The Removal of the Cherokee Nation (University)
by Roland Marchand
Topic(s): Native Americans, Jacksonian Era
Table of Contents
In 1802 the federal government sought to complete the process of establishing federal ownership of western lands to which individual states had laid claim prior to the Constitution, by signing a compact with the State of Georgia. In this agreement, Georgia ceded her western land claims to the United States in return for a promise by the federal government to extinguish Indian titles to lands within Georgia as soon as this could be done "peaceably and on reasonable terms." One of the major tribes affected by this agreement were the Cherokees, a tribe of approximately 25,000 Indians, including a small minority of the "mixed-bloods" who occupied a territory nearly the size of the state of Massachusetts, extending, in a broad strip, from central Georgia up into the hills of northeastern Alabama, eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.
By the Treaty of Hopewell in 1785, which had defined their territorial boundaries, the Cherokees had placed themselves under the protection of the United States. They believed that the treaty gave them full and permanent rights to ownership of their territorial lands. Many citizens of Georgia, as well as many other Americans, believed that their "right of occupancy" contained no right whatsoever to permanent ownership. Beginning early in the nineteenth century, a few of the Cherokees were intermittently urged by United States and Georgia officials to do likewise. After the Creek War of 1814, in which the Cherokees had helped General Andrew Jackson gain a victory over a dissident faction of the Creek tribe, the Cherokees had reconsidered removal to the west. One faction, constituting about one-third of the nation which wished to retain the life of the hunt, moved to the West, while the remainder settled down to the pursuit of agriculture and trade.
By the 1820’s, Georgians had become alarmed over the failure of the United States to fulfill its obligations under the contract of 1802. Not only had a majority of Cherokees failed to remove West, but those who remained had set themselves upon a deliberate program of "civilization" on the white man’s terms. Accepting the Jeffersonian ideal of the individual farmer, the Cherokees established successful farms, multiplied their livestock, began educating their children in missionary schools, and eventually, in 1827, developed a full-scale republican political organization with institutions patterned directly upon those of the United States. They adopted a written Constitution, and were soon to develop their own written language and alphabet and establish their own press. Every step toward "civilization" intensified their interest in retaining their homeland. News from the Cherokees in the West was discouraging about prospects there. Suspicions about treaties were heightened by some irregularities in the lines drawn in the most recent treaty of 1817, which ceded away Cherokee lands in proportion to those who emigrated west.
Cherokee "progress" was interpreted, unsympathetically, by land-hungry Georgians as "permanence." In the 1820’s they began to put increasing pressure on the federal government to live up to its commitment under the 1802 compact. Presidents Monroe and John Quincy Adams were sympathetic to the basic idea of removal of all Indian tribes including the Cherokees, to the West, but their negotiations with the Cherokees failed to achieve major change and left Georgians intensely dissatisfied. In 1828, Andrew Jackson made Indian removal one of his major campaign issues, gaining heavy support in the south and West, not the least of which came from Georgia. With his inauguration in 1829, the process of Indian removal, particularly as it affected the Cherokees, entered a new stage.
Your objective in the documentary problem, should be to present an interpretive narrative of this new stage of the process of Indian Removal, which reached its denouement in the Cherokee Removal on the "trail of tears" in 1838 and 1839. Assume that, in writing a history of the United States in the 1820's and 1830's, you have allotted yourself a maximum of 5 typed pages, double spaced (about 1200 to 1500 words) in which to set forward an account of Indian removal in the 1830's that features the Cherokee experience as a dramatic example of American Indian policy and its motivations, logic, ambiguities, ideals, etc. Your goal should be to explain to the reader what happened, why it happened, and what general hypotheses about American society, cultural interaction and conflict, political behavior, etc., may be derived from this segment of human history. You should strive to develop a readable narrative based on incisive reasoning and careful evaluation and selection of evidence.
Some of the questions to which you may wish to pay particular attention are:
- In the compact of 1802 the federal government agreed to extinguish Indian title to Georgia lands as soon as this could be done peaceably and on reasonable terms. Did Georgia and federal officials understand this stipulation in the same way? What evidence is there that the federal government adhered faithfully to this policy? Is there any evidence that it did not?
- What range of opinions existed about the reasons why the Cherokee had to be removed? Did anyone, except some of the Indians themselves, think that voluntary removal was inadvisable? Did the federal government adhere to Andrew Jackson's stipulation that "the emigration should be voluntary" in both letter and spirit?
- Were the Cherokees given an opportunity to make a "democratic decision" on removal -- by the Federal government? By the government of Georgia? By their own leaders?
- What was the nature of the division of opinion within the Cherokee community? Which faction appears to have been most justified in its position?
- How did proponents of removal understand the relation between the Indians and a larger American mission? Was there a role for the Indians in that mission?
- How was "civilization" understood by the white Americans? By the Cherokee Indians? How did each group think removal was related to the "progress" of civilization?
- What was the effect of each of the two major Supreme Court decisions?
- How might the attitudes of officials of the Jackson administration toward the exercise of power in the Cherokee tribal organization have been related to their views of "progress" and of the political elevation of "the common man?"
- What was the turning point - or turning points - in the process of Cherokee removal?
- What are we to make of the role of John Ross in the whole matter?
- How did the War Department respond to the messages it received back from its officers and agents in the field?
These questions are intended as a guide to possible interpretive issues. Your main concern should not be to answer these specific questions -but to construct a passage with continuity of narrative and interpretation. You will certainly need to deal with some of these questions in the process of explaining the broader meaning of the events you describe, but you should not interrupt the narrative at an inappropriate point merely to answer one of the questions. Your account should be as flawlessly and gracefully written as you can make it. Consider yourself bound not to consult secondary accounts until after you have written your own. (Since such accounts are based on other - or additional evidence, they would be more likely to confuse you than to help you in working with this specific, limited set of documents.)
DOCUMENT #1: Cherokee National Council pronouncement, 1823.
It is the fixed and unalterable determination of this nation never again to cede one foot more of our land.
DOCUMENT #2: Letter from Governor G. M. Troup of Georgia to John Forsyth, Congressman from Georgia, April 6, 1825.
The Cherokees must be told, in plain language, that the lands they occupy belong to Georgia ... Why conceal from them the fact that every advance in the improvement of the country is to ensure to the benefit of Georgia; that every fixture will pass with the soil into our hands, sooner or later .... The United States are bound, in justice to themselves, instantly to arrest the progress of improvement in the Cherokee country; it is the reason constantly assigned by the Cherokees for their refusal to abandon the country.
DOCUMENT #3: Popular Georgia song in late 1820s.
All I ask in this creation
Is a pretty little wife and a big plantation
Way up yonder in the Cherokee Nation.
DOCUMENT #4: Letter from Secretary of War John Eaton to William Carroll, Governor of Tennessee and Commissioner Plenipotentiary, May 30, 1829.
A crisis in our Indian affairs has arrived. Strong indications are seen of this in the circumstance of the Legislatures of Georgia and Alabama, extending their laws...Emigration is the only relief for the Indians
The President is "of opinion" that, if they "can be approached in any way that shall elude their prejudices, and be enlightened as to their true relations to the States, they will consent to remove. He therefore desires that you will undertake to enlighten the Creeks and Cherokees ...
