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Treaty Concluded July 2, 1791


 Native American Nations | Cherokee Nation of Indians                    


Treaty Concluded July 2, 1791; Proclaimed February 7, 199219

Held on bank of Holston River, near the mouth of Trench Broad, between William Blount, governor of the Territory south of Ohio River and superintendent of Indian affairs, representing the President of the United States, on the part and behalf of said States, and the chiefs and warriors of the Cherokee Nation on the part and behalf of said nation.

Material Provisions

  • 1. Perpetual peace declared between the United States and the Cherokee Nation.
  • 2. Cherokees to be ender sole protection of the United States and to hold no treaty with any State or individuals.
  • 3. Cherokees and the United States to mutually release prisoners captured one from the other.
  • 4. Boundary between the United States and the Cherokees defined as follows: Beginning at the top of Currahee Mountain, where the Creek line passes it; thence a direct line to Tngelo River; thence northeast to Ocunna Mountain and over same along South Carolina Indian boundary to the North Carolina boundary; thence north to a point from which a line is to be extended to the River Clinch that shall pass the Holston at the ridge dividing waters of Little River from those of Tennessee River; thence up Clinch River to Campbell's line and along the same to the top of Cumberland Mountain; thence a direct line to Cumberland River where the Kentucky road crosses it; thence down Cumberland River to a point from which a southwest line will strike the ridge dividing waters of Cumberland from those of Duck River 40 miles above Nashville; thence clown said ridge to a point from which a southwest line will strike the mouth of Duck River.
    To prevent future disputes, said boundary to be ascertained and marked by three persons appointed by the United States and three persons appointed by the Cherokees.
    To extinguish all claim of Cherokees to lands lying to the right of said line, the United States agree to immediately deliver certain valuable goods to the Cherokees and to pay them $1,000 annually.
  • 5. Citizens of United States to have free use of road from Washington District to Mero District and of navigation of Tennessee River.
  • 6. The United States to have exclusive right of regulating trade with the Cherokees.
  • 7. The United States solemnly guarantee to the Cherokees all their lands not herein ceded.
  • 8. Citizens of the United States or others not Indians settling on Cherokee lands to forfeit protection of the United States and be punished as the Indians see fit.
  • 9. Inhabitants of the United States forbidden to hunt on Cherokee lands, or to pass over the same without a passport from the governor of a State or Territory or other person authorized by the President of the United States to grant the same.
  • 10. Cherokees committing crimes against citizens of the United States to be delivered up and punished by United States laws.
  • 11. Inhabitants of the United States committing crimes or trespass against Cherokees to be tried and punished under United States laws.
  • 12. Retaliation or reprisal forbidden until satisfaction has been refused by the aggressor.
  • 13. Cherokees to give notice of any designs against the peace and interests of the United States.
  • 14. Cherokees to be furnished with useful implements of husbandry. United States to send four persons to reside in Cherokee country to act as interpreters.
  • 15. All animosities to cease and treaty to be faithfully carried out.
  • 16. Treaty to take effect when ratified by the President of the United States by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.

Historical Data
Causes of Dissatisfaction with the Boundary of 1785

The boundary line prescribed by the treaty of November 28, 1785, had been unsatisfactory to both the Cherokees and the whites. On the part of the former the chief cause of complaint was the non-removal of the settlers in the fork of the French Broad and Holston Rivers and their evident disposition to encroach still farther into the Indian country at every opportunity. The whites, on the other hand, were discontented because further curtailment of the Cherokee territory had not been compelled by the commissioners who negotiated the treaty, and the State authorities of North Carolina and Georgia had protested because of the alleged interference by the General Government with the reserved rights of the States.20 In retaliation for the intrusions of the whites the Indians were continually engaged in pilfering their stock and other property.

The state of affairs resulting from this continual friction 'rendered some decisive action by Congress necessary. A large portion of the land in Greene and Hawkins Counties, Tennessee, had been entered by the settlers under the laws of North Carolina, whereby she had assumed jurisdiction to the Mississippi River.21 These lands were south and west of the treaty line of 1785, as were also the lands on the west side of the Clinch upon which settlements had been made. Settlers to the number of several thousand, south of the French Broad and Holston, were also within the Cherokee limits.22

It is true that the authorities of the so-called State of Franklin had in the years 1785 and 1786 negotiated two treaties with the Cherokees, obtaining cessions from the latter covering most, if not all, of these lands,23 but neither the State of North Carolina nor the United States recognized these treaties as of any force or validity.

These trespasses called forth under date of September 1, 1788, a proclamation from Congress forbidding all such unwarrantable intrusions, and enjoining all those who had settled upon the hunting ground of the Cherokees to depart with their families and effects without loss of time.

