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John Major

John Major

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John Major was bom in North Berwick, Scotland in 1469. After receiving an education at Cambridge and Paris he taught philosophy at Glasgow University. Major wrote a History of Greater Britain. The book, first published in 1521, concentrates on events in Scotland and provides a detailed account of the military campaigns of William Wallace and Robert Bruce. John Major died in 1550.

I have observed how it is the custom of the vulgar Scot to say nasty things about the English. Love and hatred have this in common: they tend to blind our intelligent judgement of things... (a historian) needs to rid himself of this habit.

At this time (the reign of Richard the Lionheart) there flourished the most famous robbers Robin Hood and Little John, who lay in wait in the woods, and robbed those that were wealthy... The feats of Robin are told in song all over Britain. He would allow no woman to suffer injustice, nor would he rob the poor, but rather enriched them from the plunder taken from abbots.

My Old Man: A Personal History of Music Hall by John Major – review

N ow here's a funny thing – a history of the music hall by a former Conservative prime minister. Former PMs and party leaders have tended to write books about highly respectable subjects (and themselves, of course). But John Major – an unusual politician and unusual PM – has written, in honour of his dear old dad, an uncommon book about one of the most extraordinary, vital and creative chapters in British theatrical history, another influential contribution to world culture improbably emanating from this tiny island.

He has his work cut out. Music hall is a notoriously elusive subject. It emerged from the semi-legitimate underbelly of the 18th-century London entertainment scene, from upper-class dining clubs and middle-class taverns and working-class so-called penny gaffs. This is what Major strikingly calls "the pre-natal life of music hall". There was always, from the beginning, a sense of transgression, the saying of the unsayable, the thinking of the unthinkable. Sometimes this simply meant hair-raising levels of ribaldry, sometimes stark truths about city life, sometimes mad flights of verbal and visual fantasy. Sometimes it was directly political, such as the mock trials, with "barristers" and "juries". Eventually, with licensees dancing around the vagaries of the authorities, dedicated establishments sprang up – the original music halls, which were often little more than that, simple venues where popular music could be heard by a hard-drinking clientele.

The alcoholic and the artistic were always closely linked: some performers were paid a bonus of a penny for every pint that was drunk, and many of them were simply paid in kind with booze, which swiftly curtailed their lives. Once the commercial possibilities of the halls were established, by the mid-1850s, smart entrepreneurs such as Charles Morton built increasingly splendid theatres, offering excellent food and fine wines in safe and sumptuous surroundings. They also sought to tap into the respectable, especially that holy grail of impresarios, the family audience. In time this would inhibit the free and raucous expression of the early days, but that element was never entirely expunged. At its glorious high noon, from the 1870s through to the beginning of the first world war, it was a unique mix of social comment, sexual innuendo, musical brilliance, physical poetry and visual spectacle. It celebrated the grotesque, the defiant, the carnival above all it was about personality and the give-and-take between stage and stalls. It was frequented by all classes, chronicled by great writers, admired by creative geniuses. Stravinsky wrote a piece inspired by Little Tich, whom Nijinsky idolised Debussy told the young Chaplin, "M Chaplin, vous êtes un artiste." From 1914, the decline was steady, brought on by a combination of ruthless central control by a handful of managers, the development of new forms, such as jazz, above all by the encroachment of the new media of radio, film and, delivering the final coup de grâce, television.

All this has been told before, and told well, by Dion Clayton, by Mander and Mitchenson, by John Fisher (in the wonderful Funny Way to Be a Hero) and by Colin MacInnes in his superb elegy Sweet Saturday Night. But Major has a motive in telling the story again. It is, he says, a final encore for his mother and father, Tom and Gwen Major Tom was 64 when John was born, so his career stretches back, if not to the heyday of the halls, at least to a time when that heyday was a living memory. His account of the music hall is tinged with deep filial affection for the lives of performers and the conditions in which they worked.

As might be expected, he is especially acute on the political and social dimensions of the phenomenon: he notes, perhaps approvingly, that audiences in the 1870s often supported the Conservatives, "who under Disraeli had cut the hours of work, while Gladstone's Liberals had cut the hours of drink". And he quotes that anomaly, the comedian-philosopher George Robey: "The man who gets to the top [in England] is almost treated like a usurper. The man who gets kicked to the ground is regarded as almost a saint … what we are witnessing is the deification of inefficiency." He has a fine chapter about the 1894 attempt by the National Vigilance Association (under the superbly named Mrs Ormiston Chant) to persuade the London County Council to oust prostitutes from the music halls by closing down the Promenade in the Empire Leicester Square the audience rebelled. The Promenade, where people could move around freely, was the last vestige of the loose and raffish origins of the music hall.

Major has an interesting aside about the presence of rent boys among the audience: even in the centre of London, the music hall was only a step away from the demi-monde. Of course it was: the theatre is always about display, about bodies, about flesh and blood. Major spares a kind word for Mrs Chant, but his sympathy is with the performers.