Nothing is more certain than that, if the Chiefs and influential men could be brought into the measure, the rest would implicitly follow. It becomes, therefore, a matter of necessity, if the General Government would benefit these people, that it move upon them in the line of their own prejudices. This cannot be doneby "a General Council." It must be done by "an appeal to the Chiefs and influential men."
It is believed that the more careful you are to secure from even the Chiefs the official character you carry with you, the better...Presents in your discretion to the amount of not more than $2000 might be made with effect, by attaching to you the poorer Indians, as you pass through their Country, given as their friend; and the same to the Children of the Chiefs, and the Chiefs themselves, in clothes, or otherwise....
DOCUMENT #5: Andrew Jackson, first annual message to Congress, Dec. 8, 1829.
Our conduct toward these people is deeply interesting to our national character. Their present condition, contrasted with what they once were, makes a most powerful appeal to our sympathies. Our ancestors found them the uncontrolled possessors of these vast regions. By persuasion and force they have been made to retire from river to river and from mountain to mountain, until some of the tribes have become extinct and others have left but remnants to preserve for a while their once terrible names. Surrounded by the whites with their arts of civilization, which by destroying the resources of the savage doom him to weakness and decay, the fate of the Mohigan, the Narragansett and the Delaware is fast overtaking the Choctaw, the Cherokee, and the Creek. That this fate surely awaits them if they remain within the limits of the States does not admit of a doubt.
... I suggest for your consideration the propriety of setting apart an ample district west of the Mississippi, and without the limits of any State or Territory now formed, to be guaranteed to the Indian tribes as long as they shall occupy it, ...There the benevolent may endeavor to teach them the arts of civilization, and, by promoting union and harmony among them, to raise up an interesting commonwealth, destined to perpetuate the race and to attest the humanity and justice of this Government.
The emigration should be voluntary, for it would be as cruel as unjust to compel the aborigines to abandon the graves of their fathers and seek a home in a distant land. But they should be distinctly informed that if they remain within the limits of the States they must be subject to their laws. In return for their obedience as individuals they will without doubt be protected in the enjoyment of those possessions which they have improved by their industry. But it seems to me visionary to suppose that in this state of things claims can be allowed on tracts of country on which they have neither dwelt nor made improvements, merely because they have seen them from the mountain or passed them in the chase.
DOCUMENT #6: Bill of the Georgia Legislature, signed December 19, 1829, to go into effect by June, 1830.
Be it enacted by the senate and the house of representatives, of the state of Georgia.... that... all that part of the unlocated territory, within the limits of this state, and which lies between the Alabama line and theold path leading from the Buzzard Roost on the Chattahoochie to Sally Hughes', on the Hightower river, thence to Thomas Petets, on the old federal road... be... added to and shall become a part of the country of Carroll.
(the next four articles added sections of Cherokees territory to 4 other counties) ... And be it further enacted, That all the laws, both civil and criminal of this state, be... extended over said portions of territory respectively, and all persons shall, after the first day of June next, be subject and liable to the operation of said laws ... And be it further enacted, That after the first day of June next, all laws, ordinances, orders and regulations of any kind whatever, made, passed or enacted by the Cherokee Indians, either in general council or in any other way whatever,... are hereby declared to be null and void and of no effect, as if the same had never existed ...
And be it further enacted, That it shall not be lawful for any person or body of persons by arbitrary power or by virtue of any pretended rule, ordinance, law or custom of said Cherokee nation, to prevent, by threats, menaces, or other means, to endeavor to prevent any Indian ofsaid nation residing within the chartered limits of this state, from enrolling as an emigrant or actually emigrating, or removing from said nation; ...
And be it further enacted, that any person or body of persons offending against the provisions of the foregoing section, shall be guilty of a high misdemeanor, subject to indictment, and on conviction, shall be punished by confinement in the common jail of any county of this state, or by confinement at hard labor in the penitentiary for a term not exceeding four years....
And be it further enacted, that it shall not be lawful for any person or body of persons,...to prevent... or deter any Indian head man, chief, or warrior of said nation... from selling or ceding to the United States, for the use of Georgia, the whole or any part of said territory, or to prevent...any Indian, head man, chief or warrior of said nation... from meeting in council or treaty, any commissioner or commissioners on the part of the United States, for any purpose whatever...
... And be it further enacted, That no Indian or descendant of any Indian, residing within the Creek or Cherokee nations of Indians, shall be deemed a competent witness in any court of this state to which a white person may be a party, except such white person resides within the said nation.
DOCUMENT #7: Representative Edward Everett of Massachusetts, Address to the House of Representatives, May 19, 1930, with reference to a Georgia law which forbade anyone of Indian blood to bring suit or to testify against a white man and which made invalid any contract between a white man and an Indian unless established by the testimony of two white witnesses.
They have but to cross the Cherokee line; they have but to choose the timeand the place where the eye of no white men can rest upon them, and they may burn the dwelling, waste the farm, plunder the property, assault the person, murder the children of the Cherokee subject of Georgia, and though hundreds of the tribe may be looking on, there is not one of them that can be permitted to bear witness against the spoiler.
Editor's Note: In 1829 news of the discovery of gold in the southeastern part of the Cherokee nation was reported. By early 1830, about four thousand whites and some Indians had begun digging for gold. The gold deposits, although not immense, did yield at least $230,000 worth of gold within the first nine months of 1830.
DOCUMENT #8: James Mooney, "Myths of the Cherokee" in the Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1897-98.
The whole territory was soon after (June 1, 1830), mapped out into counties and surveyed by state surveyors into "land lots" of 160 acres each, and "gold lots" of 40 acres, which were put up and distributed among the white citizens of Georgia by public lottery, each white citizen receiving a ticket. Every Cherokee head of a family was, indeed, allowed a reservation of 160 acres, but no deed was given, and his continuance depended solely on the pleasure of the legislature.... About the same time the Cherokee were forbidden to hold councils or to assemble for any public purpose, or to dig for gold upon their own lands.
DOCUMENT #9: Letter from George Gilmer (Governor of Georgia) to Andrew Jackson, June 17, 1830.
I transmit to the President, for his information, two proclamations. One of which is designed to notify the Indians, within the State, of the extension of its jurisdiction over them; the other, white persons as well as Indians, to desist from trespassing upon the property of the State, by taking gold or other Valuable minerals from its ungranted land. Before these proclamations had reached the part of the State occupied by the Cherokees, the United States' troops had driven from it all persons except Indian occupants.
The President is aware that such an exercise of power is believed not to be authorized by the Constitutions of the United States, and more especially since the passage of the law, by Georgia, extending the jurisdiction of the State over all its Indian territory. It is, however, so important an object with the State, to obtain from the United States the execution of its contract of 1802, to remove the Indians from within its limits, that it has been unwilling to create the least embarrassment by any assertion of its rights in opposition to the policy of the General Government.
... The persons who have been removed by them (the federal troops) were those engage in mining for gold. Their number amounted to several thousand, most of whom had found their employment exceedingly profitable. The Indians, in their immediate vicinity so far from objecting to the occupation of their country by the gold miners, it is said, favored their presence. They were not interrupted in the accustomed enjoyment of their country by the taking of gold from its soil.
