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Doc. 114.-the Cherokees and the war.

The following is a synopsis of a correspondence which passed between the chief of the Cherokee nation and various rebel authorities and citizens of Arkansas:

State of Arkansas, Executive Department, little Rock, Jan. 29, 1861.
To His Excellency John Ross, Principal Chief of Cherokee Nation:--
sir: It may now be regarded as almost certain that the States having slave property [393] within their borders will, in consequence of repeated Northern aggressions, separate themselves and withdraw from the Federal Government.

South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana have already, by action of the people, assumed this attitude.

Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland will probably pursue the same course by the 4th of March next.

Your people, in their institutions, productions, latitude, and natural sympathies, are allied to the common brotherhood of the slave-holding States. Our people and yours are natural allies in war, and friends in peace. Your country is salubrious and fertile, and possesses the highest capacity for future progress and development, by the application of “slave labor.”

Besides this, the contiguity of our territory with yours induces relations of so intimate a character as to preclude the idea of a discordant or separate action. It is well established that the Indian country west of Arkansas is looked to by the incoming Administration of Mr. Lincoln as fruitful fields, ripe for the harvest of abolitionism, free-soilers, and Northern mountebanks. We hope to find in you friends willing to cooperate with the South in defence of her institutions, her honor, and her firesides, and with whom the slaveholding States are willing to share a common future, and to afford protection commensurate with your exposed condition. and your subsisting monetary interests with the general Government.

As a direct means of expressing to you those sentiments, I have despatched to you my aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Colonel J. J. Gaines, to confer with you confidentially upon these subjects, and to report to me any expressions of kindness and confidence that you may see proper to communicate to the Governor of Arkansas, who is your friend and the friend of your people.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

In response to the above, Ross wrote at some length, expressing the regret and solicitude of the Cherokees for the unhappy relations existing between the two sections of the country, and hoping for the restoration of peace and harmony. The concluding part of the letter is important, as exhibiting the loyal feelings of the Cherokees to the Federal Government:--

The relations which the Cherokee people sustain toward their white brethren have been established by subsisting treaties with the United States Government, and by them they have placed themselves under the “protection of the United States, and of no other sovereign whatever.” They are bound to hold no treaty with any foreign power, or with any individual State, nor with the citizens of any State. On the other hand, the faith of the United States is solemnly pledged to the Cherokee nation for the protection of the right and title in the lands, conveyed to them by patent, within their territorial boundaries; as also for protection of all other of their national and individual rights and interests of person and property. Thus the Cherokee people are inviolably allied with their white brethren of the United States in war and friends in peace. Their institutions, locality, and natural sympathies are unequivocally with the slaveholding States. And the contiguity of our territory to your State, in connection with the daily social and commercial intercourse between our respective citizens, forbids the idea that they should ever be otherwise than steadfast friends.

I am surprised to be informed by your Excellency that “it is well established that the Indian country, west of Arkansas, is looked to by the incoming Administration of Mr. Lincoln as fruitful fields, ripe for the harvest of abolitionism, free-soilers, and Northern mountebanks,” as I am sure that the laborers will be greatly disappointed if they shall expect in the Cherokee country fruitful fields, ripe for the harvest of abolitionism, &c., and you may rest assured that the Cherokee people will never tolerate the propagation of any such obnoxious fruit upon their soil. And, in conclusion, I have the honor to reciprocate the salutations of friendship.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your Excellency's obedient servant,

John Ross, Principal Chief of Cherokee Nation. Feb. 22, 1861.

A correspondence was more recently opened between the rebel commander of Fort Smith and Ross. The letter of the former exhibits the solicitude with which the rebels of Arkansas await the attitude of the Cherokees:--

Headquarters, Fort Smith, May 15, 1861.
sir:--Information has reached this post to the effect that Senator Lane, of Kansas, is now in that State raising troops to operate on the western borders of Missouri and Kansas. As it is of the utmost importance that those intrusted with the defence of the Western frontier of this State should understand the position of the Indian tribes, through whose territory the enemy is likely to pass, I feel it to be my duty, as commanding officer at this post, and in that capacity representing the State of Arkansas and the Southern Confederacy, of which she is a member, respectfully to ask if it is your intention to adhere to the United States Government during the pending conflict, or if you mean to support the Government of the Southern Confederacy; and also whether in your opinion the Cherokee people will resist, or will aid the Southern troops in resisting any such attempt to invade the soil of Arkansas; or if, on the other hand, you think there is any probability of their aiding the United States forces in executing their [394] hostile designs.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

