Cherokee Phoenix

(This title is not in the article itself)

Published October, 21, 1829

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(This title is not in the article itself)

( From the National Intelligencer.



The idea of a Guaranty, and of a country, as a territory belonging to Indians, was not new, even at the period of the treaty of Holston.

The first treaty, which I have been able to find, made with Indians by the U. States in their confederated character, was executed at Fort Pitt, on the 17th of September, 1778. It contains the following very remarkable article.

'Art. 6. Whereas the enemies of the United States have endeavored by every artifice in their power, to possess the Indians in general with the opinion, that it is the design of the States aforesaid to extirpate the Indians and take possession of their country; to obviate such false suggestion, the United States do engage to guaranty to the aforesaid nation of Delawares and their heirs, all their territorial rights in the fullest and most ample manner, as it hath been bounded by former treaties, as long as they, the said Delaware nation; shall abide by, and hold fast; the chain of friendship now entered into. And it is further agreed on, between the contracting parties (should it for the future be found conducive to the mutual interest of both parties) to invite any other tribes, who have been friends to the interest of the United States, to join the present confederation, and to form a State, whereof the Delaware Nation shall be the head, and have a representation in Congress: provided nothing contained in this article to be considered as conclusive, until it meets with the approbation of Congress.- [That it did meet with the approbation of Congress is manifest; because it is now part of a national treaty]

The bare suggestion, that the United States designed to take possession of the Indian country was treated as a slander and a calumny. The territorial rights of the Indians were to be respected ' the Indians tribes generally were encouraged with the proposal that they might be represented in Congress. The natural implication of this last proposal must have been that the Indians not only had territorial rights, but might expect to retain them permanently, in the same manner as the State of Virginia, or Connecticut, and the other confederate republics expected to retain territorial rights.

Let it be remembered that this treaty was made when the United States were struggling for independence against the whole force of the British empire, and when every accession of strength to the American cause, and every subtraction from the power of the enemy, was a matter of great importance. Nor should it be forgotten that other treaties formed with the Indians, after the peace of Great Britain were extremely desirable to the United States; that the exhausted treasury of the nation could ill afford the expense of Indian wars, that the Indians had the undisputed possession of boundless forests, on all our frontiers; that many of them had endured public and private injuries, which were unavenged and uncompensated, that the Indian tribes were strong, compared with their subsequent decline and their present total want of power; and that the United States were weak, compared with their present gigantic strength.

Though the treaties were formed in such circumstances, not a single article bore hardly, or oppressively, on the United States, or on the new settlers. The Indians claimed nothing unjust or unreasonable. The early negotiations wear the aspect of mutual benefit, and appear to have been concluded with a desire to secure permanent peace to the parties founded on the acknowledgement of their mutual rights.

Are the people of the United States unwilling to give a fair, candid, and natural construction to a treaty thus made? I might say, are they unwilling to give it the only construction of which it is capable? Are they unwilling to admit a meaning which stands permanently upon the very face of the transaction, and which no ingenuity can distort, pervert, or evade? Will they refuse to be bound by the plainest and most solemn engagements deliberately formed, ratified, acted upon, confirmed, ratified again and again by the highest authority of our republic? How can it for a moment be apprehended, that the co-ordinate branches of our Government- our highest legislative, executive, and judicial functionaries, will manifest so total a disregard of every principle of public morality?

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This instrument was executed on the 20th of October, 1803, by Return J. Meigs, Agent of the United States among the Cherokees, and by fourteen Cherokee Chiefs, beginning with Black Fox the principal Chief, and ending with the famous James Vann. It was witnessed by five officers of the United States Army, and three other persons, one of whom was Charles Hicks than acting as interpreter. I have called it a compact not a treaty, because it was not sent to the Senate for ratification. But though it be not technically a treaty, it is morally binding upon the United States, for it has been carried into effect, and the United States, particularly the People of Tennessee ' Georgia have derived great benefit from it. I have an accurate copy before me.

'Articles of Agreement between the United States and the Cherokee Nation, for opening a road from the State of Tennessee to the State of Georgia, through the Cherokee Nation.

The Cherokee Nation having taken into consideration the request of their Father the President of the United States, to grant that a road may be opened through the Nation, from the State of Tennessee to the State of Georgia, and being desirous to evince to their Father, the President, and the good People of the United States, their good will and friendly disposition, do hereby agree, that a road may be opened from the State to the State of Georgia, with the reservation and provisions as in the following articles are expressed; and further to evince to our Father, the President, that we are not influenced by pecuniary motives, we make a present of the road to the United States.'

Art. 1. A road granted, sixty feet in width, passing through about 150 miles of Cherokee territory, and opening a communication from Augusta, Georgia, to Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee. [This has usually been called the Federal Road.-It has been much travelled; and great quantities of merchandize (sic) and other valuable property have been transported over it.] It was to be made solely at the expense of the United States. The article also provides; that when the road is opened, the direction of it shall not be changed; and that no branch or branches (except one which had been described) 'shall ever be permitted to be opened without the consent of the Cherokee Nation.'

