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Speech by John Watts, Cherokee Chief, Concerning Peace & Boundaries with U.S.

Sources & Images
Source Name Image(s)
CollectionMassachusetts Historical Society: John Adams Papers view image
Document Information
Date December 22, 1796
Author Name John Watts (primary)
Recipient Name [not available]
Summary Notes that peace has faithfully been observed since a 1795 conference, though whites have killed Indians since then; expresses sorrow that these whites have not been punished. Describes the Indian-land boundary established Governor Blount [of TN], says he will abide only by that line. Asks that the boundary be formally run, by a U.S. surveyor of integrity (not a land speculator), and that Cherokee envoys be present at that process. Recommends when the boundary-running should take place.
Document Format Letterbook Copy
Document Notes No tif image.
Content Notes [not available]
Related Persons/Groups Colonel John Watts; Cherokee; President; George Washington; Governor Blount; Indians; murderer; Congress; Colonel Kelly; General Robertson; speculator; Wiley Elder; Ohadlokee; Bark; deputies; ;
Related Places Tennessee River; Little River; Holston; Bull Run; Raven's Creek; Big Buffaloe lick; mountain; Kentucky Trace; ford; Cumberland River; General Robertson's house; ;
Keywords conference; peace; promises; horses; stolen; murder; treaty; boundaries; running the line; ;
Key Phrases [not available]
Transcription

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57 176
Conference with the Cherokees---22nd December 1796

Col. John Watts.

That he came here on the invitation of the president-that at the
insistance of Governor Blount and from a desire to keep peace established between
his Nation and the United States he exerted himself greatly and with much difficulty
succeeded in bringing about a peace.
That since it has been made it has been faithfully observed by his Nation-that
in October 1795 he held a conference with Governor Blount, when mutual promises to
preserve and strengthen the peace were given and received that soon after in the
Winter, the white people notwithstanding killed three of the Indians, but altho'
this would have justified retaliation, none has taken place, and he is glad his
exertions have been able to prevent it.
That no horses have been stolen since that conference in 1795 and that he has
uniformly exerted himself to prevent such practices.
That he thinks it very hard that the whites should kill Indians, and that they
should not be punished for so doing. That ever since he was a Boy he remembered to
have heard it said that whenever such a thing happened the whites should be
punished; but, though the Story has been always renewed upon every fresh murder,
the murderer has in no instance been punished.
That this has greatly weakened his belief in such promises.
That he has had explained to him the laws of Congress in such cases-that he
thinks them very good; but as they have to reach so far they get weak, and will be
of no use to the Indians, unless they can be executed with the same good intention
with which they have been made; that he hopes his father will attend to this matter.
That he well remembers the treaty made with Governor Blount and the Boundaries
therein established; that he will abide by those lines but no other. That line
begins on the Ridge that divided the Waters at Tennessee and little River and runs
thence in a straight line to the falling waters on Holston below Col. Kelly's, and
thence in a straight line to Bull
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Bull Run or Raven's Creek to the Big Buffaloe lick, thence to a mountain,
from which one can see a Gap, through which the line is continued along the
Kentucky Trace to the ford of Cumberland River, thence down the middle of said
River, leaving the River within fourteen miles of General Robertson's house,
thence again into the River.

With respect to running the line, he wishes with his Nation to have it run,
and that no person should be appointed by the United States who is a Speculator,
or who may be supposed to have any Interest which might prejudice them in favour
of the Whites or against the Cherokees.

That he has three Cherokees in his Eye who will attend; that besides the three
which the United States are to appoint he would be glad that three Whites who he
will name, might also be present. That the Names of the Cherokees who will attend
on the part of the Nation are Wiley Elder,Ohadlokee or the Bark and Colonel Watts
himself.

That the best time to run the line would be just as the Trees begin to put out
their Buds. If the leaves are fully out, they cannot see so well to run the line.
That the Nation will be all together in two Moons and expect to hear when the
running will commence, that their Deputies may attend.

___________________________

Answer,
To Col. John Watts, and the other Chiefs and Warriors of the Cherokee Nation.