General Knox, Secretary of War, under date of July 7, 1789, in a communication to the President, remarked that " the disgraceful violation of the treaty of Hopewell with the Cherokees requires the serious consideration of Congress. If so direct and manifest contempt of the authority of the United States be suffered with impunity, it will be in vain to attempt to extend the arm of government to the frontiers. The Indian tribes can have no faith in such imbecile promises, and the lawless whites will ridicule a government which shall, on paper only, make Indian treaties and regulate Indian boundaries."24

He recommended the appointment of three commissioners on the part of the United States, who should be invested with full powers to examine into the case of the Cherokees and to renew .with them the treaty made at Hopewell in 1785; also to report to the President such measures as should be necessary to protect the Indians in the boundaries secured to them by that treaty, which he suggested would involve the establishment of military posts within the Indian country and the services of at least five hundred troops. President Washington, on the same day, transmitted the report of the Secretary of War, with the accompanying papers, to Congress. He approved of the recommendations of. General Knox, and urged upon that body prompt action in the matter.

Congress, however, failed to take any decisive action at that session, and on the 11th of August, 1790, President Washington again brought the subject to the attention of that body. After reciting the substance of his previous communication, he added that, notwithstanding the treaty of Hopewell and the proclamation of Congress, upwards of five hundred families had settled upon the Cherokee Iands, exclusive of those between the fork of the French Broad and Holston Rivers25 He. further added that, as the obstructions to a proper conduct of the matter had been removed since his previous communication, by the accession of North Carolina to the Union and the cession to the United States by her of the lands in question,26 he should conceive himself bound to exert the powers entrusted to him by the Constitution in order to carry into faithful execution the treaty of Hopewell, unless it should be thought proper to attempt to arrange a new boundary with the Cherokees, embracing the settlements and compensating the Cherokees for the cessions they should make.

United States Senate authorizes a new treaty. Upon the reception of this message the Senate adopted a resolution advising and consenting that the President should, at his discretion, cause the treaty of Hope-well to be carried into execution or enter into arrangements for such further cession of territory from the Cherokees as the tranquility and interests of the United States should require. A proviso to this resolution limited the compensation to be paid to the Cherokees for such further cession to $1,000 per annum and stipulated that no person who had taken possession of any lands within the limits of the proposed cession should be confirmed therein until he had complied with such terms as Congress should thereafter prescribe.

Accordingly, instructions were issued to William Blount, governor of the Territory south of the Ohio River and ex-officio superintendent of Indian affairs, to conclude a treaty of cession with the Cherokees.27

Tennessee Company's Purchase

In the mean time the troubles between the Indians and the settlers had become aggravated from divers causes. Prominent among these was the fact that Georgia had by act of her legislature disposed of 3,500,000 acres of vacant land lying south of Tennessee River to the Tennessee Company. This association undertook to effect a settlement in the year 1791 at or near the Muscle Shoals.28 The matter coming to the notice of the Secretary of War was made the subject of a strong protest by him to the President.29

The latter issued his proclamation forbidding such settlement. The company persisted in the attempt, and as the President had declared such act would place them without the protection of the United States, the Indians were left free to break up and destroy the settlement, which they did.30

Difficulties In Negotiating New Treaty

In pursuance of Governor Blount's instructions, he convened the Indians at White's Fort, on the present site of Knoxville, Tenn.; and after a conference lasting seven days, succeeded, with much difficulty and with great reluctance on the part of the Cherokees, in concluding the treaty of July 2, 1791.31

In his letter to the Secretary of Wars32 transmitting the treaty, he asserts the greatest difficulty to have been in agreeing on a boundary, and that the one fixed upon might seem singular. The reason for this peculiarity of description was owing to the fact that the Indians insisted on beginning on the part where they were most tenacious of the land, in preference to the mouth of Duck River, where the Hopewell treaty line began. The land to the right of the line was declared to belong to the United States, because no given point of the compass would describe it. In accordance with his instructions, Governor Blount proposed to the Indians that the ridge dividing the waters of Little River from those of the Tennessee should form a part of the boundary. To this the Indians would not agree, but insisted on the straight line which should cross the Holston where that ridge should strike it. Governor Blount explains that this line is not so limited by the treaty as to the point at which it shall leave the north line or at which it shall strike the Clinch, but that it might be so run as either to include or leave out the settlers south of the ridge; the only stipulations respecting it being that it should cross the Holston at the ridge, and should be run by commissioners appointed by the respective parties.

He urged that the line should be run immediately after the ratification of the treaty, as settlers were already located in the immediate vicinity of it, and more were preparing to follow,
The President transmitted the treaty to the Senate with his message of October 26, 179133 and Senator Hawkins, from the committee to whom it was referred, reported it back to the Senate on the 9th of November following, recommending that the Senate advise and consent to its ratification.34

On the 19th of the same month the Secretary of War advised Governor Blount that the treaty had been ratified by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and enclosed him 50 printed copies for distribution, although the United States Statutes at Large [Vol. p. 39] give the date of the proclamation of the treaty as February 7, 1792.35

Survey of New Boundaries

The Secretary also entrusted the matter of the survey of the new boundary to the discretion of Governor Blount, and suggested the appointment of Judge Campbell, Daniel Smith, and Col. Landon Carter as commissioners to superintend the same. This suggestion was subsequently modified by the appointment of Charles McLung and John McKee in place of Smith and Carter. Governor Blount designated the 1st of May as the date for the survey to commence. Andrew Ellicott. was appointed surveyor, he having been previously appointed to survey the line under the Creek treaty of 1790.36 Before these arrangements could be carried out, the Secretary of War again wrote Governor Blount,37 remarking that while it was important the line should be run, yet as the United States, in their military operations, might want the assistance of the Cherokees, perhaps it would be better policy to have the lines ascertained and marked after rather than before the campaign then about to commence against the Indians northwest of the Ohio.38 It was thus determined, in view of numerous individual acts of hostility on the part of the Cherokees and of the desire to soothe them into peace and to engage them as auxiliaries against the northern Indians, to temporarily postpone the running of the line.

