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In Their Own Words

February 12, 1838

Letter on Cherokee Refusal to Leave Georgia

In Dec. 1835, a faction of Cherokee leaders resigned to removal to the West, signed the Treaty of New Echota in which they agreed to give up all claims to Cherokee lands in the East. That action was in violation of Cherokee law and was opposed by the majority of Cherokees. On the other hand, most Georgia politicians were anxious to have the Indians removed – by force if necessary. Yet, over two years after the signing of the Treaty of New Echota, many Cherokees had no intention of leaving voluntarily, as noted by this letter to Georgia governor George Gilmer written by Thomas MacFarland from Rossville, near the Georgia-Tennessee boundary:

“In accordance with a promise made to you before leaving Milledgeville, I very cheerfully write you a line on the subject of our Cherokee affairs. On my way home some three weeks ago, I travelled on business [in] a kind of zig-zag direction through the Nation, passing through Forsyth, Cherokee, Cass and Floyd counties. I found many of the Cherokees repairing their fences and clearing up their fields, preparatory to making another crop, some of them erecting cabins as though there was not the least prospect of their early removal. And, although very few are preparing to emigrate, yet they all continue quiet and peaceable. They still appear to entertain the hope of effecting a new treaty and getting a longer time to remain in this country.

“I conversed with scarcely any persons on my route who entertained any serious apprehension of danger. I believe there is less excitement at this time among our own citizens than at any previous period since I came into the country. The most intelligent of our people believe that when the Cherokees become convinced that they will be compelled to go West, although the great mass of them will be exceedingly dissatisfied, yet that the few desperate spirits which may be among them will not have sufficient influence over the more intelligent and calculating portion of the Nation to incite them to commit hostilities and that nearly all the Georgia part of the Nation at least will depart in peace… .”

Source: Edward J. Cashin, A Wilderness Still The Cradle of Nature: Frontier Georgia (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1994), p. 124.