(Unfinished historical fiction about the beginnings of a patriarchy – )
The Cherokees found it odd that the white men had settled their Great Town in such a dismal swamp. The flying bugs would make it’s habitation unnatural. A splotchy-faced army major served as their guide as they wandered about Washington City for hours before the Great White Chief could see them. He showed them how the town’s streets were laid out along the lines of a geometric design. The indians murmured to themselves about this and noted the sun’s position in it’s arc. The Executive Mansion sat already sagging and hastily repaired. Languid negroes tended ox-carts of firewood and herds of sheep ambled in the winter’s wet chill. The Cherokees realized it was not an armed camp like the white settlements on the frontier. These white people seemed unconcerned and apparently did little. Here, amidst what they called “Virginia,” the farms were large and the negro slaves numerous. Stone buildings were being erected around the Executive Mansion. With great misery and sweat and lash great square stones were being dragged and hauled into position.
Jefferson rose gracefully as the indians entered his office. Eight or ten of them gathered in a half-circle before his desk and the Secretary of War read their names aloud from a sheet of parchment, “Black Fox, McIntosh, Lowery, Sour Mush…” Jefferson observed the indians closely as their names were spoken. Several of the Cherokees appeared to Jefferson to be a splendid new American hybrid – a perfect one-half English (or perhaps elevated Ulster-Scot) and a one-half American forest aboriginal. The Cherokees, Jefferson noted, had finer manners and movement than many of the ruder sort of white frontiersmen. They always have, he thought, and remembered back to his boyhood. The Chief Outacity had often visited his father on his journeys to and from Williamsburg. Jefferson remembered his magnificent oratory the evening before the chief went to England. The moon was in full splendor, and to her he seemed to address himself. That solemn voice, distinct articulation and graceful gestures had moved his boyish imagination deeply. Jefferson had not understood a word that Outacity had said but it had not mattered. That the Chief had spoken truth and wisdom he entertained no doubt. Outacity had later turned his back on civilization and participated in massacres in southern carolina. This tragedy had haunted Jefferson for many years.
Several of the Cherokees in Jefferson’s office were very good English speakers, they stood at ease as did Jefferson and War Secretary. The President mingled among the chiefs and shook their hands warmly. They were all at least his height and several stood inches above him. Jefferson wondered if by some hidden twist of fate he shared some of the ancient mystical blood that coursed through their veins. The stallion can never trust the mare, he pondered silently, it was quite the possibility. One of the fine hybrid chiefs stepped forward with a piece of paper in his hand. He bowed to the President and Secretary of War. – “White father, my name is George Lowery. We are here today as Tsa-la-Gi chiefs in amicable disagreement over the future and present of our people. Those of us, I am one, from the Lower Towns sincerely wish further advancement in civilization and agriculture. We realize the day of the hunt and the old ways are gone. We wish to live like white men. To have laws, written on paper, to protect our property and interests. “Our brothers among the upper towns do not wish these things. They desire to follow the buffalo and bear west of the Mississippi river. They do not wish to herd cattle and plow fields. They still honor the deer and wish his presence. But the great herds of game have been decimated in our country. The rivers no longer run with fish as they did when we were children…” Jefferson considered such handsome men must have beautiful women as counterparts in the wigwams and cabins of the southern lands. Some of the men were wearing fine cobbled boots and jackets of exquisite cut and color. Others wore buckskin trousers and richly beaded moccasins. Lowery continued speaking, “We need our White Father to help us determine our future course of action. We have agreed to a boundary fixation amongst our people. We have become like two tribes…” Jefferson sat down at his desk and pondered what Lowery had spoken. He had read their letters and responded in his own hand. He knew of what the Cherokee was speaking and he knew of his answer. With hands folded Jefferson spoke, “I admire your people and progress toward civilization you are making. I praise the spirit of cooperation that brought you here to work out your differences peacefully.” As he spoke Lowery translated for those in the room who did not speak English. “I must give one answer to you all equally. Because you are all free men and must determine your own destiny. It is not right that one man makes laws for another. You can not force your will on your brothers. Would it not be better for those who wish a Constitution and Republic to establish one? And those of you who wish to migrate west to do so? The fine lands in the southern country could be traded for similar lands west of the Mississippi…”
When Jefferson finished speaking he stood and shook each man’s hand in turn. The chiefs made ready to leave and Jefferson admonished them, “Keep yourselves apart from the wild indians. Be a good example to them, but don’t allow yourselves to be corrupted by savagery.” The chiefs nodded and spoke affirmations and Jefferson continued, “…and the africans, no good can come from consorting with them.” The chiefs left the Executive Mansion and mounted their horses. The winter sun was low on the horizon with red light streaming through the town. Smoke was rising from a hundred chimneys and the sound of mattox splitting wood cut through the air.
As the Cherokee men returned to their southern homelands they began speaking amongst themselves. The men from the lower towns saw no reason to stall. Holding council with the White Father had encouraged them. We can make ourselves a government like the white men have, they told themselves, there is no need to wait any longer. The youngest of the lower town men was named the the Ridge. Many times over he had had proven his ‘man killer’ status to his elders…..