Proclamation on the Treaty of Holston
[Philadelphia, 11 November 1791]
Whereas a treaty of peace and friendship, between the United States and the Cherokee nation of indians, was made and concluded on the second day of the month of July last,1 and whereas I have, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, in due form, ratified the said treaty; Now, to the end that the same be observed and performed with good faith on the part of the United States, I have ordered the said treaty to be herewith published,2 and I do hereby enjoin and require all officers of the United States, civil and military, and all other citizens, and inhabitants thereof, to govern themselves according to the said treaty, as they will answer the contrary at their peril.
Given under my hand, and the Seal of the United States, in the city of Philadelphia, this eleventh day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety one, and in the sixteenth year of the sovereignty and independence of the United States.
Go. WashingtonBy the President
DS, DNA: RG 11, Indian Treaties.
For the background to the Treaty of Holston, negotiated by William Blount with the Cherokee Indians on 2 July, see GW to the U.S. Senate, 22 Aug. 1789, 11 Aug. 1790, GW to Thomas Jefferson, 10 Mar., n.2, and Henry Knox to GW, 14 Mar. (second enclosure), 17 April (first letter), 30 May, n.4, 6 Aug., n.1. On 26 Oct. 1791 GW directed Knox to present the treaty and related papers to the Senate, which committed them to Benjamin Hawkins, George Cabot, and Roger Sherman on 2 November. One week later Hawkins presented the committee’s report recommending that the treaty be ratified, and on 10 Nov., at least two-thirds of the senators present voted their consent to the treaty (Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 1:85, 88–89). In transmitting the treaty later that day to the secretary of war, Tobias Lear included a copy of the Senate resolution advising its ratification. Lear informed Knox: “The President presumes a proclamation will be necessary in consequence of this ratification; and mentions Judge Campbell’s being now in this City waiting to carry the Ratification to the South Western Territory” (DLC:GW; for David Campbell’s imminent departure from Philadelphia, see Campbell to GW, 9 Nov., n.2). GW and Thomas Jefferson signed the instrument of ratification of the treaty on 11 Nov.: “To all to whom these presents shall come, Greeting: Whereas a treaty of peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Cherokee Nation of Indians, was made and concluded on the second day of the month of July last, by William Blount, Governor in and over the territory of the United States, south of the River Ohio, & Superintendant of Indian Affairs for the southern district, who was duly authorized thereto, on the one part, and the Chiefs and Warriors of [the] Cherokee Nation whose names are hereunto signed, on the other part, which Treaty is in the form and words following . . . Now Know Ye, that I, having seen and considered the said Treaty, do by and with the advice and consent of the Senate of the United States, Accept, Ratify and Confirm the same, and every article and clause thereof” (DS, DNA: RG 11, Indian Treaties; printed in Carter, Territorial Papers, description begins Clarence Edwin Carter et al., eds. The Territorial Papers of the United States. 27 vols. Washington, D.C., 1934–69. description ends 4:67–68). Knox informed Blount on 19 Nov. of the treaty’s ratification and presented fifty copies of the treaty and proclamation to be “duly circulated and published” (quoted in James McHenry to the U.S. House of Representatives, 5 Jan. 1798, ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:629).
1. The Cherokee Indians, the states of North Carolina and Georgia, and the federal government all had been dissatisfied with the Treaty of Hopewell of 28 Nov. 1785. After North Carolina joined the Union in 1789, the federal government was unable to prevent intrusions on Indian property by settlers claiming lands under previous treaties signed by the defunct state of Franklin or under North Carolina law. Nor was GW’s administration able to protect those settlers from retaliations by the Cherokee. After the Senate agreed to the negotiation of a new treaty in the summer of 1790, Knox apparently sent instructions to Governor Blount to obtain a further cession of land from the Cherokee (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 11 Aug. 1790, n.4). Blount was finally able in June 1791 to convene a meeting of numerous chiefs on the Holston River in the Southwest Territory, at the present site of Knoxville, Tennessee. Neither Blount’s letter of 2 July 1791 covering the treaty nor his report of 15 July 1791 to Knox on the negotiations has been found; both were probably burned in the War Department fire of 1800 (see Carter, Territorial Papers description begins Clarence Edwin Carter et al., eds. The Territorial Papers of the United States. 27 vols. Washington, D.C., 1934–69. description ends , 4:62, n.58; McHenry to the U.S. House of Representatives, 5 Jan. 1798, ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:628–30). A party of five Cherokee chiefs later came to Philadelphia in December 1791 to express their objections to some of the treaty provisions and successfully obtained further concessions from the government (see Knox to GW, 17 Jan. 1792, and enclosure, GW to U.S. Senate, 18 Jan. 1792, GW to Knox, 22 Jan., 1792, GW to Charles Pinckney, 31 Jan.–20 Feb. 1792, and Knox to Lear, 16 Feb. 1792).
2. There were sixteen articles to the treaty of “perpetual peace and friendship” signed on 2 July by Blount, forty-one Cherokee chiefs, and interpreters John Thompson and James Carey. The Cherokee acknowledged that they were under the protection of the United States and agreed not to make treaties with any states, individuals, or foreign powers. Both sides agreed to exchange on 1 April 1792 at the treaty ground any prisoners they still held. The boundary between the Cherokee nation and the United States was redrawn, to be marked by three commissioners from each side. The United States promised valuable trade goods and a $ 1,000 annuity to be delivered to the Cherokee to extinguish all Cherokee claims to lands east of the new boundary line, and guaranteed all other Cherokee lands. The Cherokee granted the United States exclusive right to regulate their trade, as well as unmolested use of a road through their territory and navigation of the Tennessee River. Five articles dealt with restitution and the punishment of horse thieves, trespassers, and other criminals. The United States also promised occasionally to provide free “useful implements and husbandry” and to send as many as four farmers and interpreters to lead the Cherokee nation “to a greater degree of civilization” (DNA: RG 11, Indian Treaties; printed in Carter, Territorial Papers, description begins Clarence Edwin Carter et al., eds. The Territorial Papers of the United States. 27 vols. Washington, D.C., 1934–69. description ends 4:60–67).