Wednesday June 25, 1828
Volume 1 No. 18
Page 2 col. 2b-5b
Page 3, col. 1a-3a
FOR THE CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The purpose of this communication is to expose the evasion of Col. T. L. McKenney in his report to the Secretary of War, in relation to his conduct as Commissioner of the U. S. in the fall of 1827, in the Creek Nation. In one of his letters, he says that, "it was not until I had met the Creeks in a third Council, I could succeed with them, nor then until in their midst, I demonstrated the cupidity and bad counsels of one of these interfering Agents, and assuming the responsibility broke him on the spot, (Query, of what?) by announcing in the name of the President of the United States, that for the reasons then assigned, no communication of any sort would be received by the President from the Creek Nation, if that man had any agency in it. This broke the spell of their opposition and the agreement [treaty] was made" But as my name was not mentioned and as more than one of "interfering Agents" was intimated I was willing he should enjoy the benefit of his qualified misstatements. The House of Representatives thought proper to inquire of the Secretary of War, the reasons that governed Col. McKenney in his conduct, and he was accordingly called upon to make an explanation, which he has done; but not with proper regard to facts, for he has brought the "foulest charges" and crimination against my motives and conduct in the Creek Country, all of which have no other foundation, according to his report, than the "baseless fabric" of "vague testimony." This Gentleman has passed currently with laurels of friendship and benevolent considerations towards the Indians, and it now becomes my duty to pluck the unmerited crown from his head and place, him exposed in his won colors. I owe my birth to the Cherokee Nation, and to that only my character is bestowed for their safe keeping. My Education I owe to the American Board of Missions, a class of worthy citizens, who at all times acting from correct motives, may be the last to suspect Col. McKenney for duplicity and cunning. For their information the task of self defence has been undertaken.
In the first place I shall state the proceedings of the Council to which Col. McKenney has alluded, his conduct and mine, therein, and his defeat.
"Secondly, I shall notice his charges on "vague testimony."
And thirdly, I shall prove that the treaty was not made with the Council, now at the place reported by him, but at Fort Mitchell, about sixty miles distant.
In the month of Nov. 1827, the Chiefs of the upper towns of the Creek Nation, who were yet unapprised of Col. McKenney's coming, appointed a time for a Council for the purpose of transacting business in relation to the collection of taxes, and the counting of it previously to the disposition of it in their Treasury for that year. I was invited by letter to attend this Council. I set out for the Creek Country in company with Mr. David Vann, and having joined the Chiefs of Cheyahha and Telladega, who were waiting for us, moved on towards Tuckaubatchee. At a little village of Creeks called Foosochhatchee, or Hatchet Creek, two days journey from Tuckaubatchee, we for the first time heard of the expected arrival of "Land Buyers," accompanied by the Chiefs of the "Lower Towns." We reached the town after Col. McKenney, and took lodgings with Opothleholo, unconscious of the impression our arrival had occasioned in the breast of McKenney, as our visit was of a private nature. The next morning the chiefs met in Council, & I was invited by them to attend and take a seat among them which was near their most distinguished chiefs, when a speech was delivered, announcing our arrival agreeable to their invitation. The Council composed of the Upper and Lower towns rose, and individually took me by the hand and expressed their pleasure at my arrival. After this, the Chiefs were in consultation, which resulted in the despatch of an invitation to Col. McKenney and Crowell, to come to the Council, of which I was informed after the messenger had started. They came. Opothlehohlo ordered seats for them just before him and the principal Chiefs, Little Prince, excepted, who was prevented by his conjurer from entering the square while he was sick and under his care. But the Council was full and had power to do any business they thought proper.- Col McKenney in a friendly manner shook hands with me and Mr. Vann, but Col. Crowell did not and seemed to avoid an interview. Opothleholo then told McKenney, that the Council, being called for private business, had made no provision for the subsistence of a Grand Council any length of time, and as he had come on the business of the President, he wished to know whether he would supply the Council in provisions. Col. McKenney replied that he had but a short time to stay, his business being but small and required despatch and could be effected in two days, and for that period he would furnish the Council in beef.