Governor John Sevier to the Tennessee Legislature, December 18, 1798
Legislative Message,* December 18, 1798
Mr. Speaker & Gentlemen of the Senate and
Mr. Speaker & Gent of the House of Representatives
Information various ways, have come forward to the Executive, that a number of persons, citizens of the State
hath been lately arrested, and is now held in custody under military guard, & it is said are to be conveyed to
Nashville, in order that they may undergo an examination before the district judge.
What these unfortunate men have been guilty of, to deserve so much fatigue, trouble & expense (to say nothing of
punishment) deserves mature and deliberate enquiry, and well worth the attention of the Legislature I am informed
they are charged with the crime of hunting on lands claimed by the Cherokees, and how just the claim of that nation
may be to the lands lying within our charter limits I leave you to judge of, taking a view of the statement lately
made by our agents, who attended the late treaty.
If every poor man, who from mere want and necessity (the first law of nature) that happens to kill a deer or
bear on the land falsely claimed by the Cherokees, & which land is lying in the very centre of our State boundary,
is to be punished by fine, imprisonment, &c. unhappy & critical must be the situation of the unfortunate people who
are settled on the verge of the land claimed by those Indians & not them alone, but the peaceable travellers going
into the district of Mero, travelling thro the wilderness, who often lose their horses, & are authorized to go
armed in pursuit of their property, which is often stolen by those Indians, and it is also necessary for their own
safety & protection at all times to be armed in a country haunted by a set of faithless savages, & further a
wilderness that affords no sustenance, but the wild game of the woods, and many poor families moving thro the same,
by means of high waters, the badness of the weather, and other unforeseen accidents, become destitute, & run out of
provisions, are compelled from the very calls of nature to relieve themselves, the mother of infants, to have recourse,
as a last resource, to hunting, in order to procure a subsistence necessary to the preservation of their lives; this
last description tho entirely innocent, may likely be construed to be invaders of Indian territory. Many of the
frontier inhabitants, in the hour of our greatest distress, in the revolutionary war, paid their money to the State
of North Carolina, whose right was not then questioned (except by the enemies of America) for the lands now said to
belong to this banditti of Indians, and have long since obtained their grants in that legal & solemn form, that
every other citizen has done, throughout both the States of North Carolina & Tennessee.
I beg leave to call your attention to the premises, & in behalf of the citizens of the State request, you will,
in your wisdom, either by remonstrance, or such other mode, as you may think proper to adopt, state & lay before
the general government the evils that highly threaten the quiet of a great number of the citizens of the State;
and also, if you should deem it necessary, take measures to prevent the encroachments of the Indians, & prevent
their hunting on lands not their own, and perhaps, by laying a similar prohibition on their hunters, will in some
measure serve to prevent unpleasant disputes that will inevitably otherways take place.
It is time for this government to assert her just rights & claim of domain of country included in her chartered
limits, & and make no doubt that the general government will, if the matter be fairly & justly stated, render ample
and complete redress.
I have the honor to be
Your obedt servt
* Senate Journal, 1798, 313-315
Source : Messages of the Governors of Tennessee, 1796--1821. Volume One. Robert H. White, Ph.D. 1952
The Tennessee Historical Commission, Nashville, pp. 88-90.
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