A Creek & Uchee Perspective on Unregulated Mass Immigration
The Georgia Colonial archives not only explain the origin of the ethnic label, “Cracker,” but also provide a warning of what can happen when immigration is not carefully regulated by government officials. It seems that nations again and again make the same mistakes.
In 2015, when I discovered that forgotten wooden box at the Lambeth Palace Library, I not only found the long-lost original copies of the Creek and Uchee Migration Legends, but also gained access to eyewitness accounts of American Colonial history, which were left out of the history texts, read by generations of American students. They provide a fascinating description of a series of both intentional and unintentional events, which caused relations to deteriorate between indigenous peoples of the Lower Southeast and the colonists from Europe. In several cases, documents from Colonial Georgia completely refute commonly accepted “FACTS” about the history of the United States.
See the link below for the POOF article, “The Surprising Origin of the Word, Cracker” to learn the details of these colonial archives.
For example, it has been hammered in our heads that the three branch government, created by the United States Constitution was based on the Iroquois Confederacy. Absolutely not. The first English-speaking government to have three clearly defined branches and a bicameral legislative branch was created by the 1754 Royal Charter of Georgia. It was based on the government of the Creek Confederacy. The Iroquois did not have a judicial branch, but the Creek Confederacy did . . . the heneha. They were mentioned in the chronicles of the Juan Pardo Expedition in the 1560s. The word is Itza Maya and means “Sun Lord.” Originally, the traveling circuit judges of Proto-Creek provinces were siblings of the Great Sun (Henemako) but by the 1700s, they were elected.
We are told in almost all references that the term, Georgia Cracker, referred to the crack of the whip used by livestock drovers. Absolutely not! In the 1700s, it was a pejorative term used by the English for the Irish. See the article below for details. The term first appears in the British colonies in comments made by Georgia Colonial officials about the swarms of illegal immigrants, who were crossing the Savannah River and squatting on newly ceded Uchee lands between Augusta and Savannah or even on land owned by the Creek Confederacy. Apparently, most of these squatters were originally from Ireland and Scotland.
We need to backtrack a bit. Georgia’s Native Americans abandoned the coastal regions of the future state in the late 1500s and early 1600s in response to diseases introduced by the Spaniards, military actions by Spanish soldiers, plus attacks by English slave hunters and pirates. Also, the soils near the Atlantic Coast generally did not grow traditional Creek crops very well. However, these same soils would prove to be ideal locations for growing the cash crops introduced by British colonists, such as rice, Sea Island cotton, indigo, citrus trees and tobacco. Thus, Creek leaders gladly ceded the tidewater lands along the coast to the Trustees of the Province of Georgia in order to have direct access to European goods.
Until the charter of the Board of Trustees was revoked by King George II in 1752, any person wishing to settle in Georgia, was required to apply for permanent residence in Savannah, until it was granted by the Trustees in England. During the Trustee Period, slavery was illegal and Native Americans (Uchees and Creeks) were free to live in villages or on farms within the boundaries of the province. There was a considerable level of intermarriage, because most of Georgia’s original leaders considered the Creeks to be a civilized people. Intermarriage was considered by both Creek and Georgia’s leaders as the ideal approach to maintaining good relations between the two peoples. Also, under the Trustees’ government, all livestock imported into Georgia were quarantined in corrals on the waterfront in Savannah until custom inspectors could ascertain their good health. Diseased cattle and sheep were killed.
The situation began to deteriorate when General James Edward Oglethorpe returned permanently to England. Soon thereafter, his good friend, Creek Principal Chief Chikili retired. Those who followed him in that position did not have any close relationships with British colonists. Meanwhile, the colony enduring nine years of incompetent leadership. More and more former bond servants from South Carolina and North Carolina began slipping across the Savannah River to occupy lands without a patent by the provincial government. According to statements made by Georgia’s governors, these “crackers” did not know about the Creeks’ ancient cultural history and thus considered them to be “savages” like the few remaining and very impoverished Natives still living in the Carolinas and Virginia. Because there was very little law enforcement beyond the coastal communities and plantations, “crackers” often got away with stealing Creek and Uchee livestock, hunting on Creek Confederacy lands, raping Creek women and establishing illegal farmsteads on the fringes of the Creek Confederacy.
Getting to the root of the problems facing Georgia colonial officials is very difficult 260 years later, but judging from comments made these officials, many of the trouble-makers on the frontier had been criminals in England, Scotland or Ireland . . . or else were the offspring of those criminals. During that era, it was commonplace for criminals in Great Britain to be sentenced to “transportation to His Majesty’s North American colonies” in order to avoid the gallows. The felons were required to be bond servants for a period of time in the colonies in order to pay for the court costs and ship transportation. After finishing their bond period and especially if breaking their bond, they would flee to the Carolina frontier and then to the Georgia frontier, where there were no courts or sheriffs.
After the king began appointing Royal Governors, the problems with crackers worsened further. After the Cherokee War ended in 1760, the illegal immigrants began entering the colony in large groups, which vastly outnumbered and outgunned the Colonial Rangers stationed on the Savannah River. Royal Governor James Wright (1760-1776, 1780-1782) described these settlers as “swarms of mosquitoes, which bring lawlessness and moral degeneration to the Georgia Uplands. They constantly committ insults that drive our justifiably outraged Creek friends to a state near war.”
It was probably Royal Governor Henry Ellis (1757-1760) who first applied the term “crackers” to the colony’s illegal immigrants. Ellis was an Irish Protestant aristocrat. Ellis also was the first British official to describe the horrific environmental impact of illegal immigration. Until the early 1750s, large herds of Woodland Bison roamed the rolling hills of Northeast and Middle Georgia. The Woodland Bison were larger than Western Bison. Throughout the region were vast expanses of grassy prairies interlaced with bottomlands, cultivated by the Creeks and Uchee. The rolling prairies had been created by thousands of years of being grazed by bison and periodically burned off by the Natives. Even today, there are some locations in Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky, where one can see “salt licks” created by the bison.
These bison became extinct almost overnight in the 1750s. Soon, many other animals that were part of the bison ecological system disappeared. These included red wolves, elk and massive lizards that were apparently New World cousins of the Komodo Dragon. Ellis blamed this ecological disaster solely on the illegal cracker immigrants. He said that not only did the Crackers dispatch large hunting parties into sovereign Creek lands, but they brought with them across the Savannah River, scrawny diseased cattle and sheep. The diseases carried by the Cracker livestock soon spread to the bison, elk and deer. For some time the once verdant grasslands of eastern Georgia were awash with their bones. By the beginning of the American Revolution, the Cracker cattle diseases had pretty much made the bison and elk extinct, east of the Mississippi River.
Repeatedly, colonial officials in Georgia blamed their counterparts in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia for the waves of undocumented Cracker squatters entering the frontier regions of their young colony. They claimed that families, whom those colonies viewed to be undesirables were denied land patents on their colonial frontiers and then encouraged to emigrate to Georgia. The presumed purpose was to destabilize the frontier with the Creeks. France also played a role in the increasing level of friction between the indigenous peoples and frontier settlers by sending agents to the Southeastern tribes to build up hostility against Great Britain.
What a different world Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi would have been, had not the illegal Cracker immigrants swept through the region and debased cultural values. In 1743, Georgia was rapidly headed toward being a multi-racial or mestizo society, which abhorred slavery. The best of the indigenous and European traditions would have mixed. There would have been no American Civil War. Slavery would have died a natural economic death and the Crackers in South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee would have killed each other off in family feuds within a few decades. Moderate politics would dominate the nation today.
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