"Secret" Journal on Negotiations of the Chickasaw Treaty of 1818

Treaty Ground near Old Town Chickesaw Nation September 29th, 1818.


The commissioners and suite arrived this evening at the ground chosen by the chiefs to hold the treaty; the agent of the Nation not having arrived, Maj. General Jackson proceeded to Colo. Geo. Colberts in hopes of hearing from him at that place, leaving Governor Shelby and some Gentlemen in camp. The General not hearing from the Agent at Colberts addressed him a note by a runner, and the next morning arrived at Camp. Nothing occurred this day, and the Genl. accompan'd by Governor Shelby returned to Colberts for the night.

Thursday, October 1st

Commissioners arrived after 9:Oclock in the morning and after waiting until twelve Oclock, and not hearing from the Agent Capt Carter, A. D. Qr Mr General was dispatched to bring him, as the Indians began to collect, and no person attending to have their returns made for Provisions. And George Colbert having stated that the Agent said he was not coming to the treaty. The Capt. met the Agent about twenty four miles from the camp on his way, from whom he learned that no money was in his possession to pay the annuities due the Nation although he had a draft in his possession on the Branch Bank at New Orleans for $19850 for several weeks unnegotiated. The Capt. returned late this evening giving the foregoing information and added that the Agent would reach us to breakfast on the ensueing morning.

Friday 2nd

The chiefs and Indians look very distant and gloomy and complain that their annuities were withheld, and when they expected money, goods were offered them. 10:Oclock A.M. the Agent arrived when it was ascertained that no arrangements whatever were made to distribute the annuities, and even the nation not notified to meet for that purpose; although the Agent had been particularly informed of the arrangements made, to have them furnished with supplies during that event, together with the holding of the treaty. Measures were immediately adopted by the Commissioners to obtain funds on the draft in the hands of the agent, and on his bills for the ballance due the nation, and Mr. Benj. Smith dispatched to Nashville to have them negotiated under special instructions to Mr. James Jackson at that place. The chiefs were then informed of this arrangement and measures taken to have the nation assembled to meet the arrival of the funds, which seems to have worked a happy change in the countenances of the natives. Noting decisive is contemplated by the commissioners until the arrival of the funds, but their unremitting attention seems given to prepare the minds of the Chiefs for the ultimate object of their mission; the United States Interpreter James Colbert has not made his appearance at the Treaty ground.

Saturday 3d

Nothing occurred this day, but a few chiefs waited on the Commisioners and in the evening James Colbert the U.S. Interpreter arrived.

Sunday 4th

Noting of importance has occurred this day worthy of note.

Monday 5th

Same remark.

Tuesday 6th

This day much pains taken by the Commissioners to impress upon the chiefs by individual conversation the object and intention of their mission; Mr. Alexander (an Express) arriving from Nashville, bringing the books containing copies of the grants by North Carolina to Individuals lying within the bounds to be treated for. Levi Colbert one of the principal chiefs having asked for a perusal of them, they were given to him, after which he seemed much satisfied.

Wednesday 7th

The Commissioners much engaged this day in preparing the minds of the chiefs for the talk to be delivered in Council on the arrival of the money from Nashville to pay their annuities.

Thursday 8th

The Agent by his Secretary engaged in taking a list of the clans preparatory to the distribution of the money; and the Commissioners engaged as on the proceeding day.

Friday 9th

Capt. Easter and Maj. Shelby dispatched to meet Mr. Ben Smith on his return from Nashville with the funds. Martin Colbert (the son of Levi) with a white man by the name of Carter and some other indians called on the Commisssioners for a plain exposition of the nature of their mission, also of the several treaties with Great Britain and those held with their nation by the United States; they appeared much satisfied with the explanation. The following letter was addressed to Maj. Wm. B. Lewis by the Commissioners, the object of which is explained in the body of it --


Treaty Ground Chickasaw Nation, 9 Octob. 1818


Having been advised that you have knowledge of the quantity of land covered by the chickasaw claims which lies within the Charted limits of the states of Kentucky and Tennessee which has been patented by the State of North Carolina. You will if so, have the goodness to make us a report of the quantity and also the amounts of lands within the State of Tennessee, within the aforesaid bounds that is entered, or has been granted by the State of North Carolina and what quantity now remains unappropreated. This information is importaint to us at this time, to enable us to apportion the annuity, to be tendered to the nation for their relinguishment of claim to this land.