- Expressing at the same time his readiness to make known his business then, or any other time the Chiefs should direct. He was told that when the Council was prepared they would send for him on the next day. He agreed to it and in company with Col. Crowell and Mr. Compere, a Baptist Preacher and Missionary, left the Council. But Mr. Compere soon after returned and invited us to his house, where Cols. McKenney and Crowell had taken quarters, and said that he had no doubt but the Colonel would be glad to see us there. We accepted the invitation, & in the evening reached Compere's mission house, in the porch of which were seated a number of Creeks and white men, and among them Col. Crowell, I shook hands with all, except Crowell who refused my hand. Col. McKenney soon after appeared, and we sat down in another part of the porch from where Crowell sat, and commenced a conversation, or rather listened to Col. McKenney, who as usual gave us a pompous description of his travels and interviews with the Indians. Notwithstanding the polite attentions of Mr. Compere's family, the time passed away very unpleasantly with me, in consequence of having given Crowell an opportunity of refusing my hand, of which I could hardly forgive myself. Mr. Vann during this conversation told Mr. McKenney that we had received his letter at the instance of the Secretary of War in regard to our claim against the Creek Nation for $10,000, and wished to know of him whether he would have any objection to give a verbal statement to the Creeks, of the origin of this claim. McKenney said, he would cheerfully do it, and he would devote a day to it, and make the Creeks sensible of its justice.- "But let me ( said he) pass over my mountain first and then I will attend to yours." The letter, marked A will explain itself. The Delegation at Washington in order to obtain the annulment of the base treaty, saw the necessity of baiting the Lion, the U. States, with a large piece of Land, to induce it to do justice. And as this Land was about to pass away from under their feet, they wished us as friends to procure us reservations of 460 acres each in fee simple, and directed us to negotiate for them.- We did so and succeeded so far as to obtain the Secretary's promise to us for $5,000 each in lieu of the reservations, which would be less objectionable to Georgia, on who had formerly complained of reservations being given to Indians. This sum was accordingly added to the consideration money of the new treaty. The Creek Nation paid us for our services as secretaries to their Delegation, but the commutation money, in lieu of the reservations was withheld, as we were informed, by misrepresentations of our arch enemy, Col. Crowell.
At a late hour we started to our lodgings in the night, Col. McKenney having attended us to our horses and politely wished us "good night." In the evening of the next day, the Chiefs having assembled in Council sent word to Col. McKenney that they were ready to hear his talk. McKenney came and delivered a speech to them, no doubt in style and manner, practised [sic] among the Chippeways, Kickapoos, Menominees, Sioux, &c. That the Great father told him to go and visit his red Children to the cold country at the lakes, then to his children who live where the Sun sleeps, then those who live in the warm country, and by all means his Creek children. He obeyed and went in stages and travelled far- then got into a great canoe that carries fire in its bottom and sends its smoke to heaven, and travelled to the great lakes, where the winds live and where cold dwells and makes the waters to freeze hard so men and cattle can pass over dry shod. He left the big canoe, and entered in a bark canoe and went up a river whose rapids were like the falls of the Tallapoosa, and found Indians.- They were sitting in darkness and had not heard their father's talk for a great while. Their paths were choked up with briers and their feet were bleeding. He gave them their father's talk, and with it the light, and cleaned their paths of briers, and cured their bleeding feet- The Indians were glad, but said when you go away the briers will grow again, and again our feet will bleed- he asked them why? Because, said they, we have bad birds among us and they make the briers to grow. Then he drove away those bad birds from their country, and left a mouth with them, and told them they must listen to that mouth alone, it would talk the voice of wisdom from Washington, and if the bad birds come back again to listen to them no more. They promised him they would do as he told them, and then shook hands with them and went to another river to which he had his canoe carried- went down that river to the great father of rivers, the Mississippi. His subsequent speeches, in this Indian inspection summer travel, were all similar to the above, among all of whom after clearing the briers from their paths and healing their bleeding feet, he left "a mouth to speak the voice of wisdom from Washington." He arrived at last among the Chickasaws and Choctaws- they knew him and were glad to see him- their hearts grew so warm and big within them, that they could scarcely breath, they felt so rejoiced, because they had seen him at Washington near their Great Father, and because they knew that he always carried a sweet thing under his tongue for the Indians. He said, the Chickasaws had received his talk and because they had drunk from the pure water that flowed from the spring at Washington, the Chickasaws would become a great Nation, mark it, they would live to see it. Now he wanted the Creeks to listen to what he was going to say. It was the talk of the Great Father. If he made a good talk to put it in their hearts, if a bad one put it under their feet.
