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Trade and Land 1765 - 1775

The steady stream of immigration from the British Isles and Germany that had begun in the 1740s turned into a veritable "gusher" following the expulsion of the French from North America and the end of Pontiac's War. The massive flow of Europeans, mostly poor and looking for cheap land, turned the situation on the Indian Boundaries from difficult to unmanageable. Everywhere there were people, most of whom cared little for the legality of what they were doing, crossing over onto Indian land to stake out farms; making "market hunting expeditions deep into the tribal hunting grounds; and setting themselves up in business to trade with the Indians, often without proper licenses and willing to use rum and the issuance of excessive credit to cheat the Indians out of their skins and their lands.

With a "frontier to police that ran from Virginia down to the Floridas, across to the Mississippi, up to the Ohio River and back to Virginia, Stuart quickly realized that he was going to be unable to manage Indian Affairs by himself and quickly began to expand the staffing of the Southern Indian Department during this period. Beginning in 1766 he appointed Charles Stuart, his cousin, Deputy Superintendent and stationed him in Mobile. The same year he appointed John McIntosh as Commissary to the Chickasaws, Roderick McIntosh as Commissary to the Lower Creeks, John Doig as Commissary of Stores in Pensacola and Dugald Campbell as Commissary of Stores in Mobile. Rene Roi was also hired as an interpreter for Charles Stuart. In 1768 he appointed Alexander Cameron a long-time trader among the Cherokee as Deputy Superintendent to the Cherokee, In 1770 John Thomas was appointed as Deputy Superintendent to the Small Tribes along the Mississippi and in 1772 David Taitt was appointed as Commissary to the Upper Creeks. Finally, in 1775, Farquhar Bethune was appointed Commissary to the Choctaws and Henry Stuart (John Stuart's brother) was appointed as a Special Agent for the Department. In 1778 Henry was elevated to the post of Deputy Superintendent. In addition the Department during this time began hiring many interpreters as well as contracting blacksmiths, teamsters, porters, etc as needed to provide for the tribes.

Over this ten year period Stuart and his Deputies were in almost constant motion mediating trade disputes, negotiating the punishment of criminals on both sides, and working to reestablish the boundaries between white settlements and the Native Lands. This led to formal Congresses with the various Indian Nations at Hard Labor, SC in May 1766 and again in October 1768; Lochaber, SC in October 1770; Pensacola, West Florida in October 1771, Mobile, West Florida in January 1772; and Augusta, SC in June 1773. In addition, Indian Department Officials were in almost constant consultation with the Royal Governors of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, East Florida and West Florida as well as the British Commander in Chief for North America Lord Howe and the Board of Trade back on London.

Some aspects of Indian Affairs in the southern district after 1768 were of international importance. From 1768 until the conquest of West Florida by the Spanish during the American Revolution the Spanish carried on intrigues among the southern tribes, both from Havana and New Orleans. These intrigues raised concerns among English officials and Stuart was ordered to investigate them. In 1769 Escotchabie, who was friendlier to the Spanish than any other Creek Chief, told Stuart that a conference between the Spanish and the entire Creek nation was planned for September that year and was to be held at the mouth of the Apalachicola River. Stuart was so greatly upset by this report that he ordered Charles Stuart to the spot to prevent the meeting and arranged for a British warship to patrol the coast throughout the month of September. Although the search for Spanish envoy's proved fruitless, English officials continued to be apprehensive of Spanish activities in the Lower Creek towns, especially after news of the Falkland Islands quarrel reached America.

Another problem during this period was the activities of the Delaware and Shawnee among the southern tribes. After 1768 it was necessary for the English to counter the efforts of the Shawnees and Delawares to form a hostile Indian confederacy, not only in the Cherokee country, but also in the Creek and Choctaw nations. Such an alliance could never come about, as far as the Choctaws and Creeks were concerned, a long as these tribes continued at war with each other, although continual rumors of the plotting of the Shawnees and Delawares caused much uneasiness in the minds of Stuart, Gage and other British officials. For a time in 1772 there was real danger that the alliance might be formed, as a result of an unfortunate incident that occurred at Kaskaskia between a party of Chickasaws and a detachment of British troops at that place in which the Chickasaws, led by Paya Mingo Euluxy, lost two warriors and the chief himself was wounded. Returning home, Paya Mingo Euluxy tried to persuade his people to drive out their traders and to undertake the mediation of the Choctaw-Creek conflict. He hoped to bring the Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws into an alliance with the Shawnees and Delawares. Success in this project might have brought on a great Indian war in America, but Paya Mattaha and Mingo Ouma refused to support the scheme, and the danger passed.

Perhaps the greatest problems faced by the Indian Department during this period were those resulting from the conflicting interests of the Cherokees and of the whites on the Virginia frontier. In no southern colony before the War of Independence were the frontiersmen more aggressive and less restrained by authority. They became so obnoxious that the southern Indians came to apply the term "Virginian" to any person who encroached on their lands along the entire southeastern frontier. While many of the pioneers may have been democratic, hardy, independent spirits, others were shiftless debtors who fled to the wilderness to evade court action. The Virginians and their fellows from the backwoods of North Carolina killed large quantities of game on hunting grounds that the Cherokees looked upon as their own, causing the Cherokees at length to adopt the policy of depriving such hunters of their weapons and their spoils. Unfortunately for the cause of peace on the frontier, many of these backwoodsmen also acted on the principle that "the only good Indian was a dead Indian". The Cherokees retaliated, eye for eye and tooth for tooth.

