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America's History in the Making

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Selections of "Indians Memorial (of the Cherokee Legislature)"

To the Honorable, Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress Assembled:

The authorities of Georgia have recently and unexpectedly assumed a doctrine, horrid in its aspect; and fatal in its consequences to us, and utterly at variance with the laws of Nations of the United States, and the subsisting Treaties between us, and the known history of said state, of this Nation and of the United States. She claims the exercise of Sovereignty over this Nation, and has threatened and decreed the extension of her jurisdictional limits over our people. The Executive of the United States through the Secretary of War, in a letter to our Delegation of the 18th April last, has recognized this right to be abiding in, and possessed by the State of Georgia, by the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Peace concluded between the U. States and Great Britain in 1783, and which it is urged vested in her all the rights of sovereignty pertaining to Great Britain, which in time previously she claimed and exercised within the limits of what constituted the "thirteen United States." It is a subject of vast importance to know whether the power of self Government abided in the Cherokee Nation at the discovery of America, three hundred and thirty seven years ago, and whether it was in any manner effected or destroyed by the Charters of European Potentates? It is evident from the facts deducible from known history, that the Indians were found here by the white man in the enjoyment of plenty and peace and all rights of soil and domain, inherited from their ancestors from time immemorial well furnished with Kings, Chiefs, and Warriors, and bulwarks of liberty and the pride of their race. Great Britain established with them relationships of friendship and alliance, and at no time did she treat them as subjects and as tenants at will to her power. In war she fought them as a separate people, and they resisted her as a Nation—In peace she spoke the language of friendship, and they replied in the voice of independence, and frequently assisted her as allies, at their choice, to fight her enemies in their own way and discipline subject to the control of their own chiefs and unaccountable to European officers and military law. Such was the connexion [sic] of their nation to Great Britain, to wit, that of friendship and not allegiance, to the period of the Declaration of Independence by the United States, and during the revolutionary contest down to the Treaty of peace between the United States and Great Britain forty six years ago, when the latter abandoned all hopes of conquest, and at the same time abandoned her Cherokee allies to the difficulties in which they had been involved, either to continue the war or procure peace on the best terms they could, and close the scenes of carnage and blood, that had so long been witnessed and experienced by both parties. Peace was at last concluded at Hopewell in '85 by "the commissioners Plenipotentiary of the United States in Congress assembled." and the Cherokees were received "into favor and protection of the United States of America." It remains to be proved, under a view of all these circumstances, and the knowledge we have of history, how our right to self Government was effected and destroyed, by the Declaration of Independence which never noticed the subject of Cherokee Sovereignty, and the Treaty of Peace in '83, between Britain and the United States, to which the Cherokees were not a party, but maintained hostilities on their part to the Treaty of Hopewell afterwards concluded. If, as it is stated by the Hon. Secretary of War, the Cherokees were tenants at will, and were only permitted to enjoy possession of the soil to pursue game, and if the State of North Carolina and Georgia were sovereigns in truth and in right over us, why did President Washington send "commissioners Plenipotentiaries" to treat with the subjects of those States? Why did they permit the Chiefs and warriors to enter into treaty, when if they were subjects, they had grossly rebelled and revolted from their allegiance and why did not those sovereigns make their lives pay the forfeit of their guilt, agreeably to the law of said States. The answer must be plain,- they were not subjects, but a distinct Nation, and in that light viewed by Washington and by all the people of the union at that period.

Cherokee leaders, "Indians Memorial (of the Cherokee Legislature)" Cherokee Phoenix and Indians' Advocate, 2, no. 52 (April 14, 1830), page 1, col. 1b-5b to page 3, col. 1a.

Creator Cherokee leaders
Context The state of Georgia was trying to force the Cherokee off of their (the Cherokees') land.
Audience White opinion makers and leaders
Purpose To persuade these people to intervene on behalf of the Cherokee

Historical Significance

The Cherokee were well aware of the irony that U.S. citizens were requiring them to move aside for people considered more "civilized," despite the fact that the Cherokee had adopted many elements of Anglo American life. Their familiarity with U.S. politics helped them create what they hoped would be persuasive arguments against the forced migration.

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