We are sir very respectfully

Yr Mo obt Svt

Isaac Shelby

Andrew Jackson

Major William B. Lewis


Saturday 10th October

Maj. Willaim B. Lewis handed the following answer to the letter of the Commissioners of yesterdays date.


October 10th. 1818


I have the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of yesterday, requesting that I would furnish you with such information as I may be in possion of, relative to the quantity of land claimed by the Chickesaw Indians within the chartered limits of the State of Tennessee and also how much of that within the limits of Tennessee has been patented by the State of North Carolina. The information which I possess upon this subject will be cheerfully accorded.

I had determined as early as 1810 to make a map of the State of Tennessee, and accordingly commenced collecting the necessary materials for that purpose from the different Surveyors offices. I found, however, after making some progress in my undertaking, that neither the North nor South boundry lines of the State had been run further Westwardly than the Tennessee River. Owing to this circumstance I was obliged to extend the North boundry line, myself, from the Tennessee river to the Mississippi in order to get the precise length of the State, East and West. I found the distance, on the north boundry of the State of Tennessee from the river Tennessee to the Mississippi to be, by actual admeasurement, fifty Six and a quarter miles; and having the meanders of the Tennessee and the Mississippi rivers, and having connected them with the North boundry, I found the distance on the South boundry between those rivers, to be about 112 miles, which will make the average distance, East and West. 84 miles. The width of the State North and South, is 105 miles which multiplies by 84 will make 8820 Square miles, equal to 5,644,800 Acres of land, in what is called the western district of Tennessee and now owned by the Chickesaw Indians.

The next enquiry is, how much of this land has been patented by the State of North Carolina. I have at this time in my possession an Authenticated Copy of all grants issued by the State of North Carolina for that land which in the aggregate amounts to 1,073,918 Acres. Besides these grants there are perhaps 2 or 300,000 acres which have been entered in the land offices of North Carolina and not yet ripened into grants, making in the whole about 1,373,918 acres which have been apportioned and leaving a balance of 4,270,882 acres that are vacant and unappropriated; of this perhaps at least one third is first rate land; for it is universally admitted that, that part of the State of Tennessee which is now in the possession of the Chickasaws, is the finest and most desirable of the whole State.

It is required also, to know the extent of the Chickasaw Claim in the Chartered limits of the State of Kentucky. I am not prepared to answer this enquiry with as much Certainty as the others, but am of the opinion that the following calculation will be found not very erroneous. This tract of Country is bounded on the South by the State of Tennessee and is 56 1/4 miles Et it is bounded on the North by the river Ohio and is supposed to be about 30 miles on a right line, making the average length Et very much injured; damaged equal to half their value; without injury could not be retailed for more than cost. (see invoice). Bridles of good quality but in similar situation; Rugs also.

No. 13 Saddles See report no. 12.

No. 14 9 pieces Strouds. In tolerable order of good quality; not too high priced.

No. 15 6 pieces Strouds; the same 1 ps green cloth; Color not injured; not too high. 2 ps Scarlet color injured; Stained. 2 ps Swanskin; good order.

No. 16 The contents of this tierce are in good order the colors of the Scarlet and green excepted.

No. 17 Not essentially injured.

No. 18 Remark as No. 14, 15.

No. 19 But little injured.

No. 20 This cloth could not be seperated; but all of this kind in good order; flannel also.

No. 27 Blue cloth; Color good; not rotten; Scarlet faded; Shirting weak, stained; plaids ruined; Sashes, Colors injured; fishing lines, good; fish hooks, rusted very much; thimbles, brass, Cotton balls, doubtful; Box Combs, not injured; All the Sissors very much rusted; and needles ruined; Rings, stained and weak.

No. 28.29 The hats but little injured; and well laid in.

No. 30 Looking glasses; every one injured; not worth the Carriage; deficient four dozen.

No. 31 A little rusted; in tollerable order.

No. 32 Most of the blankets in good order; some of them stained, but well selected.

No. Rifles a good deal rusted; one box deficient.

Perhaps on half the Powder may be fit for use.

9th October 1818

M.B. Winchester


Monday 12th continued

Benjamin Smith returned from Nashville this morning with $37,550 to pay the Annuities which was delivered over to the Agent Colo. Henry Sherburn. The Commissioners were informed by the Interpreter that the Nation was assembled to hear the talk, which was accordingly delivered between the hours of eleven & twelve in the forenoon and of which the following is a copy (Bartley McGee Interpreter).