When the gold diggers were removed by the troops, although much discontent was felt, they retired to their homes without any actual resistance. It however soon became known that the mines, from which they had been driven, were immediately taken possession of by the Indians, and the whites connected with them, and that they were permitted to take the gold therefrom without any resistance from the troops who had dispossessed the citizens of the State.
There is much reason to apprehend that the Indians will be forcibly driven from the whole of the gold region, unless they are immediately prohibited from appropriating its mineral wealth to themselves.
....The State of Georgia is ... entitled to the gold and silver in its territory, occupied by the Indians ....Such is believed to be the legal doctrine of all the other States; it is certainly that of the Supreme Court of the United States, as to the lands of Georgia. It is believed that if the Indians were permittedto take possession of the gold mines, through the assistance of the United States Government that, instead of being removed, they will become fixed upon the soil of Georgia. It is said that preparations are making by a large number of the wealthy Cherokees to remove into the gold region, for the purpose of participating in its mineral riches, if they can be protected in so doing by the United States. We shall thus not only retain the Cherokees who have hitherto occupied the lands of the States, but many of those who reside in Tennessee, Alabama, and North Carolina.
The State of Georgia cannot permit her rights to be violated by persons subject to her jurisdiction, as the Indians are acknowledged to be, without applying a remedy adequate to the removal of the evil. In exercising this power, however, if it should unfortunately become necessary, it will be the object of the State to do it in such a manner as to aid, rather than thwart, the policy of the present administration...
DOCUMENT #10: Letter from Andrew Jackson to Major William B. Lewis, August 25, 1830.
... I have used all the persuasive means in my power. I have exonerated the national character from all imputation, and now leave the poor deluded Creeks and Cherokees to their fate, and their annihilation, which their wicked advisers have induced. I am sure the stand the Executive has taken was not anticipated by their wicked advisers. It was expected that the more the Indians would hold out, and oppose the views of the Government, the greater would be the offers made by the Executive, and all the missionary and speculating tribe would make fortunes out of the United States. The answer sent, has blasted these hopes and if I mistake not, the Indians will now think for themselves, and send to the City a delegation prepared to cede their country and move X the M.
DOCUMENT #11: Letter from Andrew Jackson to Lewis Cass, Secretary of War, 1831.
An absolute independence of the Indian tribes from State authority can never bear an intelligent investigation and a quasi-independence of State authority when located within its Territorial limits is absurd.
DOCUMENT #12: Chief Justice John Marshall, majority opinion in Cherokee Nation v. State of Georgia, March 5, 1831.
This bill is brought by the Cherokee nation, praying an injunction to restrain the state of Georgia from execution of certain laws of that state, which, as is alleged, go directly to annihilate the Cherokees as a political society, and to seize, for the use of Georgia, the lands of the nation which have been assured, to them by the United States in solemn treaties repeatedly made and still in force.
...Though the Indians are acknowledged to have an unquestionable, and heretofore, unquestioned right to the lands they occupy, until that right shall be extinguished by a voluntary cession to our government; yet it may well be doubted whether those tribes which reside within the acknowledged boundaries of the United States, can with strict accuracy, be denominated foreign nations. They may, more correctly, perhaps, be denominated domestic dependent nations .... Their relation to the United States resembles that of a ward to his guardian...
...the majority is of opinion that an Indian, tribe or nation with the United States is not a foreign state in the sense of the constitution and cannot maintain an action in the courts of the United States.
...The bill requires us to control the legislature of Georgia, and to restrain exertion of its physical force. The propriety of such an interposition by the court may be well questioned. It savours too much of the exercise of political power to be within the proper province of the judicial department. But the opinion on the point respecting parties makes it unnecessary to decide this question.
If it be true that the Cherokee nation have rights, this is not the tribunal in which those rights are to be asserted. If it be true that wrongs have been inflicted, and that still greater are to be apprehended, this is not the tribunal which can redress the past or prevent the future.
The motion for an injunction is denied.
DOCUMENT #13: Governor George R. Gilmer of Georgia to Col. John W. A. Sanford, Commander of the Guard, April 20, 1831.
Sir: I am desirous of receiving from you such information, in answer to the following inquiries as your official station may enable you to obtain:
What effect has the late decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, in dismissing their bill of injunction against Georgia, had upon the Cherokees.
Are their chiefs disposed to make a treaty? If so, what means will be most efficient to secure that result.
If their chiefs are not so disposed is the temper of the middle and lower classes different? Could they be induced to have a general meeting of the whole tribe without the concurrence of their chiefs?
What White men, residing among the Indians or elsewhere, can, with the greatest probability of success, be employed to explain to them the policy of the General Government in desiring their removal to the Arkansas, and the right of the State, which induced the extension of its jurisdiction over them, and to convince them of the great advantage they will derive from an immediate removal?
Are there any individuals so situated that they could be employed for this object, without exciting the suspicions of the Indians that they were the agents of the Government?
Are they any of the half-breeds who could be trusted with such an employment...
You are also requested to communicate to me whatever information you may have of the conduct of the missionaries, Worcester and Thompson, or either of them, in opposing the removal of the Indians to the west of the Mississippi, creating opposition to the laws of Georgia, or inducing the Indians to persist in their attempt to establish an independent government ...
DOCUMENT #14: Col. J.W.A. Sanford to Governor George B. Gilmer, May 5, 1931
...Their chiefs, seeing the country gradually wasting away from a cause they have ceased to control, may make a virtue of necessity, and at length yield to what they can no longer prevent... They may be further induced to this course from the expectation of getting reservations, which, under other circumstances, they might fail in securing. After all, this may be the true secret of their conduct: and the part they are now acting may be nothing more than a ruse de guerre played off to prevent a precipitancy in the nation that might be prejudicial to their own views.
...As yet, they have listened alone to the representations of the interested chiefs, and the insidious and not less interested missionary.
...Far from informing or enlightening their minds upon these subjects, their ignorance and their prejudices are subservient to their purposes; and claim for them happiness and contentment, because they themselves are happy and contented at an order of things that secures them power and influence.
If competent persons, therefore, were sent among them - men capable of exposing the frauds which have been practised upon them... the delusion which has enchained the common Indian, in obedience to the will of his chief, would be dispelled....
The people east of the Hightower are beginning to think in good earnest of taking their affairs into their own hands, and I have urged them to do so by every argument I was capable of suggesting. However averse, under other circumstances, to excite disunion and distrust among them, a sense of paramount duty to the State has let me to view this measure with less repugnance, under the belief that it would ultimately result in the good of the country... Of the missionaries, the concurring accounts from all quarters represent them as a mischievous and intermeddling order of men, entirely regardless of their vocation, and forgetful of their holy character in their active and violent opposition to the Government. The good of the country requires their speedy removal...
DOCUMENT #15: Governor George Gilmer to John H. Eaton, Secretary of War, May 14, 1831.
Sir: I have learned through various sources, that since the late decision of the Supreme Court, the Cherokee Indians are in the most unsettled state as to their future course.
