2. Georgia Delegation to John Quincy Adams, 10 March 1824
The Secretary of War has addressed to the gentlemen composing the Georgia delegation to Congress copies of the extraordinary documents furnished by persons who are called the Cherokee delegation. As this is believed to be the first instance in which a diplomatic correspondence has been held with Indian chiefs, and in which they have been addressed by the Department of War in the same terms with those used to be representation of a State, it becomes a subject of inquiry in what light the Cherokees are at present viewed by the Government of the United States. If as an independent nation, to be treated with by all the forms of diplomatic respect, the negotiation with them should be transferred to the Department of State, and will, no doubt, be preceded by a proper examination into their authority to speak for the Cherokee tribe on matters affecting its prosperity and existence. If to be viewed as other Indians, as persons suffered to reside within the territorial limits of the United States, and subject to every restraint which the policy and power of the General Government require to be imposed upon them, for the interest of the Union, the interest of a particular State, and their won preservation, it is necessary that these misguided men should be taught by the General Government that there is no alternative between their removal beyond the limits of the State of Georgia and their extinction. the Government of the United States will deceive them grossly, if they are led to believe that, at this day, their consent is necessary to the fulfillment of its obligations to the State of Georgia. Their will must yield to the paramount duties of the General Government to itself, and to each member of the confederacy. The Cherokees allege (if, indeed, the representation made is made with their authority) that they are resolved neither to leave nor sell the lands on which they reside - lands which belong to the State of Georgia, over which Georgia did claim sovereignty until the adoption of the federal constitution, and over which she will exercise her powers, whenever any administration of the General Government resolves to fix permanently upon them any persons who are not, and whom she will never suffer to become, her citizens. The doctrines of the General Government, sanctioned by the highest tribunals, vindicate the claim of Georgia to the ownership of the soil. The Indians are simply occupants, tenants at will, incapable of transferring even their naked possession, except through the instrumentality of the United States, to the State of Georgia. Aware of the tenure by which their temporary possession is held, their headmen have sought in many instances to secure from the United States a title to the soil itself. Stipulations have been entered into by the General Government, equally contradictory to the rights of Georgia and the obligations of the United States - stipulations, however, which show that the General Government has the acknowledged right to transfer the possession of the Cherokee lands to the State of Georgia. The power which takes from the Cherokee tribe a portion of soil, to confer it on a Cherokee chief, under a different tenure, can rightfully take from the Cherokee nation of the benefit of a State.
It is with deep concern that the necessity is felt of pressing upon the General Government the considerations that are due to its character for good faith in its contracts with a member of the Union. since the year 1802, implicit reliance has been placed in the General Government; and the just expectation has been indulged that, in the execution of its high duties, the Executive administration would carefully and steadily pursue the object for which the faith of the Union was pledged - the peaceable extinguishment, on reasonable terms, of the Indian title to all the lands within the territorial limits of Georgia. In 1817, the public declaration of the President to Congress, that an arrangement had been made, by which, in exchange for lands beyond the Mississippi, a great part, if not the whole, of the lands possessed by the Cherokee tribe eastward of that river, in the States of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia, and in the territory of Alabama, would be soon acquired, gave a just expectation that the national pledge given to Georgia would be redeemed. In the eight years which have succeeded, these anticipations of the the President have been realized every where but in Georgia. The successive purchases made since that period have crowded the Cherokees out of Tennessee, Alabama, and North Carolina, almost altogether into peaceful acquisition,on reasonable terms, of the lands upon which the Cherokees are now permitted to remain; difficulties which are every hour increasing, from the policy pursued by the General Government. It is, with all due respect, a subject of serious inquiry, what produced the extraordinary change in the wishes of the Cherokee tribe, as expressed in the treaty of 1817? . . . Argument is not necessary to show that a power which interposes obstacles to the accomplishment of its own promises violated faith; and that, to plead the impossibility to perform an engagement, when that impossibility is produced by those who engaged to perform it, would be equally dishonorable and hypocritical. The President is probably not aware that the United States will be liable to such accusations, if the present moment is suffered to pass without a full compliance on their part with the obligation of the treaty of cession of 1802. What has created the strong desire of the Cherokee Indians to remain where they are? The policy of the General Government; the pretended guaranties of their possessions; the attempted changes in the nature of their titles to them; the lessons received from their masters in the arts of civilized life; the acquisition of property, and the desire of extending and securing it: a policy just and generous to the Indians, but solely at the expense of a member of the Union; at war not less with the rights of that member of the union than with the solemn promises of the General Government. The United States have the same right to colonize a tribe of Indians from the Columbia or red river in Georgia,as they have to pursue a system of policy whose aim or end shall be the permanency of the Cherokee within that State.
If the cherokees are unwilling to remove, the causes of that unwillingness are to be traced to the United States. If a peaceable purchase cannot be made in the ordinary mode, nothing remains to be done but to order their removal to a designated territory, beyond the limits of Georgia, and giving an ample equivalent for the territory left by them, and an ample support to the territory granted to them. An order of this kind will not be disregarded by the Cherokee tribe, whose interest will be essentially promoted by a compliance with it, (whatever may be the effect of it upon a few chief men, who seem to consider their own interest as separate and distinct from that of their brethren,) as it must be obvious that a tranquil and undisturbed possession of a permanent property can alone enable them to acquire the arts of civilized life, and to secure to them its benefits.
Our duty is performed by remonstrating against the policy heretofore pursued, by which the interests of Georgia have been disregarded, to the accomplishment of other objects of general interest, and a compliance with a solemn promise postponed, for the acquisition of territory fore the General Government; and by insisting, as we do, most earnestly, upon an immediate fulfillment of the obligations of the articles of cession concluded ion 1802. As the only means by which justice can be done to the State we represent, and the character of the General Government be vindicated.
J. Elliott N. Ware Joel Abbot
George Cary Thomas W. Cobb W. Cuthbert
John Forsyth Wiley Thompson
2. Georgia Delegation to John Quincy Adams, 10 Mar 1824, in American State Papers, Indian Affairs, vol. II, 476-77.