J. R. Kannady, Lieut.-Col. Commanding, Fort Smith. Hon. John Ross, Principal Chief of Cherokee Nation.

In his reply, Ross, under date of May 17, quotes the interrogatory part of the above, and concludes:--

In reply to these inquiries, I have the honor to say, that our rights of soil, of person, and of property, and our relations, generally, to the people and Government of the United States were defined by treaties with the United States Government prior to the present condition of affairs. By those treaties relations of amity and reciprocal rights and obligations were established between the Cherokee nation and the Government of those States. Those relations still exist. The Cherokees have properly taken no part in the present deplorable state of affairs, but have wisely remained quiet. They have done nothing to impair their rights, or to disturb the cordial friendship between them and their white brothers. Weak, defenceless, and scattered over a large section of country, in the peaceful pursuits of agricultural life, without hostility to any State, and with friendly feelings towards all, they hope to be allowed to remain so, under the solemnly conviction that they should not be called upon to participate in the threatened fratricidal war between the “United” and the “Confederate” States, and that persons gallantly tenacious of their own rights will respect those of others.

If the pending conflict were with a foreign foe, the Cherokees, as they have done in times past, would not hesitate to lend their humble cooperation. But, under existing circumstances, my wish, advice, arid hope are, that we shall be allowed to remain strictly neutral. Our interests all centre in peace. We do not wish to forfeit our rights or to incur the hostility of any people, and least of all, of the people of Arkansas, with whom our relations are so numerous and intimate. We do not wish our soil to become the battle-ground between the States, and our homes to be rendered desolate and miserable by the horrors of a civil war. If such war should not be averted yet by some unforeseen agency, but shall occur, my own position will be to take no part in it whatever, and to urge the like course upon the Cherokee people, by whom, in my opinion, it will be adopted. We hope that all military movements, whether from the North or the South, will be outside of our limits, and that no apprehension of a want of sincere friendship on our part will be cherished anywhere, and least of all by the people of your State.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

John Ross, Principal Chief, Cherokee Nation. J. R. Kannady, Lieut. Commanding, Fort Smith, Ark.

With the above Ross enclosed a letter signed by several residents of Boonsboroa, Arkansas, inquiring whether he intended to cooperate with the Northern or Southern States, and hoping to find him and his people allies and active friends. The concluding part of this communication grows more hostile in its tone, and says:--“But if, unfortunately, you prefer to retain your connection with the Northern Government, and give them aid and comfort, we want to know that, as we prefer an open enemy to a doubtful friend.”

Again Ross expresses his neutrality in the troubles between the two sections, and says:--

A residence of more than twenty years in your immediate vicinity can leave no room for doubt as to my friendship for the people of Arkansas; but if my present position does not constitute us “as active friends” as you might desire us to be, you will not surely regard us as an enemy. You are fully aware of the peculiar circumstances of our condition, and will not expect us to destroy our national and individual rights, and bring around our hearthstones the horrors and desolations of a civil war prematurely and unnecessarily. I am — the Cherokees are — your friends and the friends of your people; but we do not wish to be brought into the feuds between yourselves and your Northern brethren.

Our wish is for peace; peace at home, and peace among you. We will not disturb it as it now exists, nor interfere with the rights of the people of the States anywhere. War is more prospective than real. It has not been declared by the United or Confederate States. It may not be. I most devoutly hope it might not be. Your difficulties may be ended soon by compromise or peaceful separation. What will then be our situation if we now abrogate our rights, when no one else is, or can just now be, bound for them? All these questions present themselves to us and constrain us to avow a position of strict neutrality. That position I shall endeavor honestly to maintain. The Cherokee Nation will not interfere with your rights nor invade your soil, nor will I doubt that the people of Arkansas and other States will be alike just toward the Cherokee people.

With my best wishes for you personally, I have the. honor to be, very respectfully, your friend and obedient servant,

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