Make your own free website on Tripod.com

BACK

3.  Fredrick Jackson Turner, "The Advance of the Georgia Frontier"

  From the beginning of the nation, the Indians on the borders of the settled area of Georgia were a menace and an obstacle to her development.   Indeed, they constituted a danger to the United States as well:  their pretensions to independence and complete sovereignty over their territory were at various times utilized by adventurers from France, England, and Spain as a means of promoting the designs of these powers.  Jackson drove a wedge between the Indian confederacies of this region by his victories in the War of 1812 and the cessions which followed.   Although, in 1821, a large belt of territory between the Ocmulgee and Flint rivers was ceded by the Creeks to Georgia, the state saw with impatience some of the best lands still occupied by these Indians in the territory lying between the Flint and the Chattahoochee.

    The spectacle of a stream of Georgia settlers crossing this rich Indian area area of their own state to settle in the lands newly acquired in Alabama and Mississippi provoked Georgia's wrath, and numerous urgent calls were made upon the government to carry out the agreement made in 1802, by completing the acquisition of these Indian lands.  Responding to this demand, a treaty was made at Indian Springs in February, 1825, by which the Creeks ceded all of their lands in Georgia; but when Adams came to the presidency he was confronted with a serious situation arising from this treaty.  Shortly after it had been ratified, McIntosh, a principal chief of the Lower Creeks, who had signed the treaty, contrary to the rule of the tribe and in spite of the decision to sell no more land, was put to death; and the whole treaty was repudiated by the great body of the Creeks, as having been procured by fraud and made by a small minority of their nation.  The difficulty arose from the fact that the various villages of these Indians were divided into opposing parties; the Upper Creeks, living chiefly along the forks of the Alabama, on the Tallapoosa and the Coosa in Alabama, constituting the more numerous branch, were determined to yield no more territory, while the principal chiefs of the Lower Creeks, who dwelt in western Georgia, along the Flint and Chattahoochee branches of the Apalachiola, were not unfavorable to removal.

    When Governor Troup, of Georgia, determined to survey the ceded lands, he was notified that the president expected Georgia to abandon the survey until it could be done consistently with the provisions of the treaty.  Although the treaty had given the Creeks until September, 1826, to vacate, Governor Troup informed General Gaines, who had been sent to preserve peace, that, as there existed "two independent parties to the question, each is permitted to decide for itself," and he announced that the line would be run and the survey effected.  The defiant correspondence which now ensued between the governor and the war department doubtless reflected the personal hotheadedness of Troup himself, but Georgia supported her governor and made his defiances effective.  He plainly threatened civil war in case the United States used force to prevent the survey.

    On investigation, President Adams reached the conclusion that the treaty was wrongfully secured, and gave orders for a new negotiation.  This resulted in the treaty of Washington, in January, 1826, supplemented by that of March, 1826, by which the Creek Indians ceded all of their lands within the state except a narrow strip along the western border.  This treaty abrogated the treaty of Indian Springs and it provided that the Indians should remain in possession of their lands until January 1, 1827.  Throughout the whole of these proceedings Georgia was bitterly incensed.   Claiming that the treaty of Indian Springs became operative after its ratification, and that the lands acquired by it were thereby incorporated with Georgia and were under her sovereignty, the state denied the right of the general government to reopen the question.  "Georgia," said Troup, "is sovereign on her own soil," and he entered actively upon the survey of the tract without waiting for the date stipulated in the new treaty.  When the surveyors entered the area not ceded by the later treaty, the Indians threatened to use force against them, and at the beginning of 1827 another heated controversy arose.  The president warned the governor of Georgia that he should employ, if necessary, "all the means under his control to maintain the faith of the nation by carrying the treaty into effect."  Having done this, he submitted the whole matter in a special message to Congress.

    "From the first decisive act of hostility," wrote Troup to the secretary of war, "you will be considered and treated as a public enemy"; and he announced his intention to resist any military attack on the part of the United States, "the unblushing allies of the savages."  He thereupon made preparations for liberating any surveyors who might be arrested by the United States, and for calling out the militia.  In the House of Representatives, a committee recommended the purchase of the Indian title to all lands within Georgia, and, until such cession were procured, the maintenance of the treaty of Washington  by all necessary and constitutional means; but the report of the senate committee, submitted by Benton, supported the idea that the ratification of the treaty of Indian Springs vested the title to the lands in Georgia, and reached the conclusion that no preparations should be made to coerce the state by military force.  In November, 1827, the Creeks consented to a treaty extinguishing the last of their claims, and the issue was avoided . . .

    On coming to the Presidency, Jackson was confronted by . . . [this] contest that had arisen between the administration of John Quincy Adams and Georgia over the Indians within the borders of that state.  With the attitude characteristic of a Western man and an Indian fighter, Jackson was in hearty sympathy with Georgia, although, in defiance of John Quincy Adams's administration, she had announced advanced ideas on the subject of "state sovereignty."  This phrase, however, was used at the time without accurate consideration of its implications, and, when the Cherokees adopted a national constitution, on July 26, 1827, asserting that they were a sovereign and independent nation, with complete jurisdiction over their territory, Georgia countered by an act (December 20, 1828) extending her laws over the entire state, to be fully effective after June 1, 1830.  The rush of gold miners into the Cherokee region raised the question to a critical position, and Jackson withdrew the federal troops, which had been ordered there by the previous administration.

    When the subject came before the Supreme Court of the united States, Georgia announced her determination not to appear, not to allow the Cherokee to exercise authority, but to defend her own sovereignty.  The court declined to take jurisdiction, and denied the desired injunction against Georgia.  Not until 1832 was the opinion of the court finally expressed, in the case of Worcester v. Georgia.  In the decision of the case, Chief Justice John Marshall reached the conclusion that the Cherokees were under the protection of the United States, which had the sole right of managing their affairs, but that they should be recognized as a distinct national state, within the territory of which Georgia's laws could have no force.

    On January 3, 1832, however, the House of Representatives of the United States had tabled a resolution to facilitate the enforcement of the decisions of the Supreme Court by federal action.  In the Congressional representation of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, only one vote was cast for enforcement of the decisions.  Even Kentucky gave as many votes in favor of tabling as against.  On the other hand, in Vermont and all of southern New England there was but a single vote (from Connecticut) for tabling.  The Middle Atlantic section was divided, the majority, in New York, favoring tabling, but overwhelmingly opposing the motion in Pennsylvania, where the Quaker and missionary friends of the Indians were influential.  In all, ninety-nine votes were cast for tabling and eighty-nine against.  Jackson's alleged refusal, therefore, to use the power of the federal government against Georgia to enforce the decision of the court was not unwarranted by this action of the House of Representatives.  Nevertheless, it was undoubtedly a satisfaction to him to withhold the use of federal troops to carry out "John Marshall's decision."  He finally avoided the difficulty by procuring the cession of the disputed lands and the removal of the Indians to the west of the Mississippi.