School Papers

In Indian Policy”). Ironically, on May 28, 1830,

In 1795, George
Washington said that if the US government wanted peace with the Indians then it
had to be given to them (Washington). Washington was a consistent supporter of
the acculturation of Indians (Perdue 52). Thomas Jefferson’s policy then built
off of Washington’s proposition and allowed the Five Civilized Tribes,
Cherokee, Seminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek Indians, to live in the east
of the Mississippi River as long as they adopted to American principles and
behavior (“Jefferson’s Indian Policy”). Ironically, on May 28, 1830, President
Andrew Jackson signed The Indian Removal Act which legally authorized him to
negotiate with Indian tribes for their relocation to federal territory west of
the Mississippi River for their current lands (“Primary Documents in American
History: Indian Removal Act”). ?The Indian Removal Act established the basis of
tribal sovereignty and was instigated by a conflict caused by political bias in
treaties, the compromise in Supreme Court cases that proved to be futile, and
consequently caused the mass movement and near extinction of the
Cherokee. 

         There
were several instigators that caused the development and passing of the Indian
Removal Act. Before Andrew Jackson became the President, he served as major
general in the War of 1812, Battle of New Orleans, and Creek War (Congress). On
June 18, 1812 Congress declared war on Britain which started the War of 1812 (“An
Act Declaring War Against UK and Ireland”). Jackson led an army of 2,071
Tennessee volunteers to New Orleans but was instructed to stop at Natchez, and
then Secretary of War, John Armstrong sent a message ordering him to turn over
his force to General Wilkinson. Jackson obeyed and also promised to march them
back to Nashville where Wilkinson stayed and faced numerous hardships on the
journey back. He also payed for all of the provisions and earned himself the
respect and praise of the people of Tennessee (“The War of 1812 and Indian
Wars”).

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On August 30, 1813
a group of Creek Indians executed the Fort Mims massacre where hundreds of
American settlers were killed. As a result, Jackson, with 2,500 men, was
ordered by Tennessee’s governor to engage in warfare against the Creek Indians
lead by Red Eagle and Peter McQueen and then led a mass slaughter of the
residents at the Creek village of Tallushatchee and claimed it as a retaliation
for the Fort Mims slaughter (Willentz 25). Jackson and his men were forced to
retreat to Fort Strother with 2,000 troops after they were attacked in the
Battles of Emuckfaw and Enotachopo in January 1814. Consequently, on March 27,
1814, Jackson engaged the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend where
they were successful and three weeks later, it ended with Red Eagle’s surrender
(Remini 215). These endeavors and subsequent treaties led by Jackson would
serve as a foundation and be a supplement to his philosophy when he proposed
the Indian Removal Act and would be a predilection for future decisions.  

            Jackson
was nominated as a candidate for the U.S. presidency by the Tennessee
legislature in October, 1825 and won the election against John Adams. He was
inaugurated into the office on March 4, 1829 (“Pursuing the Presidency”) (Refer
to Appendix A for Election Results). In his first State of the Union speech to
Congress, he stated that Indians still have retained their “savage” habits and
if they did not move west of the Mississippi River or submit to state law, then
they will face extinction as did the Delaware or Mohegan (“First Annual
Message”). In this message, he clearly stated the intentions that during his
presidency he will be a strong proponent in either moving the Indians to the
land west of the Mississippi River that was reserved for them or having them
legally bound to the state law. His statement also highlighted that the
remaining tribes that had already been established as autonomous nations would
face extinction if they did not submit to Jackson’s constraints. Eventually,
President Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act on May 28, 1830.

Prior to the signing
there had been conflict within the Senate as people spoke out against the
legislation like Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen and Congressman Davy Crockett (Howe
345). In their view, they believed that the Government honored Indian rights to
land and independence included in past treaty agreements and presidential
proclamations, the treaties made by the federal government provided the
protection, security, and monetary payments (Refer to Appendix B for Senate
Debate). However, amendments to the bill that would support these actions were
all rejected (Senate 383).

As said previously,
Jackson had lead treaties that earned the US large sections of land. After the
Creek war had ended in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Creek Indians were forced
to cede approximately 23 million acres of their land in the Treaty of Fort
Jackson in 1814. Jackson dictated the terms of the treaty and from the way the
terms were, it was almost as an act of revenge as the treaty stated that prior
to Jackson’s military expedition of that part of the Creek Nation, they were
hostile towards the Americans and many sins and aggressions were committed by
the Creeks against the Americans (“Treaty with The Creeks, August 1814”). This was
a precedent set by Jackson and his negotiation strategies that would be almost
identical when land was being negotiated with the Seminoles or Cherokees.