Your father the president has heard the Talks of Col. John Watts,
delivered to his Secretary of War, and is much pleased with it. The greatest
security for preserving
59 177
preserving peace between Nations is their performing their promises to
each other; and when any thing happens that might lead to War, to let their
wise men meet together to settle it by a friendly conference with each other.

That the peace which exists between the United States and Cherokees may
never be disturbed, your father is determined to perform all the promises he
has made the Nation, and kindly has sent one of his beloved men,
Mr. Dinsmoor, to live in it; to be always at hand to hear your
complaints; to settle differences where he can, and to refer those he cannot
settle, and which the laws do not reach, to your father for his opinion and
advice. By this means he hopes, that peace, good understanding and friendship
may be always preserved.

It has never failed to grieve your father when he has heard of any white man
who has killed a red man, or when red men have killed white.

Congress as Col. Watts has said, have made wise laws to punish murderers,
and your father will endeavor to have them faithfully executed. But the
Cherokees will remember, how oft men are to do bad things when they are in a
passion, and see their property in the possession of the thief. It is recommended
therefore to the Chiefs and Warriors of the Nation to exert themselves and keep
their bad men from such practices as a sure means of preventing murders.

It is true, if a red man steals from a white man in his Nation, the value
of the thing stolen is to be deducted out of the Nation's annuity, in case the
white man does not attempt private satisfaction or revenge by crossing over the
line on any of the Indian land; on the other hand, if a white man, a citizen of
the United States, goes over the indian line and steals horses or other property
from the red people, the value of what has thus been stolen, will be paid them by
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by the United States; provided neither the Sufferer nor Nation shall seek
private revenge or attempt to obtain satisfaction by force or violence. But
the Chiefs and Warriors will perceive that it is much better such practices
should not be encouraged as it is always very troublesome and difficult to
settle such accounts, besides the length of time that it requires to obtain
the necessary proofs.

Your father has appointed Benjamin Hawkins, General Andrew Pickens and
will add a third person to run the boundary line agreeably to Treaty. They
have promised to commence the first of April. He will write to them to send
a Runner into the Nation to inform them where they will begin, that they may
be joined by those mentioned in Col. Watts's Talks as persons to attend on the
part of the Nation. He hopes if any doubts or difficulties arise that they will
be removed by moderation and temper on both sides.___

Given at the War Office of the United
States in the City of Philadelphia, this
Twenty seventh day of December, in the
year one thousand seven hundred and
ninety Six, and in the Twenty First
year of the Independence of the said
States.----
signed,
James McHenry
Sec. of War

[Editor's Note: Letter finished off with swirly doodle]
61 178
Blue Jacket a War Chief of the Shawnee Nation to his great

Father of the Fifteen Fires.---

Father, Open your ears and listen to what I shall say.

Father, I speak to you in the language of truth, and request your
particular attention.- I need not tell you, how long I was attached
to my late British Father over the Waters of the Ocean, nor how often
I fought his battles on the Borders of our great Lake for my name has
been well known to your Nation.

Father, My eyes are now opened and my heart has felt glad since I
have been in friendship with my American Brethren.

Father, I have been long deceived by the falsehoods of McKee and
other British agents who have ever urged myself and my red Brethren to
keep up the War against the fifteen fires- they have often told me not
to trust to the Americans, that they only wished to get our lands and
then drive us to the immense Waters of the West- that if I would cross
the lake with them and go to Quebec I should be one of the first men of
their Nation- but I refused their intreaties.

Father, Long have I been blinded to my own interest and that of my
Nation but thank the great Spirit who sent that Bird whose spreading
wings embraced our nation and diffused peace throughout our Country.

Father, When I fought for the British I fought with bravery and
sincerity but since I have found them carrying on a deception among
us for many years past, I have been determined to break asunder the
chain by which we were held and dissolve the ties of friendship by
which we were bound- I have seen my error on holding them so long fast
by the hand and since have found a great difference between their
friendship and that of my American brethren.
Father
62

Father,

Many years past I received from Sir John Johnston, British
Superintendant of Indian affairs a testimonial of my fidelity and
attachment to the British King this flattered me because I was sincere
in their cause but being so long in the clouds of Darkness and guided
by a deception which has ever attended their Councils, I have thrown
them off and hope to be placed under the left arm of the United States
there to be held as a sincere friend and Brother.