It is exceedingly important that the Government should immediately send an agent among them who has their confidence... Such an agent may be procured by the appointment of Dr. David A. Reese .... He is a gentleman of intelligence, high respectability, a member of the Legislature of the State, and as such was efficient in opposing the effort made at the last session to deprive the Cherokees, without their consent, and without compensation, of the occupancy of their country. He is the relation of Boudinot, the Adairs, and Charles Reese. He is personally acquainted with many others of their principal men... He is thoroughly convinced that it is in their interest to exchange the territory which they at present occupy for lands on the west of the Mississippi...
DOCUMENT #16: Letter from D.A. Reese to Governor Gilmer, June 8, 1831.
Dear Sir: I returned a few days since from the Cherokee nation, where I spent about two weeks. The Adairs and Boudinot talked very freely with me of their affairs. I staid some time at each of their houses; they are very much opposed to removal and treaty, as were all, in fact, that I conversed with - missionary and common Indians; they urged many objections, most of which you know. There is certainly great prejudice against Arkansas with the nation generally... I saw three common Indians who had been to Arkansas, and asked them their objections; their account of the country is not so bad as I expected, though they say they do not like it at all.
It was thought there was some chance of making a treaty with the Cherokees east of Hightower, for their part of the country; and old Mr. Rogers was relied on to come out, and take an active part in the matter. I saw a long letter from him, written by his son, saying he had declined doing any thing in the business, as it would be attended with danger and ruin to his interest and influence in the nation; so unpopular had he ascertained it would be....
DOCUMENT #17: Letter from George R. Gilmer to Andrew Jackson, June 20, 1831.
...Strong hopes were at one time entertained, that if the decision of the Supreme Court should be against the application of the Cherokees for a writ of injunction to stay the jurisdiction of Georgia, that they would immediately treat with the United States for an extinguishment of their present occupant rights.
It is known that, previous to that decision and during the pendency of the case before the Supreme Court, all classes had expressed their belief that such would be the course pursued by them. These hopes have, however, proved illusory. Since that decision, the wealthy and influential half-breed chiefs have been exceedingly active in persuading the people to continue their present residence in opposition to the desire of the General Government to extinguish their title, and in defiance of the rights and power of Georgia. These efforts have unfortunately been very successful. This has resulted from the extra-judicial opinions of the Supreme Court in determining that the Cherokees formed a distinct political society, separate from others, and capable of managing its own affairs, and that they were the rightful owners of the soil which they occupied.
The greater body of the common Indians are without wealth or power. Nothing prevents their acquiescence with the offers of the Government to unite them with that part of their tribe on the west of the Mississippi, but their habitual submission to the control of their chiefs and their inert and listless character. What is said of their strong desire not to be separated from the bones of their fathers, is but the expression of those whose ancestors' remains are deposited in Europe or the States. The confidence of the common Indians in the rule of their chiefs has been of late impaired by their appropriation of the wealth of the tribe to themselves, their descent from the whites, and the adoption of their manners; and their listlessness of temper in some degree overcome by the fear of unknown evils from the operation of the laws of Georgia. The guard which has been stationed among them has been successful in preventing any trespasses upon the gold mines in putting a stop to their legislative councils, their courts, the execution of their laws, and in removing all white men from among them disposed to excite their opposition to the Government of the State. The chiefs can no longer prevent the people from enrolling for emigration by the fear of punishment..
It is thought probably that the very attempt to remove the people, by enrolling individuals for emigration, will tend to produce a willingness on the part of the chiefs to treat for the exchange of their lands. They know that, by the removal of the common Indian, they will lose their power, the exclusive possession of their country, and become subjected to the prejudices of a white population, with whom they will be mingled...
It is important that the Government of the State should know whether it has become impossible for the United States to execute the contract of 1802, so that its policy in relation to the Cherokees may no longer be influenced by the expectation of that event.
Hitherto, the Indians have neither been compelled to pay taxes nor perform any civil duties. The State is at this time maintaining a guard, at great expense, for the purpose of preventing the exercise of assumed authority on the part of the chiefs, from the expectation that the President would be enabled, during the present year, to succeed in removing the Indians beyond its limits, and the strong disposition felt by its authorities to avoid the adoption of any measure which might have even the appearance of violating the laws of humanity, or the natural rights of the Indians. If the Cherokees are to continue inhabitants of the State, they must be rendered subject to the... ordinary operation of the laws, with less expense and trouble, and more effectually than heretofore. The State must put an endto even the semblance of a distinct political society among them.
....The millions of acres of land which are now of no value, except to add to the gratification of the idle ambition of the chiefs, must be placed in the possession of actual cultivators of the soil, who may be made the instruments for the proper administration of the laws.
Editors' Note: Early in 1831, under provision of the Georgia Law of December 22 1830, the Georgia guard arrested about a dozen missionaries for residing in Cherokee territory without a license from the State of Georgia. Although first released as agents of the United States, several, including the Rev. Samuel Worcester were rearrested after President Jackson indicated that they were not serving as U.S. agents and after he removed several of them, including Worcester, from posts as U.S. postmaster so that they would have no federal position. Worcester was arrested, found guilty, sentenced to four years imprisonment. From prison he appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although the Cherokee nation could not be a party to a suit, Worcester, as a U.S. Citizen, could be.
DOCUMENT #18: Chief Justice John Marshall, majority opinion in Worcester v. the State of Georgia, 1832.
...From the commencement of our government, Congress has passed acts to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indians; which treat them as nations... All these acts ... manifestly consider the several Indian nations as distinct political communities, having territorial boundaries, within which their authority is exclusive, and having a right to all the lands within those boundaries, which is not only acknowledged, but guaranteed by the United States.
... The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community, occupying its own territory, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and which the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter, but with the assent of the Cherokees themselves, or in conformity with treaties, and with the acts of congress.
... It is the opinion ofthis court that the judgment of the superior court... condemning Samuel A. Worcester to hard labour, in the penitentiary of the state of Georgia, for four years, was pronounced by that court under colour of a law which is void, as being repugnant tothe constitution, treaties, and laws of the United States and ought, therefore, to be reversed and annulled.
Editors' Note: Unauthorized leaks from sources high in white house circles indicated that President Jackson, upon hearing of the Supreme Court decision in Worcester v. Georgia remarked, "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it."
DOCUMENT #19: Wilson Lumpkin, Governor of Georgia, Message to the Georgia Legislature, November 6, 1832.
... These extraordinary proceedings of the supreme court have not been submitted to me officially, nor have they been brought before me in any manner which called for my official action. I have, however, been prepared to meet this usurpation of federal power, with the most prompt and determined resistance...
Editors' note: By 1833 and 1834 the distribution of Cherokee lands by Georgia lottery (See Doc. #8)was beginning to have its effect. Georgia citizens began ousting Cherokees from lands and homes to which they had successfully drawn rights in the lottery. Even John Ross, the principal chief, returned from Washington in 1833 to find his wife and children confined to two rooms in his large house, which, along with his fields, orchards, livestock and barns had been appropriated by lottery winners. Ross was forced to move his family across the state line to Tennessee.
Distressed by this pressure and despairing in their hopes of protection through the Supreme Court, a small minority of the Cherokee leaders gravitated into a "treaty party" which now began to favor making the best possible terms with the federal government for removal. Some writers have claimed that members of the treaty party began to receive favored treatment by Georgia officials in protecting their lands and homes against lottery claims.