Jackson was able
to relocate the Chickasaw and Choctaw but experienced trouble with the
Seminoles. They still resisted because of the suspicious ways the Treaty of
Payne’s Landing was signed (Meltzer 76). Another treaty that gave them the
right to stay in their current location was the Treaty of Moultrie Creek in
which the Seminoles had given up all their claims to the Florida Territory in
return for a reservation in the center of the Florida peninsula which gave them
the legal right to stay there (Missal 63-64). Despite the facts, the U.S. still
engaged in conflict with the Seminoles which turned into the Second Seminole
War which lasted for over six years starting in 1835 (Graff 110). This shows of
how even though the Seminoles could legally live in their current area, they
were unjustly forced off of their home.

Shortly after Jackson became
President, the Georgia legislature passed a series of laws abolishing the
independent government of the Cherokee which destroyed some of the goals the
Washington and Monroe Administration had in making the Indian tribes autonomous
nations that peacefully interacted with the Americans (Graff 89). Eventually
the actions regarding the treaty moved forward and the Treaty of New Echota was
signed on December 29, 1835. The terms that were established were that the
Cherokee Nation ceded all of its territory and move west. However, the treaty
was not approved by the Cherokee National Council nor the Principal Chief John
Ross, as they were deemed to be legally illegitimate by the U.S. government, (Ehle
45).

            John
Ross was a particular opponent to this treaty because he protested to Congress
in 1836 and said that the Cherokee were peaceful and happy and even under the
constraints of treaties and stipulations of the Government, they still
prospered and had made advances in their civilization in multiple fields, and
this will be unjust to have them wander in undiscovered lands and into a savage
life. He also states that the treaty that was drafted and signed was fraudulent
and made by unauthorized individuals against the wishes of the Cherokee people
(“Chief John Ross’ Memorial and Protest to Congress 1836”). This protest
explicitly highlights the fact that the actions that were taken regarding the
treaty were falsified and they did not receive the full consent of the Cherokee
people to ratify the treaty. This shows how a compromise was reached unjustly
even after the multiple occasions they were treated unfairly.

            Prior
to the Treaty of New Echota, there had been two main Supreme Court cases,
Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Worcester v. Georgia. In 1829, gold was
discovered in Georgia and a gold rush occurred. This increased the people’s
determination to remove the Cherokee from their homeland (Williams 3).

Following the discovery of gold, the Georgian legislature forbade the Cherokee
to dig gold and in the following session they stripped them of all of their
land besides the residences where they lived in. Even if state judges
interfered in these actions they were denied jurisdiction in such cases (Perdue
104). This clearly shows that there was political bias and the state government
was acting reactively instead of acting proactively and looking at the losses
the Cherokees would face.

This then
instigated the case Cherokee Nation v. Georgia. In June 1830, a delegation of
Cherokee led by John Ross and William Wirt, attorney general in the Monroe
Administration, were selected to obtain a federal injunction against laws that
were passed by the Georgia state legislature depriving them of their rights
within the state borders (“Cherokee Nation v. Georgia”). They claimed that
Georgia created laws that “go directly to annihilate the Cherokees as a
political society,” and since they were a foreign government, Georgia’s laws
were not legally binding to them. As a counter, Georgia was trying to make the
point that the Cherokee Nation was not a foreign government because they did
not have a constitution or a strong central government. The primary request
that was being made was to void all laws that Georgia was making against the
Cherokee, but the Supreme Court did not rule on any decision because they
declared that according to the Constitution, the Cherokee Nation was not a
foreign state and cannot officially make or maintain an action in the Supreme
Court, but they might rule in favor of the Cherokee if they had a proper case
and position (“Cherokee Nation v. Georgia 1831”).

