SIR: The selection and general supervision of the agents to be employed in appraising improvements under the treaty with the Cherokee Indians of December 29, 1835, having been committed to you, I proceed to state some principles for their observance in the execution of this duty.
You will divide the country ceded by the first article of the treaty into convenient districts, and assign to each a sufficient number of agents for the prompt completion of this business. You will report to this office the names and residences of these agents, and indicate the district in which each is to be employed.
The improvements to be valued are such as were in the possession of the Cherokees at the date of the treaty, and as add any value to their lands. The agents will be required to take an oath to act with perfect impartiality, and they will be specially instructed to receive all the statements and estimates of the Indians, and to examine, personally, every thing pointed out to them. And in determining the value of the improvements, they will be influenced neither by a desire to be generous on the one hand nor parsimonious on the other.
Each improvement will be appraised by two agents, and when their estimates agree, and are approved by you, they will be final. If they disagree, the decision will be referred either to yourself or to one of the commissioners appointed to examine claims, as may be most convenient. If the owner of the improvement be dissatisfied, and, in the opinion of either of you, he has just cause to be so, the whole matter will be submitted to the joint action of the commissioners. Great care will be taken to ascertain the persons entitled to each improvement, and in determining this, reference will be had to the laws of the State, and to the laws and usages of the Cherokees. Information respecting these will be obtained from the persons named in the twelfth article of the treaty. When the title to a particular place is contested, the question will be referred to the decision of the commissioners.
Each district will, if necessary, be subdivided, and two agents will not in each subdivision, who will keep but one register. Of this register three copies will be made by them, one of which will be sent to this office, and another to the acting superintendent of Indian affairs west of the Mississippi; the third to the commissioners. These registers will show, in separate columns, the name of the owner of the land, its situation, the number of acres under improvement, distinguishing the different kinds thereof, the extent of the fences, the buildings, and other improvements not herein enumerated, the value of each separate improvement, and the aggregate value of the whole. The circumstances in each case in regard to which the agents disagree, or the holder may be dissatisfied, or the title may be disputed, will be briefly stated, with the grounds of the ultimate decision. The registers will be signed by the agents, and countersigned by yourself.
The appraising agents in each district or subdivision will give public notice of the times and places at which they will commence this business, and they will then proceed to its execution with as much dispatch as may be consistent with correctness and the rights of the parties. If the owners are present, they will value the improvements successively, passing from the first to the adjoining one, and by this mode greater regularity will be insured, and the owner of each improvement will know when it is to be valued.
The treaty provides that the ferries shall be valued according to their net income. The agents will receive upon this point the statements of the owners, and of others who, from their business or residence in the vicinity, may have means of knowing the income, and decide upon a fair consideration of the whole matter. If they cannot agree, it will be referred to the commissioners.
The claims of Cherokees who may have been dispossessed of their improvements and houses, provided for in the 16th article of the treaty, have been referred to the commissioners, and they will furnish you with a list of such as they may admit. They have been authorized to call upon you for the services of the appraising agents, if required, to ascertain the extent of losses and damages. Ferries, for this purpose, will be considered as improvements.
As the appraisement in each district is completed, you will cause a new register, in triplicate, to be prepared from it, showing only the name of the owner of each improvement, and the aggregate amount due to him. This you will deliver to the commissioners, with the register of the appraising agents. The commissioners will then enter upon it the amount of the claims they have allowed, and deliver it to the disbursing officer, with such instructions in regard to the time, places, and manner of paying for improvements, debts, or claims, as they shall think proper. Similar entries of the debts will be made upon the other two copies of the registers. If the debts exceed in amount the valuation of the improvement, and of any individual claim against the nation, they will be paid pro rata.
The compensation of the agents will be four dollars a day, and of the interpreters, of which a sufficient number will be appointed by you, two dollars and fifty cents a day, for every day of actual service, to be paid upon you certificates. A reasonable sum will also be allowed for necessary incidental expenses, upon the rendition of the usual vouchers.
You will communicate and co-operate freely with the commissioners upon all subjects connected with the execution of you duties, and you will, from time to time, make full reports of you proceedings.
C. A. HARRIS, Commissioner.
To Major B. F. Currey, Calhoun, Tennessee.
P. S.—I enclose copies of instructions to the commissioners, and to General Wool, and of a letter to the former of the 16th instant.
Extract from the instructions to the Cherokee commissioners, dated July 25, 1836.
I transmit a copy of the treaty, and of the instructions to Major Currey for the appraisement of the improvements, from which you will perceive that certain duties may devolve upon you; and to these I have to request your attention, especially to the instructions to the disbursing officer for the payments for improvements, debts, or claims. If circumstances permit at the time, it is intended that the payments shall be made under your immediate supervision.
- See Further: Trail of Tears Roll