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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter V. — Controversy With the Cherokees.

THE dissensions which convulsed this tribe, originated by the removal policy, reached their acme in 1835. On the 29th of December, 1835, the day after the Dade massacre, the treaty of New Echota was concluded with the Cherokees. As this treaty became a fruitful source of discord, a detail of some of the circumstances which preceded its negotiation, is important to the right understanding of events, which subsequently transpired in the West; events which finally led to painful and tragic scenes. The Cherokee nation had been divided in opinion on the subject of emigration from the year 1817, at which period the Western Cherokees removed to the West. The chiefs and leaders of each party did not differ very widely on leading questions, though as the discussion of the project progressed, the spirit of rivalry, aroused by their antagonistic position, engendered considerable feeling. The secret springs of this rivalry, and the bitterness of the controversy were, doubtless, the result of the counsels of white men.

On the 18th of January, 1836, Judge Hugh L. White of Tennessee, then an aspirant for the Presidency in 1837, and, consequently, very sensitive to political movements in the South, submitted to the Senate a resolution, respecting a Mr. Curry, who had been employed as an agent in the Cherokee country. This resolution was apparently introduced only for the purpose of preferring ill natured charges, or of introducing to public notice some transactions, which were calculated to cast odium upon the administration. From the detailed statement made by him, which he corroborated by reference to letters, it appears, that Mr. Curry was an agent for enrolling the Cherokees, and valuing their improvements, in anticipation of their emigration, in which business he had been employed some time; taking, meanwhile, an active interest in the political movements of that period, and opposing the ambitious aspirations of Mr. White. The adjoining States of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Mississippi, were then deeply interested in the Indian emigration question, and whatever had any bearing upon the negotiations with the tribes, or their removal from the limits of those States, became a topic of general interest. Any

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opposition to the removal policy was, therefore, in these States a cause of unpopularity. In his speech, Mr. White averred that his position had been misrepresented by Mr. Curry, who, in a letter written on the 1st of December, 1835, asserts, that a Mr. M'Connell, "has for some years, under the procurement of Judge White, of Tennessee, been receiving pay from the United States Government, as a secret and confidential agent, while all his visible efforts have been to defeat the measures of the ostensible agents in bringing about a treaty." 646 It is also asserted by Mr. Curry, that a private interview took place between Mr. White and Mr. John Ross, the prominent chief of the Cherokees, who opposed the execution of the New Echota treaty. Both these assertions of individual treachery, and tampering with the malcontent chief, Ross, were false. 647 The accusation and subsequent refutation have been long since forgotten, and would not now be referred to, were it not for some facts which they incidentally revealed.

It appears that Mr. Ross and his coadjutors had made an agreement with a functionary of the Government, long prior to the treaty of 1824, to accept for the Cherokee lands and claims, situate east of the Mississippi, whatever sum the Senate might award, on the submission of the question to that body. The Senate, to whom the question was eventually submitted, awarded $5,000,000, and, on this basis, the treaty of New Echota was negotiated, but not with him and his colleagues. During the pendency of the negotiations, certain influences were brought to bear upon Mr. Ross, and he became apprized of the fact, that there was a large body of the people of the United States, who not only concurred with the malcontent party of the Cherokees, in their ideas of aboriginal sovereignty within the limits of the United States, but approved of their reluctance and refusal to exchange their lands, and deemed the compensation awarded by the Senate inadequate. Individuals of high moral and legal standing in the North promulgated these views, in which they were supported by a part of the diurnal and periodical press of the Northern and Middle States. It was affirmed that an agent, of the party in the North opposed to the policy of the administration, visited the Cherokees, held interviews with the malcontent chiefs, and encouraged them in their resistance to the Government. 648 The opposition to the execution of the treaty of New Echota thus assumed the character of resistance to the legal officers of the Government, who were charged with the duty of removing the tribe. When, therefore, Commissioners Carrol and Schermerhorn visited the Cherokee country, and offered to conclude a treaty on the five million basis, the Ross party declined to negotiate. The authority of these commissioners was, at one time, questioned and denied, and at another, their character was unjustly assailed. Finally, the Ridge party, who regarded the compensation offered as amply sufficient, and the removal policy as one suited to advance their permanent prosperity, concluded the

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treaty; and thus the Cherokees became distinctly divided into Rossites and Ridgeites; a division which produced a state of discord, eventually terminating in the shedding of blood.