After a meeting of the national council in August, 1834, during which the question of removal was debated in, what was officially described as a "tumultuous and excited meeting", one of the main advocates of emigration, a mixed-blood leader named John Walker Jr. was assassinated while returning home.
DOCUMENT #20: Andrew Jackson to B. F. Currey and H. Montgomery (emigration and enrolling agents for the Cherokees), September 3, 1834.
I have just been advised... that Walker has been shot, Ridge and other chiefs in favour of emigration, and you as the agent of the U. States Govern't threatened with death. The Government of the U.S. has promised them protection, it will perform its obligations to a tittle. On the receipt of this, notify John Ross and his council, that we will hold them answerable for every murder committed by his people on the emigrants or emigrating party....
Editors' Note: John Ross was born in 1790. He served the Indian Agent on a mission to the Arkansas Cherokees in 1809 and served under Andrew Jackson at the battle of Horseshoe Bend against the dissident Creeks in 1814. In 1817 he was elected a member of the national committee of the Cherokee council, in 1819 became president of the national committee, in 1827 became associate chief with William Hicks and president of the convention which adopted the constitution of 1827, and from 1828 to the removal was principal chief of the eastern Cherokees. From 1839 until his death in 1866 he was principal chief of the united Cherokee Nation.
DOCUMENT #21: John Ross to Andrew Jackson, September 15, 1834.
...The idea, that myself and the Council shall be held and made responsible for offences which by possibility may be committed by others on the emigrants or officers of the Govt. when at the same time we shall be as innocent of any Crime whatever... is too horrible to conceive. ...If the unfortunate affair... respecting John Walker Jr. being shot, has been reported to you as having been done by the connivance or knowledge of myself and the General Council of the nation, I pronounce it to be a malicious and slanderous falsehood against our character...
... I love peace and friendship with all men, and hold myself individually responsible for my Own Acts, but do most solemnly protest against any responsibility for the private Conduct of Others.
DOCUMENT #22: Memorial of A Council held at Running Waters in the Cherokee nation in Georgia, November 28, 18 34, on behalf of those members of the Cherokee tribe ... who are desirous of removing west of the Mississippi.
... In the full time of this successful improvement (of Cherokee civilization) all... hopes of happiness have been blasted, in consequence of the extension, by force, of the jurisdiction of the States ....
In the midst of the painful feeling which the destruction of our Government creates in our bosoms, we also perceive, the same melancholy fate has attended the other aboriginal tribes. On this side of the Mississippi scarcely a solitary council fire blazes under the heavens.
It is well known that our applications to the President, Congress, and the Supreme Court, to interpose the United States authority in our behalf, have all proved fruitless, as well as that the decisions of the Supreme Court in behalf of individuals claiming the right of protection under the Cherokee laws and treaties, have been disregarded by the State of Georgia....
... now, our earliest friends have told us that it is in vain to hope for the restoration of our rights.
In view of all these circumstances, we have been compelled to the hard case of choosing an alternative... In the decision we have made on this subject, we have taken the unhappy condition of our people, as individuals, into consideration. It is not to be disguised that there are in existence two parties among our people, whose policies are the antipodes of each other. Since the suppression of our Government, no elections have been held among us... The party who hold the councils at Red Clay have kept themselves in perpetual office by a resolution enacted of themselves. They are willing to take an individual standing in the States, and become citizens. Heretofore, as you will perceive, in looking at the treaty of 1819, the leaders of this party have already received valuable reservations in fee simple.
They hold their councils in the chartered limits of Tennessee. The party which we represent are not in favor of taking reservations of land, and abandoning the political existence of the nation...
When we reflect upon the character of our people in general, their ignorance, weakness, and total incapacity to contend in competition with the white man for wealth, science, and fame; and when we reflect on the fearful odds against which we have to run our career, laws expressly made to discredit us as men, with no legal rights to the soil, and all the unrelenting prejudices against our language and color in full force, we must believe that the scheme of amalgamation with our oppressors is too horrid for a serious contemplation. ...If then, it is the opinion of Congress that the tide of white population and State jurisdiction, which is pressing upon us, cannot be restrained, it would be the greatest act of humanity to devise immediate measures to remove our people upon as liberal terms as the General Government can afford....
signed by Major Ridge, John Ridge, Elias Boudinot, and approximately 50 others.
Editors' Note: Major Ridge was a prosperous Cherokee trader and planter who had been bestowed the rank of major by Andrew Jackson for his efforts in a war against a segment of the Creek Indians in 1814. As young chief, he had helped block a proposal for the migration of the Cherokees to the West in 1808 by his passionate denunciations of the scheme. John Ridge, his son, and his nephew Elias Boudinot, had been educated at the missionary schools, first in Georgia and then in Connecticut. Both, while in Connecticut, married white women. John Ridge became a member of the national council and a frequent member of Cherokee delegations to Washington and elsewhere. Boudinot became editor of the Cherokee newspaper the Cherokee Phoenix and helped promote Cherokee literacy in their new written language, based on the alphabet developed by Sequoia.
DOCUMENT #23: Letter from Governor Wilson Lumpkin to Ben Currey (emigration enrollment agent), December 13, 1834.
.... assure Boudinot, Ridge, and their friends of state protection under any circumstances. I shall feel it my imperative duty to pay due regard to the situation and afford them every security which out laws will justify or authorize.
DOCUMENT #24: On January 19, 1835, Congressman Edward Everett of Massachusetts rose to present an Indian memorial in favor of removal. This petition had been brought to Washington by John Ridge and Elias Boudinot.
...I certainly never expected to present a memorial in this house in favor of the removal of Indians; but I as little expected to be requested by Indians to do so. I have performed this duty, at the request of a delegation of three, two at least of whom were among those, most active and influential, among their brethren at the time the great stand was made on this floor, against the Indian policy of the government. ...
I have changed no opinion then expressed by me. But it is the lesson of practical wisdom to yield, when it can be no longer helped, to the force of circumstances. ... I fear that swift and certain destruction impends over them, if they much longer delay their removal. I believe that they can now make better terms with the government, than they will be able hereafter to make, and that the longer they remain in their present abode, the more of that which they most wish to preserve - their national identity, will perish.
DOCUMENT #25: Governor Wilson Lumpkin of Georgia to Andrew Jackson, May 20, 1835.
...I incline to the opinion, that John Ross and his associates will have the address and influence to prevent the majority of the Cherokees from accepting, at present, the very liberal terms of the Treaty arrangement recently provided at Washington under your direction.
I have, and do still protest against any further efforts to treat with John Ross and his white advisers, by any modification or alteration whatever, in the treaty lately negotiated (sic) by Ridge and others at Washington. ...
Ross, and his friends would be perfectly satisfied with the proposed treaty, provided they could be entrusted with the disbursement of the consideration money.
I have carefully read the treaty, and was glad to perceive that its liberal provisions secure the interest of every individual attached to the Cherokee people, affording but limited opportunity for the aristocratic leaders of this unfortunate race to defraud them of their national inheritance. ...If the door is once opened for modifications, Ross and his friends will secure to themselves fortunes at the expense of the common Indians.
