"The Manner of Conferring and Treating with Them": The Board of Trade, the 1730 Anglo-Cherokee Treaty, and the Confluence of Global British Treaty Practices
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In the summer of 1730, the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations (the Board of Trade) determined to make a treaty with seven Cherokee delegates who were then in London, England. Drawing on their experiences and observations of treaty making with European and Native American parties, as well as on expert advice, the Commissioners of Trade concluded a treaty that they believed fulfilled European and Native American expectations of legitimate treaty making and formalized a relationship of layered sovereignty between the Cherokee Nation and the British Crown. Foregrounding the 1730 Anglo-Cherokee Treaty as its hinge, this project places British treaties with Native Americans within Britain’s broader treaty practices. Doing so reveals the expectations and assumptions that underlay British treaty making with First Nations, yet have been overlooked and taken for granted in studies of British treaty making with First Nations in situ on the North American continent. I examine the 1730 Anglo-Cherokee Treaty as one event in the Board of Trade’s work relating to treaties, between the years 1717 and 1730. Employing a forensic approach to the Board of Trade Minutes, along with additional correspondence and papers, this project draws out the assumptions about treaties, treaty making and sovereignty that the Commissioners of Trade deployed. This analysis shows that the Commissioners of Trade, representatives of the larger British imperial administration, perceived treaties at one and the same time as a means to affirm and to act coercively on a polity’s sovereignty. It shows that the Commissioners pragmatically recognized a variety of parties as sovereign entities capable of making treaties. The Commissioners perceived treaties as common, necessary and desirable tools for establishing and maintaining relationships between sovereign peoples, relationships which could thereby be manipulated for British commercial and territorial advantage. Treaties, in this understanding, could be used to establish situations of “layered sovereignty,” in which each party’s recognized sovereignty existed concurrently but unequally by expressing itself within different parameters.