As it always is in this rich, generous book. He never moralises, but always celebrates. The art of evoking dead performers is a very tricky one, and sometimes it eludes him. Nothing can bring the kilted Scot Harry Lauder, the most famous and (richest) of all music hall artists, back from the dead and Major rather throws in the towel with Vesta Tilley ("she was, quite simply, supreme"). But elsewhere he sends in the clowns quite brilliantly, parading them before us in all their extraordinariness. Boys pretending to be girls, men pretending to be women, women pretending to be men, white men pretending to be black men – a sort of reverse universe: Little Tich, 4ft 6in tall, a curiosity from birth, having an extra finger on each hand, double-jointed, pigeon-toed, overweight, and who stopped growing at the age of 10, described by Lucien Guitry as the world's greatest genius the young Dan Leno, billed as "Little George, Infant Wonder Contortionist and Posturer" – no wonder Dickens loved him (he said of the Infant Phenomenon that he would "make headway") Albert Chevalier, author of "My Old Dutch", the prince of costers, christened Albert Onesime Britannicus Gwathveoyd Louis Chevalier, known as the Kipling of the Halls.

Major is especially strong on the women. He writes movingly of Jenny Hill (1848–96): "She was more than a great performer – she was a feminist trail-blazer, a professional success, at a time when women could neither vote nor borrow money without a male guarantor when the professions were closed to them and their only employment choices were low-paid factory or shop-work, or domestic service. Jenny Hill not only earned success on her own merits, she remained in control of her career: there were no Svengalis for her. She did it her way, and took the knocks." He quotes one of her many searing lyrics, which suggest a performer on the brink of the Blues: "I've been a good woman to you / And the neighbours all know that it's true / You go to the pub / You 'blue' the kids' grub / But I've been a good woman to you." This is a discovery: I had never heard of her, but Vesta Tilley described her as "the greatest artist we ever had on the variety stage". Major is wonderfully warm-hearted about Marie Lloyd and her audience: "She made mistakes in her life – as they did. She drank – as many of them did. She loved unwisely – as many of them did. Her language could be basic – as theirs was. She lived their lives vividly and in public – and they loved her for it."

In judgments, or non-judgments, such as these, Major shows himself to be compassionate and in touch, as the phrase goes, with real life. Uncommon politician indeed. He is fascinating about the cross-dresser Anne Hindle, who married, under the name Charlie Hindle, her dresser, Sarah and tellingly quotes Ella Shields's great number, "Burlington Bertie", a sublime example of popular poetry: "I'm all airs and graces, correct easy paces / Without food for so long, I've forgot where my face is." Shields, Major notes with satisfaction, "died in 1952, aged 73, after collapsing on stage from a heart attack in front of three thousand people at a holiday camp in Margate", one of the few happy and not untimely deaths in the annals of music hall.

Major nobly honours his parents and they life they lived in these pages. The affection is palpable and anything but pious. "Whatever the deprivations … it was a world full of life, with each performance a kaleidoscope of colour and contradiction: the beautiful and the bizarre the glamorous and the grotesque the romantic and the raffish the comedic and the crude." In short, he gets it. I hope that many people who may not have been naturally drawn to the subject are seduced into its charms by the author's name.

They will be additionally rewarded with some wry autobiographical asides from this most self-aware of politicians: "The flops, the let-downs, the days without work, the lash of critical opinion," he says of his patents. "It was not until years later, with the political critics poised, invective flowing and the national audience restive, that I fully understood all the emotions that had been so familiar to them." As he says of Marie Lloyd, she "learned the perennial truth, that once you are a target, any dart will do". John Major writes whereof he knows.

Simon Callow's Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World is published by Harper Press.

John Major

In the wake of the ousting of Margaret Thatcher, John Major took charge of the Conservative party and its rapidly declining popularity. He managed to get a surprise win in the 1992 general election - popularly attributed to him giving a speech on a literal soapbox - before losing the next one in 1997. He is usually thought of as the man who filled space between Thatcher and Blair. Caricatures tended to depict him as a rather boring, grey little man, an image not particularly helped by his large glasses, tendency to dress in grey and his general tendency to come across as being rather dull.

In all fairness, John Major is not the total waste of space he is often depicted as. While he did preside over Black Wednesday, the whole system that led to that was arranged before he became Prime Minister. Also, while Tony Blair took the credit for the Good Friday Agreement, it was Major who did most of the groundwork. More recently, some people have taken to claiming that he was actually a very good Prime Minister who ran the economy well, but was so spectacularly incompetent when it came to PR and controlling his own party that he condemned himself to a needless defeat at the hands of Blair.

He is also one of the few people to have held three of the Four Great Offices of state, Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary, the fourth, which he did not hold, being Home Secretary.

John Major's father was a circus acrobat. Many jokes were made about Major being the only boy to ever run away from the circus to become an accountant.