DOCUMENT #26: Letter from J. F. Schermerhorn, U.S. commissioner to treat with the eastern Cherokees to John Ross, Principal chief of the eastern Cherokees, and the delegation to treat with the commissioners. October 30, 1835.
... the commissioners are instructed to convene a council at New Echota at such time as they think best ... you are therefore hereby notified that the commissioners will meet the Cherokee people in general council on the third Monday in December next; and you are requested to assemble the people accordingly, for the purpose of negotiation and concluding a treaty with the United States.
I feel it my duty also to inform you, that if the Cherokee people refuse the terms of a treaty the commissioners will then offer them, it will be the last overture which the President of the United States will make during his administration; and on their own heads must rest the consequences; neither will he receive any delegation from the Cherokee nation at Washington to transact any business of this kind. If a treaty is made, it must be done here in the nation...
DOCUMENT #27: Letter from John Ross, John Ridge, Elias Boudinot, Elijah Hicks, Sleeping Rabbitt, and others to J. F. Schermerhorn, October 31, 1835. Red Clay Council Ground.
.... our former answer must be considered as final, and our arrangements requiring despatch, we have closed our meetings as a delegation and shall do no further business until we arrive at Washington.
In reference to another council at New Echota, we cannot enter into your views, as the people have already made their election upon the course they wish pursued. We, in their name, protest against any future meeting being called under the name of a council, in the way you propose, as an unnecessary agitation of the public mind...
It, therefore, only remains for us to desire that you will have the goodness to apprize your Government that we depart for Washington on the first of December next, with full powers from the Cherokee people... to make such a treaty as may appear to us best calculated to ensure the present peace and future prosperity of our country....
DOCUMENT #28: Letter from Elias Boudinot to John Ross and others, Cherokee Delegation, New Echota, November 25, 1835.
Gentlemen: Finding that I cannot consistently accompany you to Washington as a member of the Cherokee delegation, I have thought proper to resign my appointment, which I herewith accordingly do.
DOCUMENT #29: John Ridge to John Ross, December, 1835.
Sir: I have the honor to decline going on with you to Washington city, after having read...the Cherokee address to the people of the United States, prepared, no doubt, at your request and suggestion.
That address unfolds to me your views of policy, diametrically opposite to me and my friends, who will never consent to be citizens of the States, or receive money to buy land in foreign parts.
I trust that, whatever you do, if you can effect a treaty, that the rights of the poor Indians, who are nearly naked and homeless, will not be disregarded.
DOCUMENT #30: John Ross to John Ridge, Dec. 4, 1835.
Sir: You do me unmerited injustice in your remarks I have not settled upon anyfixed course in relation to the duties assigned to the delegation. In their business, the whole delegation are to determine, and I am but one of them. It is the good of the whole Cherokee people alone which I desire, in whatever may be done, therefore I must request you to pause and reconsider your intention of declining to go on with the delegation.
DOCUMENT #31: Charles C. Royce, "The Cherokee Nation of Indians", in Fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1883-1884, p. 297.
In connection with this subject of an investigation into the affairs of the Cherokees, a confidential letter is to be found on file in the office of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, from Hon. P. M. Butler of South Carolina, who had a few months previous to its date (March 4, 1842) been appointed United States agent for the Cherokees, interesting as throwing light on the negotiation and claimed to be susceptible of proof, that Mr. Merriweather, of Georgia, in an interview with President Jackson, a considerable time before the treaty was negotiated, said to the President, "We want the Cherokee lands in Georgia, but the Cherokees will not consent to cede them," to which the President emphatically replied, "You must get clear of them (the Cherokees) by legislation. Take judicial jurisdiction over their country; build fires around them, and do indirectly what you cannot effect directly.
Editors' Note: When it became clear that the tentative treaty arranged with the federal government by the "treaty party" among the Cherokees would be overwhelmingly defeated at the General Council meeting in October, 1835 (held at the safety of Red Clay on the Tennessee-Georgia border), U.S. Commissioner Schermerhorn summoned the Cherokee nation to meet with him in another council, on Georgia ground at New Echota. He also ruled that all who did not attend would be counted as voting for any treaty adopted at that council. But Ross and the Council considered the issue of the treaty already decided at the Red Clay Council and directed Ross to return to Washington, D.C. with a delegation to renew his petition for a redress of Cherokee grievances.
Apparently despairing of gaining Cherokee assent to a treaty as long as Ross was free to influence the people directly, a detachment of Georgia militia crossed the Tennessee line on November 7, 1835 and seized Ross and "a strange Man" and carried them back into confinement in Georgia. It turned out that the "strange man" was the famous author John Howard Payne, author of numerous novels and "Home Sweet Home" who had been visiting Ross while working on a history of the Cherokee. Payne's effective voice was soon added to the passionate defenders of the Cherokees. After 13 days, the two were released without charges and Ross proceeded on his mission to Washington. While Ross was in Washington, meeting rebuffs from all officials, the "treaty faction" headed by Boudinot and the Ridges signed the treaty of New Echota with Schermerhorn.
DOCUMENT #32: Treaty Concluded December 29, 1835, at New Echota, Georgia between General William Carroll and John F. Schermerhorn, commissioners on the part of the United States, and the chiefs, headman and people of the Cherokee tribe of Indians. (selection): (ratified, May, 1836)
The Cherokee Nation cedes to the United States all the land claimed by said Nation east of the Mississippi River, and hereby releases all claims on the United States for spoilations of every kind for and in consideration of $5,000,000,
The description of the 7,000,000 acres of land guaranteed to the Cherokees west of the Mississippi by the treaties of 1828 and 1833 is repeated, and in addition thereto the further guaranty is made to the Cherokee Nation of a perpetual outlet west, and a free and unmolested use of all the country west of the western boundary of said 7,000,000 acres, as far west-as the sovereignty of the United States and their right of soil extend...
...The United States agree that the land herein guaranteed to the Cherokees shall never, without their consent, be included within the limits of jurisdiction of any State or Territory.
The United States agree to remove the Cherokees to their new home and to provide them with one year's subsistence thereafter.
The United States agree to make an appraisement of the value of all Cherokee improvements and ferries. The just debts of the Indians shall be paid out of any moneys due them for improvements and claims. The Indians shall be furnished with sufficient funds for their removal, and the balance of their dues shall be paid them at the Cherokee Agency west of the Mississippi.
Such Cherokees as are averse to removal west of the Mississippi and desire to become citizens of the States where they reside, if qualified to take care of themselves and their property, shall receive their proportion of all the personal benefits accruing under this treaty for claims, improvements and per capita.
Such heads of Cherokee families as desire to reside within the States of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama, subject to the laws thereof and qualified become useful citizens, shall be entitled to a pre-emption right of 160 acres at the minimum Congress price, to include their improvements.
The Cherokees stipulate to remove west within two years from the ratification of this treaty, during which time the United States shall protect them inthe possession and enjoyment of their property...
This treaty is to be obligatory after ratification...
Editors' Note: Major William M. Davis was appointed by the Secretary of War to act as an agent of the federal government in the enrollment of Cherokees who desired to remove to the West.
DOCUMENT #33: Major William M. Davis to Secretary of War, March 5, 1836.
