Chronicles of Oklahoma

Skip Navigation

Electronic Publishing Center
Oklahoma Historical Society
Chronicles Homepage
Search all Volumes
Copyright 2001
Purchase an Issue

Table of Contents Index Volume List Search All Volumes Home

Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 12, No. 3
September, 1934
THE TRIAL OF STAND WATIE

Page 305

After the passage of what was known as President Jackson's Indian Removal Bill in 1830 pressure was brought to effect the removal of the Cherokee Indians from their home in Georgia and Tennessee. Coercion was manifested in many ways calculated to make the lives of the Indians intolerable and force them to enter into the desired treaty. The great majority could not conceive that they would ultimately have to give up their homes and leave for the strange country in the west. But a minority of the tribe containing a considerable amount of white blood, including some of the wealthier Indians, reached the conclusion that further resistance was useless and lent themselves to the plans of the federal agents.

While this subject was being agitated, in 1829, Major Ridge, one of the staunch defenders of the rights of the Cherokees, introduced in the council a measure which was adopted, decreeing death to any member who should sign a treaty or any other paper agreeing to give up their country in the east.

The fact that he was one of the few unauthorized private individuals of the tribe who did at last in 1835 sign what purported to be a treaty of removal is an indication of the desperate straits to which the Indians were reduced and of the heroic measures their leaders were willing to enter into. It was said of him by the United States commissioner who negotiated this document that Ridge had counted the cost and knew that he was signing his death warrant when he entered into the engagement previously outlawed by the Cherokee Council on his own motion.

The so-called treaty was submitted by the President to the Senate and though ninety per cent of the tribe protested against it, the Senate went through the form of ratification and it thereby became a law.

A few thousand Cherokees were removed within the next year or two but the great movement of 13,000 did not take place until the Autumn of 1838. This was a tragic enterprise in which nearly 4,000 Indians died after they were driven from their homes and placed in concentration camps and during the course of the removal.

Page 306

It is small wonder then that the tribe was divided into two bitter factions after their removal west, those who favored the treaty of removal and those who suffered from its effects. Immediately after the removal, efforts were made by the newcomers to set up a new government for the whole tribe. These efforts were resisted by some of the individuals of what were known as the Old Settlers and Treaty parties, but a new constitution and government headed by John Ross were achieved in 1839 under a Declaration of Union adopted by a majority of the tribe. While these efforts were under way occurred the brutal murder of Major Ridge, his son, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot in July. This widened the breach and inaugurated a bloody series of reprisals over a number of years in which many leading Cherokees were killed. One of these was the killing of James Foreman by Stand Watie. Stand Watie was the half-brother of Boudinot and a man of recognized force of character. While he was one of the signers of what was called the "false" treaty he did not attain his full stature until many years later at the time of the Civil War when he headed a regiment of Cherokee Indians in the Confederate Army.

The Ridges came west in 1837 and settled in the northeast part of the Cherokee Nation near the Arkansas line. The Cherokees of this faction acquired a good many friends among the white people in Arkansas and Gen. Zachary Taylor in command at Fort Smith, General Arbuckle and Cherokee Agent Pierce M. Butler, all reported that the whites were engaged in an officious intermeddling in the affairs of the Cherokee Nation, keeping alive the rancor and bitterness between the factions.

George W. Paschal who lived at Van Buren married the daughter of John Ridge and naturally became a strong Ridge partisan. It was due to his strong feelings on the subject that he took the trouble to write the subjoined account of the trial of Stand Watie. The epithets employed by him and counsel in the case directed at John Ross and others reveal their prejudice resulting from the strong feelings of the times and of course must be discounted in getting a proper perspective of conditions. The bitter jealousy of the minority leaders over John Ross's great popularity with the great majority of the tribe lasted for years. More than two-thirds of the Cherokee Indians were strong adherents of John Ross, and his long tenure of of-

Page 307

fee as Chief for twenty years after the removal was based entirely on the trust and confidence in him of the great majority of the tribe. The intimation that Ross profited at the expense of the nation was a fiction growing out of the bitter feeling of the times that was long since proven to be without foundation.

Whatever of intemperance in language is contained in this article, Paschal performed a service by preserving the atmosphere of the times and a substantial record of the history of those times. (G. F.)


TO THE PUBLIC

By Geo. W. Paschal

In presenting a faithful report of the proceedings in this case, to the public, the writer is not alone influenced by a desire to place the accused in a proper light, before an intelligent community; for he is well aware that he already enjoys a full share of their confidence, nor by a laudable wish to preserve, in a permanent form, the truly eloquent addresses of the counsel for the defence. But he sincerely thinks it an object alike due to all parties, that the Cherokee controversy out of which this unfortunate affair grew, should be better understood by the immediate neighbors of such discordant materials.

That there are two parties in the Cherokee Nation bitterly arrayed against each other, and that the distracting causes have caused the loss of much blood as well as property, are facts well known. But the precise origin of these difficulties is far from being so well understood.

All these unfortunate differences may be traced to the extension of the State Laws over the Cherokees, while they resided east of the Mississippi. The present unfortunate feuds are among a few of the evil consequences which flowed therefrom.

The Legislature of Georgia commenced her system of Legislation, which annihilated the Cherokee body politic, in the year 1828. Her acts made it an offense punishable with imprisonment in her Penitentiary, for any Cherokee to exercise any office under the Indian Government, or to enforce or to attempt to enforce any law or custom of the Cherokees. The object of the Legislature of Georgia was to force a removal of the Cherokees beyond the Mississippi river. In opposition to these oppres-

Page 308

sive laws, all the Cherokees united. A few, however, soon saw the folly of such opposition, and expressed a willingness to emigrate. Here the United States committed an egregious blunder: for instead of fostering these, and enlightening others as to their true interests, they immediately opened offices of emigration; and as fast as persons became weary of their oppression they were shipped to Arkansas, which was looked upon by the Eastern Cherokees as a kind of Botany Bay. Thus from year to year the friends of emigration were, as it were, shot down from the ranks, and the enemies to the measures of our Government were again left in one unbroken phalanx.

All Geography was turned out doors; and Arkansas was represented, even by the most intelligent, as a grave yard, to every Cherokee who should set his foot upon the soil.

Nevertheless, after Georgia had surveyed the Cherokee lands—granted them out to her citizens—after thousands had overrun the country—upturning every foot of soil which contained gold-dispossessed the most wealthy Cherokees, particularly those who had taken reservations under former treaties—prostrated the largest forests, organized ten new counties—erected as many flourishing villages—consigned their Missionaries to the Penitentiary, and in fact completely annihilated their social and political existence; the condition of the people became intolerable—and the most intelligent minds in the Cherokee country, as well as their best friends out of it, began to look around for the means of relief.

The Supreme Court of the United States had been appealed to, and an Injunction prayed—but that tribunal had decided that they had no jurisdiction. Memorial after memorial to the President and to Congress had passed unheeded. A writ of error had been prosecuted against Georgia, by the Rev. Samuel A. Worcester, and a decision in his favor and against Georgia, obtained. This decision could not have been enforced until it should have been written that "Georgia was;" and President Jackson positively refused to enforce the decision. As a last resort the courts of the State of Georgia were appealed to on the ground of the unconstitutionality of the laws; and Injunctions prayed in behalf of occupants. This remedy too, after immense costs had accrued, failed. It was not until after General Jackson had

Page 309

from the United States, that they ventured to look to the only possible remedy—a treaty with the United States, and the emigration of the whole people to a country to be secured to them in all future time by treaty.