Like many politicians, had an embarrassing sibling: in this case his brother Terry Major-Ball, who famously ran a company that made garden gnomes.

In 2002 a revelation broke out that he had had an adulterous affair with minister Edwina Currie this was greeted with universal incredulity by the British media, as they couldn't conceive of him doing something so interesting. But then Major was perhaps the only PM history who managed to make being attacked in Ten Downing Street by the IRA with mortar bombs from a nearby rooftop 'unmemorable'.

History Major (for new and transfer students entering as of Sept. 2015)

Major in History: 39 credit hours, at least 24 of which must be at the 300 and 400 level. At least 20 hours must be taken in residence.

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Major John Buttrick House

Major John Buttrick House (circa 1710), Liberty St. Concord

Major John Buttrick was of the fourth generation of Buttricks in Concord. His great-grandfather, William Buttrick, was born in England about 1617. William was among the dozen families who established the English settlement at the former Pennacook Indian villiage of Musketaquid (now Concord) in 1635. In the records of 1635, twelve lots totaling 215 acres are credited to William Buttrick.

Jonathan Buttrick, Maj. John Buttrick’s father, built the house on family property on the north side of the Groton Road between 1710 and 1717. It was a two story house, rectangular in shape with an ell on the northwest side. Like most Colonial era homes, it has seen many alterations over the years.

In 1760 (June 24) John Buttrick married Abigail Jones, and over a 20 year period had ten children: John, Levi, Jonas, Abigail, Esther, Anna, Stephen, Phebe, Horatio Gates, and Silas. Always listed as a “Gentleman” in town records, John held a number of civilian jobs in town.

At the time of the battle in 1775, the 44 year-old John Buttrick was a well respected farmer in Concord and was active in town government. Up to 1775 he held several town posts: fence viewer, field driver, surveyor, tythingman, and had been constable for three years.
During the Revolution Major Buttrick worked actively on various committees. He served on the committee of Correspondence, Inspection, and Safety which coordinated the policies and activities between the towns and colonies, and subsequently the young republic. He was also in charge of raising troops from Concord.

During the summer of 1775, John served as major in the regiment of Col. John Nixon at the siege of Boston. He was commissioned lieutenant-colonel of Col. John Robinson’s regiment, August 1, 1775, and was colonel of volunteers, acting as captain in Colonel Reed’s regiment at the taking of Burgoyne at Saratoga, serving from September 28 to November 7, 1777. In the Rhode Island campaign in 1778, his regiment was called to reinforce the Continental Army.

From 1779 to 1785 John served as a town selectman, and in 1785, Concord voted that the “Thanks of the Town” be returned to Col. John Buttrick for his good services.

In 1790 Buttrick held his last post as fish officer, a calm job. A man of Concord, Buttrick lived out his years in the house that now bears his name.

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Each of the Global History courses below can count toward your major requirements and toward your General Education requirements. However, be sure to refer to the Major Requirements section above. Remember that o nly one History Department general education course (from the Part Four Category D list) can count toward your major requirements.

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To help students stay on track for graduation and plan for their careers after graduation, the History Department advisors may place a major hold on sophomores who have earned 45-59 credits. To lift this hold and be able to register for courses, students must meet with a major advisor. This meeting will encourage wise planning and address any questions about the major. See the History Department’s contact information and office hours to schedule an appointment. How do you know if you have a major hold? Go to CUNYfirst and complete the following steps:

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Major History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Major came to England with the ancestors of the Major family in the Norman Conquest of 1066. It comes from the Norman given name Mauger. The name indicates one who is the son of Maugier, an Old French personal name, which is derived from the Old Germanic name Malger, which means council spear. [1]

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Early Origins of the Major family

The surname Major was first found in Normandy where Mauguer was the third son of Richard I, Duke of Normandy and his second wife, Gunnora. He ruled as Count of Corbeil through his wife Germaine de Corbeil.

Mauger (or Malger) was the youngest son of Richard II and his second wife, Papia of Envermeu. He rose to become Archbishop of Rouen in 1037. However, as he opposed the marriage of Duke William and Matilda of Flanders in 1049, he was banished from Rouen to the Isle of Guernsey. There he married Gisella or Guille "without sanction of the Church, he formed an intimacy that resulted in numerous progeny, some of whom took their father's, others their mother's name. 'Hence,' observes a correspondent 'Guilles and Maugers are as plentiful as blackberries on the Channel Islands'" [2] . The Norman poet Wace (c.1110-1174), related stories of his life on the Channel Islands some 100 years later.

Another Mauger was royal clerk and physician before he was elected to the see of Worcester in 1199, a position held until his death in 1212. Sir Mathias Mayer (Mayor), originally a Jerseyman was ancestor of the Majors of Hampshire.