I conceive that my duty to the President, to yourself, and to my country, reluctantly compels me to make a statement of facts in relation to a meeting of a small number of Cherokees at New Echota last December who were met by Mr. Schermerhorn and articles of a general treaty entered into between them for the whole Cherokee Nation.
I should not interpose in the matter at all but I discover that you do not receive impartial information on the subject... I will not be silent when I see that you are about to be imposed on by a gross and base betrayal of the high trust reposed in Rev. J. F. Schermerhorn by you.
Sir, that paper... called a treaty is no treaty at all, because not sanctioned by the great body of the Cherokees and made without their participation or assent. I solemnly declare to you that upon its reference to the Cherokee people it would be instantly rejected by nine-tenths of them and I believe by nineteen-twentieths of them. There were not present at the conclusion of the treaty more than one hundred Cherokee voters ... The most cunning and artful means were resorted to to conceal the paucity of numbers present at the treaty. No enumeration of them was made by Shermerhorn. The business of making the treaty was transacted with a committee appointed by the Indians present, so as not to expose their numbers.... The delegation ... had no more authority to make a treaty than any other dozen Cherokees accidentally picked up for that purpose.
DOCUMENT #34: Elias Boudinot, selection from a Pamphlet address to Cherokee Nation.
We cannot conceive of the acts of a minority to be so reprehensible and unjust as are represented by Mr. Ross. If one hundred persons are ignorant of their true situation and are so completely blinded as not to see the destruction that awaits them, we can see strong reasons to justify the action of a minority of fifty persons to do what the majority would do if they understood their condition, to save a nation from political thralldom and moral degradation.
DOCUMENT #35: Lewis Cass, Secretary of War, to Brigadier General John E. Wool, June 20, 1836.
Sir: You will repair to the Cherokee country without delay and ascertain the condition and probable designs of the Cherokee Indians. Rumors have reached here that these Indians are meditating hostilities against the United States, and that depredations have actually been committed.
... Should the conduct of the Cherokees require the application of force, you will proceed to subdue them with as much expedition as possible. When this is effected, their arms will be immediately taken from them, and they will be kept together, under proper guards, till you can complete your arrangements for their removal west.
DOCUMENT #36: Letter from General John E. Wool to Andrew Jackson, August 30, 1836.
... I met with Mr. John Ross, just arrived from his visit to Washington. He, like many others of the nation, expressed a strong desire to have a council of the Cherokee people for the purpose of laying before them the whole proceedings of the delegation assembled at Washington in relation to the late treaty; at the same time asked me if I had the authority to prevent such a meeting, which, he said, would be in accordance with the practice and laws of the nation. I replied that I had not authority to prevent such a meeting. I advised him however, to be careful how he advocated such a measure if he had for object any other course than merely explaining the treaty and with reference to an entire submission to its terms. That any discussion or explanation tending to a different result I was confident would find no favor with the President, who was determined to have the treaty executed. He merely replied that he thought the President would be convinced that he had been in error, and that he would finally yield and be willing to do justice to the Cherokees.
Since my arrival at this place I have been informed that Mr. Ross has sent runners through the country, disseminating his views, which I am apprehensive will do much injury, and very much retard emigration to the west, particularly this fall. Will there not be a danger, if such a course is allowed, that he will make good his declaration, which will be found at the close of his letter dated Washington, June 21, 1836, in answer to inquiries by a friend, viz: "The delegation must repeat, the instrument entered into at New Echota, purporting to be a treaty, is deceptive to the world, and a fraud upon the Cherokee people. ...if the Cherokees are removed under that instrument it will be by force."...
Your instructions are requested on the subject.
DOCUMENT #37: Letter from Lewis Cass, Secretary of War to General John E. Wool, September 3, 1336.
Sir: I have just received your letter of the 20th ultimo, and approve
entirely the views taken by you in the conversation with John Ross, concerning the council proposed by him to be held with the Cherokees. If the Indians are to be assembled with the fair intention of explaining to them their duty under the treaty, and the necessity of an immediate compliance with its terms, the measure may perhaps be useful.
... If you think good can result from it, you are at liberty to encourage the measure. But if the object is to discuss the validity of the treaty, and thus to excite the Cherokees ultimately to opposition, it is certainly proper that you should express your decided disapprobation of the proposition. I would not, however, have you use actual force till you are satisfied that the measure will have a tendency to provoke disturbances; in that event it must be put a stop to...
DOCUMENT #38: Letter from Andrew Jackson to General J. E. Wool, September 7, 1836.
...The Treaty is to be religiously fulfilled; you may assure all concerned that no modification or alteration in it will be made by me. Of this Mr. John Ross is fully advised...
You will caution John Ross from calling any council of the Cherokee people with the view of opposing or altering the treaty. He knows that there will be no further negotiation on the subject; that the Cherokees are to emigrate in two years from the ratification of the treaty, and will be obliged to go within that period; that the collisions between them and the whites have been too long continued for the gratification of himself at the expense of the poor in the nation....
DOCUMENT #39: Letter from John Ross, principal chief, and members of national council of the Cherokee Nation, to General John E. Wool, September 30, 1836.
Sir: The undersigned chiefs 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.... your communications ... to the Cherokee people, respecting your instructions on the subject, were promptly read and interpreted to them in general council assembled. The result of their deliberations, and the expression of sentiments adopted by upwards to twenty-one hundred male adults on this occasion, the undersigned would also most respectfully communicate, through you, to the government of the United States as follows, to wit: The chiefs resolved that the instrument purporting to be a treaty made at New Echota, on the 29th day of December, 1835, by the Rev. John F. Schermerhorn... 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 assumed 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, therefore said instrument is null and void, and can never, in justice, be enforced upon the nation....
...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 toward the public functionaries and the private citizens of the United States....
...The undersigned beg you to accept their cordial thanks and sincere regard for your honorable course in the discharge of your military duties here... and the orderly conduct of the soldiers under your command during the sitting of the general council.
DOCUMENT #40: Letter from C. A. Harris, Acting Secretary of War, to Brigadier General John E. Wool, October 12, 1836.
...I am instructed to express the surprise of the President that you permitted the council of the Cherokees to remain in session a moment after it became apparent that it was determined to declare the treaty void. This was the contingency contemplated in the letter of the department of September 3, in which you were instructed to interfere and disperse such assemblage. If upon any future occasion the non-execution of the treaty should be discussed in council you will immediately close its session.
DOCUMENT #41: Letter from General John E. Wool to Adjutant-General of the United States, February 18, 1837.
I called them (the Cherokees) together and made a short speech. It is, however, vain to talk to a people almost universally opposed to the treaty and who maintain that they never made such a treaty. So determined are they in theiropposition that not one of all those who were present and voted at the council held but a day or two since, however poor or destitute, would receive either rations or clothing from the United States, lest they might compromise themselves in regard to the treaty.
DOCUMENT #42: Letter from General John Wool to Secretary of War Joel R. Poinsett, March 31, 1837.
