Request by Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross to the Cherokee National Committee
and National Council to ratify the treaty signed with the Confederate States of
Message of the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.
The National Committee and Council in National Council convened:
FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS: Since the last meeting of the National Council
events have occurred that will occupy a prominent place in the history of the
world. The United States
have been dissolved and two governments now exist.
Twelve of the States composing the late Union have erected themselves into a
government under the style of the Confederate States of America, and, as you
know, are now engaged in a war for their independence. The contest thus far has
been attended with success almost uninterrupted on their side and marked by
brilliant victories. Of its final result there seems to be no ground for a
reasonable doubt. The unanimity and devotion of the people of the Confederate
States must sooner or later secure their success over all opposition and result
in the establishment of their independence and a recognition of it by the other
nations of the earth.
At the beginning of the conflict I felt that the interests of the Cherokee
people would be best maintained by remaining quiet and not involving themselves
in it prematurely. Our relations had long existed with the United States
Government and bound us to observe amity and peace alike with all the States.
Neutrality was proper and wise so long as there remained a reasonable
probability that the difficulty between the two sections of the Union would be
settled, as a different course would have placed all our rights in jeopardy and
might have led to the sacrifice of the
people. But when there was no longer any
reason to believe that the Union of the States would be continued there was no
cause to hesitate as to the course the Cherokee Nation should pursue. Our
geographical position and domestic institution allied us to the South, while the
developments daily made in our vicinity and as to the purposes of the war waged
against the Confederate States clearly pointed out the path of interest.
These considerations produced a unanimity of sentiment among the people as to
the policy to be adopted by the Cherokee Nation, which was clearly expressed in
their general meeting held at Tahlequah on the 21st of August last. A copy
the proceedings of that meeting is submitted for your information.
In accordance with the declarations embodied in the resolutions then adopted the
Executive Council deemed it proper to exercise the authority conferred upon them
by the people there assembled. Messengers were dispatched to Gen. Albert
the distinguished Indian Commissioner of the Confederate States, who, having
negotiated treaties with the neighboring Indian nations, was then establishing
relations between his Government and the Comanches and other Indians in the
Southwest, who bore a copy of the proceedings of the meeting referred to, and a
letter from the executive authorities, proposing on behalf of the nation to
enter into a treaty of alliance, defensive and offensive, with the Confederate
In the exercise of the same general authority, and to be ready as far as
practicable to meet any emergency that might spring up on our northern border,
it was thought proper to raise a regiment of mounted men and tender its services
to Gen. McCulloch. The people responded with alacrity to the call, and it is
believed the regiment will be found as efficient as any other like number of
men. It is now in the service of
the Confederate States for the purpose of
aiding in defending their homes and the common rights of the Indian nations
about us. This regiment is composed of ten full companies, with two reserve
companies, and, in addition to the force previously authorized to be raised to
operate outside of the nation by Gen. McCulloch, will show that the Cherokee
people are ready to do all in their power in defense of the Confederate cause,
which has now become their own. And it is to be hoped that our people will spare
no means to sustain them, but contribute liberally to supply any want of
comfortable clothing for the approaching season.
In years long since past our ancestors met undaunted those who would invade
their mountain homes beyond the Mississippi. Let not their descendants of the
present day be found unworthy of them, or unable to stand by the chivalrous men
of the South by whose side they may be called to fight in self-defense. The
Cherokee people do not desire to be involved in war, but self-preservation fully
justifies them in the course they have adopted, and they will be recreant to
themselves if they should not sustain it to the utmost of their humble
A treaty with the Confederate States has been entered into and is now submitted
for your ratification. In view of the circumstances by which we are surrounded
and the provisions of the treaty it will be found to be the most important ever
negotiated on behalf of the Cherokee Nation, and will mark a new era in its
history. Without attempting a recapitulation of all its
provisions, some of its
distinguishing features may be briefly enumerated.
The relations of the Cherokee Nation are changed from the United to the
Confederate States, with guarantees of protection and a recognition in future
negotiations only of its constitutional authorities. The metes and
as defined by patent from the United States, are continued, and a guarantee
given for the neutral land or a fair consideration in case it should be lost by
war or negotiation, and an advance thereon to pay the national debt and to meet
other contingencies. The payment of all our annuities and the security of all
our investments are provided for. The jurisdiction of the Cherokee courts over
all members of the nation, whether by birth, marriage, or adoption, is
Our title to our lands is placed beyond dispute. Our relations with the
Confederate States is that of a ward; theirs to us that of a protectorate, with
powers restricted. The district court, with a limited civil and criminal
jurisdiction, is admitted into the country instead of being located in Van
Buren, as was the United States court. This is perhaps one of the most important
provisions of the treaty, and secures to
our own citizens the great
constitutional right of trial by a jury of their vicinage, and releases them
from the petty abuses and vexations of the old system, before a foreign jury and
in a foreign country. It gives us a Delegate in Congress on the same footing
with Delegates from the Territories, by which our interests can be represented;
a right which has long been withheld from the nation and which has imposed upon
it a large expense and great injustice. It also contains reasonable stipulation
in regard to the appointing powers of the agent and in regard to licensed
traders. The Cherokee Nation may be called upon to furnish troops for the
defense of the Indian country, but is never to be taxed for the support of any
war in which the States may be engaged.
The Cherokee people stand upon new ground. Let us hope that the clouds which
overspread the land will be dispersed and that we shall prosper as we have never
before done. New avenues to usefulness and distinction will be opened to the
ingenuous youth of the country. Our rights of self-government will be more fully
recognized, and our citizens be no longer dragged off upon flimsy pretexts, to
be imprisoned and tried before distant tribunals. No just cause exists for
domestic difficulties. Let
them be buried with the past and only mutual
friendship and harmony be cherished.
Our relations with the neighboring tribes are of the most friendly character.
Let us see that the while path which leads from our country to theirs be
obstructed by no act of ours, and that it be open to all those with whom
be brought into intercourse.
Amid the excitement of the times it is to be hoped that the interests of
education will not be allowed to suffer and that no interruption be brought into
the usual operations of the government. Let all its officers continue to
discharge their appropriate duties.
As the services of some of your members may be required elsewhere and all
unnecessary expense should be avoided, I respectfully recommend that the
business of the session be promptly discharged.
October 9, 1861.