lines. Among the elite there were two sides. On one side were leaders such as John Ross, with high economic stakes in the Cherokee Nation, who argued, toward the end, in favor of the Cherokees staying within Georgia even if it meant complete dissolution in American culture, with or without reservation sovereignty. On the other side were leaders such as John Ridge and Elias Boudinot, who argued for removal in favor of cultural survival, discussed above. On the bottom were the majority of the Cherokee, who neither wanted to leave their lands, for traditionalist reasons, nor be completely acculturated into the Western world. The complexity of the situation is overwhelming, and locating who the true Cherokee patriots are is a confusing question (I would venture that all parties involved had what they believed to be the best interests of the Nation at heart).
John Ross and other national delegates, after passage of the Treaty, conducted protest petitions with the signatures of close to 16,000 Cherokee (out of a population of approximately 17,000). The protests were to no avail. President Jackson shortly thereafter declared publicly that the implications of the Treaty would be implemented without delay.
General Wool, assigned to suppressing any opposition to the Treaty, stated, after some time in Cherokee country, that:
the whole scene since I have been in this country has been nothing but a heartrending one, and such a one as I would be glad to get rid of as soon as circumstances will permit…If I could, and I could not do them a greater kindness, I would remove every Indian to-morrow beyond the reach of the white man, who, like vultures, are watching, ready to pounce upon their prey and strip them of everything they have or expect from the government of the United States. Yes, sir, nineteen twentieths, if not ninety-nine out of every hundred, will go penniless to the West."60
Not the empathetic, yet paternalistic, stance.
The Georgia citizenry promptly seized Cherokee plantations, farms, mines, and other properties. Major Ridge, an educated Cherokee leader opposed to the removal, wrote to the President:
60. "Letter of General Wool, September 10, 1836," in Mooney, 121.
61. "Letter of June 30, 1836 to President Jackson," in Mooney, 122.