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Early History of the Major family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Major research. Another 55 words (4 lines of text) covering the years 1469, 1550, 1615, 1655 and are included under the topic Early Major History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

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Major Spelling Variations

Anglo-Norman names tend to be marked by an enormous number of spelling variations. This is largely due to the fact that Old and Middle English lacked any spelling rules when Norman French was introduced in the 11th century. The languages of the English courts at that time were French and Latin. These various languages mixed quite freely in the evolving social milieu. The final element of this mix is that medieval scribes spelled words according to their sounds rather than any definite rules, so a name was often spelled in as many different ways as the number of documents it appeared in. The name was spelled Major, Mauger, Magor, Maior, Mayer, Mayor, Mager and others.

Early Notables of the Major family (pre 1700)

Another 29 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Major Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Major family to Ireland

Some of the Major family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 73 words (5 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Major migration +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Major Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Edward Major, who arrived in Virginia in 1637 [4]
  • Phi Major, who landed in Virginia in 1637 [4]
  • Tho Major, who arrived in Virginia in 1645 [4]
  • John Major and Thomas Major who both settled in Virginia in 1645
  • Eliza Major, who landed in Virginia in 1645 [4]
  • . (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Major Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Math Major, who landed in Virginia in 1705 [4]
  • Mary Major, who landed in Virginia in 1706 [4]
  • James Major, who settled in Virginia in 1773
  • James Major, who landed in New York in 1795 [4]
  • Frederick William Major, who landed in America in 1798 [4]
Major Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Henry Major, who arrived in New York, NY in 1803 [4]
  • John Rudolph Major, aged 30, who landed in Maryland in 1812 [4]
  • Joseph Major, aged 30, who arrived in America in 1822 [4]
  • Mary Major, who settled in Boston with her husband and three children in 1822
  • Bartholomaus Major, who arrived in North America in 1837 [4]
  • . (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Major migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Major Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

Major migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Major Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mrs. Amelia Major, (b. 1795), aged 17, English house wife who was convicted in Middlesex, England for 7 years for larceny, transported aboard the "Emu" in October 1812, the ship was captured and the passengers put ashore, the convicts were then transported aboard the "Broxburnebury" in January 1812 arriving in New South Wales, Australia, she died in 1863 [6]
  • Samuel Major, English convict from Middlesex, who was transported aboard the "Andromeda" on November 13, 1832, settling in New South Wales, Australia[7]
  • Mr. William Major, (b. 1808), aged 29, English groom who was convicted in Exeter, Devon, England for 7 years for stealing, transported aboard the "Blenheim" on 11th March 1837, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [8]
  • Samuel Major, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Mary Dugdale" in 1840 [9]
  • William Major, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Himalaya" in 1849 [10]
  • . (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Major migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

The Cherokees vs. Andrew Jackson

John Ross made an unlikely looking Cherokee chief. Born in 1790 to a Scottish trader and a woman of Indian and European heritage, he was only one-eighth Cherokee by blood. Short, slight and reserved, he wore a suit and tie instead of deerskin leggings and a beaver-skin hat. His trading post made him more prosperous than most Indians—or white men. But his mother and grandmother raised him in a traditional household, teaching him the tribe’s customs and legends. When the Cherokees embraced formal education—they were adapting quickly to a world they knew was changing—he attended school with their children. After his mother died, in 1808, Ross worked at his grandfather’s trading post near present-day Chattanooga, an important way station on the road to the West. There he encountered white settlers moving onto Cherokee land.

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To a degree unique among the five major tribes in the South, the Cherokees used diplomacy and legal argument to protect their interests. With the help of a forward-looking warrior named Major Ridge, Ross became the tribe’s primary negotiator with officials in Washington, D.C., adept at citing both federal law and details from a dozen treaties the Cherokees signed with the federal government between 1785 and 1819. In the 1820s, as they enjoyed one of the most promising periods in their history—developing a written language, adopting a constitution and building a capital city—Ross became the Cherokees’ principal chief, and Ridge was named his counselor.

All the while, white settlers kept coming.

The state governments did little to discourage them, ignoring federal treaties and even abetting the taking of Indian land through bribery, fraud and coercion. When the tribes turned to Washington for redress, federal officials proved ineffectual or hostile, depending on the administration. One by one the other major Southern tribes—the Chickasaws, the Choctaws, the Creeks and the Seminoles—signed treaties that required them to uproot to the far side of the Mississippi River. But the Cherokees held out.

They finally succumbed in 1838, when they were marched 800 miles into an extremely bitter winter. The survivors of the journey to what is now Oklahoma would call it the Trail of Tears. The exodus was a communal tragedy, as it had been for the other tribes. But in the case of the Cherokees, their resistance and defeat were reflected as well in the rise and collapse of the extraordinary partnership between Ross and Ridge.