Friends and Brothers,

We have been chosen by your father the President of the United States to meet you in council, and brighten the chain of friendship, by shaking hands and greeting you as his children, we come to see that the sums due your nation be equally distributed among the poor and the rich to benefit all and make you happy. Your Agent is prepared to pay you all that is due so soon as you can furnish him with the numbers of each Chiefs clan.

Your Father the President always anxious to keep peace and friendship between his red and white children and to do justice to all has charged us again to bring to your view that neck of land lying i n the States of Tennessee and Kentucky which was sold by North Carolina and Virginia about 35 years ago to pay the debt of the revolutionary war.


This piece of Land is claimed by your nation but our white [people] paid for it many years ago: and our father the President has kept them away from it, that his red children might hunt on it; but the game is now gone and his white children claim it now from him.


Next Year your white brethern will have nearly one hundred Steam Ships running up and down the Mississippi river, and they will want much wood for their fires that make them go on the water; and when a Ship gets broke your white brethern wants to be on the Shore with their own people until it is mended; this helps to make your white brethern uneasy about their Land.

Friends and Brothers,

Your father the President must do justice to all his children and to prevent ill will between his red and white people, he has charged us to speak plain which we intend to do.

The paper which we hand you, shew[s] the land purchashed by your white brethern; it lies in Tennessee and Kentucky and they have called on your father the President for it and he cannot keep it from them any longer.


Your father the President wants to have your lines finally settled, and he wants to give you much land over the Mississippi for this Country which is granted to your white brethern, where there is no claim by any other state or people and where there is plenty of game and good land.

Your father the President has told us, if you dont want to exchange land to give you a fair and reasonable price in money for your claim to this tract of Country which will not interfere with the Settlement or arrangement of your nation. You will then have more land left than your nation can cultivate for Six hundred years, and your father will feel happy in protecting and perpetuating your nation here.

Friends but when your father asked for it, your Nation should be ready to sell their claim for a fair compensation in land or money.

General Jackson also told you, that if you refuse to sell your claim, that your white brothers would move on this land which is granted to them, and then your nation would have to apply to Congree for compensation for if you refuse the good intentions of your father the President you cannot look to him for redress.

Your father the President does not wish to see this course pursued; he wants to give you a fair and reasonable price for your claim and make the Southern boundry of the State of Tennessee the lasting mark of land and friendship.

Friends and Brothers,

Listen -- your father the President has shewn to you his care and justice, by choosing to come and give you a fair price for your claim to this land, and if you refuse to let him have it, and your white brethern go and settle on their land, which they are sure to do, you must not blaim him, but your chiefs if they refuse his friendly and just offer.

Brothers listen -- The lands we ask you for was granted by England almost two hundred years ago to the State of Virginia and North Carolina, and was conquered from England in the revolutionary War, when the Treaty of 1783 was made with England. She acknowledged the States to be the owners of all their land within their Charter to the great river Mississippi.

Listen -- These States having Spent all their money in carrying on the war, opened a land office and sold this land to their children to pay the debts which they owed when the war was ended; but, to keep peace with your nation, and give you the benefit of the game, your white brothers have been kept off their land; but now the game is destroyed, your father the President is bound to give it to them and protect them in their possession.

Friends all Indian claims is considered merely as hunting privilege, subject to the will and pleasure of the General Government and which you agreed to by the 2d 3d if this is true we call you all to listen well -- If the bad men of your nation do any act of violence upon your chiefs for treating with your father the President, he will put them to death for it. Your nation has felt much of the bounty and care of your father the President, and he will not Suffer such threats and insolent conduct to pass unpunished.

Listen once more -- for we must speak plain and tell you the truth; if you refuse the friendly offer of your father the President the land will be taken possession of by your white Brethern who have patents for it, and your father will look on your conduct as acts of ill will and ingratitude.

Friends take our talk with you and think well, and let us have your Answer as soon as you can.

Isaac Shelby

Andrew Jackson


It was ascertained this day that a Mr. Malbone was hostile to the views of the government and had secretly done much injury; he is a step son of the Agent Colo. Sherburne who not understanding much of the nature of the business had not counteracted his endeavours, used to make the Indians disavow the Treaty of Hopewell which is the only grounds they have of Protection from our government.

