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Treaty Concluded October 2, 17981
Owing to misunderstandings and consequent delay in running the boundary line prescribed by the treaties of 1791 and 1794, and the ignorant encroachment of settlers on the Indian lands within the limits of such boundaries before their survey, it became desirable that the Indians should cede more laud. The following treaty was therefore concluded:
In the year 1797 the legislature of the State of Tennessee addressed a memorial and remonstrance to Congress upon the subject of the Indian title to lands within that State. The burden of this complaint was the assertion that the Indian title was at best nothing greater' than a tenancy at will; that the lands they occupied within the limits of the State had been granted by the State of North Carolina, before the ad-mission of Tennessee to the Union, to her officers and soldiers of the Continental line, and for other purposes; that the treaties entered into with the Cherokees by the United States, guaranteeing them the exclusive possession of these lands, 'ere subversive of State as well as individual vested rights, and praying that provision be made by law for the extinguishment of the Indian claim.3
This was communicated to Congress by the President. Mr.
from the committee of the House of Representatives to which the
matter was referred, submitted a report,4 accompanied by a
resolution making an appropriation for the relief of such
citizens of the State of Tennessee as had a right to lands
within that State, by virtue of the cession out of the State of
North Carolina, provided they had made actual settlement thereon
and had been deprived of the possession thereof by the operation
of the act of May 19, 1796, for regulating intercourse with the
Indian tribes. The sum to be appropriated; it' was declared,
should be subject to the order of the President of the United
States, to be expended under his direction, either in
extinguishing the Indian claim to the lands in question, by
holding a treaty for that purpose, or to be disposed of in such
other manner as he should deem best calculated to afford the
persons described a temporary relief.
Following this, on the 8th of the same month, President Adams communicated a message to the Senate, setting forth that the situation of affairs between some of the citizens of the United States and the Cherokees had evinced the propriety of holding a treaty with that nation, to extinguish by purchase their right to certain parcels of laud and to adjust and settle other points relative to the safety and convenience of the citizens of the United States. With this view he nominated Fisher Ames, of Massachusetts, Bushrod Washington, of Virginia, and Alfred Moore, of North Carolina, to be commissioners, having authority to hold conferences and conclude a treaty with the Cherokees for the purposes indicated.6
The Senate concurred in the advisability of the proposed treaty, but Fisher Ames and Bushrod Washington having declined, George Walton and John Steele were associated with Mr. Moore, and detailed instructions were given for their guidance.7
By these instructions they were vested jointly and severally with full powers to negotiate and conclude a treaty with the Cherokees, limited only by the scope of the instructions themselves. The Cherokee agent had already been directed to notify the Indians and the commandant of United States troops in Tennessee to furnish an escort sufficient for the protection of the negotiations.
Further purchase of Cherokee lands proposed. The commissioners were directed as a primary consideration to secure, if possible, the consent of the Cherokees to the sale of such part of their lands as would give a more convenient form to the State of Tennessee and conduce to the protection of its citizens. Especially was it desirable to obtain their consent to the immediate return of such settlers as had intruded on their lands and in consequence had been removed by the United States troops, such consent to be predicated on the theory that the Cherokees were willing to treat for the sale to the United States of the lauds upon which these people had settled. They were directed to renew the unsuccessful effort made by Governor Blount in 1791 to secure the consent of the Cherokees that the boundary should begin at the mouth of Duck River and run up the middle of that stream to its source and thence by a line drawn to the mouth of Clinch River. The following alternative boundary propositions were directed to be submitted for the consideration of the Indians, in their numerical order, viz:
In case the Indians should accept the first proposition and cede the tract therein described, or a greater quantity, the commissioners were to solemnly guarantee the Cherokees the remainder of their country and agree to their payment by the United States of either an annuity of $4,000, or to deliver them, on the signing of the treaty, goods to the amount of $5,000 and the further sum of $20,000 in four equal annual installments.
Refusing the first and accepting the second proposition, they were
to receive the same guarantee, and an annuity of $3,000, or $5,000
at once in goods and $15,000 in three equal annual installments.
Accepting the fourth proposition, to the exclusion of the other three, the same guarantee was to be given, together with an annuity of $1,000, or $5,000 in goods on signing the treaty and the same amount during the year 1799.
It was also represented by the Secretary of War that the arts and practices used to obtain Indian land in defiance of treaties and the laws, at the risk of involving the whole country in war, had become so daring, and received such countenance from persons of prominent influence, as to render it necessary that the means to countervail them should be augmented. To this end, as well as to more effectually secure to the United States the advantages of the land which should be obtained by the treaty, the commissioners were instructed to secure the insertion into the treaty of provisions of the following import:
The commissioners repaired to Knoxville, where they ascertained it to be the desire of the Indians that the treaty negotiations should be held at Oostenaula, the Cherokee capital.
To this the commissioners objected, but agreed to meet the Indians at Chota, which they concluded to change to Tuckasege, and, finally, before the date fixed for the meeting, June 25, again changed it to Tellico, where the conference was held.8
Tennessee commissioners attend the council. In the mean time9 Governor Sevier of Tennessee designated General Robertson, James Stuart, and Lachlan McIntosh as agents to represent the interests of that State at the treaty, and gave them minute instructions covering the following points,10 viz
The council opened early in July. The "Bloody Fellow," a Cherokee chief, at the outset delivered a paper which he stated to contain their final resolutions, and which covered a peremptory refusal to sell any land or to permit the ejected settlers to return to their homes. After seeking in vain to shake this determination of the Cherokees, further negotiations were postponed until the ensuing fall, and the commissioners departed.