John Ridge resigned his place as a member of the National Committee. Elias Boudinot resigned the place of editor of the Cherokee Phoenix; and these men, with their families, and many of their friends, were soon denominated "A TREATY PARTY." They advocated a treaty, not from choice, but fearful necessity. But they had great odds to contend against. The Indian's love of home—his horror of Arkansas—his natural stubborn disposition—and even his very oppressions all made him cling to the land which had given him birth. I said his very oppressions, for thousands listened to the false and Syren promise, that the white settlers would yet be driven back-and the Cherokees placed in possession of their towns—mills—plantations—valuable gold mines, with the very Branch Mint, the property of the United States. Thus their cupidity added to the difficulty of removal. But all these causes taken together weighed not so much as the fact, that Ross and his party were the "constituted authorities" of the nation.

True, all officers had been elective. But as no election could take place, after the extension of Georgia laws Ross held the Chieftaincy by a kind of conventional perpetuity. As fast as Legislators would die or resign, he would fill their vacancy by appointment and thus the "constituted authorities"—a government in name without the means of protection, or of enforcing a single law, was continued from year to year. A law was passed by this council in 1828, making it death, for any but this committee and council to enter into a treaty with the United States. Such persons were subject to trial and sentence before the courts of the Cherokee nation.

Ross and a delegation went every year to Washington, and eloquently laid their grievances before the proper Departments, and returned without having obtained any relief—only stayed long enough to witness that the moral degredation of his people had increased a hundred-fold each year. The annuities of the nation were consumed by these delegations—the people driven from their homes—robbed of their property—not allowed their oaths; and all this time they heard no other reports from their

Page 310

chiefs except that they were urging "a final adjustment of all their difficuties;" and wanted authority to draw the next year's annuity.

At length in 1834, Ross, and his delegation agreed with the Secretary of War to take whatever sum for the country that the United States Senate should award. The Senate awarded five million of dollars. Commissioners were sent out to fix upon the details of a treaty. But Ross and his party now wholly refused to treat upon the basis of five millions.

The Commissioners now advertised for a general council of the Nation, to convene at New Echota in December 1835. But Tunners were sent, and the Ross party failed to attend. The Ridge party entered into the treaty, which, with the additional appropriations, secured to the Cherokee people $6,647,067.00. Every man in the Nation was paid for his improvements; spoliations under former treaties were paid; comfortable transportation afforded, and a year's subsistence after their arrival.

Those friendly to the treaty, and many others accepted a commutation of twenty dollars per head, and immediately removed west. Ross and the Chiefs opposed the treaty by every species of opposition except resorting to arms.

But General Scott at length discovered a principle more powerful than force. By a curious "arrangement" he has caused to be placed in the pockets of John Ross, and a few others, $1,357,745.86, making a hundred and three dollars and twentyfive cents for removing each individual of their party. The poor deluded Cherokees received no other benefit for this enormous sum except that of an indifferent transportation through 180 cold and dreary days—through the dead of winter, often on half rations, and the journey lengthened out for the benefit of John Ross, and a few others. Enormous sums are shown to have been charged for Cherokees who never removed—for wagons and horses which never travelled—for the return of wagons which were sold, and the money pocketed by the designing Chiefs.

Notwithstanding that General Scott assured Mr. Ross that the Cherokee people alone were interested in these enormous and unreasonable expenditures, and notwithstanding that he well knew that this sum was deducted from the monies appro-

Page 311

priated under the New Echota treaty, and must consequently be deducted from the per capita money which his people were taught to expect, and that no other moneys had in fact been appropriated for the Cherokee removal—yet with the most unblushing effrontery has he always asserted that this whole matter was purely the result of his arrangement with Gen'l Scott. Thus have many of his deluded people asserted that he was a benefactor to the nation to the amount of $1,047,067.00, when in fact he had robbed them of more than that sum. These were the circumstances under which the Ross emigrants came to the Cherokee country in 1839. They came as emigrants whose national existence was dissolved, and not as a body politic, transferring even their semblance of Government.

Flushed however, with this success, and enriched by such spoils, these emigrants reached the country west in the spring of 1839.—Their history since that time is well known. They prostrated the Government west, deposed the lawful chiefs, assassinated the prominent signers of the Treaty, passed the decrees which appear in evidence on Watie's trial—and by continued acts of oppression have rendered the lives and property of the remaining signers of the treaty as well as the Chiefs of the old settlers wholly unsafe.

The people have however become daily more and more enlightened. Ross has lost one after another of his most prominent friends—the spell of delusion is broken and is verging to a fall more terrible than that of the Baron Richlieu.

The killing of Foreman happened in Benton county, Arkansas. And yet the Executive Council were tyrannical enough to claim jurisdiction, and issue a warrant for Watie's arrest. How far this assumed jurisdiction would have been carried, but for the interference of the able Cherokee Agent is not known.

Stand Watie immediately surrendered himself to the civil authorities of Arkansas; and as soon as an indictment was found he gave bail for his appearance at the May Term of the Circuit Court.

The counsel of Mr. Watie addressed a letter to the Secretary of War asking for certified copies of the decrees and acts of the Ross Convention conducing to prove this conspiracy, and also for compulsory process for Cherokee witnesses. The Docu-

Page 312

mentary evidence was furnished; but the compulsory process denied. The Secretary of War however, saw proper to remark, that he apprehended that an application to the Cherokee authorities, through the Agent, would not be unsuccessful. This application was made to the Agent. Why the witnesses were not furnished we have not learned. Such witnesses as could be got voluntarily, attended. How far the conspiracy has been proven, is left for a generous public to determine.

A lengthy history of the facts here alluded to is deemed at this time unnecessary. Indeed the history of the Cherokees since 1828, is so closely interwoven with the history of the United States, that the most careless reader of Documentary Reports, or of Judicial Decisions, must be familiar with the prominent events. This history is destined to a longer continuance. The immense sum stipulated to be paid for their country has been grossly misapplied; and a heavy claim is now being urged against the Treaty of the U. States. The prominent politicians of our government are deeply implicated in this matter—and in the next Presidential canvass, these will not be among the smallest abuses with which partizans will have to contend. The administrations which have so grossly misapplied some two million and a half of dollars—and the high officers who committed such gross blunders, will be left to explain these losses, apparently so heavy, to the deluded Cherokees, but which, as soon as their chiefs are changed, or they assert their own rights, must, in fact, fall upon the Treasury of the United States. Nothing is hazarded in making this assertion; because the solemnity of treaties cannot be evaded, or figures made to lie.

A short history of the accused is proper in this place. Stand Watie is the son of David Watie, an excellent Cherokee, who died a few months since. His father was a full brother of Major Ridge, whose history was better known. These two men were born at that period in the history of these people, when men accidentally take these names. Such was the case of their two brothers. Stand Watie was a full brother of Elias Boudinot. The latter was called in honor of Professor Boudinot, and the name of Watie was ever afterwards dropped. Stand Watie was not so well educated as Boudinot, but he is a man of powerful intellect, and great common sense. He is brave to a fault, but not less generous than brave. Few men have more

Page 313

gentle or pacific manners; or bear a more amiable deportment. Under the severest injuries he never makes a threat, and hence he is deemed the more dangerous man.

James Foreman was generally reputed a violent man. He was usually believed to have been the murderer of Jack Walker, and the selected leader of the party who slew Major Ridge, both of whom were killed in a most cowardly manner. Indeed while he was thought to be dangerous he was generally conceded to be cowardly.

A short notice of the counsel engaged in this case may not be uninteresting. It is the highest compliment to them all, to say, that each and every one of them, commenced the world without money, and without friends—with no education except such as by their industry they had picked up.

Alfred, M. Wilson, the Attorney for the State, is a young man of excellent promise. He is by birth a Tennessean, but came to the bar in Arkansas. He is now in the second term of his office of Prosecuting Attorney. He unites an excellent hear with a clear understanding. His indictments are usually drawn with technical precision. In the discharge of his duties, as a prosecutor, he is generally rigid, but always courteous and gentlemanly in his deportment towards opposing counsel, witnesses and prisoners. Mr. Wilson never attempts eloquence, but his arguments are usually clear and logical. With proper application Mr. Wilson is destined to fill a high place in our young State.

