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17.  John Ross to the Cherokees, 14 April 1831

Friends and Fellow Citizens

    . . . It will be remembered that in the course of the last winter I served a notice upon the Governor [George R. Gilmer] & Attorney General of the State of Georgia, that a motion would be made by the Cherokee nation thro' their Counsel [William Wirt] before the Supreme Court of the United States for a writ of injunction to restrain that state from the enforcement of her laws within our territorial limits.  The motion was accordingly made and the agreements heard, and upon the simple question whether the Indian Tribes within the limits of the United States are to be viewed as a foreign State in the sense of the constitution, or not -  and a majority of the judges entertaining an opinion in the negative, the injunction has been denied.  Notwithstanding, the court has admitted the Cherokees to be "a distinct political society, separated from others, capable of managing its own affairs and governing itself; and that the acts of the United States Government plainly recognizes the Cherokee Nation as a State & the courts are bound by these acts."   Thus it will be perceived that the denial of the injunction has no bearing whatever upon the true merits of our cause, but owing to the limited powers of the Supreme Court; & so far as the opinion has been expressed in regard to the rights recognized & secured to the Cherokee Nation by the acts of the General Government, they are maintained by the Court & will be sustained whenever a case between proper parties may be brought before it . . . I do not regret the toil & trouble which I have undergone preparatory to the motion being made for the injunction, because I sincerely believe that a foundation is laid upon which our injured rights may be reared & made permanent.  It is therefore all important that we should yet stand united & firm in the maintenance of these sacred rights, which we have enjoyed, and our interests & happiness would thereby be promoted.

    . . . we are invited by inducements with our own money to disorganize and break down the government which you have, by your own free will & choice, established for the security of your freedom & common welfare.   Will you break sticks to put into the hands of the president to break your own heads with?  This is the true question submitted for your decision under the president's invitation . . . I once more admonish you to be firm & united in sentiments and actions, and to meet your oppressions & wrongs with fortitude and untiring forbearance, as you have already shown by your present conduct.  Our cause will ultimately triumph.  It is the cause of humanity and justice.  It involves a question of great magnitude & one of the most extraordinary character that has ever been agitated in the United States, and it will necessarily consume time to bring it to a final issue; but if the President will sustain the opinion of the court, as he ought to do, the question is already settled and our troubles would cease.  And if he will not change his policy to sustain the opinion of the court, the next Congress will, in all probability, put an end to this grievous controversy.  It becomes our duty, therefore, to maintain our ground, until it is finally settled.  Attend to your farms and domestic pursuits peaceably & industrially, that your wives & children may not suffer with hunger, and add to your grief, is the parting advice of one who will never forsake you in adversity & whose interests & happiness are identical with yours, and whose heart is wholly devoted to our common cause, and will never shrink from supporting it under any circumstances whatsoever honorable and just.

John Ross


17.  John Ross to the Cherokees, 14 April 1831, in Gary E. Moulton, ed., The Papers of Chief John Ross vol. 1 (Norman, OK:   University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), 215-19.