There was a small strip of land in their country which the treaty of Washington did not embrace, and the Georgians wanted it, & as the Delegation promised, if the treaty lines did not reach it, that they would throw it in, he wished them to carry their promise into effect, and give up the land and he would pay them well for it. He understood that some people regretted that this strip was not included in the new treaty; for his part he was glad of it, as now the Creeks would enjoy from it an additional consideration in money. This was about the substance of his talk in regard to this strip of land, or as the Creeks call it, E-kan-nah-silk-ee. The greatest part of his talk was irrelevant to the subject matter of his object, consisting in gross Indian and disgusting flattery. He wished an answer immediately. He wished to be gone soon, as he was afraid the President might shake himself before he heard from them, he however had written on to him from Fort Mitchel, and had told him to be still and not shake himself for ten days longer, as he would vouch for the Creeks they would do what was right and comply with their father's wishes. The Chiefs, by their speaker, replied that tomorrow they would give him an answer. He wished it then it was a plain talk like his walking stick; he did not ask them to count the leaves of a tree, pointing to it, or to pick burs from a horse's tail. The speaker said, the council was composed of several hundred, among whom were a great many that had but little sense and could not understand a plain subject, in so short a time, and they must think on his talk until tomorrow.- M'Kenney had to acquiesce in this determination I said he would wait their time, and hoped their consultation would result in the adoption of his talk, which he knew was for the good. The time allowed for the consideration of Col. M'Kenney's talk was spent, and he was called upon to listen to the reply of the Council by Opothleholo, in substance as follows. " We have bestowed attention to your talk of yesterday, and have determined to give you an answer. When our Delegation were at Washington it was their purpose to get justice of the United States in annulment of the base M'Intosh treaty, which was not granted, however, without an immense sacrifice on our part of our lands, so fast were we held in difficulties, & so unmerciful were those who wanted our lands. In this treaty of Washington, the limits of our country were specific and designated, and guarantied to us by the General Government. We have but little land left and only sufficient to raise our children upon.- We had hoped a remission of your earnestness for our lands after having obtained so much from us. The verbal promise you spoke of yesterday was not made in the recollection of the Delegation. If such had been the understanding, the whole chartered limits of Georgia would have been surrendered in the treaty, but it is not here so written. This is all we have to say on the subject." Col. M'Kenney then referred to me as having made this verbal promise, "that if the treaty lines did not comprehend the whole of the Georgia limits, the nation would throw it in." The Creeks requested me to make a statement to Col. M'Kenney in regard to it, which I did by telling him, that in conversation Col. M'Kenney said if it should happen that those treaty lines came close to take in the Georgia limits, would the Creeks give it up? Not acting officially at the time, and not authorised [sic] to make a promise, being a subject of incidental conversation, I said that if the lines should come short of a small strip, such as a mile or two, I did not presume the Creeks would object to their extension. I told the Creeks this was all I recollected of the subject. Col. M'Kenney, then insisted that I was their secretary and had made the promise, and they were bound to fulfil [sic] it. He spoke at some length to persuade them to yield this strip of land, which would settle all difficulties and troubles, &c. Opothleholo, apparently tired of the harangue, told him, "yes you have heard our talk and we have no other. If you were to talk as you do now for ten days, the Council could nor would not give you another answer." This was strong language and could not be misunderstood and dried up to its source, the "sweet thing for Indians." He would now have denounced the Creeks with an awful prophecy of their impending ruin, but checked by a spark of conscience, he stood with an expression of countenance indicating a sense of disappointment. All was lost. How could he appear at Washington, when his pompous chain of successful Indian treaties was broken. I felt for the Gentleman. He spoke- he was sorry they had made choice of such a talk for their father--he would take it with him as he must know everything that was said by his children; and was about to take leave, when Mr. Vann reminded him of his promise to devote a day to our claim. He stopped and said he would now attend to it, and asked for the letter to be produced, which was done. He acknowledged the correctness of the letter to the Council; at this instant a person whispered something in his ear. It was the whisper of Col. Crowell.