After considerable correspondence between Governor Blount and the Cherokee chiefs in council, the 8th of October, 1792, was fixed upon as the date for the meeting of the representatives of both parties at Major Craig's, on Nine-Mile Creek, for the purpose of beginning the survey.39 In the mean time an increased spirit of hostility had become manifest among the Cherokees and Creeks, the five lower towns of the former having declared war, and an Indian invasion of the frontier seemed imminent. Governor Blount, therefore, in the latter part of September,40 deemed it wise to call fifteen companies of militia into immediate service, under the command of  General Sevier, for the protection of the settlements. Notwithstanding this critical condition of affairs, the boundary line commissioners on the part of the United States assembled at the appointed time and place. After waiting until the following day, the representatives of the Cherokees putting in no. appearance, they proceeded to inspect the supposed route of the treaty line. After careful examination they came to the conclusion that the ridge dividing the waters of Tennessee and Little Rivers struck the Holston River at the mouth and at no other point.41

They then proceeded to run, but did not mark, a line of experiment from the point of the ridge in a southeast direction to Chilhowee Mountain, a distance of 17 miles, and also from the point of beginning in a northwest direction to the Clinch River, a distance of 9 miles. From these observations they found that the line, continued to the southeast, would intersect the Tennessee River shortly after it crossed the Chilhowee Mountain, and in consequence would deprive the Indians of all their towns lying on the south side of the Tennessee. This rendered apparent the necessity of changing the direction of the line into a more nearly east and west course, and led the commissioners to express the opinion that the true line should run from the point of the ridge south 600 east to Chilhowee Mountain and north 600 west to the Clinch.

The course thus designated left a number of the settlers on Nine-Mile Greek within the Indian limits.42

The records of the War Department having been almost completely destroyed by fire in the month of November, 1800, it is with great difficulty that definite data can be obtained concerning the survey of this and other Indian boundaries prior to that date. It has, however, been ascertained that the above mentioned line was not actually surveyed until the year 1797.

19 United States Statutes at Large, Vol. VII, p. 39.
20 American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 44.
21 Protest of Col. William Blount to Treaty Commissioners of 1785. American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 44, and Ramsey's Annals of Tenn., p. 549. Also Scott's Laws of Tennessee and North Carolina, Vol. I.
22 American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 38.
23 Ramsey's Annals of Tennessee, p. 345.
24 American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 53.
25 Ib., p. 83.
26 The assembly of North Carolina proceeded in 1789 to mature a plan for the severance of Tennessee, and passed an act for the purpose of ceding to the United States of America certain western lands therein described. In conformity with one of the provisions of the act, Samuel Johnson and Benjamin Hawkins, Senators in Congress from North Carolina, executed a deed to the United States on the 25th of February, 1790. Congress accepted the cession by act of April 2, 1790, and Tennessee ceased to be a part of North Carolina.
27 These instructions were issued in pursuance of the advice and consent of the Senate, under date of August 11, 1790. See American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 133.
28 This act of the Georgia legislature bore date of December 21, 1789. A prior act, bearing date February 7, 1785, had been passed, entitled "An act for laying out a district of land situated on the river Mississippi, within the limits of this State, into a county, to be called Bourbon." See American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 114.
29 January 22,1791. See American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 112.
30 Ramsey's Annals of Tennessee, pp. 549-556.
31 United States Statutes at Large, Vol. VII, p. 39.
32 July 15,1791. See American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 628.
33 American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 123.
34 Ib., p. 135.
35 Ib., p.629.
36 Ib., p.628-630.
37 January 31, 1792. See American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 629.
38 It may not be uninteresting as a historical incident to note the fact that at the time of General Wayne's treaty at Greeneville, in 1795, a band of Cherokees had settled on the head-waters of the Scioto River in Ohio. Not presenting themselves at the conferences preceding that treaty, General Wayne sent them a special message through Captain Long Hair, one of their chiefs, with the information that if they failed to conclude articles of peace with him they would be left unprotected. They sent a delegation to assure General Wayne of their desire for peace, saying that as soon as they gathered their crop of corn they would return to their tribe, which they did.
39 American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 630. According to the original manuscript journal of Col. Benj. Hawkins, Major Craig's house was i mile below the source of Niue-Mile Creek.
40 September 27, 1792. See American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 630.
41 Report of Boundary Commissioners, November 30, 1792. American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 630.
42 Report of Boundary Commissioners, November 30, 1792. American State Papers, Indian Affairs, Vol. I, p. 630.

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Bureau of Ethnology, Volume 5, Cherokee Nation of Indians, 1883-84

Cherokee Nation of Indians


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