Recent occurrences, which are but repetitions of those which have heretofore taken place, show plainly that it is vain to appeal to the civil authoritiesof the country to repress the disposition of the whites to oppress this people and trample on their rights. In illustration ... An Indian at his home was shot down and basely murdered by a party of white men, who had not the semblance of provocation, unless an attempt to escape from their barbarity be so considered. These men were arrested by my order, and immediately turned over to the civil authority to be dealt with according to their deserts; but so strongly have the prejudices of the people, stimulated by avarice, been excited against the Indians, that it is exceedingly doubtful if justice can be done in the case. With these, people it really seems to be no crime to kill an Indian.
Editors' Note: In summer of 1837, John Mason, Jr. was sent as a confidential agent of the War Department to make observations in the Cherokee nation and report.
DOCUMENT #43: Letter from John Mason Jr. to Secretary of War, September 25, 1837.
The chiefs and better informed part of the nation are convinced that they cannot retain the country. But the opposition to the treaty is unanimous and irreconcilable. They say it cannot bind them because they did not make it; that it was made by a few unauthorized individuals; that the nation is not a party to it ... They retain the forms of their government in their proceedings among themselves, though they have had no election since 1830; the chiefs and headmen then in power having been authorized to act until their government shall again be regularly constituted. Under this arrangement John Ross retains the post of principal chief. The influence of this chief is unbounded and unquestioned. The whole nation of eighteen thousand persons is with him, the few, about three hundred, who made the treaty having left the country. It is evident therefore, that Ross and his party are in fact the Cherokee Nation....
.... The officers say that, with all his power, Ross cannot, if he would, change the course he has heretofore pursued...Were he ...to advise the Indians to acknowledge the treaty, he would at once forfeit their confidence and probably his life. Yet though unwavering in this opposition to the treaty, Ross's influence has constantly been exerted to preserve the peace of the country ... the opposition to the treaty on the part of the Indians is unanimous and sincere, and it is not a mere political game played by Ross for the maintenance of his ascendancy in the tribe.
DOCUMENT #44: General Winfield Scott, proclamation to Cherokees, May 10, 1838.
The President of the United States has sent me with a powerful army to cause you, in obedience to the treaty of 1835, to join that part of your people who are already established in prosperity on the other side of Mississippi. Unhappily the two years ... allowed for that purpose you have just suffered to pass away ... without making any preparation to follow, and now ... the emigration must be commenced in haste ... The full moon of May is already on the wane, and before another shall have passed away every Cherokee, man, woman, and child ... must be in motion to join their brethren in the Far West ... This is no sudden determination on the part of the President .... I have come to carry out that determination. My troops already occupy many positions, and thousands and thousands are approaching from every quarter to render resistance and escape alike hopeless ... Will you then by resistance compel us to arms ... Or will you by flight seek to hide yourselves in mountains and forests and thus oblige us to hunt you down. Remember that in pursuit it may be impossible to avoid conflicts. The blood of the white man or the blood of the red man may be spilt, and if spilt, however accidentally, for the discreet and humane among you, or among us, to prevent a general war and carnage.
DOCUMENT #45: James Mooney,"Myths of the Cherokee," 19th Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1897-1898. This narrative draws from personal interviews with survivors, both Cherokees and army officers.
...Under Scott's orders the troops were disposed at various points throughout the Cherokee country, where stockade forts were erected for gathering in and holding the Indians preparatory to removal. From these, squads of troops were sent to search out with rifle and bayonet every small cabin hidden away in the coves or by the sides of mountain streams .... Men were seized in their fields or going along the road women were taken from their wheels and children from their play. In many cases, on turning for one last look as they crossed the ridge, they saw their homes in flames, fired by the lawless rabble that followed on the heels of the soldiers to loot and pillage. So keen were these outlaws on the scent that in some instances they were driving, off the cattle of the Indians almost before the soldiers had fairly started their owners in the other direction... in October, 1838, the long procession of exiles was set in motion. A very few went by the river route; the rest, nearly all the 13,000, went overland. Crossing to the north side of the Hiwasse at a ferry above Gunstocker creek, they proceeded down along the river, the sick, the old people, and the smaller children, with the blankets, cooking pots, and other, belongings in wagons, the rest on foot or on horses. The number of wagons was 645. It was like the march of an army, regiment after regiment...
Somewhere along that march of death - for the exiles died by tens and twenties every day of the journey - the devoted wife of John Ross sank down, leaving him to go on with the bitter pain of bereavement added to the heartbreak at the ruin of his nation. The Ohio was crossed at a ferry near the mouth of the Cumberland, and the army passed on through southern Illinois until the great Mississippi was reached... It was now the middle of winter, with the river running full of ice, so that several detachments were obliged to wait some time on the eastern bank... In talking with old men and women... the author found that the lapse of over half a century had not sufficed to wipe out the memory of the miseries of that halt beside the frozen river, with hundreds of sick and dying penned up in wagons or stretched upon the ground, with only a blanket overhead to keep out the January blast. At last their destination was reached. They had started in October, 1838, and it was now March, 1839, the journey having occupied barely six months of the hardest part of the year.
DOCUMENT #46: President Martin Van Buren, message to Congress, December, 1838.
... It affords me sincere pleasure to apprise the Congress of the entire removal of the Cherokee Nation of Indians to their new homes west of the Mississippi. The measures authorized by Congress at its last session have had the happiest effect. By an agreement concluded with them by the commanding general in that country, their removal has been principally under the conduct of their own chiefs, and they have emigrated without any apparent reluctance.
DOCUMENT #47: Account of traveler who signed himself "A Native of Maine," which appeared in the New York Observer, January 26, 1839.
... On Tuesday evening we fell in with a detachment of the poor Cherokee Indians... about eleven hundred Indians - sixty wagons ... We found them in the forest camped for the night... under a severe fall of rain ... many of the aged Indians were suffering extremely from the fatigue of the journey, and the ill health consequent upon it... several were then quite ill, and one aged man we were informed was then in the last struggle of death...
... we found the road literally filled with the procession for about three miles in length. The sick and feeble were carried in wagons - about as comfortable for traveling as a New England ox cart with a covering over it. A great many ride on horseback and multitudes go on foot - even aged females, apparently nearly ready to drop into the grave, were traveling with heavy burdens attached to the back ... on the sometimes frozen ground ... with no covering for the feet except what nature had given them. ...We learned from the inhabitants on the road where the Indians passed, that they buried fourteen or fifteen at every stopping place, and they make a journey of ten miles per day only on an average. One fact which to my own mind seemed a lesson indeed to the American nation is, that they will not travel on the Sabbath ... The Indians as a whole carry on their countenances every thing but the appearance of happiness. Some carry a downcast dejected look bordering upon the appearance of despair; others a wild frantic appearance as if about to burst the chains of nature and pounce like a tiger upon their enemies....
When I read in the President's Message that he was happy to inform the Senate that the Cherokees were peaceably and without reluctance removed - and remember that it was on the third day of December when not one of the detachments had reached their destinations; and that a large majority had not made even half their journey when he made that declaration, I thought I wished the President could have been there that very day in Kentucky with myself, and have seen the comfort and the willingness with which the Cherokees were making their journey.
Editors' Note: On June 22, 1839 three leaders of the "treaty party" - John Ridge, Major Ridge (his father), and Elias Boudinot were murdered. The assassins were widely suspected to be among the followers of John Ross.