Lemuel D. Evans was the first counsel retained for the defence. Mr. Evans is also a Tennessean by birth—and came to the bar, with an education between common and liberal, in that State. He emigrated to Arkansas some eight years since. His modest and retiring manners have, perhaps, lessened the public appreciation of his understanding.

He is a gentleman of remarkably clear intellect—of a great deal of reading, particularly of moral literature, and of history—nor is he wanting in political and legal information. Mr. Evans has no lack of moral and physical courage, still in a public harangue he labors under great embarrassment. Owing to this cause he has not yet learned to do justice to himself as a public speaker. He is, however, becoming an interesting advocate.

Page 314

Mr. Evans was four years the Prosecuting Attorney of the Fourth Judicial Circuit; and last year ran as an independent candidate for Congress. Mr. Evans did not speak in Foreman's case. He however mastered the case thoroughly and is perhaps more minutely informed in relation to Indian affairs than most men in Arkansas. The widow and orphans of John Ridge, in their first distress, received many acts of kindness at the hands of Mr. Evans. Few men support a more excellent moral character than Lemuel D. Evans.

David Walker, Esq., was one of the first lawyers who penetrated the wilderness of western Arkansas. He was by birth a Kentuckian; and first obtained a license in that State. His early opportunities were limited, and his education circumscribed. He came to Fayetteville soon after the town was first located, a poor and friendless stranger.

But by the most untiring industry and perseverance, and continual application to business, he has won for himself a high reputation as a lawyer, and amassed a handsome fortune. Mr. Walker is a most earnest speaker, as well as zealous advocate. He studies no ornament of language, or artificial arrangement, but seizes the strong points of his case, and rushes to his conclusions with great warmth and rapidity.

Mr. Walker is well known in Arkansas. He was a member of the Legislature under the Territorial Government, a member of the Convention, and a Senator under the state Government. It is not to be expected that a man of so ardent a temperament should be without enemies. But even these respect his energy of character, his warm devotion to his farnily relatives, and the strong interest which he takes in the cause of his clients.

In the argument of Mr. Watie's case, Mr. Walker confined himself strictly to the evidence, as disclosed before the Jury In presenting the immediate circumstances which surrounded the defendant at the time the fatal blow was struck he was most happy. He explained the law of self defence most felicitously, and in his own peculiar way, left no one in doubt, as to the law or the evidence.

Major Gen'l Seaborn G. Sneed is also among the first settlers of this country. Genl. Sneed is the finest specimen of west-

Page 315

ern manners that one will find in travelling a hundred miles. He is a native of Kentucky and was reared in the true backwood style. He received an indifferent education and set out in life with no other knowledge of law than such as he derived from Blackstone and one or two other books. But Gen. Sneed has natural talents of a high order. In ingenuity I have never seen him excelled; in his judgment of human nature among the common class of men, he excels every phrenologist in the world. His powers of declamation are of a superior order.—He has an untiring fund of humorous wit which never fails to call forth a laugh. He was better suited to the early practice of the country than any man in Arkansas. For he possessed a boldness which never shrank from a contest with the most lawless. He would do his duty faithfully, and then fight his antagonist with right good will. Gen'1 Sneed, at the same time is exceedingly generous, kind and liberal. His popularity is of that kind which no one can ever shake.

James Spring, Esq. is a native of Tennessee and only lately emigrated to Arkansas. He has not yet had an opportunity of displaying his forensic powers in Arkansas. He has the elementary principles of law well grounded; and this, added to his excellent morals, and honorable bearing, will no doubt soon win for him an enviable distinction.

J. W. Howard, Esq. is a Georgian by birth. He is hardly yet in the meridian of life. His early education was limited, but above the mediocrity. He has always borne an excellent moral character; and has merits far above his success.

Mr. Howard was among the early settlers in the Cherokee country under the operation of the Georgia laws. He was an eye witness to their oppressions and many of their grievous wrongs. He marked with careful eye the progress of the causes which annihilated their national existence. He was well acquainted with their leading men—and no man better understood the purity of purpose of the treaty party than himself. He had known the accused through trying scenes—he had witnessed his undaunted bravery and honorable bearing; and he well knew his worth. No man could more heartily enter into the defence than Mr. Howard.

Alfred W. Arrington, Esq., whose truly eloquent speech, appears in the following pages, possesses oratorical powers of a

Page 316

very superior order. He is a North Carolinian by birth; but his father having been a very migrating man he has resided in several of the western States.

Mr. Arrington had no early opportunities whatever, and is truly a self-made man in the strictest sense of the word. At an early age he evinced a great fondness for books—and has been for many years a great student. He has made considerable proficiency in the ancient languages and, in several useful sciences. He has also acquired very considerable historical knowledge—and treasured up many of the beauties of the classics. He possesses the power of language in an eminent degree. His great powers of investigation enable him very soon to master the most difficult propositions, and to elucidate them with great force and clearness.

Few criminal advocates display more boldness and zeal. Indeed his greatest fault is too much vehemence, and too little care of the voice. Mr. Arrington bore a distinguished place in the last Legislature, and his reputation is too well known to need eulogium. He occupies the very first place as an orator in the State. He is destined to an eminent stand at the Bar.

I now submit the trial of Stand Watie to the public, with a full confidence that it will elicit useful enquiry on our frontier, and tend to the intellectual improvement of a promising and rising Bar.

GEO. W. PASCHAL.

Van Buren Arks., June 20th, 1843.
The indictment in this case was found in the Circuit Court of the County of Benton, at the November term, 1842. The Court, at Mr. Watie's request, held an adjourned term in December, but as his leading Council, Geo. W. Paschal, in the mean time, had been elected to the Supreme Bench of the State, and part of his other counsel were members of the Legislature, the case was continued until the regular term of the Court. When Mr. Watie surrendered himself and offered bail, more than fifty gentlemen came forward and offered themselves as his securities. When the names of half a dozen had been called, the Judge, the Hon. Joseph M. Hoge, said it was useless to encumber the record with more names.

On Monday, the 15th day, of May, 1843, Stand Watie appeared with his counsel in court, and announced himself ready

Page 317

for trial. A venire for thirty-eight jurors was returned on Wednesday. The Hon. Joseph M. Hoge presided; and a very intelligent jury was impannelled, and the witnesses examined on Wednesday. Alfred M. Wilson, Esq., Prosecuting Attorney of the 4th Judicial Circuit, appeared in behalf of the State; and David Walker, Alfred W. Arrington, S. G. Sneed, L. D. Evans, and James Springs, Esq's, in behalf of the prisoner.

In presenting the case to the jury, the Prosecuting Attorney stated lucidly the law of homicide; said that he presumed the killing would not be denied; and that when proven the circumstances in mitigation or justification must come from the defence. Said he was aware of the high character which the prisoner bore in the community, and of the deep sympathy manifested in his behalf. But that the jurors had a high duty to perform; they were to be governed by the law and the evidence—to regard the solemnity of their oaths, and to decide according to the merits of the case, and not according to public opinion.

Mr. Arrington in opening the case for the defence, said that the Prosecuting Attorney had stated the different degrees of homicide correctly; and that true it was, the killing would not be denied; and the circumstances in justification devolved upon the defence. But that fortunately for the prisoner he was fully prepared with this proof.

