How to Use
Determining the Facts
Reading 1: A View from Indian Territory
The State of Arkansas, Executive Department
Little Rock, January 29, 1861
To His Excellency John Ross,
Principal Chief Cherokee Nation:
It may now be regarded as almost certain that the States having slave property within their borders will in consequence of repeated Northern aggression, separate themselves and withdraw from the Federal Government. South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana have already, by action of the people, assumed this attitude. Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland will probably pursue the same course by the 4th of March next.
Your people, in their institutions, productions, latitude, and natural sympathies, are allied to the common brotherhood of the slave-holding States.
Our people and yours are natural allies in war and friends in peace.
Your country is salubrious and fertile, and possesses the highest capacity for future progress and development by the application of slave labor.
Besides this, the contiguity of our territory with yours induces relations of so intimate a character as to preclude the idea of discordant or separate action. It is well established that the Indian country west of Arkansas is looked to by the incoming administration of Mr. Lincoln as fruitful fields ripe for the harvest of abolitionism, freesoilers, and Northern mountebanks.
We hope to find in your people friends willing to co-operate with the South in defense of her institutions, her honor, and her firesides, and with whom the slaveholding States are willing to share a common future, and to afford protection commensurate with your exposed condition and your subsisting monetary interests with the General Government.
As a direct means of expressing to you these sentiments, I have dispatched my aide-de-camp, Lt. Col. J. J. Gaines, to confer with you confidentially upon these subjects, and to report to me any expressions of kindness and confidence that you may see proper to communicate to the governor of Arkansas, who is your friend and the friend of your people.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
[signed] H. M. Rector,
Governor of Arkansas
Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation
February 22, 1861
His Excellency Henry M. Rector, Governor of Arkansas
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Your Excellency's communication of the 29th ultimo, per your aide-de-camp, Lt. Col. J. J. Gaines.
The Cherokees cannot but feel a deep regret and solicitude for the unhappy differences which at present disturb the peace and quietude of the several States, especially when it is understood that some of the slave States have already separated themselves and withdrawn from the Federal Government and that it is probable others will also pursue the same course.
But may we not yet hope and trust in the dispensation of Divine power to overrule the discordant elements for good, and that, by the counsel of the wisdom, virtue and patriotism of the land, measures may happily be adopted for the restoration of peace and harmony among the brotherhood of States within the Federal Union?
The relations which the Cherokee people sustain toward their white brethren have been established by subsisting treaties with the United States Government, and by them they have placed themselves under the "protection of the United States and of no other sovereign power whatever." They are bound to hold no treaty with any foreign power, or with any individual state, nor with the citizens of any state. On the other hand, the faith of the United States is solemnly pledged to the Cherokee Nation for the protection of the right and title in the lands, conveyed to them by patent, with their territorial boundaries, as also for the protection for all other of their national and individual rights and interests of persons and property. Thus the Cherokee people are inviolably allied with their white brethren of the United States in war and friends in peace. Their institutions, locality, and natural sympathies are unequivocally with the slave-holding States. And the contiguity of our territory to your State, in connection with the daily, social, and commercial intercourse between our respective citizens, forbids the idea that they should never be otherwise than steadfast friends.
I am surprised to be informed by Your Excellency that "it is well established that the Indian country west of Arkansas is looked to by the incoming administration of Mr. Lincoln as fruitful fields ripe for the harvest of abolitionism, freesoilers, and Northern mountebanks." As I am sure that the laborers will be greatly disappointed if they shall expect in the Cherokee country "fruitful fields ripe for the harvest of abolitionism," &c., you may rest assured that the Cherokee people will never tolerate the propagation of any obnoxious fruit upon their soil.
And in conclusion I have the honor to reciprocate the salutation of friendship.
I am, sir, very respectfully, Your Excellency's obedient servant,
Jno. Ross, Principal Chief Cherokee Nation
Questions for Reading 1
1. By January 29, 1861, which states had withdrawn from the Union and which states did Governor Rector believe were likely to secede soon? Do you think the Cherokee and the other nations would be more or less likely to join the Confederacy if they knew they would be allied with states like Alabama and Georgia? Why or why not? (If needed, refer to Setting the Stage.)
2. What, according to Governor Rector, makes "our people and yours...natural allies in war and friends in peace"? What advantages does he claim the Cherokee would get by joining the Confederacy? What does the letter suggest the Confederacy would gain?
3. What does the Governor say about the policy of the incoming administration of Mr. Lincoln towards abolition?
4. What provisions of the treaty between the U.S. and the Cherokee does Chief Ross cite in his response to Governor Rector? What does he conclude from these facts?
5. After Chief Ross says his nation cannot become allies with the Confederacy, how does he try to keep good relations with Arkansas and the rest of the South?
Reading 1 is excerpted from The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, vol. 13 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1900) 490-492.