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Major Ridge betrayed his people
About North Georgia

Editors note: The material referenced in this question is from a biography published on About North Georgia. A link to the page appears at the bottom of our answer to this letter.

I object to the statement pertaining to Major Ridge, "It was a trait that would mark him throughout his life as a visionary, and end in his death for the betrayal of his people." The perception that Major Ridge "betrayed" his people is somewhat myopic and uninformed. Today, there is abundant factual material supporting the opposite conclusion. In fact, John Ross was simultaneously engaged in the same negotiation, although not as honestly nor visibly, as the "Ridge Party," but held far less accountable. A more objective view and interpretation of the literature available to date disputes his exclusive ownership of the occurrences which contributed to these tragedies. This one man cannot, in my opinion, be held totally responsible for the contributions of so many men and events outside his control.

April Alexander
April

Unfortunately, Major Ridge, according to Cherokee law, did betray his people. That was the term used to describe the act of selling Cherokee land without the consent of the National Council. This law, passed in 1830, was supported by The Ridge, his son John, and Elias Boudinot, who would all suffer the fate as laid out in the law. This act was punishable by death.

Today, there is abundant factual material supporting the opposite conclusion.
There is absolutely no "factual material" to support any other conclusion. What is available is a sympathetic view of the situation in which Ridge and the others "did the right thing." It is probably correct that Major Ridge and the others "did the right thing," (it is, after all, anybody's guess), but done the wrong way.

John Ross was simultaneously engaged in the same negotiation
John Ross's negotiations with the government of the United States were simultaneous but not the same. If you check your facts, Ross was demanding $20 million dollars while the Treaty Party only wanted $5 million.

...although not as honestly nor visibly, as the "Ridge Party," but held far less accountable.
At the October, 1835 meeting of the National Council in Red Clay, TN, the Treaty Party proposal was declined by the Council. From John Ridge, a description of the events:

The question was, Are you willing to take five millions of dollars for your country? No, No, was the cry of the people... Then the question was put, Are you willing to give full power to these twenty men (Ross's negotiating team) to do your business? The answer was, Yes.

This one man cannot, in my opinion, be held totally responsible for the contributions of so many men and events outside his control.
On December_19, 1835 a council, called by United States negotiator John Schermerhorn, met at the Cherokee capital of New Echota. This was not a National Council as defined by the Cherokee Constitution, thus it could not give approval to the sale of land. Ross had instructed his supporters (about 16,000 Cherokee men and women) not to attend. Less than 400 Cherokee showed up.

On December_22, 1835 Major Ridge rose to address this group. He stated:
There is but one path of safety, one road to future existence as a Nation. That path is open before you. Make a treaty of cession. Give up these lands and go over beyond the great Father of Waters [the Mississippi River].
He went on to mention his own death as the price he would have to pay.

As a historian, I try not to interpret the facts. I leave that for the reader to do. The term "betrayal" is the word the Cherokee applied to the act of selling land without the approval of the National Council.

Biography of Major Ridge


Cherokee Indians
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