Tuesday 13th

Nothing occured this day. Mr. Graham it was accordingly furnished; this is received in a favorable light; these chiefs desire the Commissioners not to be impatient; as it was a business which concerned so many, it necessarily took much time to gain a knowledge of the wishes of the Nation; after this interview, they visited the different departments and gave them a talk explaining the powers of the commissioners. On this evening about sun set three Indians supposed to be Creeks were discovered about six miles from the Treaty ground, and who fled leaving behind their packs, which on examination is found to contain a Militia regimental coat, different article of family clothing, bedding and callico homespun but some more of their plunder was found which had been pillaged from some house.

Saturday 17th

The Commissioners has been able to ascertain from the transactions of this week, that an appeal becomes absolutely necessary to the avarice of the Chiefs in addition to the address to their fears delivered on Monday; and, finding the sum authorized entirely too small, the following plan was adopted and pursued -- The reservations made by the Treaty of September 1816 to George but to render the thing perfectly secret to secure the chiefs, that it should be made to an individual, and placed in my hands as an escrow until the option of the government was had; the sum proposed for these reservations in the first instance was $10,000, but would not be heard; the Confidential Agent was then instructed to offer Seventeen thousand dollars, which made them listen, but after a long dicussion the Council was about to break up abruptly, with a determination to send a deputation to the President remonstrating against selling or exchanging their land; this being communicated by the confident and that three chiefs who were decidedly hostile to the measure might be brought over by a doceur the farther sum of 3,000 dollars was added with information that if this proposition was not met, the white people would certainly move on their lands by thousands and all the evils which their Father the President was trying to avert would ensue; this had the desired effect and a deed was accordingly taken in the name of James Jackson of Nashville, for the reservations and placed in my hands for the purposes aforesaid. A bond was given for the payment of the sum of twenty thousand dollars in cash or merchandize at their option inder the manner of distribution contained in the following memorandum, all which being prepared was held ready for signing after the treaty should be signed -


"Be it remembered that the sum of twenty thousand

"dollars, stipulated to be paid for the reservations secured to

"George and Levi Colbert at the treaty made and conducted

"between the United States and the Chickasaw Nation on the

"20th September 1816 is intended and shall be distributed in the

"following manner that is to say, to

"George Colbert ---- $ 8,500

"Levi Colbert ---------- 8,500

"James Colbert ------ 1,666 2/3

"Capt. Sealy ------------ 666 2/3

"Capt. McGilvery ------ 666 2/3

"to be paid in cash or merchandize, if in cash agreeable to being

"executed by the undersigned of this date; if in merchandize the

"whole to be paid in Philadelphia within sixty days after the

"ratification of the Treaty, or if prepared to be delivered in the

"Chickasaw Nation within four months thereafter, unavoidable

"accidents excepted and subject to the deduction of twenty five

"p. cent for carriage. It is understood that the option, as to

"whether they will receive the money or merchandize is to be

"made when the Treaty is signeded and the plan of delivery to be

"designated if the Merchandize should be preferred, and that

"option to be endorsed on the back of this memorandum,

"attested and a copy to be delivered to the undersigned."


"Andrew Jackson"

"Wm. B. Lewis

"October 17th 1818"


The adoption of this course was the only one calculated to secure the grand object, and obtain secrecy as the lifes of the chiefs would be jepordized by a disclosure; it places these reservations at the option of government, should the government think proper to advance the amount, by giving an order on Philadelphia for the merchandize, the land is to be transfered by Mr James Jackson to the government, to secure which the deed as before said is placed in my possession by the Commissioners; should however the Excutive not think proper to make the advance; arrangements will be made by Mr James Jackson to meet the delivery of the merchandize through Mr. Kirkman wholesale merchant in Philadelphia within the period specified by the bond; the plan above adopted was communicated to Mr. Graham, as being the last alternative to obtain the object the manner of which seemed to meet his cordial approbation.