The two had met in 1813, the year Ross had a political awakening while on a trading trip through what would become Alabama. A Creek chief named Big Warrior told him a faction of his tribe had become openly hostile to European customs and settlers. These Red Sticks, as the faction called itself, were threatening civil war. Ross, only 22, recognized a hazard to the Cherokees: such a war would likely endanger white settlers, and given that whites scarcely distinguished between tribes, any retaliatory move they made would threaten every Indian. So he wrote an urgent note to the local U.S. Indian agent: “The intelligence received from the Creek Nation at this present crisis is very serious. The hostile party is said to be numerous and if assistance is not given to the Big Warrior and his party by the U.S. it is apprehensive that they will be conquered from the Superior force of the rebels.”

When Tennessee militiamen intervened that fall, the Cherokees joined them, both to protect their own interests and to curry favor with whites. Ross, whose early record shows not even a fistfight, was among the 500 Cherokees who enlisted. So was Ridge, already a renowned warrior.

The Cherokees called him “the man who walks on the mountaintop,” for his preferred means of traversing the woods white men interpreted that as “ridge.” He would appropriate the rank he was given during the Creek War as a first name. Born in 1770 or 1771, Ridge straddled two generations: in his youth he had fought white settlers, but as a man he welcomed European traditions. “He appears very anxious that all his people should receive instruction, and come into the customs of the whites,” the missionary William Chamberlin would write in 1822. Indeed, Ridge was one of the first Cherokees to send his children to missionary schools.

Ridge’s embrace of change was initially unpopular among his tribesmen, but few questioned his loyalty. In 1807 he had helped kill the powerful Cherokee chief Doublehead for selling tribal hunting grounds for personal profit. And in 1808, when white U.S. Indian agents enticed principal chief Black Fox into proposing that the tribe move west, Ridge had been the first to protest. “As a man he has a right to give his opinion,” Ridge declared before the Cherokees’ ruling council, “but the opinion he has given as the chief of this nation is not binding it was not formed in council in the light of day, but was made up in a corner—to drag this people, without their consent, from their own country, to the dark land of the setting sun.”

By 1813, Ridge had seen enough of politics to understand the diplomatic advantage to be gained from joining the Tennesseans against the Red Sticks. The Cherokees might even have realized that advantage had it not been for the militia leader they fought under: Andrew Jackson.

As a boy in the 1770s, Jackson had listened to stories of Indian violence toward settlers, and with no apparent understanding of their motives, he developed prejudices that he—like many Americans of his day—held throughout his life. He routinely called Indians “savages” and people of mixed heritage “half-breeds,” and he was unshakable in his conviction that Indians should be removed from the South. When news that the Red Sticks were attacking settlers reached him in Nashville, he asked: “Is a citizen of the United States, to remain under the barbarous lash of cruel and unrelenting savages?”

In March 1814, Jackson tracked the Red Sticks to Horseshoe Bend, a peninsula formed by the Tallapoosa River in what is now Alabama, and launched a frontal assault on their breastworks. His troops might have been repulsed had the Cherokees not crossed the river and attacked from the rear. Caught between two attacking forces, the Red Sticks lost nearly 900 warriors in what proved to be the decisive battle of the war.

That day, a Cherokee named Junaluska saved Jackson from an attacker, prompting the Tennessean to declare, “As long as the sun shines and the grass grows, there shall be friendship between us.” But in the peace treaty he negotiated with the Creeks, Jackson confiscated 23 million acres of land in Alabama and Georgia—some of which belonged to the Cherokees.

In 1816, the Cherokees’ principal chief, Pathkiller, sent a delegation to Washington to reclaim that land. The delegates, who included Ross and Ridge, made quite an impression while mingling with the city’s elite. Ridge sang a Cherokee song so raunchy his interpreter declined to translate it. (“It’s just like a white man’s song,” Ridge joked in his limited English, “all about love and whiskey.”) Even so, a reporter from one newspaper, the National Intelligencer, wrote that “their appearance and deportment are such to entitle them to respect and attention.”

Because of his fluency in English, Ross became one of the Cherokees’ lead negotiators, and he proved more than a match for Secretary of War William Crawford. “It is foreign to the Cherokee principle to feign friendship where it does not exist,” Ross said, implying a contrast with Washington bureaucrats. “You have told us that your Government is determined to do justice to our nation and will never use oppressive means to make us act contrary to our welfare and free will.” The treaties the Cherokees had signed generally required them to give up large tracts of land but guaranteed their rights to whatever remained. Now they wanted those rights enforced.

After more than a month of back-and-forth debate, Crawford finally relented: the United States would restore the bulk of the land the Cherokees claimed. In return, the Cherokees agreed to sell a small tract in South Carolina for $5,000 (the 2011 equivalent of $78,800) to the state government.

In a move intended to prevent local chiefs from accepting bribes to sell off Cherokee land, the Cherokee council in 1817 established a national committee to handle all tribal business. When Ross arrived at the council meeting as a spectator, Ridge led him into a private conference and told him that he would be one of 13 members of the committee. Ross was only 26—a young man in a community where leadership traditionally came with age. Just a month later, he would have to confront Andrew Jackson directly.

