Miller Center

Message Regarding Treaty with Cherokees (August 7, 1846)

James K. Polk


To the Senate of the United States:
I transmit herewith, for the consideration and constitutional action of the Senate, articles of a treaty which has been concluded by the commissioners appointed for the purpose with the different parties into which the Cherokee tribe of Indians has been divided, through their delegates now in Washington. The same commissioners had previously been appointed to investigate the subject of the difficulties which have for years existed among the Cherokees, and which have kept them in a state of constant excitement and almost entirely interrupted all progress on their part in civilization and improvement in agriculture and the mechanic arts, and have led to many unfortunate acts of domestic strife, against which the Government is bound by the treaty of 1835 to protect them. Their unfortunate internal dissensions had attracted the notice and excited the sympathies of the whole country, and it became evident that if something was not done to heal them they would terminate in a sanguinary war, in which other tribes of Indians might become involved and the lives and property of our own citizens on the frontier endangered. I recommended in my message to Congress on the 13th of April last such measures as I then thought it expedient should be adopted to restore peace and good order among the Cherokees, one of which was a division of the country which they occupy and separation of the tribe. This recommendation was made under the belief that the different factions could not be reconciled and live together in harmony--a belief based in a great degree upon the representations of the delegates of the two divisions of the tribe. Since then, however, there appears to have been a change of opinion on this subject on the part of these divisions of the tribe, and on representations being made to me that by the appointment of commissioners to hear and investigate the causes of grievance of the parties against each other and to examine into their claims against the Government it would probably be found that an arrangement could be made which would once more harmonize the tribe and adjust in a satisfactory manner their claims upon and relations with the United States, I did not hesitate to appoint three persons for the purpose. The commissioners entered into an able and laborious investigation, and on their making known to me the probability of their being able to conclude a new treaty with the delegates of all the divisions of the tribe, who were fully empowered to make any new arrangement which would heal all dissensions among the Cherokees and restore them to their ancient condition of peace and good brotherhood, I authorized and appointed them to enter into negotiations with these delegates for the accomplishment of that object. The treaty now transmitted is the result of their labors, and it is hoped that it will meet the approbation of Congress, and, if carried out in good faith by all parties to it, it is believed it will effect the great and desirable ends had in view.
Accompanying the treaty is the report of the commissioners, and also a communication to them from John Ross and others, who represent what is termed the government party of the Cherokees, and which is transmitted at their request for the consideration of the Senate.
It is said that serious apprehensions are to some extent entertained (in which I do not share) that the peace of this District may be disturbed before the 4th of March next. In any event, it will be my duty to preserve it, and this duty shall be performed.
In conclusion it may be permitted to me to remark that I have often warned my countrymen of the dangers which now surround us. This may be the last time I shall refer to the subject officially. I feel that my duty has been faithfully, though it may be imperfectly, performed, and, whatever the result may be, I shall carry to my grave the consciousness that I at least meant well for my country.