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Title:[Letter] 1838 Mar. 29, Washington, [to] the editors of the "National Intelligencer" / John Ross: a machine-readable transcription
Author:Cherokee Nation. Principal Chief (1828-1866 : Ross)

This work is the property of The Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, TN. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching, and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.

Date: March 29,1838
Extent: 7p
Summary:This is an unsigned letter, ostensibly from John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, to the editors of the "National Intelligencer", a nationwide periodical published from 1800-1863. Ross expresses his dismay at the paper's representation of him, particularly the charge that he is purposefully misleading the Cherokee people with regard to removal. He details the motivations for his behavior and explains his course of action. The letter is dated March 29, 1838, and contains a note attributing it to Ross.
Repository:The Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, TN
Collection:State Library Cherokee Collection
Box: 1
Folder: 23

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Washington City ,
March 29. 1838[gap] The Editors of the [gap]tional Intelligencer"

It was my hope that the letter I had the honor of sending to you the other day, would have preserved me from the necessity of bringing myself again before the public. No one can lament such a necessity more than I do, although from the manner in which I seem to have been misunderstood by certain oraters [orators] in both houses of Congress, I cannot see how, without doing myself & my nation great injustice, I could remain silent.

In calling upon me as the only one capable of carrying out a measure of which I am forbidden by the Cherokee people to make any recognition in their name, one point appears to have been strangely forgotten: It appears to have been forgotten that when unauthorized individuals were substitute for me and for my colleagues in by the United States ' agents, for the purpose of giving form to the measure in question, those agents represented me as a mere usurper of power, and only the head of a small and worthless faction. They said they had made a treaty which the people would fulfil [fulfill], because it was the people's work and accomplished by a national and [gap] triumph over my intrigues. My course has been a steady one It will so continue. Disregarding every effort to discredit me at home and abroad, I have unwaveringly conformed to the wishes of the Cherokees . I need not here recapitulate what those wishes have been,— what they are. Before the ratification of that [added: the] paper, called a Treaty, and since the ratification of that paper, their own lips have spoken them out plainly. The orators in Congress on the subject of our affairs, a couple of days ago urged the

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rejection of a memorial from fifteen thousand, six hundred and sixty five of the Cherokee people, containing the last and most emphatic, of these expressions of their views and feelings, — which memorial I enclose in this letter, and will feel obliged by your conveying to the public. The orators said, its rejection would lead the Cherokees to adopt the pretended Treaty, because it would show them that I had no power to obtain other terms from the Executive. Had the honorable gentlemen read the memorial they rejected, they would have seen that it already contained the people's answer to the very declaration which that rejection was assuredly intended [added: devised] to imply; for the self same policy had [added: been] already practised [practiced] upon them, in various forms, by the agents of the government, and always [added: had uniformly] had it proved a failure. Both the letter of Mr. Harris , and the [unclear] circular of [unclear] the United States ' Commissioners [added: & Superintendent of Indian Removals] (both of which I also enclose to you for publication), had already done all they could to break me down with the my nation as a traitor to its interest, and to now discourage [unclear] [added: its] opposition, [added: to the spurious Treaty] by representing that Congress would remain inflex[gap] But in the face of every stratagem to crush me during my absence and build up the pretended Treaty on my [gap], the Superintendent of Cherokee Emigration complains on the 8th of March, to the Department, "the word of Mr. Ross is worth more than the testimony of every white man in the western Country "; — and now, to crown all, up to the very last, fifteen thousand six hundred and sixty five of the people unite in telling Congress that they have heard all the charges of deception

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which have been brought against me, — all the arguments and threats in favour [favor] of the pretended Treaty,— but they see no reason for [unclear] withdrawing their commission, nor will they ever receive the document in question as a Treaty. Under these circumstances, what can I do? If our people will not honour [honor] the note of hand sent to them because their signature to it, (is a forge and, of , course, to all its conditions,) is a forgery;— and if your government will not frame a new note, which, if legitimately signed, and under conditions accepted by them, our people as [added: the] signers, they can honour [honor],— am I to be blamed because I will not call the forged note upon my people a true one? Am I to be blamed, if even yet I believe, and call upon all the world to believe, that the United States government is incapable of sending an armed power to enforce such a forgery by the bullet and the bayonet, when all can be so readily prevented by a single [added: simple] act of fair dealing on their part,— which, on ours, so far from resisting, we invite?— If blood is shed, then, [gap] it not be charged on us. We again and again say,— our aim is peace and [unclear] uprightness.