Jackson had been serving as a federal Indian commissioner when he launched his first effort to remove the Cherokees en masse. In 1817, he appeared with two other agents at the Cherokees’ council in Calhoun, just northeast of what is now Cleveland, Tennessee, to inform the tribe that if it refused to move west, it would have to submit to white men’s laws, no matter what any treaties might say. The chiefs dismissed the agents without hesitation. “Brothers, we wish to remain on our land, and hold it fast,” their signed statement said. “We appeal to our father the president of the United States to do us justice. We look to him for protection in the hour of distress.”

Through threats and bribery, Jackson eventually persuaded a few thousand Cherokees to leave Tennessee Ross became the spokesman of those who remained—some 16,000 resolved to hold their ground. After years of trading land for peace, the council in 1822 passed a resolution vowing never to cede a single acre more. “If we had but one square mile left they would not be satisfied unless they could get it,” Ross wrote to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun that October, referring to state Indian commissioners who regularly tried to buy out the tribe. “But we hope that the United States will never forget her obligation to our nation.”

In 1823, Georgia officials, recognizing Ross’ growing power, dispatched a Creek chief to personally offer him $2,000 (about $42,300 today) to persuade the Cherokees to move. Ross asked for the offer in writing—then took it to Ridge. Together they exposed the bribery attempt in front of the tribal council and sent the emissary packing.

At the same time, what historians would call the Cherokee Renaissance was bringing the tribe more fully into the 19th century. Sequoyah, a mixed-blood Cherokee, distilled the Cherokee oral language into a set of 86 symbols soon, the tribe enjoyed a higher rate of literacy than the settlers who called them savages. They started a newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix. In 1825—after new president John Quincy Adams promised to honor the federal government’s obligations to Indians—the Cherokees began their largest public works project, building a council house, courthouse and public square in northwestern Georgia, near present-day Calhoun. They named it New Echota, in honor of a village lost to settlers years earlier.

Ridge could not hide his pride. “It’s like Baltimore,” he told a visiting missionary, comparing it to the largest city he’d ever seen.

In 1827, the Cherokees adopted a written constitution that defined a government with executive, legislative and judicial branches. That same year, they acquired new leadership: Pathkiller died, and Charles Hicks, his assistant and logical successor, followed him two weeks later. The council appointed an interim chief, but Ross and Ridge were making the decisions—when to hold council, how to handle law enforcement, whether to allow roads to be built through tribal land. The two men so relied on each other that locals called the three-mile trail between their homes the Ross Ridge Road.

If Ross aspired to be principal chief, he never spoke of it. But Ridge promoted his protégé’s candidacy without naming him, dictating an essay to the Cherokee Phoenix that described removal as the tribe’s most pressing issue and warning against electing leaders who could be manipulated by white men. Until then, every principal chief had been nearly full-blooded Cherokee. When the council voted in the fall of 1828, Ross—who was only 38—was elected principal chief by a vote of 34 to 6. The council named Ridge his counselor.

A month later, Andrew Jackson was elected president of the United States. He would test the Cherokees’ leadership soon enough, but even before Jackson was inaugurated, Georgia presented a more immediate threat, passing laws that annexed Cherokee land and extended state laws to that territory. Within two years, the state would require any whites living among the Indians—such as missionaries—to sign an oath of allegiance to the state or get out.

Ross spent much of those two years in Washington, trying to overturn the new laws. Jackson’s secretary of war, John Eaton, told Ross the tribe’s troubles had been self-inflicted: by adopting a constitution, it had insulted Georgia’s sovereignty. As the months passed and Georgia’s deadline loomed, some 500 Cherokees abandoned their homes and headed west to join earlier emigrants. Major Ridge grew alarmed: the fewer Cherokees who remained, the easier they would be to displace. He set out on a speaking tour intended to calm tribe members inclined to flee. He told large crowds that they had been targeted not because they were weak, but because they were strong and had “unexpectedly become civilized.”

“It is too much for us now to be honest, and virtuous, and industrious,” he noted sarcastically, “because then are we capable of aspiring to the rank of Christians and Politicians, which renders our attachment to the soil more strong.”

When Ross returned from Washington, he joined Ridge’s campaign, rousing crowds with his defiant oratory. He told a missionary friend that his “hopes of success were never greater.”

But more trouble was on the way: gold had been discovered on tribal land in Georgia, drawing a new wave of settlers, and President Jackson was not about to stop them. In February 1830, the tribe exercised its legal right to evict squatters Ridge, then 60, led a two-day raid in which Cherokees burned settlers’ houses and outbuildings. After Georgia authorities sent a posse after the Cherokees, gunfire rang out through northern Georgia.

