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good men, as judges, to decide rules you shall establish."20 Jefferson, as well as Indian agents like Benjamin Hawkins, believed that the creation of property rights among Native Americans would help promote the creation of governments to protect those rights. In the case of the Cherokee, they were right.

In the fall of 1808 a meeting of the Cherokee Council adopted a constitution that formed legislative and judicial branches of a general council. This was a formalization of the powers of the traditionalist national council, a group formed of tribal elders, wisemen, headsmen, and respected male members of the community. These councils met informally to make decisions on matters of national importance, primarily dealing with issues of national crisis, such as warfare. With the threat of Western encroachment on the horizon, the meeting of this National Council was no exception. The formalization of the powers of this institution was an amalgamation of Western practices within Cherokee parameters. The adoption of democratic majority rule was not. These national councils had previously decided matters by a democratic consensus.

Other Western practices were adopted. Laws were created that removed the punishment of crimes from the hands of the individual to the hands of the state. Traditionalist blood revenge justice was abolished.

Not all adoptions were so drastic or far-reaching. The Cherokee had quite a sense of humor in their adoption of Western practices. Whites living with the borders of the Cherokee Nation were to pay taxes.

In 1808 the Cherokee Light Guards were formed. They were a police force militia with the stated purpose of protecting the Nation against bandits. They are significant as a creation of a formalized Cherokee military, and, more sinisterly, because they sought to emulate the slave patrols of the Southern Confederate cavalry.


20.Thomas Jefferson, "To the Chiefs of the Cherokee Nation. Washington, Jan. 10, 1806," in The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Adrienne Koch and William Peden (New York: The Modern Library, 1944), 578.
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