Page images
PDF
EPUB

It therefore became necessary that the Committee or Court of Triers should again be convened, to see that justice was done as between man and man.

The ten men elected from the different stations met at Nashborough on January 7th, Robertson being again made chairman, as well as colonel of the militia, while a proper clerk and sheriff were chosen. Each member took a solemn oath to do equal justice according to the best of his skill and ability. A number of suits between the settlers themselves were disposed of. These related to a variety of subjects. A kettle had been "detained" from Humphry Hogan; he brought suit, and it was awarded him, the defendant "and his mother-in-law" being made to pay the cost of the suit. A hog case, a horse used in hunting, a piece of cleared ground, a bed which had not been made according to contract, the ownership of a canoe, and of a heifer, a “clevis lent and delayed to be returned"—such were some of the cases on which the judges had to decide. There were occasional slander suits; for in a small backwoods community there is always much jealousy and bitter gossip. When suit was brought for "cattle won at cards,” the committee promptly dismissed the claim as illegal; they evidently had clear ideas as to what was good public policy. A man making oath that another had threatened his life, the latter was taken and put under bonds. Another man produced a note of hand for the payment of two good cows, "against John Sadler”; he "proved his accompt,” and procured an attachment against

the estate of "Sd. Sadler." When possible, the Committee compromised the cases, or advised the parties to adjust matters between themselves. The sheriff executed the various decrees, in due form; he arrested the men who refused to pay heed to the judgments of the court, and when necessary took out of their “goods and chattles, lands and tenements," the damages awarded, and also the costs and fees. The government was in the hands of men who were not only law-abiding themselves but also resolute to see that the law was respected by others.

The committee took cognizance of all affairs concerning the general welfare of the community. They ordered roads to be built between the different stations, appointing overseers who had power to "call out hands to work on the same.” Besides the embodiment of all the full-grown men as militia,those of each station under their own captain, lieutenant, and ensign,-a diminutive force of paid regulars was organized; that is, six spies were “kept out to discover the motions of the enemy so long as we shall be able to pay them; each to receive seventy-five bushels of Indian corn per month.” They were under the direction of Colonel Robertson, who was head of all the branches of the government. One of the committee's regulations followed an economic principle of doubtful value. Some enterprising individuals, taking advantage of the armed escort accompanying the Carolina commissioners, brought out casks of liquors. The settlers had drunk.nothing but water for many months, and they

[ocr errors]

eagerly purchased the liquor, the merchants naturally charging all that the traffic would bear. This struck the committee as a grievance, and they forthwith passed a decree that any person bringing in liquor “from foreign ports,” before selling the same, must give bond that he would charge no more than one silver dollar, or its value in merchandise, per quart.

Some of the settlers would not enter the association, preferring a condition of absolute freedom from law. The committee, however, after waiting a proper time, forced these men in by simply serving notice that thereafter they would be treated as beyond the pale of the law, not entitled to its protection, but amenable to its penalties. A petition was sent to the North Carolina Legislature, asking that the protection of government should be extended to the Cumberland people, and showing that the latter were loyal and orderly, prompt to suppress sedition and lawlessness, faithful to the United States, and hostile to its enemies. To show their good feeling the committee made every member of the community, who had not already done so, take the oath of abjuration and fidelity.

Until full governmental protection could be secured the commonwealth was forced to act as a little sovereign state, bent on keeping the peace, and yet on protecting itself against aggression from the surrounding powers, both red and white. It was

5 This whole account is taken from Putnam, who has rendered such inestimable service by preserving these records.

forced to restrain its own citizens, and to enter into quasi-diplomatic relations with its neighbors. Thus early this year fifteen men, under one Colbert, left the settlements and went down the river in boats, ostensibly to trade with the Indians, but really to plunder the Spaniards on the Mississippi. They were joined by some Chickasaws, and at first met with some success in their piratical attacks, not only on the Spanish trading-boats, but on those of the French creoles, and even the Americans, as well. Finally they were repulsed in an attempt against the Spaniards at Ozark; some were killed, and the rest scattered. Immediately upon learning of these deeds, the Committee of Triers passed stringent resolutions forbidding all persons trading with the Indians until granted a license by the committee, and until they had furnished ample security for their good behavior. The committee also wrote a letter to the Spanish governor at New Orleans, disclaiming all responsibility for the piratical misdeeds of Colbert and his gang, and announcing the measures they had taken to prevent any repetition of the same in the future. They laid aside the sum of twenty pounds to pay the expenses of the messengers who carried this letter to the Virginian "agent" at the Illinois, whence it was forwarded to the Spanish Governor.?

One of the most difficult questions with which the committee had to deal was that of holding a

6 Calendar Va. State Papers, III, pp. 469, 527.
? Putnam, pp. 185, 189, 191.

treaty with the Indians. Commissioners came out from Virginia and North Carolina especially to hold such a treaty 8 ; but the settlers declined to allow it until they had themselves decided on its advisability. They feared to bring so many savages together, lest they might commit some outrage, or be themselves subjected to such at the hands of one of the many wronged and reckless whites; and they knew that the Indians would expect many presents, while there was very little indeed to give them. Finally, the committee decided to put the question of treaty or no treaty to the vote of the freemen in the several stations; and by a rather narrow majority it was decided in the affirmative. The committee then made arrangements for holding the treaty in June, some four miles from Nashborough; and strictly prohibited the selling of liquor to the savages. At the appointed time many chiefs and warriors of the Chickasaws, Cherokees, and even Creeks appeared. There were various sports, such as ball-games and foot-races; and the treaty was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.' It did not put a complete stop to the Indian outrages, but it greatly diminished them. The Chickasaws thereafter remained friendly; but, as usual, the Cherokee and Creek chiefs who chose to attend were unable to bind those of their

8 Donelson, who was one of the men who became discouraged and went to Kentucky, was the Virginian commissioner. Martin was the commissioner from North Carolina. He is sometimes spoken of as if he likewise represented Virginia.

9 Putnam, 196.

« PreviousContinue »