Seizure of Salt Springs

Department Of The Interior,
Washington, D. C., August 17, 1870.

SIR: I have received your letter of the 16th instant, inclosing, for my consideration, a, copy of two letters, one from Captain J. N. Craig, agent for the Cherokees, and the other from John W. Wright, Esq., of this city.

According to the statement of the agent, Mr. Wright, A. J. Clapperton, and R. Cuthbertson are concerned in a trading and salt-making establishment at Salt Springs, Mr. Wright being a principal party in interest, and the other persons his agents or partners. Cuthbertson was charged with selling whisky to the Indians, and would be arrested by a deputy marshal, and, in default of bail, taken to Van Buren. The goods in the establishment had been seized, and would be libeled as belonging to Cuthbertson, who was trading in the Indian Territory without a license.

Mr. Wright informs you that the goods are the property of his son, Mr. J. B. Wright, “an adopted Cherokee.” The agent, however, states that J. B. Wright resides at Fort Gibson; has nothing to do with the control or management of the store, and that his habits unfit him entirely for business involving responsibility of any kind.

The seizure was not made nor the prosecution instituted at the suggestion of your office, and as the proceedings are subject to judicial control, I should not, under the circumstances, feel at liberty, even if I had the authority, to direct the discontinuance of them.

This view disposes of all the questions in the case, upon which your office is now required to act. I may remark, however, that the opinion of Mr. Attorney General Berrian, which you cite, has been concurred in by several of his successors, and that the Supreme Court, in the case of the United States vs. Roges, (4 Howard, 47I,) in construing the intercourse act of the 30th of June, 1834, and the treaty with the Cherokees, concluded at New Echola, in 1835, held, that whatever obligations a white man may have taken upon himself, or whatever privilege he may have obtained by becoming a Cherokee by adoption, his responsibility to the laws of the United States remains unchanged and undiminished.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. D. COX,
The Acting Commissioner Of Indian Affairs.

Washington, August 12.

Sir: I have a son, J. B. Wright, who is an adopted Cherokee, and is engaged in making salt and selling goods at McKey Salt-Works in that nation.

About the first of this month his goods was seized by your agent for the reason his clerk was a white man. There is no law of the United States to justify such seizure. I wish to know if this is done by your authority; if so, you can keep the goods; if without your authority, I shall attach the property of Agent Craig for damages.

On yesterday I understood you to say that all white men in the Indian country had to procure a United States license. The rule has been different. No license has been required of members of the tribe, and no distinction of color has heretofore been made.

By treaty of A. D. 1866, about two thousand Negroes are to enjoy all the rights of native Cherokees; if they cannot trade without license from the United States, then a license will be necessary for a full-blooded Indian; but perhaps a Negro is preferred, and the only class that is proscribed is the white man.

By the treaty of Hopewell, a white man, a delegate, was recognized as an Indian, and by almost every treaty from that day to this.

Rev. J. B. Jones was a delegate in A. D. 1866, and he is a white man, and that treaty speaks of Cherokees as natives, and adopted, and the treaty of A. D. 1835 expressly gives jurisdiction to the council over their people, and such as are connected with them.

By act of October I5, A. D. 1855, the Cherokee national council recognized white men as citizens, and my son is a citizen under this act.

I have friends and clients trading without United States license in all the southwestern tribes, and I wish to know what class is to have licenses. I have clients that are Indians of the full blood; Negroes, made citizens by treaty; half-breeds, whose mothers were white women, and white men made citizens by law or marriage. Now, have all these men to take licenses, or, if not, which class? An early answer is desired as I wish to protect my clients from the rapacity of United States officials.

If to all white men this new rule is to be enforced, I am glad my son is selected as the victim, as he has friends ready and able to defend him.

Commissioner of Indian Affairs.


42nd Congress. Alleged Frauds Against Certain Indian Soldiers. House of Representatives Report, 2nd Session, No. 96.

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