Excerpt from "The Chickasaw nation : a short sketch of a noble people (1922)"   by James H. Malone  (Sequoyah - page 358)
California Digital Library

The Great Invention

We have seen that from early childhood Sequoyah evinced an inventive talent and that he became an expert silversmith, but the crowning work of his life was his invention of the Cherokee syllabic alphabet, the simplest, most complete, and the most perfect in the long history of mankind. I realize that this is a sweeping statement, nevertheless it is true in every respect. If it should be supposed that this alphabet was but the product of genius, unaccompanied by study, toil, and self denial, there could not be a greater mistake. The germ, or underlying principles, involved in its production no doubt engaged the profound thoughts of Sequoyah for years before he gave himself entirely over to working out its details.

As might be expected, there are various reasons assigned as to the causes which led Sequoyah to enter upon years of labor to produce his alphabet. Some ascribe it to a taunting remark
made by some of his companions, when, around the camp fire, Sequoyah casually stated that he could invent an alphabet equal to that of the white man. The party was discussing some written pages of a letter that had been found on a white captive prisoner, which they called "speaking leaves."

Stung by the incredulous taunts of his companions, it is claimed that then and there Sequoyah registered a secret vow to make good his statement. It is also said that in the troubles of the Cherokees with the white settlers, when the latter began encroaching on the territory of the Indians, it became a much debated question as to the source of the superiority of the white man over the Indian. Sequoyah in early life was a hunter and trader in furs, but met with an accident which made him a cripple for life. He was naturally of a contemplative disposition and had an inventive turn of mind. His physical affliction gave him more time for thought and reflection, and he came to the conclusion that the ability of the white man to read and write and thus transmit his thoughts, not only to the present, but future generations, was the mainspring of the superiority of the white man.