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The New Nation
Government Policy Toward Native Americans
George Washington Letter to Senate on Cherokee Indians

On November 28, 1785, the Confederation Congress negotiated a treaty with the Cherokee Nation in which the Cherokees were allotted certain lands for hunting grounds. The treaty also stipulated that no non-Native settlers would be allowed on the land. In the following letter to the U.S. Senate, President Washington notes that the treaty with the Cherokees has been violated by White settlers. Do you think Washington is a friend to the Cherokee people? What does the President intend to do about the treaty violations? In this case, why might the U.S. government not be responsible for living up to the terms of the original treaty?

View the original document, from George Washington Papers, 1741-1799. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.

United States, August 11, 1790

Gentlemen of the Senate: Although the treaty with the Creeks may be regarded as the main foundation of the southwestern frontier of the United States, yet in order fully to effect so desirable an object the treaties which have been entered into with the other tribes in that quarter must be faithfully performed on our parts.

During the last year I laid before the Senate a particular statement of the case of the Cherokees. By a reference to that paper it will appear that the United States formed a treaty with the Cherokees thereby placed themselves under the protection of the United States, and had a boundary assigned them.

On August 11 the Senate resolved that the treaty at Hopewell with the Cherokees be carried into execution at the discretion of the President, and that the Senate guarantee the Cherokee boundary. On August 12 Congress adjourned, to convene again on the first Monday in December, 1790.

That the White people settled on the frontiers bad openly violated the said boundary by intruding on the Indian lands.

That the United States in Congress assembled did on the first day of September 1788 issue their proclamation forbidding such unwarrantable intrusions and in joining all those who had settled upon the hunting grounds of the Cherokees to depart with their families and effects without the loss of time, as they would answer their disobedience to the injunctions and prohibitions expressed, at their peril.

But information has been received that notwithstanding the said treaty and proclamation upwards of five hundred families have settled on the Cherokee Lands exclusively of those settled between the fork of French Broad and Holstein Rivers mentioned in the said treaty.

As the obstructions to a proper conduct on this matter have been removed since it was mentioned to the Senate on the 22d of August 1789, by the accession of North Carolina to the present Union, and the cessions of the Land in question, I shall conceive myself bound to exert the powers entrusted to me by the Constitution in order to carry into faith tiff execution the treaty of Hopewell, unless it shall be thought proper to attempt to arrange a new boundary with the Cherokees embracing the settlements, and compensating the Cherokees for the cessions they shall make on the occasion. On this point therefore I state the following questions and request the advice of the Senate thereon.

1st. Is it the judgment of the Senate that overtures shall be made to the Cherokees to arrange a new boundary so as to embrace the settlement made by the white people since the treaty of Hopewell in November 1785?

2. If so, shall compensation to the amount of dollars annually of dollars in gross be made to the Cherokees for the land they shall relinquish, holding the occupiers of the land accountable to the United States for its value?

3dly. Shall the United States stipulate solemnly to guarantee the new boundary which may be arranged?
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View the original document, from George Washington Papers, 1741-1799. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.