He expected to prove that about the 20th June, 1839, the notorious John Ross, and a band of wicked conspirators, whose names are a disgrace to humanity, conceived the diabolical plot of murdering in a base and cowardly manner, the best friends of the Cherokee Nation—men against whose high moral character not even the polluted breaths of the assassins themselves, had ever dared to utter a slander. That in pursuance of this diabolical plot, certain fiends in human shape, were selected, armed, and sent out to take away the lives of unoffending and unsuspecting victims. That on the morning of the 22nd of June, 1839, Major Ridge, Elias Boudinot, and John Ridge, fell by their brutal hands, that the prisoner at the bar only escaped by timely notice, and his superior courage. That the assassins (assassins are always cowards) dared not attack him after they knew he was warned of their coming. That on that and the following day several hundred of Ross' myrmidons rallied around

Page 318

him, receiving his reward and protection for the brutal outrages which had just rendered husbandless accomplished and christian widows whom you all know and fatherless and houseless helpless innocents, who have been thrown as orphans among you. That this armed banditti proceeded to the prostration of the government of our peaceful neighbors, known as the Old Settlers, deposed their Chiefs, declared by a celebrated decree of outlawry, which outrages every precedent known among semi-barbarians! that the best blood of their nation had been rightly spilled—disfranchised their kindred and friends, and required them to save their lives by bowing to the footstool and asking the pardon of John Ross and his followers-pardoned the murderers of Ridges and Boudinot, and proclaimed a general pardon for every murderer, stained, polluted, and guilty as many of them were among the Cherokees. This was a part of the price paid to thieves, robbers, and murderers, who had been outlaws among the Eastern and Western Cherokees—this it was that enabled Ross to support his standard, and to prostrate all good men in the Cherokee Nation in 1839. Thus aided by a few notorious acts of plunder and robbery at the expense of his Suffering people, has he sustained his tottering power until the present time.

"Not satisfied," continued Mr. A. "with declaring Stand Watie an outlaw, we expect to prove that he was hunted down and followed up—waylaid, and every attempt made to take his life, until the very moment when James Foreman, one of the leading conspirators, was slain—and that even at the very Moment when the conflict commenced, the enemies of Stand Watie had fully prepared to take the life of himself and an unoffending brother. That his life was only saved by a gallantry and prowess, alike honorable to the blood which runs in his veins, and the chivalrous age in which he lives. In a word we expect to prove that if ever there was a case where a man acted in self-defense—from a necessity enforced upon him by imperious circumstances, Stand Watie's was the case."

James P. Miller was then called and sworn.—He testified that about twelve months ago, Stand Watie, John Watie, and witness were returning from Honey Creek in the Cherokee Nation.—They passed Maysville immediately on the line between

Page 319

Benton county and the Cherokee Nation. Some three miles farther down they stopped at England's grocery. Staid something like half an hour. I then proposed to Watie that we should go. Stand Watie said we would drink first; called for a glass of liquor. James Foreman picked up the glass, and drank, saying: "Stand Watie here is wishing that you may live forever." Foreman then handed Watie the glass. Watie took the glass, smiled and said: "Jim, I suppose that I can drink with you, but I understood a few days since that you were going to kill me." Foreman said: "say yourself!" and immediately the fight commenced. Watie threw the glass; if any difference first. When Foreman said "say yourself" he straightened himself from the counter against which he had been leaning, with a large whip in his hand. Foreman fought with the whip while in the house. Drumgoole was working about Watie's back. Some how or other Drumgoole fell out the door. Foreman jumped out and picked up a board, and raised it up. As he raised Watie sprang forward from the door, and struck with a knife, I suppose. I did not see the knife until Watie was on his horse. After Watie struck, Foreman jumped off some fifteen or twenty paces and said, "you haven't done it yet." Watie then presented a pistol and fired. F. ran about 150 yards, fell in the gap of the fence and died. This was in Benton county about twelve months ago. The pile of boards lay just at the door. Foreman drew no weapon except a large overseer whip, which he had got from Drumgoole a few minutes before. I felt the whip. When Drumgoole gave the whip to Foreman, he wrapped the lash round his hand. This was out door before coming in the house. Foreman was stabbed in the back. We had met England a mile off; he said his son was at the grocery, and Drumgoole and Foreman were to come there.

Cross examined. Watie did not want to go by any of the groceries; but I persuaded him to go. He proposed to go by Baltz's grocery, but I told him England had good liquor and he could take down the branch from England's.

When we got to the grocery, James Foreman, Isaac Springston his half brother, and Alexander Drumgoole his uncle, were there. Foreman took me out and said, "I am glad to see you. One of my brothers has been shot, and I want you to go after the man. And I am afraid I am now going to get into a diffi-

Page 320

culty with the Watie's. I told him there was no danger, that I had been with the boys and he was in no danger. I went into the house. Drumgoole said he was a man—and that he had found some of his friends, meaning the Watie's. Some ten or twelve days before this, Bell, Watie and myself, called at England's grocery. After Bell and Watie had gone, the Foreman's and Springston's came there. They were armed, and James Foreman had his rifle. A few days before this, James Foreman said a race was to be run, and that rye and his brothers were to be killed.

At Maysville, I heard the citizens tell Watie to be cautious—that his life had been threatened—that a company of armed men had been at Maysville in search of him. After we got to the grocery I heard Drumgoole singing—but being in the Indian language, did not understand him. The whip was very heavy—could have killed a man with it. James Foreman was a stout man, weighed about 215 pounds. Fight commenced "all in a flash"—while Watie was throwing the glass, Foreman was striking with the whip. The fight was about half a mile from Johnson Foreman's. A party came before Foreman was dead with guns, a few minutes after the fight.

Re-examined. Witness was at Maysville some days before, when Foreman came there, and said that he was to die that day, and his friends had come to see it. Said that a horse race was to be run, and that Bell, Watie, and others, were to kill him. No race was run; and Bell, and Watie, were not there.

Hiram Landrum substantially corroborated Miller's evidence as to the fight. He said that when Foreman drank Watie's health, Watie said, "I understood the other day that you were going to kill me—and that you are the man who killed my uncle." Foreman said "say yourself." The witness agreed with Miller as to the fight, except that he added that Foreman struck Watie with the board.

Cross examined. He said that soon after the Watie's got to the grocery, Foreman came to witness and said, "you still ride your old gray. I want to borrow him for Isaac Springston to go for my tools." By tools I understood his guns. I asked him what he wanted with his tools; he nodded his head to Mr. Watie. I told him my horse could not go—that I was summoned by the sheriff, my brother, and he must ask him.—

Page 321

Isaac Springston went off and very soon after the fight, returned with James Foreman's rifle and another gun. I saw Drumgoole approach Watie and ask him to feel his arms, saying, "I am the old dog. There will be a fuss, but I shall not raise it. I am not afraid of any man!" The whip was large enough to have killed a man.

Witness was at the Cherokee Council in 1839 or 40 when they were reprieving, or as they said pardoning the remaining signers of the New Echota treaty. Governor Stokes was there and required us to pass through lines. Nearly all passed through; but James Foreman, would not pass through; and advised me not to go through; saying he would never pardon them. I understood that the Secretary of War had required the Cherokees to set aside the decree of outlawry, and that Governor Stokes was attending to have it done.

David England was sworn on the part of the State, and asked what threats he had heard Watie make against Foreman. He said, that he never heard Watie mention Foreman's name, before Foreman's death.

Some days before, witness met Springston and Foreman in the prairie. Foreman said "they are after me with a sharp stick. I understand that a race is to be run by Lynch and Bell, and I and Springston are to be killed. I want you to go and see Lynch about it." I went to see Lynch—Lynch said it was a false report—that he knew of no race—had nothing against Foreman. I returned and told Foreman that it was a false report. I was at Maysville the day that Foreman said there was to be a race run but no race was run.

The prosecution here closed their evidence. The defence called B. Nicholson who said that a few days before the death of Foreman a large company of Cherokees came to Maysville and said there was to be a race between Lynch and Bell. Seventy-five or eighty of them had guns. Bell and Watie were not there. James Foreman said that his life had been threatened, and he had brought these men there to see him killed—said he would meet on any part of the ground, and have a fair fight. They came in the fore part of the day, and staid until after night. Bell and one of the Crutchfields, came to Maysville from Missouri, a few days after this collection.