The timing could hardly have been worse: at that very moment, Congress was hotly debating the Indian removal bill, a measure Jackson had introduced to establish an “ample district” west of the Mississippi to which the Indians of the South could move. On one hand, he had said in his inaugural address, Indian emigration “should be voluntary, for it would be as cruel as unjust to compel the aborigines to abandon the graves of their fathers and seek a home in a distant land.” On the other, he made it clear that Indians could not live as independent peoples within the United States: “surrounded by the whites with their arts of civilization” they would be doomed “to weakness and decay.” They had either to submit to state laws or go.

Congress passed the removal bill that May, and by September Jackson had begun negotiating with the Chickasaws, the Choctaws and the remaining Creeks to move west. Within four years they would be under land cession treaties or on the move. Some Seminoles also left in the early 1830s, and others fought the Army in Florida for several years. But Ross refused even to meet with Jackson. Instead, he turned to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the justices to invalidate Georgia’s removal law.

As the court’s spring session opened in March 1831, Georgia officials roamed the Capitol to rally states’ rights advocates to the idea of stripping the justices of their power to review the acts of state governments. The justices—in an act that historians would say reflected their worry over the talk coming out of Congress—ruled that they lacked jurisdiction over the Cherokees’ claims against Georgia. Chief Justice John Marshall offered their only hope when he wrote that “the Indians are acknowledged to have an unquestionable. right to the lands they occupy.”

Ross used that opinion to bring another suit, this time challenging the arrests of white missionaries who had refused to swear allegiance to Georgia. Now faced with a case involving U.S. citizens, the court was forced to act. On March 3, 1832, the justices declared the arrests unconstitutional and said Georgia could not extend its laws to Cherokee land. They also ruled that the federal government, by treaty, had the authority to protect Indian tribes from state intrusions. Taking aim at removal, Marshall wrote, “Protection does not imply the destruction of the protected.”

Ross wrote to some Cherokee delegates in Washington, “[T]here are great rejoicings throughout the [Cherokee] nation.”

But Jackson declared the ruling “stillborn.”

A month later, Major Ridge’s son John and two other Cherokees were in Washington, trying to determine whether the federal government would enforce the court’s decision. Jackson met with them only to send them home to tell their people “that their only hope of relief was in abandoning their country and removing to the West.”

Jackson’s resolve unnerved the younger Ridge. Gradually, he realized that court victory or not, his people were losing ground. But he could not relay that message to the tribe for fear of being branded a traitor, or killed. He was even hesitant to confide in his father, believing Major Ridge would be ashamed of him.

But the son underestimated his father. Major Ridge judged his people’s prospects by their suffering, and he knew the situation was far worse than anyone had dared to admit. Forbidden to meet by Georgia law, the Cherokees had abandoned New Echota in 1831. Settlers were confiscating their homesteads and livestock. By sharing his thoughts on Jackson, John Ridge helped his father come to the conclusion that the tribe had to at least consider going west.

But Major Ridge kept his feelings private, believing he needed to buy time to persuade his people to think about uprooting. At the same time, he began to wonder how Ross could remain so strident in his resistance. Couldn’t he see that his strategy was bearing no fruit?

Ross met twice with Jackson at the White House, to no avail. When Jackson offered $3 million to move the Cherokees west, arguing that Georgia would not give up its claims to Cherokee land, Ross suggested he use the money to buy off the Georgia settlers.

By spring 1833, the Cherokees were split between a National Party, opposed to removal, and a Treaty Party, in favor of it. As factional violence flared, some of the most influential Cherokees signed a letter to Ross saying their ongoing “course of policy” would “not result in the restoration of those rights” that had been taken from them. In signing the letter, Ridge acknowledged that he had softened on removal. In a closed meeting, the chiefs gave Ross until fall to resolve the impasse with the government before they made the letter public.

Under so much pressure—from the state of Georgia, the federal government and a stream of settlers—the tribe began to disintegrate. Some Cherokees—including Ross’ brother Andrew—set out for Washington to broker their own deals. John Ridge quietly continued to recruit members to the Treaty Party and make overtures to Jackson. When Ross learned of these efforts, he tried to pre-empt them, proposing to cede Cherokee land in Georgia and to have Cherokees in other states become U.S. citizens.

By then, the rift between Ross and Major Ridge was widening: when Ridge heard of the chief’s offer, he saw it not just as a bargaining ploy but as an abuse of power. Without the blessing of the other chiefs, Ridge said, Ross had no more power to make a treaty than his traitorous brother.

The majority of the tribe members remained opposed to removal, but the Ridges began advocating the idea more openly—and when they broached it at a council meeting in Red Clay, Tennessee, in August 1834, one Cherokee spoke of shooting them. Father and son slipped away unharmed, but by the end of the summer the Cherokees were trading rumors—false—that Ross and Major Ridge had each hired someone to kill the other.

In September 1834, Ridge visited Ross at his home to put the rumors to rest. They tried to talk as they once had, but the only thing they could agree on was that all talk of murder had to stop. Ridge believed Ross’ intransigence was leading the Cherokees to destruction. Ross thought his oldest friend had become soft, unduly influenced by his son.

