in your present
Cherokees: I have not come among you to oppress you,
but to protect you, and to see that justice is done you, as guarantied by
the treaty. Be advised, and turn a deaf car to those who would induce you to
believe that no treaty has been made with you, and that you will not be
obliged to leave your country. They cannot be friends, but the worst of
enemies. Their advice, if followed, will lead to your certain destruction.
The President has said that a treaty has been made with you, and must be
executed agreeably to its terms. The President never changes.
Therefore, take my advice: It is
the advice of a friend, who would tell you the truth, and who feels deeply
interested in your welfare, and who will do every thing in his power to
relieve, protect and secure to you the benefits of the treaty. And why not
abandon a country no longer yours? Do you not see time white people daily
coming into it, driving you from your homes and possessing your houses, your
cornfields and your ferries? Hitherto I have been able in some degree, to
protect youfrom their intrusions; in a short time it will no longer be in my
power. If, however, I could protect you, you could not live with them. Your
habits, your manners and your customs are unlike, and unsuited to theirs.
They have no feelings, no sympathies in common with yourselves. Leave then
this country, which after the 5th May, 1838, can afford you no protection!
and remove to the country designated for your new homes, which is secured to
you and your children for ever; and where you may live under your own laws,
and the customs of your fathers, without intrusion or molestation from the
white man. It is a country much better than the one you now occupy; where
you can grow more corn, and where game is more abundant. Think seriously of
what I say to you! Remember that you have but one summer more to plant corn
in this country. Make the best use of this time, and dispose of your
property to the best advantage. Go and settle with the Commissioners, and
with the emigrating Agent, Gen. Smith, receive the money due for your
improvements, your houses, your cornfields and ferries, and for the property
which has been unjustly taken from you by the white men, and at the
appointed time be prepared to remove. In the mean time, if you will apply to
me or my Agents, I will cause rations, blankets and clothing to be furnished
to the poor and destitute of your people.
JOHN E. WOOL, Brigadier General
Copy of a Letter from Hon. J. R. Poinsett, Secretary
March 24, 1837.
WAR DEPARTMENT, March 24, 1837.
Gentlemen—Your memorial of the 16th instant, addressed to the president of
the United States, has been laid before him, and I now proceed to
communicate to you his decision upon the propositions you have submitted.
The treaty concluded at New Echota,
on the 29th of December, 1835, has been ratified, according to the forms
prescribed by the constitution, and it is the duty of the executive to carry
into effect all its stipulations, in a spirit of liberal justice. The
considerations to which you have invited the attention of the president,
were brought to the notice of the senate, before they advised its
confirmation, and of the house of representatives, before they made the
appropriations therein provided for. Their final action must be regarded as
the judgment of these branches of the government, upon the degree of weight
to which they were entitled. It remains for the executive to fulfil the
treaty, as the supreme law of the land.
Your second and third
propositions, therefore, it is considered, cannot be acceded to, as they
involve an admission that the treaty of 1835 is an incomplete instrument. To
your first proposition I can only answer, as the department has already
assured you that any measure suggested by you will receive a candid
examination, if it be not inconsistent with, or in contravention of the
provisions of time existing treaty.
Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
(Signed) J. R POINSETT.
Messrs. John Ross, R. Taylor,
James Brown, Samuel Gunter, John Benge, George Sanders, John Looney, Aaron
Price, William Dutch, and \V. S. Coodey, Eastern and Western Cherokees,
WASHINGTON CITY, May 4th, 1837. To the lion. Joel R.
I'oinsoit, Secretary of War.
Sir—Since taking leave of you and my separation with
those of my colleagues who have returned homewards, it has become my duty to
address you this letter previous to my leaving the metropolis of the United
States for the Cherokee Nation.
I will not occupy your attention
with a recapitulation of all that passed between us at our several
interviews, on the subject of Cherokee affairs. Being informed that General
Wool will be relieved of his military duties in the Cherokee country by
Colonel Lindsey—I beg leave to call your attention to certain acts of
oppression and injustice complained of by the Cherokees, and to ask that
justice may now be extended in reference to them.
In the summer of 1835, the Georgia
Guard, under the command of Colonel Win. A. Bishop, by authority of Mr.
Benjamin F. Currey, the superintendent of Cherokee removals, forcibly seized
the printing press, types, books, papers and other materials pertaining to a
printing office, belonging to the Cherokee Nation; and notwithstanding
applications f hr their restoration having been made, they are still
In the summer of 1836, Brigadier General John E. Wool
required the Cherokees of the Valley Towns to surrender up their guns to his
command; and as a proof of their peaceable disposition towards the citizens
of the United States, about two hundred (or upwards) guns were brought in
and delivered up by the Cherokees, to that officer. And when it was believed
that General Wool could not but see that there was no propriety in
withholding these arms longer, the Council of the nation, in the thu of that
year, at the instai.ce of the owners, solicited the General to restore the
guns—but I am not informed that it has been done, even up to the present
Some time in December last, when a Committee of the nation, appointed by the
General Council, consisting of Messrs. Lewis Ross, Richard Taylor, Daniel
M'Coy and Elijah Hicks, met at the house of John Martin, late treasurer of
the Nation, for the purpose of settling his accounts preparatory to his
emigration to Arkansas. At a late hour of the night, Mr. Martin's house was
surrounded by United States soldiers; and in the morning, the officers in
command demanded all the public papers of the nation, and forcibly took the
treasurer's account-book and other papers. Mr. Martin, together with the
Committee (excepting Mr. Taylor, who was not present) were then made
captives, and escorted by the military to head quarters, before General
Wool, a distance of twenty miles. The commanding general, after liberating
these gentlemen, made a general demand of them for all the public papers of
the nation, and threatened, if they were not surrendered up to him that he
should be under the painful necessity of arresting all the leading men of
These unaccountably strange proceedings no doubt
occurred under the pretext and authority of executing the "General Order,
No. 74."—You will pardon me for repeating the suggestion to you, of the
necessity for superseding the former instructions of the Department, upon
which the aforesaid "General Order" was based, by those which are now to be
given to Colonel Lindsey.
My most ardent desire for avoiding every possible
ground of difficulty between the officers of the government and the
Cherokees, prompts me to ask the indulgence of being furnished with a copy
of the instructions which shall be given to that officer: * and, in
conclusion, to ask the printing press, types, books, papers, &c., belonging
to the Cherokee Nation, and the guns of individual Cherokees, seized and
detained as herein stated, be now ordered to be restored without further
I have the honour to be, sir, with great respect,
Your obedient humble servant,
In behalf of the Cherokee Delegation.
* This request was made at the
suggestion of Colonel Lindsey. It has not as yet been met; but the Hon.
Secretary, on a personal interview, assured me, that the contents of this
letter would be attended to. J. Ross.