Research Papers on Trail of Tears

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Research Papers on Trail of Tears

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In 1854 Agent George Butler maintained that slavery had been a positive asset to the Cherokees in the development of their nation. Butler also charged that missionaries were behaving "obnoxiously" by "fanatically pursuing a course which, if persisted in, must lead to mischievous and pernicious consequences." In the following year, Butler investigated the Reverend Samuel Worcester, hoping to determine the extent of abolitionist sympathies among the missionaries. He discovered some evidence of antislavery attitudes, but nothing sufficient to warrant action. Evidence was available concerning the Baptist missionaries Evan Jones and his son, John. Evan Jones, a native of Wales, had made the "Trail of Tears" trek and had settled near the Cherokee boundary in Washington County, Arkansas. The Joneses were apparently demanding that slaveholders either free their blacks or leave the church. Butler hoped that the abolitionist problem would be treated by the Cherokees themselves.

The National Council investigated the missionaries' antislavery activities during the 1855 annual session. The council acknowledged that the Cherokees were a slaveholding people "in a Christian like spirit" and directed Principal Chief Ross to correspond with the various missionary societies on the subject of slavery "as a Christian principle." The National Council then passed an act prohibiting any missionary to advise a slave "to the detriment of his owner . . . under the penalty of being removed" and making it illegal for teachers known to have abolitionist views to be employed by the Cherokee public schools. Ross vetoed the bill, probably because of his friendship with the missionaries. The veto was subsequently overridden in the National Committee but was sustained in the National Council (the lower house). This action evidently did not intimidate the Joneses because in 1858 Agent Butler again reported the dismissal of slaveowning church members from their congregations.

The activities of a few missionary abolitionists in 1854 caused Choctaw and Chickasaw Agent Douglas Cooper to write Charles W. Dean, southern superintendent, to warn:

If things go on so they are now doing, in 5 years slavery will be abolished in the whole of your superintendency [Indian Territory]. (Private) I am convinced that something must be done speedily to arrest the systematic efforts of the Missionaries to abolitionize the Indian Country. Otherwise we shall have a great run-away harbor, a sort of Canada-with "underground rail-roads" leading to and through it--adjoining Arkansas and Texas.


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