It has been previously stated that a delegation proceeded to Washington to oppose the ratification of the treaty; that the treaty laid before the Senate from December until May; that an increase of $600,000 was granted, to cover expenses; and that the full assent of the Western Cherokees was obtained, who were anxious to facilitate the measure, and to welcome their brethren to the West. During the attendance of this delegation of the Rossites at Washington, they evinced the morbidly suspicious character of the aborigine, who doubts when he should decide, and hesitates when he should act. It is stated that, when it was intimated to the Rossites, by a senator in the confidence of the administration, that a new treaty might be entered into with Mr. Ross and his party, if he should propose it, true to their native instincts, the Cherokees assumed the position that such a measure, if contemplated, should be, officially and pro forma, communicated. The influence of the delegation at Washington may be deemed to have procured the appropriation of the sum to defray the expenses of their emigration; but Congress deemed the $5,000,000 an adequate allowance for the territory relinquished. When it is considered that, in addition to this sum, the nation was gratuitously furnished with an ample domain in the West, of a fertile character, and abounding in all the requisites for an agricultural colony, the compensation awarded by this body cannot but be considered as, not only liberal, but munificent.

The ordinary method of negotiation, through agents, commissioners, and governors, having been resorted to without any beneficial result, troops were ordered into the field under commanders of acknowledged repute. There was no occasion for a war of extermination. Generals Gaines, Jessup, Scott, Taylor, and others, to whom the conducting of the war was entrusted, kept the Indians in check, and evinced their abilities by their conciliatory, yet firm, mode of operation.

With the Choctaws and Chickasaws no difficulty had been experienced. They had joined the Creeks in their hostilities during the Revolutionary war, the incidents of which have been particularly mentioned. They had in early times valiantly opposed the Spaniards; but, from the first colonization of Louisiana, they had evinced a disposition to live in peace and engage in commerce. This policy they persevered in during the great excitement engendered among the Indians by their migration to the West. Neither the difficulties with the Creeks nor with the Cherokees induced them to take part in the contest. But, while these tribes were pursuing the even tenor of their way, the war with the Seminoles assumed a more desperate character; ambuscades, murders, and predatory incursions, superseded open engagements and general movements; and it required a large force to guard a small district. A few Indians, concealed in a hammock, could assault a train of wagons, or a detached party of soldiers, with perfect impunity. It was generally impracticable to pursue them at once, and, by the time a

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sufficient force could be detached for this purpose, the Indians had fled to other recesses. The soldier could seldom or never meet his antagonist in the open field, and he risked his life daily in the service of his country, with scarcely the hope of obtaining the ordinary rewards of bravery and heroism.

The summer of 1836 was characterized by fatiguing marches, skirmishes, and appalling murders. There seemed to be but little prospect of striking an effective blow, and thus bringing the war to a close. In his last annual message to Congress, 649 General Jackson takes the following view of the subject:

"The war with the Seminoles during the summer was, on our part, chiefly confined to the protection of our frontier settlements from the incursions of the enemy; and, as a necessary and important means for the accomplishment of that end, to the maintenance of the posts previously established. In the course of this duty, several actions took place, in which the bravery and discipline of both officers and men were conspicuously displayed, and which I have deemed it proper to notice, in respect to the former, by the granting of brevet rank for gallant services in the field. But, as the force of the Indians was not so far weakened by these partial successes as to lead them to submit, and, as their savage inroads were frequently repeated, early measures were taken for placing at the disposal of Governor Call, who, as commander-in-chief of the territorial militia, had been temporarily invested with the command, an ample force, for the purpose of resuming offensive operations in the most efficient manner, so soon as the season should permit. Major-General Jessup was also directed, on the conclusion of his duties in the Creek country, to repair to Florida, and assume the command.

"The result of the first movement made by the forces under the direction of Governor Call, in October last, as detailed in the accompanying papers, excited much surprise and disappointment. A full explanation has been required of the causes which led to the failure of that movement; but it has not yet been received. In the mean time, it was feared that the health of Governor Call, who was understood to have suffered much from sickness, might not be adequate to the crisis; and, as Major-General Jessup was known to have reached Florida, that officer was directed to assume the command, and to prosecute all needful operations with the utmost promptitude and vigor. From the force at his disposal, and the dispositions he has made, and is instructed to make, and from the very efficient measures which it is since ascertained have been taken by Governor Call, there is reason to hope that they will soon be enabled to reduce the enemy to subjection. In the mean time, as you will perceive from the report of the Secretary, there is urgent necessity for farther appropriations to suppress these hostilities.

"Happily for the interests of humanity, the hostilities with the Creeks have been brought to a close, soon after your adjournment, without that effusion of blood which,

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at one time, was apprehended as inevitable. The unconditional submission of the hostile party was followed by their speedy removal to the country assigned them west of the Mississippi. The inquiry as to alleged frauds in the purchase of the reservations of these Indians, and the causes of these hostilities, requested by the resolution of the House of Representatives, of the 1st of July last, to be made to the President, is now going on, through the agency of commissioners appointed for that purpose. Their report may be expected during the present session.

"The difficulties apprehended in the Cherokee country have been prevented, and the peace and safety of that region and its vicinity effectually secured, by the timely measures taken by the War Department, and still continued." 650

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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