As more and more frontiersmen moved westward along the Holston River and over the Cumberlands into Kentucky the Cherokees may have slaughtered many hunters and settlers whose fate was never known, but reports of slayings by the Cherokees came occasionally to he Indian Department. In 1772 a war party from that nation slew seven Virginians and a Negro, offering the unlikely excuse that they thought their victims were Frenchmen. Stuart was convinced that the Cherokees involved should be punished, but at a time when relations with the Creeks were severely strained he was unable to demand the execution of the culprits because of similar deeds on the part of the Virginians and because of the need to preserve peace with the Cherokees. In 1773 an attack by the Cherokees on another group of Virginians resulted in several casualties, among them James Boone, son of Daniel Boone, and Stuart was able eventually to secure the execution of only one of the aggressors.

The most serious cause of dispute between Virginia and the Cherokees arose however from the last pre-Revolutionary purchase of Cherokee claims in the Ohio Valley which was made by private speculators. On August 25, 1774 a speculative combination headed by Judge Richard Henderson of North Carolina and consisting of Henderson, Nathaniel and Thomas Hart, John Luttrell, John Williams, and William Johnston met at Hillsborough, NC and formally organized the Louisa Company, the purpose of which was to either rent or purchase lands from the Cherokees and to settle upon them. Like many other land speculators of the time, this group showed an utter lack of respect for the Proclamation of 1763, colonial statutes, and the Indian boundaries established through the efforts of the Indian Department. They prepared for quick action.

When Stuart learned that the Henderson crowd had invited the Cherokees to meet them on the Holston River to negotiate regarding a land grant, he sent Alexander Cameron to prevent the sale and supplied him with gifts so that the Cherokees would not sell territory because they lacked goods. Cameron failed to achieve success in his mission.

In November 1774, Henderson and Nathaniel Hart met several Cherokee chiefs and secured a preliminary agreement whereby the Cherokees undertook to sell them all the territory south of the Ohio lying between the mouth of the Kanawha and the Tennessee River; and Attakullakulla returned with the speculators to North Carolina to advise them in regards to the sort of supplies that the Cherokees wanted in payment.. On January 6, 1775, after admission of three additional members into the company and the formation of new articles of agreement, the title of the organization was altered to that of Transylvania Company. The Transylvania Company completed its purchase from the Cherokees at a great conference at the Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga River between March 14 and 17. The Cherokee sold a magnificent domain stretching from the Ohio and Kentucky Rivers to the southern edge of the Cumberland watershed. They also granted Henderson and his associates a strip of territory between the Watauga River and the Cumberland range, so that settlers traveling from North Carolina would not be forced to go through Cherokee territory. This was all accomplished from the price of trade goods reputed to have been valued at 10,000, but that valuation is somewhat suspect as documents of the period indicate that they all fit inside of one cabin.

Not all of the Cherokee were pleased with the deal. Attakullakulla's son, Dragging Canoe had spoken out forcefully against the sale. He rose and said:

"Whole Indian nations have melted away like snowballs in the sun before the white man's advance. They leave scarcely a name of our people except those wrongly recorded by their destroyers. Where are the Delawares? They have been reduced to a mere shadow of their former greatness. We had hoped that the white men would not be willing to travel beyond the mountains. Now that hope is gone. They have passed the mountains, and have settled upon Cherokee land. They wish to have that action sanctioned by treaty. When that is gained, the same encroaching spirit will lead them upon other land of the Cherokees. New cessions will be asked. Finally the whole country, which the Cherokees and their fathers have so long occupied, will be demanded, and the remnant of Ani-Yunwiya, THE REAL PEOPLE, once so great and formidable, will be compelled to seek refuge in some distant wilderness. There they will be permitted to stay only a short while, until they again behold the advancing banners of the same greedy host. Not being able to point out any further retreat for the miserable Cherokees, the extinction of the whole race will be proclaimed. Should we not therefore run all risks, and incur all consequences, rather than submit to further loss of our country? Such treaties may be alright for men who are too old to hunt or fight. As for me, I have my young warriors about me. We will have our lands. A-WANINSKI, I have spoken."

Dragging Canoe's mighty speech had such a strong influence on the chiefs that they closed the Treaty Council without more talk. Yet, the white men prepared another huge feast with rum and were able to persuade the Cherokee Chiefs to sit in another Treaty Council for further discussion of land sale. The land being sought was the primary hunting lands of the Cherokee. Attakullakulla, Dragging Canoe's father, spoke in favor of selling the land, as did Raven, who was jealous of Dragging Canoe's growing power among the young warriors. The deed was signed. Richard Henderson, being very bold, now that his plan was succeeding and they had bought such a huge portion of land, sought to secure a safe path to the new lands. Saying "he did not want to walk over the land of my brothers", he asked to "buy a road" through Cherokee lands. This last insult was more than Dragging Canoe could tolerate. He became very angry and rising from his seat and stomping the ground he spoke saying "We have given you this, why do you ask for more? You have bought a fair land. When you have this you have all. There is no more game left between the Watauga and the Cumberland. There is a cloud hanging over it. You will find its settlement DARK and BLOODY."

 

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