Treaty of Indian Springs (1825)

This treaty between the federal government, represented by commissioners Duncan Campbell and James Meriwether, and a minority of Creek Indians, led by William McIntosh, was signed on February 12, 1825 and ratified by the Senate on March 7, 1825. The state of Alabama stood to gain some three million acres of Creek lands from the deal. Due to the treaty's fraudulent nature, however, it was nullified and replaced by the Treaty of Washington.

William McIntosh Prior to the turn of the nineteenth century, the Creek Indians dominated much of the Deep South, controlling the territory covered by modern Georgia, Alabama, and northern Florida. Their territory included much rich, arable land that was highly sought after by white southerners. In the Compact of 1802, Georgia agreed to cede its claim on the land in what is now Alabama and Mississippi in exchange for the removal of all Indians within state bounds. By the mid-1820's, Georgia's population had increased significantly, but the federal government had not yet removed the Indians. To achieve that end, President James Madison appointed Campbell and Meriwether in July 1824.

In December 1824, the men met with the Creeks' governing body, the National Council, which included representatives from throughout the Creek Nation and was led by principal chief of the Upper Towns, Big Warrior, and his counterpart from the Lower Towns, Little Prince. Despite the commissioners' best efforts, the Creeks refused to part with any more of their ancestral homeland, citing past treaties with the U.S. government that guaranteed their right to retain their territory. Also, the National Council had enacted a law some years earlier that forbade any chief or representative from ceding any more land under penalty of death. Frustrated and desperate, commissioners Campbell and Meriwether became determined to acquire Creek land by any means possible. They turned to William McIntosh, an important Lower Town councilmember but not a principal chief. He had accepted bribes in the past, and the commissioners found him disposed to do so again.

Tustunnuggee, Etomme McIntosh invited the commissioners to a resort he owned at Indian Springs, in what was then Georgia, and worked out a deal with them. In exchange for $400,000 (about half of which would go directly to McIntosh and his friends), the headman agreed to cede to the United States all of the Creeks' land in Georgia in addition to three million acres in Alabama. In response to this treasonous act, the National Council ordered a Creek police force known as the law menders, headed by former Red Stick leader Menawa, to execute McIntosh and his co-conspirators, Etomme Tustunnuggee and Samuel Hawkins, McIntosh's son-in-law. The three were killed on April 30, 1825.

Vigorous Creek protests led President John Quincy Adams to appoint Brevet General Edmund P. Gaines to investigate the Creek claims. A large majority of chiefs and warriors objected that McIntosh did not have sufficient authority to sign treaties or cede territory, and the Creek Nation sent a delegation, including Menawa, to lodge an official complaint. Federal investigators agreed, and the U.S. government negotiated a new land cession in the 1826 Treaty of Washington. The Creeks did not, however, have their territory restored in the new treaty.

Further Reading

  • Michael D. Green. The Politics of Indian Removal: Creek Government and Society in Crisis. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982.
  • Kappler, Charles J., ed. and comp. Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties. 7 vols. Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1904;

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