28. John Ross, et al, to Lewis Cass, 29 February 1836
At the date of our communication of the 9th instant, we believed that we would have been enabled to have convinced the Government of our sincerity, in the assurances we had so repeatedly made thro' your department, of our deep solicitude for a speedy and amicable adjustment, of the perplexing difficulties, under which the Cherokee people are now suffering. And, also, that the Executive Department would have been fully sattisfied with the ample powers exhibited before you by us, that we had been delegated, and duly constituted, as representatives of the whole Cherokee people, for the purpose of entering into a treaty arrangement with the United States Government. Under this anticipation, and with all the frankness and candour due to the importance of the subject, we address you the several letters which have been replied to by the Department. Keeping in view, what passed between us verbally, as well as in writing, together with the sanction of the address of letters, we have been honored with from you; we could not for one moment hesitate as to the recognition of our delegated functions from the Cherokee people, by the Government. However, the letter of Elbert Herring, Esqr. dated the 13th written as a reply to the one, we had the honor of addressing you on the 9th inst. seems to express emphatically, that "we were laboring under extreme misapprehension," in believing that we have been "recognised by the department as the duly constituted representatives of the Cherokee nation." And without a shadow of authority and any force of reason, he professes not to believe that the protest alluded to in our letter of the 9th inst. nor the information therein communicated by us, contains a fair expression, "even of the feelings of those who signed it." Instead of being informed, as has been requested, of the final determination of the President [Andrew Jackson] concerning the treaty said to have been formed by the commissioners - we are told, it has been submitted to the Department, that we were at liberty to inspect and peruse it, and to sign it also, "agreeably to the instructions of the General Council of the Cherokee Nation, held at New Echota, on the 21st of December last."
Mr. Herring has also thought proper to observe, "that the delegation, of which Major Ridge & others are members, was appointed by the General Council of the Cherokee Nation, at New Echota, after the adoption by that body of the proffered treaty, and that they were sent on to effect its ratification and not to make a new treaty." And we are also told, "you will distinctly understand that you will not be recognised by the Department as members of a delegation, unless you will unite with the delegates appointed by the General Council of the Cherokee nation in December last." We are fully informed of the manner in which the council alluded to was gotten up, the course of proceeding in it, and the object intended to be attained. We beg once more to reassure you, that the will of the Cherokee people was not then expressed, nor, are their wishes contained in the instrument, the Department informs us, we may sign. That meeting consisted only a small faction, and the agitators and actors in it, were altogether self constituted as will be fully seen by the protests of the Cherokee people, a copy of which are herewith submitted, and they are numerously signed by them. The last one was received a few days since, thro' the hands of Messrs. Daniel McCoy, Archibald Campbell & Bark who have been specially deputed by the General Council of the Nation, held at Red Clay on the 1st inst. for the double purpose of bringing on said protest to us, and to be associated with us in the discharge of the duties assigned to us by the nation. So you will clearly see, that the meeting which took place at New Echota, was by no means the act of the Cherokee people, and that it cannot justly be called "the General Council of the Cherokee Nation." The people themselves have raised their voice against the proceedings of that meeting, and protested against its acts. They deny the right of the few individuals who have presumed to arrogate to themselves the powers of the Nation. Consequently it is altogether untrue in point of fact, that we have been instructed by the "General Council of the Cherokee Nation" to sign the instrument alluded to. And it is equally unfounded to suppose that Major Ridge & others associated with him in their doings at New Echota, have been appointed by the "General Council of the Cherokee Nation" as a delegation, and sent on this place to effect the ratification of their own individual acts, to to make a treaty. For it is true that Major Ridge and his associates here, as well as "party" at home, all united with the people at the General Council of Red Clay in October last, in conferring the powers which have been delegated to us, as the only proper representatives of the Nation, on this mission; and their signatures are to be found upon our credentials. Under these circumstances, and the incontrovertible proofs attending them, we cannot suppose, it is the wish of the Govt. of the United States, that we should disobey the known will of our constituents, therefore with due respect, we are bound to say, that we cannot, whatever may be the consequences to us and our people, disrobe ourselves of our delegated authority and act as individuals by uniting ourselves with the unauthorized few who have entered into a contract with the United States, in the form of a treaty, thereby to divide or take from them that responsibility they have thought proper to assume. We repeat the fact, "that the great body of the Cherokee people deprecate the proceedings of the New Echota meeting." It has become our imperious duty therefore, to protest against the acts of the unauthorized individuals who have been brought on here at the instance of Mr. Schermerhorn. Long since, the Cherokee people placed themselves under the protection of the United States, and paid the price, and hoped to enjoy the freedom and happiness and looked for safety to the faith of treaties, but all is lost if the agreements of a few who arrogate to themselves the power to deal with the rights & liberties, and future destiny of the Cherokee Nation, shall be carried into effect by physical force. If the United States will it, we know our fate and that of the Cherokee people, and have only to suffer and submit. Our all is at the disposition & mercy of the United States and to that mercy we appeal to save us . . .
John Ross and twenty members of the delegation
28. John Ross, et al, to Lewis Cass, 29 Feb 1836, in Gary E. Moulton, ed., The Papers of Chief John Ross vol. 1 (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), 387-89.