Page 322

Witness knew Foreman's general character. He was considered a bad and dangerous man. Have heard him make threats against Watie; and say if he ever met Watie he would put him out of the way. I heard Tagert tell Watie that there had been a company there shooting off guns and looking for him; and that he had best be careful. James Foreman has told me he was along when old Major Ridge was killed.

Cross Examined. Knew nothing of Stand Watie being considered a fighting or dangerous man until Foreman was killed.

Benjamin May testified, as to Foreman's being considered a violent fighting man.

Benjamin F. Thompson. Knew Foreman for many years. Generally a violent man. Rumored that he had killed two men if not more. Know he had violent feelings towards the treaty party. When the order was issued to arrest the murderers of the Ridges' and Boudinot, Foreman fled as one of the murderers. Took shelter at my house as one of the murderers. Always considered as one of the murderers of Major Ridge; and of John Walker.

Rufus McWilliams was present when 70 or 80 men came to Maysville with J. Foreman; and Foreman said that he was hunting Bell and Watie: that they had threatened him. Foreman made a speech in Cherokee.

Witness was present at Park Hill on the 22nd of June 1839, when Boudinot, the brother of Watie was killed. Major Ridge and John Ridge were killed the same morning. Several Indians came to Boudinot's that morning, and begged medicines. Boudinot went to give them medicines—and they fell upon him and tomahawked him. I immediately mounted a horse and ran him to Watie's—and I have reason to believe saved his life. As I went, I overtook five armed men. They asked me where I was going and I told them to Watie's. John Ross lived about a mile from Boudinot's. Several hundred armed Cherokees immediately collected around him. They were collecting that morning rapidly. I was at the Rev. Mr. Worcester's two or three days afterwards when Edward Gunter surrounded the house with a great many Cherokees hunting for Watie.

John Ridge lived over sixty miles from Boudinot, and Major Ridge was killed on the road, in the State of Arkansas.

Page 323

On a close, searching cross-examination, the witness related the same particulars more minutely.

The Rev. Cephas Washbourne sworn, stated that himself, and the Rev. Mr. Potter, left Park Hill Mission on Thursday morning the 21st of June, 1839, on their way to John Ridge, who lived on Honey Creek. That they stopped a short time at the house of John Ross. A considerable number of Cherokees were there; Ross seemed to be in a bad humor; they were sending away the Rev. J. Bushyhead. From indications we remarked as soon as we left, that something was wrong—or that something was in preparation which we did not understand. We that evening passed the house of Jack Nicholson. Found his horse tied, his saddle bags in the piazza with pistols sticking out. Nicholson at first was not cordial; but when he found we were going away, he seemed cordial enough. Said he had just come from the Council. We staid at Bushyhead's that night. He was not at home. The next morning at Beaties Prairie we heard that John Ridge had been killed. We stopped at Johnson Foreman's, His wife related the circumstances—said it had been done by order of the Council, according to law. That companies had been designed to kill certain persons—that her husband would have been selected as one, but Billy Wilson was sick, and he could not be at the Council. Told who were the leaders of each party of murderers; and that James Foreman had been the leader of the party who killed Major Ridge.

Witness always understood that Watie was one of the persons designated to have been killed; that their offense was the signing of the New Echota treaty.

On our arrival at John Ridge's, we found that he had been dragged from bed about day break and stabbed in a great many places. We buried him on Sunday evening; and by that time, received information that Major Ridge had been killed on the same morning; and on the next day learned that Elias Boudinot was also killed on the 22d June.

Mrs. England sworn, stated that on the Saturday evening that Foreman was killed, Isaac Springston came to Johnson Foreman's for the guns. He said that the Waties, were at England's grocery. Anderson Springston said, take both guns. Be-

Page 324

fore Springston could have got to the grocery, we heard a pistol fire; and soon after heard that James Foreman was killed.

John A. Bell sworn, stated that Lynch and himself had never made, or intended a race, at Maysville, as reported by Foreman. Watie and myself were in Missouri at the time, and had been absent several weeks on business. About six months before Foreman was killed, I was at a race with Foreman. We drank together. Foreman told me, that he had heard through Lynch, that I had saved the life of Dick Taylor, and therefore I need not be afraid of being killed as one of the signers of the Schermerhorn treaty. But that Watie could never be forgiven. I told Watie this. Foreman's general character was that of a murderer, who, I thought, valued a man's life no more than a dog's.

Cross examination. Was not an Indian called Muskrat reputed to be the murderer of Jack Walker?

"Jack Walker told me on his death bed that he was killed by James Foreman and Anderson Springston."

"Watie and myself, and other signers of the New Echota treaty of December 29th, 1835, were embodied for our self-protection when we were served with notice to go to John Ross's Convention ground, and take the oath required of us, within seven or eight days. We always refused to go; and never did sign the oath, as required by the decree of outlawry."

The defence here offered in evidence certified copies of the Report of the Secretary of War, and Indian Commissioner, of 25th November, 1839, (accompanying the President's message of that year,) with all the accompanying documents, showing all the correspondence in relation to the Cherokees of that year, by which they said they expected to prove many important facts in relation to the conspiracy of Mr. J. Ross, and others, to take away the lives of the prominent men of the Treaty Party. Some discussion took place as to the admissibility of the testimony.

Mr. Wilson said: "I object to the evidence. How can the proceedings of Indian councils be testimony?"

Mr. Evans: "It forms a part of the public history of our country.—These documents were communicated to United States Officers by the conspirators themselves. They were published. with the President's message, and needed not the seal of the War

Page 325

office to give them authenticity. They show the great danger in which the treaty party stood, from the proscriptive measures of Mr. Ross and his partizans."

Mr. Walker: "Our own Supreme Court decided, in the case of Rector vs. Nick's heirs that the Public Documents published in answer to calls by the Senate of the U. States, are admissible evidence, even though much of said documents are impertinent to the issue. Such parts may be omitted, and that which is material read. One of the Supreme Judges, who now sits near your honor, was of counsel with me in that case, and will recollect the Decision.

Judge Paschal: "That Decision is to be found in the 4th volume of published Reports." The decision was then referred to. Judge P. read from the manuscript Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and the Secretary of War, in which they said that the Public Documents now offered would be admissible evidence in Watie's case, without being certified, but that as Judge P. had called for these documents to be certified, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs presumed that the rule was otherwise in Arkansas.

By the Court: So far as the Documents show that the Treaty Party were in danger of being assassinated, the evidence is admissible.

Mr. Wilson: "It is not even yet shown that Stand Watie is of the treaty party or James Foreman of the Ross party.