-- The closing part of Col. McKenney's devotion of the day to the letter, therefore, was ambiguous and filled with insinuations calculated to forestall opinion, and to prejudice the minds of the Creeks against the claim. I therefore procured Col. McKenney's permission to speak, and told the Chiefs, "that claim was for money in lieu of reservations that had been granted us by the Delegation, and all we wanted was Col. McKenney's recognition of the letter in their presence, which he had done, but it was a matter of regret to me that he had not made out his statement without listening to the whisper of Crowell, which they had seen." Col. Crowell said he did not whisper anything but what was correct. Col. McKenney told the Council that if any man whispered bad things in his ear, either by a red or white man, he would knock him down. He said so because it had been insinuated that he had been wrongfully whispered to. This closed our Council for that day. Col. McKenney started as he told us for Washington City, and we to our lodgings. In the afternoon of the next day, after Col. McKenney was far advanced on his journey, the Council was called on to convene at an our shed a few hundred yards from the square, where Little Prince with his Chiefs of the lower towns wished to meet the Principal Chiefs of the upper towns. I was asked by the latter to attend it, and there heard, Col. McKenney, instead of pursuing his journey, had halted on the other bank of the Tallapoosa from us, and had sent the lower towns to meet the Chiefs of the upper towns on the subject of the "verbal promise." Division was visible now in their countenances, but the upper towns possessed the prepondering [sic] weight of talent and influence, and above all, the love of native land, so dear to all Nations, who yet are unshackled from the influence of base submission or corrupting gold. The lower town Chiefs placed a great deal of emphasis on the verbal promise. Opothleholo told them the verbal promise was nothing. It was like a note without a signature--it was not in the treaty, it was not binding. "But, said Little Prince, the Great man says you did make the promise." Selocta, the son of Chinnubbee and who was in the last war a favorite warrior of General Jackson, a Chief of undaunted courage, here opened his mouth and spoke as follows. " I was sent by you to Washington to break McIntosh's bad treaty. We did so and we secured to ourselves some land yet, that is scarcely large enough for our people to stand upon. I don't know anything of the promise this man is talking about. Our friends John Ridge and David Vann don't know anything about it. We the upper towns love our native land that has been under us, from our youthful days, and will not sell it. But I have heard strange reports about you Little Prince & the Lower Town Chiefs. It is that you wish to sell land. I heard this at home, from the McIntosh party and from news heard of white people. Is it so? or is it not?" Little Prince could not have been more electrified, if a clap of thunder had struck off the shed of our Council House, than he experienced from this speech. He denied the charge and said the report was luckscha or false and was followed by his whole party in this denial. It was then decided that Col. McKenney should be called in Council, & that the Delegation should individually tell him, that they knew nothing of this verbal promise. In the mean time Mr. Vann had been met by Mr. Compere, who delivered a message from Col. McKenney, that if he would use his influence to induce the Creeks to accede to his proposition, he would see that his claim on them should be paid. After this, Judge Blake told Mr. Vann that he had been sent by Col. McKenney to request him to go in and talk with the Council. All of which we had informed the chiefs previous to the arrival of Col. McKenney. This was the third interview of the Council and Col. McK. and from what had passed on the proceeding day, I deemed it prudent to be furnished with a pipe tomahawk in the act of smoking, and to be ready to make effectual resistance, in case of assault from the white men, should they be instigated to it by Col. Crowell. My position here again was near the Principal Chiefs. Cols. McKenney and Crowell came and listened to the Delegation, individually denying their knowledge of the verbal promise of throwing in the Georgia limits, if the lines should not reach them. Col. McKenney said he believed these chiefs, but the promise was made; and at Washington the most and all important business was transacted by Opothleholo, John Ridge, and David Vann- these three usually came to the War office and spoke for the Delegation. He did not know why, but thought the Delegation had confidence in them for sense