Motion on Negotiations with Cherokee Indians
Printed text (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXI, 1089).
[2 November 1781]
A motion was made by the delegates of Virginia, that the resolution of yesterday, respecting the appointment of commissioners, to treat with the Cherokee and Chickasaw Indians, be repealed.
Ordered, That Thursday next be assigned for the consideration of the preceding motion; and that no copies of the resolution passed yesterday be delivered out before Monday the 12th instant.1
1. See Virginia Delegates to Nelson, 4 September 1781, n. 7. In a letter of 1 September, read in Congress on 16 October 1781, Greene assured the president of Congress that Congress would soon receive a copy of the treaty of 21 June, concluding peace with the Cherokee and Chickasaw Indians. Asking for retroactive approval of what he had done in this regard, Greene enclosed a copy of his own authorization to Colonel Arthur Campbell and seven other agents to negotiate with these Indians (NA: PCC, No. 155, II, 255–56). Congress referred Greene’s letter and enclosure to John Hanson (Md.), James M. Varnum, and George Clymer. When this committee reported on 1 November, Congress “Resolved, That the appointment of commissioners by Major General Greene to negotiate a treaty of peace with the Cherokee and Chickasaw Indians, and by that means to put a stop to the ravages of those nations, was a necessary and prudent measure, and that Congress approve of the same.” Neither the journal of “Thursday next” (8 November) nor that of any subsequent date refers to this resolution, to the countermotion of 2 November introduced by the Virginia delegates, or even to the receipt of a copy of the treaty (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXI, 1055, 1088–89, 1109).
Why the delegates introduced their motion is not clear. Possibly they wished Congress to delay action until the treaty should arrive or until a letter from the executive or legislature of Virginia should inform them about what their posture in respect to the treaty should be. The delegates remained without instructions on the subject, even though Governor Nelson and his predecessor, Governor Jefferson, had assented to the negotiation of the pact by Greene’s commissioners (Virginia Delegates to Nelson, 4 September 1781, n. 7). Indeed, the editors can cite no evidence to show that the copy of the treaty, which Nelson had been promised, ever reached him (NA: PCC, No. 78, VI, 59–60).
A few Cherokee chiefs visited Richmond and Yorktown during the last three weeks of November (McIlwaine, Official Letters description begins H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia (3 vols.; Richmond, 1926–29). description ends , III, 98; Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (Richmond, 1931——). description ends , II, 400). Governor Alexander Martin of North Carolina delayed submitting the treaty to the General Assembly of his state until 26 April 1782 (Walter Clark, ed., The State Records of North Carolina, 1777–1790 [16 vols.; Winston and Goldsboro, 1895–1905], XVI, 304–5). The treaty became a dead letter within a few months after it had been signed. Whites continued to encroach on Cherokee lands, while the Cherokees who had signed the compact could not restrain their southern kinsmen (the so-called “Middle Settlements” and Chickamaugas), under the instigation of British agents and Loyalists, from harassing the backwoodsmen.