Mr. Evans: "Then here is the evidence." And Mr. Evans read the treaty of 29th December, 1839, showing that Watie was one of the signers of that Treaty. Also the report of General Arbuckle giving the name of James Foreman as one of the murderers of Major Ridge. The counsel for the defence then read the following Documents:

"Whereas, the removal of the eastern Cherokees to this country has brought together the two branches of the ancient Cherokee family, and rendered it expedient that a union of the two communities should be formed, and a system of government matured and established, applicable to their present condition and satisfactory to all parties. And whereas, a general council of the representatives and people of both communities was appointed for that purpose by the joint call of their respective au-

Page 326

thorities, which met accordingly at Ta-ka-to-ka, on Monday the 3d day of June, 1839:

And whereas, the representative branches of said general council having been unsuccessful in effecting the objects for which the general council was convened, the people, who formed a constituent branch of said general council, called a national convention of the people of the eastern and western Cherokees to meet at Illinois camp ground, July 1, 1839, to take those important matters into consideration; which convention has assembled accordingly, and is now in session:

"And whereas, in the interval between the call and the meeting of this national convention, the unhappy fact of Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot's being killed occurred. In consequence of which violent threats against the lives of innocent and peaceable citizens were made by some of the friends of the deceased, by which the tranquility of the community has been interrupted, and a state of excitement and alarm produced, dangerous to the public safety and destructive to domestic and social order:

"And whereas, the unfortunate persons deceased, together with others in connexion with them, had by their acts unhappily exposed and laid themselves liable to the pains and penalties and forfeitures of outlawry:

"Therefore, in order to stop the further effusion of blood, to calm the present unhappy excitement, and to restore peace and harmony and confidence to the community, we, the people of the eastern and western Cherokees in general council assembled, in our own name, and by the authority and in the exercise of our plenary powers, do ordain and decree; and by these presents it is ordained and decreed accordingly; that a full and free pardon and amnesty be, and is hereby granted to all those persons who are liable, as aforesaid, to the pains and penalties and forfeitures of outlawry, and that they be fully exempted, released and discharged from all liability to prosecution or punishment of any kind whatever, on the aforesaid account. And that they be restored to the protection of the community, and the enjoyment of the benefits of the laws, to all intents and purposes, as if the acts which rendered them liable to the penalties aforesaid had not been committed—excepting, that they shall

Page 327

not be eligible to any office of profit, trust, or honor, in the eastern and western Cherokee community, or under any union or other modification of said communities which may be effected.

"Nevertheless, the general council shall have power, after the lapse of five years, if in their opinion the good conduct of any persons affected by this decree shall render it proper to revoke, with regard to such person or persons, that portion thereof which declares them ineligible to office, and thereby restore them to the enjoyment and exercise of all the immunities and franchises of the community; provided, however, that, in order to guard the public peace and the personal security of the citizens from being endangered by the operation of this decree, the benefits of its provisions shall be available to those persons only, who shall within eight days after the passage of this decree (appear) before the general council, and shall retract or disavow any threatenings which may have been made by themselves or their friends against the life or lives of any citizen or citizens of the eastern or western Cherokee nation, or against that of any other person in revenge or as a retaliation for the death of the unfortunate persons deceased, or for any other cause, and shall give satisfactory assurances that for the time to come they will demean themselves as good and peaceable members of the community. That in order effectually to carry out the intentions of this decree, to suppress disturbances, to remove public nuisances, and to preserve good order and tranquility, eight auxiliary police companies shall be organized throughout the country by voluntary association; each company to be commanded by a captain and lieutenant and such subordinate officers as may be required, who shall be elected by the people, any of whom may also be removed by the people whenever they deem it expedient. The whole of these companies to be under the general command of Jesse Bushyhead 1st, and Looney Price 2d, in command: provided always, that the general council shall have power by law to control, modify, suspend, or discontinue, these police companies as the welfare or safety of the country may require.

Given under our hands at Illinois camp ground, this 7th day of July, 1839. By order and on behalf of this general council of the eastern and western Cherokees, in national convention assembled.

Page 328

Numerously signed by the people in Convention

*Ordered, by the Cherokee people in general convention assembled, that inasmuch as information concerning the decree of amnesty passed on the 7th inst. had not reached some of the persons affected by its provisions; that the time specified for their giving assurances for the future maintenance of peace be extended until further provisions shall be made by the convention for that purpose. The intention of the said decree being solely to obtain assurances for the preservation of the peace, and not to endanger the safety of any person whatsoever.

Given under our hands, by order of the General Convention, this 13th day of July, 1839, True copy. S. G. SIMMONS, A. D. C. and A. A. Adj. Gen., 2d Dept., W. Div."


No. 23.

"Whereas, by a decree of the general council of the eastern and western Cherokees in national convention assembled, at Illinois camp, July 7th, 1839: It is provided, that a full and free pardon and amnesty be granted to certain persons, who, by their acts, had exposed and laid themselves liable to the pains and penalties of outlawry; and that they be fully exempted, released, and discharged from all liability to prosecution or punishment, of any kind whatever, on the aforesaid account; and that they be restored to the protection of the community, and to the enjoyment of the benefits of the laws. Provided, however, that the benefits of this decree shall be available to those persons only who shall retract or disavow any threatenings which may have been made by themselves or their friends against the life or lives of any citizen or citizens of the eastern or western Cherokee nation, or that of any other person or persons, in revenge for the death of Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot; and shall give satisfactory assurances that for the time to come they will demean themselves as good and peaceable citizens of the community.

"Now we, the undersigned, gratefully accepting the clemency of our people, humanely provided for our benefit and relief, do, in the presence of the Supreme Judge and Searcher of all hearts, and in the presence of this great assembly, hereby sincerely acknowledge our error, and express our deep contrition

Page 329

for the same; and we do also declare our readiness to submit to our people, and to make all the reparation in our power for the injury we have done; and we do hereby recall and retract any threatenings which may have been made by ourselves or any of our friends against the life of any person whatever; and we do disavow any such threats made by any of our friends in revenge or retaliation for the death of the persons aforesaid, or for any other cause; and in conformity with the requirements of the ordinance and decree aforesaid, we do, in the presence of the Supreme Judge, and in this general council, solemnly pledge ourselves to abstain from all acts which may in any way or manner disturb the peace and endanger the security of the community or of any individual thereof. But that, for the time to come, we will sacredly regard these our solemn assurances, and in good faith demean (ourselves) as good and peaceable citizens, in fulfilment of the obligations involved in this pledge, and in the true intentions of the ordinance and decree.

Given under our hands, at Illinois camp ground, in the presence of the national convention, this 10th day of July, 1839."


No. 24.

"Know all men by these presents, that, in order to stop the further effusion of blood, to calm the present unhappy excitement, and to restore peace and harmony and confidence to the community, we the people of the eastern and western Cherokees in national convention assembled, in our own name, and by the authority and in the exercise of our plenary powers, do ordain and decree, and by these presents it is ordained and decreed accordingly, that a full and free pardon and amnesty be and is hereby granted to all persons, citizens of the eastern and western Cherokee nation, who may be chargeable with the act of murder or homicide, committed on the person of any Cherokee previously to the passage of this decree; whether the same may have been committed within the limits of the eastern or western Cherokee country or elsewhere. And by the authority aforesaid, we do further ordain and decree, that all persons so chargeable are, and by these presents are declared to be fully exempted, released and discharged from all liability to prosecution, punishment, or disabilities of any kind whatever, on the aforesaid ac-

Page 330

count; and that they be restored to the confidence and favor of the community, and to the enjoyment and protection and benefits of the laws, to all intents and purposes as if the act or acts for which they stand chargeable had not been committed.

Given under our hands, at Illinois camp ground, this 10th day of July 1839. By order of the national convention."


No. 25.
IN NATIONAL CONVENTION.

Illinois Camp Ground, July 12, 1839.

"Sir: We deem it proper to report further to you for your information the proceedings of the national convention in reference to the late excitement.

In order effectually to stop the further effusion of blood, the convention has, by a decree, buried all past grievances in oblivion, on the sole condition of the parties giving assurances to maintain the peace in future.

Measures have been taken to inform those persons who claimed protection at the fort of these proceedings, so that the collecting of their friends to secure themselves from violence is rendered altogether needless.

These provisions which are in exact conformity with your wishes, as well as with our own, will prove to you our determination to prevent mischief, and to promote peace.

We have the honor to be, sir, your friends, and obedient humble servants. Signed by George Lowry, John Ross, and others."


Extract from a letter of John Ross, and others.