            ­Samuel
Worcester, a minister, and eleven other missionaries had met at New Echota and
published a resolution to go against an 1830 Georgian law prohibiting all white
men from living on Indian land without a state license (Mize “Worcester,
Samuel Austin”). Governor George Gilmer then ordered the militia to arrest
Worcester and the others and after two trials they were all convicted
(“Worcester v. Georgia 1832”). The Cherokee then decided to take this case to
the Supreme Court which then was Worcester v. Georgia. In this case, the
Supreme Court removed the conviction of Samuel Worcester. Interestingly,
Georgia did not send anyone to represent them as they said, “no Indian could
drag it into court.” Supreme Court Justice John Marshall clearly established the
relationship between the Indian tribes, states, and the federal government,
stating that the federal government had the sole authority to deal with Indian
nations (“Worcester v. Georgia”). This then nullified the Georgian statute
prohibiting non-Native Americans from being present on Native American land
without a state license. It also declared the Cherokee as a sovereign nation
thus nullifying all laws that Georgia imposed on it (Ehle 24). This case would
be cited and be used as a precedent in the future when the laws of tribal
sovereignty and reservation system was being established (“History.com
Staff”).  However,
President Jackson blatantly ignored the ruling and responded in a famous quote,
“John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!” (“Worcester v.

Georgia 1832″).

            Following
the decision of Worcester v Georgia, President Jackson disregarded it and still
wanted to relocate the Cherokee. However, he feared that if he continued his
actions he might start a civil war between federal troops and the Georgia
militia, so he needed another legal way to justify their movement (Worcester v.

Georgia and the Nullification Crisis”). The Indian Removal Act gave Jackson the
power to negotiate treaties with the Indians, he then used the conflict that was
created from the Worcester v. Georgia case to coerce the Cherokee to sign the
treaty that would remove them from their homelands and get relocated (Prucha
212). In his speech to Congress on Indian Removal he said, “it will enable them
to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions;
will retard the progress of decay-to cast of their savage habits and become an
interesting, civilized, and Christian community” (Jackson). His belief that it
would be beneficial for the Indians garnered support especially from the people
who would economically benefit primarily because of the gold previously
discovered in Georgia. The problem augmented when the state only recognized
individual titles and clearly drew the line between the rights of white and
non-white settlers. As a result, the military actions were enacted by Jackson’s
and Van Buren’s administrations which then caused the harsh journey that the
Cherokees would have to face (Prucha 97).

             The entire movement was coined as the Trail of
Tears (For the Map of the Movement Refer to Appendix C), and it lasted from
1831-1850 (Ehle 1). As said previously, the Seminole were relocated after they
had lost in the Second Seminole War, and the Creeks were relocated after they
gave up their claims to the land. The mass movement of Indians was the result
of the multiple wars and conflicts the Indians and Americans had and even with
the compromise that was reached in court cases, they were still relocated
because of Jackson’s strong desire and goal to relocate the Indians for
colonial and economic expansion.

            The
treaty to relocate the Cherokee was imposed by President Van Buren and an armed
force of 7,000 men under General Winfield Scott were ordered to relocate 13,000
Cherokees (Mooney 130). In the winter of 1838, they began the 1,000-mile
journey with very little clothing and because of disease, they were not allowed
to go into any towns or villages, so this meant they had to travel a
significantly longer distance to go around them (Ehle 34). After they crossed
Tennessee and Kentucky, they faced a challenge at the Ohio River where they
were not allowed to cross until everyone else who wanted to cross went on the
ferry, so they were forced to take shelter under a bluff where many died
because of the poor conditions like disease and the temperature (Ehle 48). A
soldier from Georgia who was on the journey said, “I fought through the War
Between the States and have seen many men shot, but the Cherokee Removal was
the cruelest work I ever knew” (Remini 169). The Cherokee unfortunately
sustained the most casualties on the trek through southern Illinois because of
the freezing temperatures. The Cherokee sustained about 4,000 casualties (Ehle
64). This shows the drastic effect that Jackson’s beliefs and determination
caused multiple laws that were named Indian Appropriation Act were later passed
that established reservation systems which allowed the Indians to live as
autonomous nations (“History.com Staff”).

            The
Indian Removal Act was the result of a strong philosophy that was formed by
years of policy and debate especially from the Jefferson and Jackson
administration, and it was set in stone after General Jackson had numerous
encounters with Indian negotiations and conflicts and when he entered the
Presidency, he made it his goal to relocate the rest of the Indian tribes west
of the Mississippi River for colonial and economic expansion. When numerous
people like Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen, Congressman Davy Crockett, Cherokee
Chief John Ross, and Samuel Worcester had written petitions, debated, and taken
cases to court to reach a compromise, it was ruled in the Cherokee’s favor, but
because of political bias and desire, they were still forced to relocate and embark
on a treacherous journey. The Trail of Tears left a mark in our history by
showing the results of the desire for expansion and wealth, and to rectify this
mistake, the laws of tribal sovereignty and reservation system were established
to prevent a mistake like this from happening again.

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