By January 1835, the council had sent Ross back to Washington with instructions to again seek federal protection, and the Treaty Party had sent John Ridge to broker a deal. Afraid of being outflanked by the Treaty Party, Ross told Jackson the Cherokees would leave their land for $20 million. He was stalling he knew the federal government would never pay that much. When Jackson rejected him, Ross proposed that the Senate come up with an offer. When the Senate named its price as $5 million, Ross said he would take the offer to the council but wouldn’t be bound by that figure. By then Jackson had lost his patience. In late 1835, he dispatched a commissioner to Georgia to seal an agreement with the Treaty Party leaders.

They met in New Echota, the deserted Cherokee capital. The terms were simple: the Cherokees would receive $5 million for all their land east of the Mississippi. The government would help them move and promise never to take their new land or incorporate it into the United States. The Cherokees would have two years to leave.

It was Major Ridge who outlined the final argument to those present. “They are strong and we are weak,” he said. “We are few, they are many. We can never forget these homes, I know, but an unbending, iron necessity tells us we must leave them. I would willingly die to preserve them, but any forcible effort to keep them will cost us our lands, our lives and the lives of our children. There is but one path to safety, one road to future existence as a Nation.”

On December 29, a small group of Cherokees gathered at the home of Ridge’s nephew Elias Boudinot to sign the Treaty of New Echota. After Ridge made his mark, he paused and said, “I have signed my death warrant.”

John Ross tried to overturn the treaty for two years but failed. In May 1838, U.S. troops herded more than 16,000 Cherokees into holding camps to await removal to present-day Oklahoma. Indians who tried to flee were shot, while those who waited in the camps suffered from malnutrition, dysentery and even sexual assault by the troops guarding them. Within a month, the first Cherokees were moved out in detachments of around a thousand, with the first groups leaving in the summer heat and a severe drought. So many died that the Army delayed further removal until the fall, which meant the Cherokees would be on the trail in winter. At least a quarter of them𔃌,000—would perish during the relocation.

Ridge headed west ahead of his tribesmen and survived the journey, but on the morning of June 22, 1839, separate groups of vengeful Cherokees murdered him, John Ridge and Boudinot. Ross, appalled, publicly mourned the deaths. “Once I saved Major Ridge at Red Clay, and would have done so again had I known of the plot,” he told friends.

John Ross served as principal chief for 27 more years. He oversaw the construction of schools and a courthouse for the new capital, and spent years petitioning the federal government to pay the $5 million it owed his people. (It wasn’t fully paid until 1852.) Even as his health failed, Ross would not quit. In 1866, he was in Washington to sign yet another treaty—one that would extend Cherokee citizenship to freed Cherokee slaves—when he died on August 1, two months shy of his 76th birthday. More than three decades later, the federal government appropriated Indian property in the West and forced the tribes to accept land reservations. Today, many of the country’s 300,000 Cherokees still live in Oklahoma.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story referred erroneously to events having taken place in the Alabama Territory in 1813 and 1814. The territory was not organized until 1817

Adapted from Toward the Setting Sun: John Ross, the Cherokees, and the Trail of Tears, by Brian Hicks. Copyright © 2011. With the permission of the Atlantic Monthly Press.

Promotion At Last

For his efforts at Bennington, Stark accepted reinstatement into the Continental Army with the rank of brigadier general on October 4, 1777. In this role, he served intermittently as commander of the Northern Department as well as with Washington's army around New York. In June 1780, Stark took part in the Battle of Springfield which saw Major General Nathanael Greene hold off a large British attack in New Jersey. Later that year, he sat on Greene's board of inquiry which investigated the betrayal of Major General Benedict Arnold and convicted British spy Major John Andre. With the end of the war in 1783, Stark was called to Washington's headquarters where he was personally thanked for his service and given a brevet promotion to major general.

Returning to New Hampshire, Stark retired from public life and pursued farming and business interests. In 1809, he declined an invitation to attend a reunion of Bennington veterans due to ill health. Though unable to travel, he sent a toast to be read at the event which stated, "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils." The first part, "Live Free or Die," was later adopted as the state motto of New Hampshire. Living to the age of 94, Stark died on May 8, 1822 and was buried in Manchester.


For many, even on the American side, Andre left a legacy of honor. Although his request for execution by firing squad considered a more honorable death than hanging, was rejected, according to lore he placed the noose around his own neck. Americans were taken by his charm and intellect. Washington referred to him as being "more unfortunate than criminal, an accomplished man, and a gallant officer." Hamilton wrote, “Never perhaps did any man suffer death with more justice, or deserve it less."

Across the Atlantic, Andre's monument in Westminster Abby bears a mourning figure of Britannia that is inscribed, in part, to a man "universally Beloved and esteemed by the Army in which he served and lamented even by his FOES."

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