Nevertheless, I am told, if I do not bid my people execute the private compact so well known not to be a Treaty, and against which they have so often spoken for themselves, and, in their last document, with fifteen thousand six hundred and sixty five voices, I must hold myself responsible for all the blood which may be shed. This seems to be [unclear] another artifice to bring me under suspicion— not in wit the minds of my own people, for they know me— but with the people of the

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of the United States who only know me through what they read of me from [added: represented in [unclear] party [unclear]concerning my in me our affairs in] their own newspapers.— Gentlemen, no blood can be shed, unless in some the unhallowed effort to compel the [added: our] Cherokees to pronounce that to be true, which over & over & over again, they have declared & proved to be a lie, which surely [unclear] [added: [unclear] is two months [unclear]]— an effort [unclear] too monstrous even for imagination.— It has been said in Congress that I am deluding the people, because I have told them that "there is a christian feeling in the American community" to which we may yet look with hope. If I had not long ago lured the Indians to bear unparalleled inflictions, through unwavering faith in eventual justice from that same christian feeling, I fear it would have been difficult for any human power to rule the storm which despair might long ere now have kindled in our country. If this be a crime, it is one for which I can feel no remorse.

I again repeat, I am here, with an authorised [authorized] delegation of the Cherokees , ready & willing to settle this vexed question;— and a question, vexed, not by us:— I am ready to settle it, as the compact with Georgia pledges the United States to do,— "peaceably & on reasonable terms." So resolutely am I my- [gap] to the spirit of peace and non-resistance, that, if the Congress of the United States were to pass a decree that force must remove the Cherokees without a Treaty, I would say to them, as certain members of Congress seem to desire, My countrymen, I have been in error when I have told you that there was hope to be found in the christian feeling of a christian land and the good faith of a christian government. That government & that land decree that we are to be cast out from our country by the strong arm of power.

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They will make no treaty. They want all we have. We are the weaker. [unclear] and go in peace."— But when I am sternly ordered to tell the nation that they must go in consequence of their own act, and because they have made an honest and honorable treaty to go, and will forswear themselves if they do not, surely this is asking a little too much. I am disposed [added: I am disposed] to make any reasonable concession, [unclear] though I really cannot see how [added: any] concession can be reasonable, when the point in question is merely one person's wanting property which another has no desire to part with;— no matter— I am disposed to make any reasonable concession, but I am not disposed to do any thing which [unclear] can pledge me & my people to an untruth. I am willing, if our instructions from the Cherokee people [unclear: not ], on any conditions, to assent to their exile,— are placed beyond all chance of being fulfilled;— even to assume the responsibility in such conditions as the necessity of our situation might enable us to agree upon with the Executive of [unclear] [added: negotiating an arrangement] [added: upon conditions growing out of the necessity of our situation;—] and to take the risk off their indignation,- rather than see the instrument against which the [added: people] have protested, made pretext for enforcement by the sword;— but I should [gap] and deserve scorn, could I ever be decryed [decried], through promises or threats, by any act of mine to bind my people [added: [unclear]] [added: my nation] to what they have so often and so solemnly disavowed.

I most sincerely hope, that, after this explanation, no more will be said of my indisposition to prevent difficulty between the United States & the Cherokee nation . If I am debarred by others from realizing the great object of my life,— the preservation and prosperity of my people,— there is nothing left for me

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me but to let the world see that I have not failed through any want of zeal [unclear] on the part of

Sir, Your most obedient Servant,
(no signature)

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To the Editors of the "National Intelligencer
John Ross 1838 His attitude toward Treaty.

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