Art. 2. The Cherokees reserve to themselves the income of the ferries; and specify where the ferries shall be kept.

Art. 3. Various regulations respecting houses of entertainment, which the Cherokees were to establish: keeping the road in repair, ', 'c.

Art. 4. No meat cattle from the Southern States shall be driven through the Cherokee Nation; and when horses are taken through, the manner of them shall be inserted in the passport of the owner. The Cherokees are not to be answerable for estrays(sic) from among the animals of the whites.

Art. 5. Officers, civil and military, mail carriers, and other classes, exempted from toll and ferriage.

Art. 6. Commissioners to be appointed on each side to survey and mark the road.

Art. 7. One copy of this agreement to be sent to the Secretary of War, another to be left with the principal Cherokee Chief, and a third with the Agent of the United States among the Cherokees.

The road was opened the following year, and has now been travelled for a quarter of a century; and, during this whole time, has greatly facilitated intercourse between different parts of the Southern States.

No reader of the foregoing abstract can be so dull as not to perceive that the privilege was granted to the United States, at the special instance of the President; that the Cherokees were extremely cautious not to compromit their territorial rights; and that they made the grant from motives of friendship, and a willingness to afford the desired accommodation. They guard, in a suitable manner, against vexations and liabilities, to which this act of kindness might be thought to expose them; and they reserve the income of the ferries, some of which are over considerable rivers and have been quite profitable.

The word Father is repeatedly used in this document, to indicate the relation which the President of the United States held to the Cherokees as their protector from aggression and as bound to see that the treaties with them are carried into effect 'with all good faith'. We had obtruded the word upon them. We had put it into their mouths, and it was made the standing pledge, not merely of our justice, but of our kindness and generosity towards them.- Shall this sacred and venerable name be prostituted to purposes of injustice and oppression? For most assuredly it will be deemed oppression, rank oppression, if we disown our engagements; forswear our most solemn covenants, and then take possession of the lands of our poor neighbors, which had been secured to them by the highest guaranty which we could make. Nor will the oppression be less odious on account of its being accompanied by professions of great benevolence, and the promise of a new guaranty.

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This instrument was executed 'in the garrison of Tellico, on Cherokee ground.' Oct. 24, 1804, by Daniel Smith and Return J. Meigs, for the United States, and ten Chiefs and Warriors for the Cherokees, in the presence of five witnesses.

The preamble says, that certain propositions were made by the Commissioners; that they were considered by the Chiefs; that the parties aforesaid have unanimously agreed and stipulated, as is definitely expressed in the following articles:'

Art. 1. 'For the considerations hereinafter expressed.- the Cherokee Nation relinquish and cede to the U.S. a tract, of land bounded 'c. [This was a small tract, called Wafford's Settlement, containing perhaps not more than 100,000 acres. It was a strip of the frontier between the Cherokees and Georgia.]

Art. 2. 'In consideration of the relinquishment and cession, the United States, upon signing the present treaty,' shall pay the Cherokees $5,000, in goods or money, at the option of the Cherokees, and $1,000 annually in addition to the previous annuities.

The treaty was ratified by President Jefferson and the Senate. 'The relinquishment and cession' are of the same nature, and carry with them the same implications, as have been described in preceding comments

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This treaty was executed Oct. 25, 1805, by two commissioners of the United States, and thirty-three Cherokee Chiefs and Warriors, in the presence of ten witnesses.

'Art. 1. Former treaties recognized and continued in force.

Art. 2. 'The Cherokees quit claim and cede to the United States all the land which they [The Cherokees] have heretofore claimed, lying to the North of the following boundary line; [The lands here ceded were of considerable value, and fell into the State of Tennessee, extending East and West near the central of that State.]

Art. 3 'In consideration of the above cession and relinquishment, the United States agree to pay immediately $14,000, and #$3,000 a year in addition to previous annuities.

Art. 4a. The citizens of the United States to have the free ' unmolested use of two roads in addition to those previously established, one leading from Tennessee to Georgia, and the other from Tennessee to the settlements on the Tombigbee. These roads to be marked out by men appointed on each side for the purpose.

Art. 5. This treaty to take effect, 'as soon as it is ratified by the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate of the same.'

The treaty was ratified by President Jefferson and the Senate. It will be observed, that the first article contains and express recognition of previous treaties, and pledges the faith of the United States anew for the fulfillment of these treaties.

Several documents of this kind remain to be considered; but I pledge myself to you, Messrs. Editors, and to your readers, that I will be as brief as possible, consistently with fidelity to the cause. This is a serious matter to the Indians and to the People of the United States. It is a matter which must be decided by the great body of the People, through their representatives in Congress.- The people must therefore have the means of understanding it.