Father,

This testimonial which I beg you to read- I shall cast away and
would be glad to receive from the United States a testimonial of my
attachment to them- this I hope you will give me.

Father,

It shall be my study as it is my wish to instil into the minds of
my young men and warriors the necessity of acting faithfully towards the
United States and preserving inviolate the treaty of peace lately
concluded between your great Warrior and my red Brethren.

Father,

I take you by the hand and hope you will believe what I have said
to be truth.

Father,

I have accompanied one of the great Chiefs of our Nation to this
City to see you he is now here and a good friend to the Americans.

Done at Phila.
November 1796.




67 181



My Children

I have heard and considered what you have said to me through the
Secretary of War and I am pleased to see you at the seat of government
and to receive you as friends.

You have asked my advice and I will give it to you freely upon such
matters as appear to me to be essential to your welfare.

In the treaty which you have entered into with my great Warrior
General Wayne and which has been ratified by the Senate of the United
States you have made certain grants and promised certain things that
I make no doubt you will comply with. On the other hand the United States
have promised in the same treaty certain things to you which they mean to
perform.

The United States who love Justice have agreed to pay to you and your
Children for ever a yearly sum of money in goods for a certain parcel of
your land. By the same treaty, the Indian Nations, mentioned therein have
bound themselves not to sell any of their land, except to the United States.
This is a wise part of the treaty inasmuch as it prevents your people from
being cheated out of large tracts of Country by designing men who would not
pay them what the land was worth whilst what they might receive for it could
be of no use to their posterity. This is not the case when the United States
buy your land. They are careful that the Children of those who sell it shall
reap as much advantage from the sale as their fathers did. Thus the treaty
secures to each Indian nation their land against purchases of Individuals,
whilst the laws of the United States have in addition to that treaty,
provided a punishment for persons who shall attempt to buy it contrary thereto.
68

Let your Nations therefore pay a due respect and attention to this part
of the treaty; and they will have nothing to apprehend for their land.---

It may be proper to say something to you relative to the distribution of
the goods agreed to be paid to you annually for the land ceded by
this treaty. It is right that the quota, apportioned to each nation, should
be delivered to such persons only as the nation may appoint to receive it. To
prevent frauds herefore, and insure a fair distribution among yourselves, it
is recommended, that each nation should fix every year upon the persons whom
it wishes should receive its quota; and that they should instruct their
Interpreters to inform the Agent who is to deliver the goods of the names
of the persons so chosen___

I shall now give you some advice respecting the conduct of your people,
the observance of which I consider of importance to their tranquillity and
peace. There are among the Indians as among the Whites, individuals who will
steal their neighbor's property when they found the opportunity in preference
to acquiring property to themselves by honest means. Bad White men, for
example, will go into the Indian Country and steal horses and bad Indians,
in like manner, will go into the settlement of the Whites and steal their
horses. If the Indian nations wish to deserve the friendship of the United
States and to prevent the white settlers on the frontiers from retaliation
on their property, the Chiefs and Warriors of the respective nations must
use their endeavors to punish such offenders and restore to the Whites or
to some Officer of the United States, the property they may have stolen.
As for the government, it will use its utmost endeavors, to restore to every
Indian any property of his which may have
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by their respective Interpreters.

Should you have any thing particular to say before you leave the
seat of government, you will address it to the Secretary of War, who is
instructed by me upon all matters relating to the Indian Nations and who
will furnish such of you as have acquired the title of Chiefs or Warriors
with a testimonial of the same import as that delivered up by Blue Jacket,
as a proof of my esteem and friendship.

I now sincerely wish you a good journey and that you may find your
Brothers and families well on your return and that the Great Spirit above
may long preserve your nations in peace with each other and with the United
States.

Given at Philadelphia this twenty ninth day
of November 1796 and in the twenty first year
of the Independence of the United States of America______



signed Geo. Washington