and honesty, and in the light the Secretary of War transacted business with them. To prejudice the council against us appeared to be his object, but Opothleholo was ready to face him in any ground or argument. He told Col. M'Kenney, that "the Delegation were present and could tell the council, whether any business had been transacted without their knowledge or consent at Washington. The treaty was in existence and the names of the Delegation were to it, and if it had any benefits in favor of the Creeks, the council knew it. Facts do not sustain your talk. You charge the two Cherokees and myself for having transacted all important business. I speak my own language only, and they do not understand mine, how could we understand each other to transact important business?" Col. M'Kenney said, an Interpreter was not considered an official person & therefore he did not mention him. Opothleholo proceeded, "you talk a great deal of the verbal promise, which is not recollected. I can also tell you, that you have not always fulfiled [sic] your words or your promises. Look at the Blackburn and Houston claim against us for upwards of $5000, for whiskey confiscated by us at the order of our former agent, Col. Hawkins. This claim was brought here and was rejected. It was carried to Washington and rejected by the former Secretary of War (J. C. Calhoun) and so written down in the books of your office. This claim was again brought forward by Gen. Cocke at Washington, and you wished us to pay it, and we refused. We scarcely had turned our backs for our nation when you paid this claim, without our knowledge and consent. (See letters marked B and C the only correspondence on the subjects. Col. M'Kenney said "do you deny the acknowledgement of that claim?" The chief said he did. "Now said, M'Kenney, I will prove before this council and these white men, that you did acknowledge it and what you say is false. Ridge, was not this claim acknowledged?" "No: but was positively refused," was my answer. I now felt indignant at the insolence and assurance of this gentlemen, attempting to prove a falsehood by me. He turned to Vann and said, he would tell the truth, and asked him the same question. Mr. Vann said, he knew that they had refused to pay the claim, and that he did not know anything about the acknowledgement of it. Col. M'Kenney was now awkwardly situated; in the attempt to disgrace an Indian chief, the reaction fell upon himself. He said that he had it in black and white at Washington, and could prove that he was right. The President had not sent a boy to be contradicted in council, but had sent a man- he would expose Mr. Vann and myself in this matter, and that his proofs were at home- these Cherokees could not on the bible [sic] support their statements on oath. "As my veracity was questioned, I told the Creeks, I was willing to be qualified on a stack of bibles [sic] sky high in support of my statement. The chiefs laughed and said they knew I was a man of truth. Col. M'Kenney then made a disconnected speech, destitute of any reason, apparently the effect of anger and disappointment. Opothleholo told him that he talked too much, and if he talked this way for ten days it would not alter the determination of the council. Col. M'Kenney said he was the judge of the length of his own speeches and would talk as much as he pleased; and told the Council, to respect John Ridge as much as they pleased, but no attention would be paid to their letters, if he had any agency in it.- He was a bad Bird-had written charges against the Creek agent which were all black &c." then departed without taking leave or waiting for a reply, abruptly, more in the humor of a Termagant than in the dignity of a Commissioner of the United States.
"My doubts, says Col. M'Kenney, as to the success of my mission became strong, for I knew by one of their laws, to succeed, the answer to the proposition must be unanimous; a single negative given, in what they call their deliberate Councils, would bring out by the mouth of their speaker in the public square a refusal, although there should be four hundred and ninety and nine of the five hundred in favor of the proposition." The absurdity of this doctrine is too obvious to require refutation. One vote in five hundred controlling the will of a Nation, in a free Government?- Where is the law, and who knows anything about it excepting Col. McKenney? The treaty of the Indian Springs, well known to all for its baseness, was made by a minority in opposition to the protest of a majority, who warned their countrymen of the terrible consequences of their error, and who notwithstanding concluded the treaty, which destroyed their leaders, and cost the United States so much.- Could anyone at Washington believe this story when the scenes that had disgusted their feelings in consequence of that treaty were still fresh in his recollection?
I have therefore first stated the proceedings of the Council, &c.
[To Be Concluded]