The 1826 Treaty of Washington between the United States and the Creek Nation replaced the fraudulent 1825 Treaty of Indian Springs and represented a compromise for both sides. In the new agreement, the Creeks retained about three million acres along the Coosa and Tallapoosa River drainages which had been promised to the state of Alabama in the Treaty of Indian Springs. The Treaty of Washington was concluded on January 24, 1826, and ratified by the U.S. Senate on April 22, 1826.
In early 1825, federal treaty commissioners Duncan Campbell and James Meriwether attempted to persuade the Creek National Council, the tribal governing body, to cede a huge portion of territory to the United States. The council, however, had passed a law some years earlier forbidding any council member to cede land under penalty of death, and the leaders refused to give up any more of their homeland. The determined commissioners turned to General William McIntosh, a corrupt headman from the Lower Creek town of Coweta, who privately agreed to cede all Creek lands in Georgia as well as three million acres in Alabama in exchange for a comparable amount of land west of the Mississippi River and a large cash payment. When the Creek National Council discovered the illegal deal, it ordered McIntosh's execution and vigorously protested that the treaty was fraudulent.
Eager to avoid conflict between Creeks and white southerners, Pres. John Quincy Adams appointed Brevet Maj. Gen. Edmund P. Gaines to investigate events surrounding the Treaty of Indian Springs. Ultimately, Gaines came to agree with the Creek leaders that McIntosh and the other signatories had no authority to conclude that agreement. Gaines still urged them to cede their lands and move west of the Mississippi, however. The Creeks were determined to remain on their tribal homeland. Under the apt leadership of Opothle Yoholo, speaker for the Upper Towns, the Creeks refused Gaines' entreaties and brought their complaints directly before the president. In Washington, D.C., Opothle Yoholo and the aged Lower Town principal chief, Little Prince, worked out a compromise with the United States. The 1826 Treaty of Washington stipulated that the Creeks cede their Georgia landholdings in exchange for a one-time payment of $217,600 plus $20,000 each year in perpetuity. Additionally, the treaty provided $100,000 for the emigration of McIntosh supporters west of the Mississippi river.
The treaty confirmed the Creeks' sovereign right to reject the Treaty of Indian Springs, and it enabled them to retain their landholdings in Alabama. Alabamians, however, believed that they had been cheated out of the three million acres promised to them in that agreement. Prior to the Treaty of Washington, Alabama had shown considerable restraint with regard to Indian land when compared with Georgia. Governor John Murphy and Alabama legislators resolved to gain the land they felt was their due. They began to extend Alabama law over Creek territory in violation of the Treaty of Washington with the support of Andrew Jackson, who became president in 1828. In the 1832 Treaty of Cusseta, the Creeks ceded all territory east of the Mississippi River to the United States and were forcibly moved by the U.S. military to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma.
Green, Michael D. The Politics of Indian Removal: Creek Government and Society in Crisis. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982.
Kappler, Charles J., ed. Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties. 7 vols. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1904. Available online at http://digital.library.okstate.edu/kappler
University of Pennsylvania
Published February 6, 2008
Last updated June 3, 2011