Thursday, September 17, 2009

President Andrew Jackson's 1829 Letter To Choctaw And Chickasaw Leaders Found

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In an 1829 letter to the leaders of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian nations that was found this summer, President Andrew Jackson tells these Tribes to move west to the present day state of Oklahoma. The letter was given to Major David Haley and is a request for the Tribes to leave Alabama and Mississippi. The letter preceded the Indian Removal Act by a matter of months.

Prior to the letter's discovery, a draft version of the letter had been published but there are differences between the two letters.

Jackson's letter says, ". . . Tell them to listen," Jackson wrote. "[The proposed plan] is the only one by which [they can be] perpetuated as a nation . . . the only one by which they can expect to preserve their own laws, & be benefitted by the care and humane attention of the United States. I am very respectfully yr. friend, & the friend of my Choctaw & Chickasaw brethren. Andrew Jackson."

In the draft version, Jackson used the phrase "preserve their nation." Further, Jackson wrote:

"Say to them as friends and brothers to listen[to] the voice of their father, & friend," Jackson wrote. "Where [they] now are, they and my white children are too near each other to live in harmony & peace. Their game is destroyed and many of their people will not work & till the earth. Beyond the great river Mississippi, where a part of their nation has gone, their father has provided a co[untry] large enough for them all, and he ad[vises] them to go to it."

Choctaw Chief David Folsom received the message on Nov. 29, 1829 and rejected it two weeks later. By May 1830, the Indian Removal Act became law and the Choctaw were the first of five southeastern Tribes to be relocated west. After the Choctaws, the Seminoles, Creeks, Chickasaws went west and then the "Trail of Tears" for the Cherokees.

The letter was found in a private collection and sold to a Philadelphia dealer which sold the letter last week to a collector in New Jersey. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime find," said a spokesman for the Philadelphia dealer. "It's one of the most important documents in American history. To discover it after nearly two centuries is nothing short of breathtaking."