Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 10: No 2) >> Simms's Reading of History as Prophylactic Against American Religious Fundamentalism: The Issue of Fictive Technique in History >> Page 29

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Secondary Scholarship | 2002
Transcription American civilization when it encounters the 'civilized' Anglo-European Old
World in a kind of reversed Manifest Destiny."11
The story depicts the 1730 events in which a group of Cherokee chiefs
were enticed to travel to England, appear at the court of King George, and
participate in a sham treaty that in effect gave trading rights to the English and
made the Cherokees unwitting accomplices in efforts to undermine French and
Spanish claims in the New World, and to do so in a way decidedly to their own
disadvantage. The story is not simply a recounting of events, but a tableau
opening upon the regal courts of the Cherokees and eventually comparing the
scene to the court of King George. The first encounter with an English
delegation, traveling to the hill country of South Carolina in order to secure the
cooperation of the tribesmen, tells of the advantages and the dangers of power
the advantage in the hands of manipulative conquerors, and the danger to a
civilization not possessed of technical or political superiority. The central figure
is Tonestoi, the "eldest of these chiefs, or kings," who is "prince of Nequassee, a
once formidable, but now decayed warrior, and a good old man." Simms
describes him as "renowned among the Cherokees for his wisdom."12
The treaty into which Tonestoi and his fellow chiefs are drawn is
transparent in its purpose to strengthen imperial and commercial interests of the
British without material advantage to the Indian nations. Simms quotes the
preamble to the treaty, with parenthetical comments: "whereas the great king has
instructed the lords commissioners of trade and plantations, to inform the Indians,
that the English on all sides of the mountains and lakes, were his people, their
friends his friends, their enemies his enemies; that he took it kindly that the great
nation of Cherokee had sent them so far to brighten the chain of friendship
between him and them, and between his people and their people; that the chain of
friendship between him and the Cherokee is now like the sun, which shines both
in Britain and upon the great mountains where they live, and equally warms the
hearts of Indians and Englishmen." 13 Further: "that he desires the English and
Indians may live together as children of one family that the Cherokees be
always ready to fight against any nation, whether white men or Indians, who shall
molest or hurt the English that the nation of the Cherokee shall, on its part, take
care to keep the trading path clean that there be no blood on the path which the
English tread, even though they should be accompanied with other people with
whom the Cherokee may be at war." Simms comments, first: "Vague enough,
and, like most treaties with the Indians, carried on through dishonest or imperfect
interpreters, not understood by one of the parties, and a frequent source of

11 From a letter dated August 15, 2001.
12 "The Cherokee Embassage," from Carl Werner, An Imaginative Story; with Other Tales of
Imagination, Volume II (New York: George Adlard, 1838), 183.
13 "The Cherokee Embassage," 193.