Sunday 18th

The chief met the commissioners in council to answer their talk delivered on Monday, and after many shrewd enquiries and observations relating to the negotiation by Levi Colbert, he informed the Commissioners that their offer of land west of the Mississippi in exchange for the land in question would not be received, that they new nothing about that country and as they were not born there they would have nothing to do with it, and that if they let their Father the President have this land they wanted what he had in exchange and that was mony; the Commissioners answered they would give mony. Colbert then addressed the King and chiefs severally and lastly their agent asking their opinion publickly in the hearing of all the surrounding warriors, on obtaining which he gravely remarked that he gave up to his Father the President the land he asked for observing that it was the best part of their country and he hoped their Father by his Commissioners would be liberal to them in the price. The Commissioners told him they would be liberal as their Father the President had told them to be so; $20,000 pr. annum for twelve years was then proposed by the commissioners, which they sternly refused remarking they loved money well but they loved their land much better. It was then proposed to add one year, which was likewise rejected; Genl. Jackson then observed to make all hearts straight he would agree to make the annuity fourteen years, and that he hoped the chiefs and the nation would consider that as a liberal price from their Father the President. Levi Colbert then remarked that they would consider of it and adjourned for a few hours. On again meeting, Colbert enquired if one cent would not be given, and being informed that the Commissioners had gone to their limit, he observed the American nation is as strong as iron, great rich and strong, and one cent was nothing to it and this would satisfy the nation. Genl. Jackson replied by asking if one solitary cent would satisfy the nation, and the speaker replied it would, observing that the American nation was strong and the younger brother must therefore yield to its elder brother, on which they shook hands with the commissioners and parted. In a conversation shortly after with the Interpreter, he said they shook hands on fifteen years annuity which was not the understanding of the Commissioners and thus the thing rested until the time arranged for signing the Treaty.

Monday 19th

The commissioners consider it due to Colo. Sherburn and the Sub Agent Mr. Cook to enter an expression of their appreciation for the zeal they manifested last week, in advising the chiefs & warriors to their true interest, and to remark that their want of knowledge on the subject heretofore prevented them from exercising their influence in a proper manner. The services of Mr. Cook, in obtaining an enumeration of the whole nation to enable the Agent to approtion the annuities, is highly praiseworthy, and was a very labourious task through which he waded with great perserverance and industry. The effect which the payment will produce on the minds of the poor will be very great.

"The Chiefs" arrived this morning about eleven Oclock, and the Commissioners attempted to explain how they mistook the meaning of the speaker about the cent, but they could not not would not understand it in any other light, than that his meaning was an additional annuity on which they shook hands and that they had come prepared to sign the treaty agreed upon. The Commissioners finding from the stern manner in which they viewed an attempt to explain away their understanding of the annuity, deemed it prudent not to jeopardize the grand object for the pittance of $20,000 to be paid fifteen years hence and accordingly filled up the blank in the treaty with Fifteen and the instrument was duly and solemnly executed and attested after being read and explained in the presence of the numerous concourse of young men.

On this business having be concluded Colo. Sherburn proceeded to deliver over the mony to the Department chiefs, who aided by several gentlemen in the commissioners suite distributed to the heads of families agreeably to the apportionment made out; the amount seemed to surprise them very much and it is believed that the annuities heretofore distributed never could have had its direction through the hands of the poor. The arrangement now made will I am persuaded make the poor much more happy and comfortable hereafter.

As explanatory of the sums to be paid, embraced by the treaty, the following is the distribution to be made in addition to that embraced in the memorandum of the 17th -- $500 of the sum secured to James Colbert, he is bound to pay to Maj. James Brown as his doceur. The sume to John Gordon being the debt due by General Colbert for fourteen years, secures the General and his interest with the warriors of the Nation; the sum to Arpusantubby for his reserve was his price, and the sum to Dacid Smith to satisfy the nation by not taking it out of their annuity. In addition to the distribution mention in the memorandum George Colbert is bound to Pettygrew for $500 and a like sum to the Yazoo chief and Levi to Meatubby and some others.

To Teskuamingo the commissioners have directed me to pay the sum of $500, and to Peachlynn a confidential young man $100. The Deed of conveyance alluded to in the minutes of the 17th was this day executed and regularly attested and placed in my possession; and the following endorsement was entered on the back of the memorandum of the 17th inst. It is the election of the within names persons to take the sum as stipulated in merchandize, delivered in Philadelphia.

October the 19th 1818

(signed) Martin Colbert

Agent for the within named persons


Killpatrick Carter

Tuesday 20th

Arrangements are made to set out on and return to Tennessee at the close of a ball play which the natives are about to give the Commissioners and a bill has been drawn and exected in my presence on Mr. Thomas Kirkman of Philadelphia in favor of Martin Colbert for Twenty thousand dollars worth of Merchandize to meet the bond given with sixty days after the ratification of the Treaty, should the Executive not advance the amount, on account of the reservations.

The Commissioners set out in the evening leaving the Nation more happy and contented than it ever was known to be, and Levi Colbert took occasion to remark "we have made a good treaty"; observing we are now safe from the claims of our white brothers and we can live in peace and friendship.

Robert Butler


Examined and approved --

Isaac Shelby

Andrew Jackson


Treaties Between the U.S. and Native Americans Page

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