"The decree which has been passed so far as we are concerned throws a veil of oblivion over all past offenses, on as reasonable terms as any offenders and violators of our laws could expect, and a number of those who were exposed to the penalties of our laws have come in, accepted of the terms, been received with open arms, and are now in peace and safety, to traverse the country and pursue their common avocations free from the fear of harm. Among those who had violated the laws were individuals connected to many of us by the closest ties of consanguinity. No exceptions were made for them, none were

Page 331

asked; and shall we make distinctions? No—the fiat has passed and cannot be changed with partiality. If any of our people refuse to abide the Cherokee laws, the world is large, they can leave us; but if they remain in our country, being a part of our people, they must come under our laws."


No. 26.

"Whereas, a decree was passed by the Cherokee people; in national convention, at the Illinois camp ground, on the 7th day of July, 1839, providing for a general amnesty to all such individuals as had, by their acts and conduct, exposed and made themselves liable to the penalty of outlawry, and all such persons being requested to appear in eight days from the date thereof before the general council, to avail themselves of its provisions; and whereas, it was again ordained by the Cherokee people, on the thirteenth day of July, 1839, that the time specified above should be extended until further provisions should be made by the convention:

"And whereas, some of the individuals affected by the aforesaid decree have not availed themselves of its liberal and humane provisions, and by their improper conduct are endangering the peace of the country and threatening the lives of valuable citizens. It is, therefore, ordered by the convention, that public and general notice be and is hereby given to all such persons as have not availed themselves of the benefits of the aforesaid decree, to appear before this convention on or before the 4th of September, 1839, and comply with its requisitions; it being essential to the preservation of peace, that the life of a citizen shall not be unlawfully endangered. It is further ordered, that two persons be selected to disseminate through the country, and, if possible, personally notify all such individuals as are hereby affected to come forward in accordance with this order.

"Done in convention, in behalf of and for the whole Cherokee people at Tah-le-quah, this 28th day of August, 1839.

Signed by George Lowry, John Ross, and others.

True copy, original retained in this office.

THOMAS IRWIN, Clerk.

Page 332

"At a meeting of the treaty party of the Cherokee nation of Indians, held at Price's prairie, in the Cherokee nation, on Tuesday, the 20th day of August, 1839, on motion, George W. Adair was called to the chair, and Thomas Wilson was appointed secretary. The objects of the meeting were explained by the chairman. The folloviling preamble and resolutions were offered by John A. Bell:

"Whereas, on the 22d day of June last, our three distinguished friends, Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot, were cruelly and inhumanly assassinated, and, as we are informed and really believe, by an order of the partisans of John Ross, in consequence of the deceased having signed the treaty of December 29, 1835:

"And whereas, since that time the state of anarchy and confusion in the country has been intolerable; and the decree passed by the partisans of John Ross, as well as many other circumstances, clearly demonstrate that all the signers of the treaty and many of their friends are in imminent danger of secret and cowardly assassination:

"And whereas, a civil war is seriously deprecated, inasmuch as it would tend to the total destruction of our nation: Be it therefore,

"1. Resolved, That we regard the recent conduct of the partisans of Ross, in the murder of the deceased, in the decree passed relative to the signers of the treaty and their friends, and in the keeping together of so great a number of persons armed, in a military and hostile manner, deserving the reprobation of all mankind, and meriting the severest punishment.

"2. Resolved, That, inasmuch as we would seriously deprecate a civil war, we will not engage in one, unless assured that it is the only means left for our personal safety.

"3. Resolved, That we believe it to be right that we should appeal to the Government of the United States for the punishment of the murderers of the deceased Ridges' and Boudinot, and for justice and protection for ourselves and families.

"4. Resolved, That, for that purpose, we will send a delegation of two, viz: John A. Bell and Stand Watie, to Washing-

Page 333

ton city, in order to lay our grievances before the Secretary of War.

"5. Resolved, That the chairman appoint a committee of six to draft an address to the Secretary of War, making known our grievances and our wants, and to report the same, forthwith, to this meeting, for adoption.

"6. Resolved, That the said John A. Bell and Stand Watie, our delegates, be intrusted with full authority to enter into arrangements with the Secretary of War for our protection and relief.

The chairman appointed the following persons a committee; under the 5th resolution: Charles Rose, John Field, James Star, Thomas Wilson, William Roling, William Lassley.

The committee appointed reported the following address, which was adopted by the meeting:

Cherokee Nation, August 20, 1839.

The undersigned, a committee appointed by the party of Cherokees, known as the treaty party, to represent the recent history of events in relation to themselves and their present condition to the honorable Secretary of War, beg leave respectfully to state:

That a great portion of the treaty party emigrated to the Cherokee nation west as early as arrangements were made for their removal, under the treaty of December 29, 1835; that the remainder of their party emigrated during the last year; that, on their arrival, they found their brethren, known as the Cherokees west, in the possession of a country healthy and fertile, and every way adapted for the prosperity of the Cherokee people. They found a Government regularly organized, with a code of laws suitable to their condition, and equal in their operations. Such of the treaty party as arrived at an early day were permitted to associate in the council of their brethren and to hold offices under the Government; all either purchased or improved farms, bought cattle, and embarked in various branches of business, according to their several skills. They welcomed that portion of their countrymen opposed to the treaty to their new homes, and extended to them every act of courtesy and kindness in their power; many of their friends extended to the poorer class credit, in order to enable them to purchase the articles of

Page 334

husbandry and make shelter for their children. The treaty party believed all was going well, until the call of a council on the first Monday in June last.

Upon the adjournment of Mr. Ross's part of his meeting, his party called for a council of the whole nation to meet on the first day of July.

On the 22nd of June, their three distinguished men, known as the leaders of their party, Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot, were cruelly assassinated by the partisans of John Ross. The number and prominence of the persons engaged in these massacres prove that the plot was arranged at the previous council, and the perpetrators of the horrid deeds selected, and chosen, and organized into three separate banditti. But if proof were wanting, the subsequent proceedings are a proof of the truth of our assertion.

We beg, however, that the honorable Secretary of War will bear in mind, that this "convention" was only attended by the partisans of Mr. John Ross. The treaty party have only been able to obtain the copies of the proceedings of that meeting hereto annexed, and numbered. What further steps have been taken they cannot know, for Mr. Ross's council still continues in session. But, from the history of the past, the decree itself, and the daily threats which we hear in the country, the treaty party are not only convinced that their enemies approved the murder of their friends, but would sanction the total destruction of themselves.

The honorable Secretary of War will see the humiliating condition upon which we are required to save our lives.

We must, however, submit to these conditions, thus degrading to ourselves and reproachful to the United States Government itself, or to be driven from the country, or engaged in a civil war in self defence. The Government of the United States is well aware that either alternative would be equally destructive to ourselves and families; were we tamely to submit to the dictation of our enemies, we have too many reasons to know that there would be no safety for us. Before we can consent to leave the country, which we love quite as well as our enemies loved the country which they have left, we must inquire where we are to go, and what are we to do with the homes which we have

Page 335

purchased and improved? Hardly as we are oppressed, and flagrant as are our injuries, we value too highly the Cherokee blood to engage in the horrors of a civil war, unless driven to it in acts of self-defence, and thus be the destruction of our own people.

The treaty party deny that they have committed any acts deserving of punishment. If they have violated any law, they are willing to be tried by its provisions, and abide the decision of the proper tribunals of their country.

But they acknowledge not the power or mobocracy of John Ross or his constituted authorities. They will never submit to his authority or dictation. As the only alternative, then, which seems to be left them, they confidently and solemnly appeal to the Government of the United States for justice and protection. They cannot, like Mr. Ross, invest themselves with military guards of their countrymen for life, and promise them pay from money due their whole countrymen; and they are too well warned of the consequences of remaining at home and attending to their ordinary concerns. Secret assassinations would again go on, and their whole party be destroyed, before any declaration of hostilities would be made, which the military of the country would feel authorized to treat as "domestic strife."

