The Removal of the Cherokee Nation: Manifest Destiny or National Dishonor?

By Louis Filler; Allen Guttmann | Go to book overview

E. Merton Coulter:


GEORGIA'S DESTINY

E. Merton Coulteris generally considered the most important Georgiahistorian since Ulrich Bonnell Phillips. It is, therefore, fitting that he should have the last word, not in the controversy over the problems of race relations in a democratic society, but in this sampling of the documents relevant to one small aspect of this seemingly endless and insoluble controversy.

THE Cherokees, living in the mountainous part of the state to the northward had not got in the way of the Georgians as quickly as had the Creeks; but Georgia was no less conscious of their presence and no less determined that they also must go. In response to the policy, advocated by Jefferson as early as 1803, that the Indians should ultimately be removed to the regions west of the Mississippi, a group of Cherokees had left in 1809 to spy out this new land, and soon returned with a favorable report which led a few to migrate. In 1817 and 1819 they made treaties giving up small strips in northeastern Georgia, and a large number departed, but these were mostly from Tennessee where they had made larger cessions. It seemed that the Georgia Cherokees were less desirous to go than those living in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama.

In 1824, seeing how the Creeks were being pushed out, the Cherokees adopted a definite policy against leaving, and in a memorial to Congress presented by John Ross, George Lowery, Major Ridge, and Elijah Hicks, declared that they knew what the western lands were like--a barren waste with neither trees nor water. There they could engage only in the chase and warfare, and as they had decided to quit those occupations forever, it had now become "the fixed and unalterable determination of this nation never again to cede one foot more of our land." As in the case of the Creeks, there developed a party among the Cherokees, who saw the futility of attempting to hold out against Georgia, and who, therefore, argued that the Cherokees should remove as soon as convenient. This lack of harmony among the Cherokees complicated the problem and led to a long and painful struggle before they were finally forced out.

The United States government, by unwise acts, made more difficult the fulfillment of its promise to Georgia. With one hand it tried to remove the In

____________________
E. Merton Coulter, Georgia, a, Short History ( Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1947), pp. 230-237. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

-106-

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