The Southwest Frontier
THE U.S. GOVERNMENT OF THE 1790s COULD NOT FIGHT AN INDIAN WAR on two fronts. While the government was struggling to contain the hostile Indians of the northwest, it was imperative that peace be maintained in the south. However, hopes that the Creek Treaty of New York and a similar treaty signed with Cherokee leaders at Holsten in 1791 would bring about that peace were soon dashed. The agreements were condemned by parties on both sides, and the federal government was faced with a multifarious opposition. Resistant Indian warriors harassed offending settlements whose inhabitants remained as aggressive as ever, the Georgia state legislature continued uncooperative, and Spanish colonial officials stepped up their efforts to alienate the Indians from the American interest. Consequently, the frontier situation remained violent and chaotic, and the new federal government had scarcely more success than its predecessor, the Continental Congress, in imposing its will on southern Indian affairs. As in the north, Native American groups were at the center of issues that combined to threaten the integrity of the nation and undermine federal authority.
The disparity between federal and state Indian policy during the 1790s reveals a separation of powers quite different from that envisaged by the framers of the Constitution. In particular, the state of Georgia showed complete disregard for federal policy through independent land appropriations and a reluctance to restrain aggressive settlers. This provoked the wrath of those Indians who refused to submit to land cessions made at the treaties of Holsten and New York, and violence escalated. Cherokee and Creek leaders were no more able to prevent raiding parties than their white counterparts could curb their own frontiersmen, and the cycle of retaliation rolled on. This turmoil was exacerbated by a new Spanish colonial governor who considered alliance with the southern Indian tribes central to the defense of Spanish territorial possessions. In addition, these frontier tensions and conflicts took place against a background of in