On the 27th of August, the Secretary of War addressed some additional instructions upon the subject to George Walton and Lieut. Col. Thomas Butler as .commissioners (John Steele having resigned and Alfred Moore having returned to his home in North Carolina), authorizing them to renew the negotiations. The original instructions were to form the basis of these negotiations, but if it should be found impracticable to induce the Indians to accede to either of the first three propositions, an abandonment of them was to take place, and resort was to be had to the fourth proposition, which might be altered in any manner as to boundaries calculated to secure the most advantageous results to the United States.11 The council was resumed at Tellico on the 20th of September, but it was found, during the progress thereof, that there was no possibility of effecting the primary objects of the State agents of Tennessee. General Robertson failed to attend. General White (who had been appointed in the place of Stuart) was there, but Mr. McIntosh resigned and Governor Sevier himself attended in person.
The treaty was finally concluded on the 2d of October, by which a
cession was secured covering most of the territory contemplated by
the fourth proposition, with something additional. It included most
if not all the lands from which settlers had been ejected by the
United States troops, and they were permitted to return to their
President Adams transmitted the treaty to the Senate,13 and that body advised and consented to its ratification.
Boundary lines surveyed. In fulfillment of the provisions of the fifth article of the treaty concerning the survey of boundary lines, the President appointed Captain Butler as a commissioner to run that portion of the line described as extending from Great Iron Mountain in a south-easterly direction to the point where the most southerly branch of Little River crossed the divisional line to Tugaloo River, which trust he executed in the summer of 1799.14 Owing to the unfortunate destruction of official records by fire, in the year 1800, it is impossible to ascertain all the details concerning this survey, but it was executed on the theory that the "Little River" named in the treaty was one of the northernmost branches of Keowee River.
This survey seems not to have been accepted by the War Department, for on the 3d of June, 1803, instructions were issued by the Secretary of War to Return J. Meigs, as a commissioner, to superintend the execution of the survey of this same portion of the boundary. Mr. Thomas Freeman was appointed surveyor.15
From the letter of Commissioner Meigs, transmitting the plat and field notes of survey,16 it appears that much difference of opinion had existed as to what stream was meant by the "Little River" named in the treaty, there being three streams of that name in that vicinity. Two of these were branches of the French Broad and the other of Keowee River. If the line should be run to the lower one of these two branches of the French Broad, it would leave more than one hundred families of white settlers within the Indian territory. If it were run to the branch of Keowee River, it would leave ten or twelve Indian villages within the State of North Carolina.
It was therefore determined by Commissioner Meigs to accept the upper branch of French Broad as the true intent and meaning of the treaty, and the line was run accordingly, whereby not a single white settlement was cut off or intersected, and but five Indian families were left on the Carolina side of the line.17
Status of certain territory. In this connection it is pertinent to remark that the State of North Carolina claimed for her southern boundary the thirty-fifth degree of north latitude.
The line of this parallel was, however, at that time supposed to ran about 12 miles to the north of what was subsequently ascertained to be its true location.
Between this supposed line of 35° north latitude and the northern most boundary of Georgia, as settled upon by a convention between that State and South Carolina in 1787, there intervened a tract of country of about 12 miles in width, from north to south, and extending from east to west, from the top of the main ridge of mountains which divides the eastern from the western waters to the Mississippi River. This tract remained, as was supposed, within the chartered limits of South Carolina, and in the year 1787 was ceded by that State to the United States, subject to the Indian right of occupancy. When the Indian title to the country therein described was ceded to the United States by the treaty of 1798 with the Cherokees, the eastern portion of this 12-mile tract fell within the limits of such cession.
On its eastern extremity near the head-waters of the French Broad River, immediately at the foot of the main Blue Ridge Mountains, had been located, for a number of years prior to the treaty, a settlement of about fifty families of whites, who by its ratification became occupants of the public domain of the United States, but who were outside the territorial jurisdiction of any State. These settlers petitioned Congress to retrocede the tract of country upon which they resided to South Carolina, in order that they might be brought within the protection of the laws of that State.18 Aresolatioriwas reported in the House of Representatives, from the committee to whom the subject had been referred, favoring such a course,19 but Congress took no effective action on the subject, and when the State boundaries came to be finally adjusted in that region the tract in question was found to be within the limits of North Carolina.
Yellow Creek settlement.-After that portion of the boundary of the country ceded by the treaty of 1798 which extended along the foot of Cumberland Mountain until it intersected "Campbells Line" had been surveyed, complaint was made by certain settlers on Yellow Creek that by the action of the surveyors in not prolonging the line to its true point of termination, their homes had been left within the Indian country.
Thereupon the Secretary of War instructed Agent Meigs20 to go in person and examine the line as surveyed with a view to ascertaining the truth concerning the complaints.
It was ascertained that the " point" of Campbell's Line was not on Cumberland Mountain proper, but on the ridge immediately east thereof, known as Poor Valley Ridge. This ridge is nearly as lofty as the main range, and Colonel Campbell, in approaching it from the east, had mistaken it for that range and established his terminal point accordingly. The surveyors under the treaty of 1798, assuming the correctness of Colonel Campbell's survey, had made the line of their survey close thereon. By such action the Indian boundary in that locality was extended 332 poles further to the east than would have been the case had the true reading of the treaty been followed.
A number of families of settlers on Yellow Creek, together with a tract of about 2,500 acres of land, were thus unfortunately left within the Indian country. All efforts of Agent Meigs to secure a relinquishment of this strip of territory from the Indians were, however, ineffectual.21
1 United States Statutes at Large, Vol. I, p.
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Bureau of Ethnology, Volume 5, Cherokee Nation of Indians, 1883-84
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