"The treaty party have, therefore, sent their trusty friends, John A. Bell and Stand Watie, to the Secretary of War, to solicit that protection promised in the treaty, and which they confidently believe the Government of the United States are able and willing to afford. They solemnly ask for redress for the murders of their friends, who have been assassinated without a hearing; without a trial, and without a crime. They ask that their own lives remain not in jeopardy. They ask that the money due to the Cherokee people under the treaty be not paid to a party who acknowledge not its sanction, destroy its framers, and yet, with their characteristic cupidity, seek to appropriate its benefits to accomplish the ambitious purposes of their leaders.

The ways and means of their relief they pretend not to dictate; but they confidently appeal to the Government of the United States, and, as their only hope, trust to them for relief.

Signed in behalf of the meeting.

Hon. J. R. Poinsett, Secretary of War.

Page 336

September 2, 1839.

"Dear Sir:—Enclosed we send you a copy of a communication from Mr. Ross' convention. You will see that they have given us until the 4th of this month to come forward and sign the pledge. They are anxious for us to "comply with the requisition, it being essential (they say) to the preservation of peace, that the life of a citizen shall not be unlawfully endangered."

"They tell us plainly that our lives will be in danger if we do not comply within the time given. We have been told by some of these conventioners, that a portion of their body insisted upon closing the decree and marching forthwith upon us, without giving us any timely notice of its being closed. It is impossible that we can remain as we are much longer. It seems a duty we owe to ourselves that we prepare to defend our persons; likewise, that we send some persons to the city of Washington to fully apprize the Government of the United States of our situation, and insist upon its interposition. However, these are matters that we wish to consult you on, and we wish you to speak fully and frankly to us on these important subjects.

"We have the honor to subscribe ourselves your obedient humble servants,
GEORGE W. ADAIR,
J. A. BELL, and others.
Capt. Wm. Armstrong, Acting Superintendent, W. T.


Head Quarters, 2d Dept., W. Division,
Fort Gibson, September 4, 1839.

"Gentlemen: I received, on the 2d instant, from Geo. W. Adair, John A. Bell, and others, a copy of your decree of the 21st ultimo, by which it appears that they are required to appear before your convention on or before this date, otherwise to be regarded outlaws.

"It is true that the decrees in relation to the individuals referred to do not particularly state the principal offence with which they are charged; yet it is distinctly understood that the material offence for which they are outlawed (if they do not comply with the conditions of your decrees) is, their having signed a treaty made with the United States at New Echota, on the 29th day of December, 1835.

Page 337

"They have demanded protection from the Government of the United States; and inasmuch as said Government regarded the signers of the treaty referred to competent and duly authorized to conclude that treaty, it could not therefore be anticipated by the United States that any other portion of the Cherokee nation could or would attempt to hold said individuals criminally responsible for that act.

"If they have made threats against any one or more individuals of the Cherokee nation, they ought certainly to give a suitable pledge or security to demean themselves in a peaceable manner, and to abstain from violence to any one.

I request that you will favor me with a reply to this communication by the return of the bearer.

I am, gentlemen, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

M. ARBUCKLE, Brevet Brig. General, U. S. A.

John Ross, Esq., and others, In convention near the Illinois river.

True copy, S. G. Simmons, A. D. C. and A. A. Ad j. Gen. Dept., W. D."


Besides these the other Documents, showing the acts of the Ross Convention of 1839—Mr. Ross' letter asking General Arbuckle to interpose with the troops under his command, until a fair investigation could be had-the act deposing Brown and Rogers, the western Chiefs; the order of the Secretary of War to arrest and bring to condign punishment, the murderers of Ridges' and Boudinot—and the protest of Ross and others against interference by the United States, and claiming that they had disposed of the whole matter, as well as their memorial to Congress, by which they attempt to justify their course were all, referred to, and the Prosecuting Attorney advised that they would be relied on in argument to prove the conspiracy of Ross and others, to take away the lives of the treaty party.

The defence here closed their evidence. The court then adjourned until Thursday.

The argument was opened on Thursday morning, on the part of the State by Mr. A. M. Wilson, Esq., Prosecuting Attorney. I have not been furnished with a copy of Mr. W's argument. He relied mainly upon the evidence immediately preceding the affray. He drew accurately the distinction between

Page 338

the different degrees of homicide; and contended strenuously that, if the State had not made out a case of murder they had at least proven an aggravated case of man-slaughter. He denied that the documentary evidence read supported the defence —he could not see its pertinacity to the issue—cautioned the jury that the high character of the defendant and the deep sympathy felt for him every where should not influence them while acting under oath. Said that the argument sought to be adduced would justify Stand Watie or any other signer of the treaty of New Echota, in taking the life of John Ross or any other conspicuous actor in the scenes of 1839. Said that he was not familiar with Indian history; but no one more deeply deplored the murders of Ridges' and Boudinot, and the sufferings of their friends than himself. But that neither these murders nor any outrages of the dominant party would justify Stand Watie, or any one else, in slaying a member of the Ross party unless the acts immediately preceding the homicide justified such an act. The only question then, in his opinion, was, did the circumstances immediately preceding the death of James Foreman justify Stand Watie in taking his life? Mr. Wilson paid a high compliment both to the number and ability of the counsel engaged in the defence, but he cautioned the jury, that neither their numbers nor ability should influence them.

The argument of Mr. Wilson occupied about one hour, which was mostly confined to the summing up of the evidence.

David Walker, Esq. opened the argument for the defence. In his summary of the evidence, Mr. Walker was very happy. He argued very ingenuously that no one could have mistaken the intentions of Foreman while at England's grocery—his language to Miller, and to Landrum—his sending his half brother Springston, for his guns—his taking the whip from Drumgoole and wrapping the lash round his hand were signs not to be misunderstood.

Mr. Walker presented the aggravation of Foreman approaching Watie, and drinking to him a health. "Could there be" said Mr. W. "greater mockery than this feigned offer of friendship? By the machinations of Foreman and his party, Watie was left the last prominent member of one of the most distinguished families in the Cherokee nation. The deceased had sought this last one for years. He had threatened that when-

Page 339

ever he should meet him he would put him out of the way. He had gone to Maysville only a few days before, with more than one hundred men prepared for a bloody tragedy—he had then, reported his threats—he had that very hour sent for his guns, and a few minutes longer, and he would have caused Stand Watie to have been among the martyrs of the treaty party."

"Mr. Walker commented severely upon the deception of Foreman in going to Maysville, pretending that Bell and Lynch were to have a race, and that he, Foreman, was to be killed, when it was proven that no race was to be run, and that Foreman had been so informed. "The truth is," said Mr. Walker, Watie and Bell had gone to Missouri, as you have heard. They were expected to return about that time—and it is a fact well known, though not in evidence, that they had gone under a commission from the United States Government in search of a murderer. This was new cause of offence to that party who were always the enemies of the whites—whose removal could only be forced and purchased with gold filched from their people. The hand of the murderers had been staid for some time, and fresh provocation, to the minds of the assassins, had now been offered.

Watie and Bell have been driven by the hands of violence from their own country—a country purchased by a treaty sealed with the best blood of the Cherokee nation. They have demeaned themselves as good men and honorable citizens. They have won the confidence of our community—a liberal and magnanimous community which holds their lives sacred. Watie was upon our own soil. He was assailed by one who had more than once violated that soil which throws its broad mantle of protection, over every man of every name and every color who sets his foot upon it. Foreman again sought to stain that soil, and stain it with more innocent blood. He commenced the contest with superior advantages. He was a giant in size and strength, accustomed to dangers and deadly stratagems. Watie was a small man, of peaceful bearing. Foreman was surrounded by his friends—and kindred—Watie alone and unprotected.

Justice was however on his side and providence decided the battle."

It is impossible from my imperfect notes to do justice to Mr. Walker's address. I solicited a copy and regret that he has not furnished it.

Return to top


Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site