The removal of the native tribes of America from the eastern United States is one of the epic stains upon the country’s reputation that is constantly scrutinized. However, there were compelling arguments that were put forth on both sides of the issue before the removal was done. Proponents on both sides of the issue had compelling arguments, but the most reasonable and well-argued points were put forth by President Jackson. President Andrew Jackson argued that it would be in the best interest of both the government and the native tribes for the Indians to be removed past the boundary of the Mississippi.
He argued that moving the native tribes would, “separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; free them from the power of the States; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the Government and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community” (Jackson, 1830).
His main concern was the fact that it stated in the constitution that a separate government could not be formed within a state’s boundaries because it would damage the sovereignty of the state. He stated in his first address to congress “If the General Government is not permitted to tolerate the erection of a confederate State within the territory of one of the members of this Union against her consent, much less could it allow a foreign and independent government to establish itself there” (Jackson, 1829).
However, he acknowledged that the elimination of the native tribes due to crowding and unjust treatment was a problem and that “Humanity and national honor demand that every effort should be made to avert so great a calamity” (Jackson, 1829) for the remaining tribes to the east of the Mississippi.
In his address to congress he argues that in order to be able to stop the further deterioration of the native tribes and to preserve the sovereignty of the state of Georgia that it would be best if the tribes were moved to an, “ample district west of the Mississippi, and without the limits of any State or Territory now formed, to be guaranteed to the Indian tribes as long as they shall occupy it, each tribe having a distinct control over the portion designated for its use” (Jackson, 1829).
He also states that the process of removal of the native tribes should be voluntary on their part and if they chose to stay then it would be under the laws of whichever state they chose to live in. If we are to look at the most well stated argument on the other side of the issue it would be “Memorial of the Cherokee Indians” that was published in a small newspaper at the time of the debate.
It lays out the argument of the Cherokee against moving past the boundary of the Mississippi. The author argues that not only do the native tribes have an inalienable right to the land on which they are settled due to ”an inheritance from our fathers, who possessed it from time immemorial” (Niles Weekly, n. d. ), but also that the removal of their tribe from the lands on which they currently reside breaks treaties that were made by the government to that tribe.
The author also states that the government is working in its own interest because when the treaties were made it was clear that the government knew that the tribes had the right to the land that they were on. “These governments perfectly understood our rights our right to the country, and our right to self government. Our understanding of the treaties is further supported by the intercourse law of the United States, which prohibits all encroachments upon our territory” (Niles Weekly, n. d. ).
These arguments are well spoken and logical, but being that they were written by a native tribesman are very one sided and do not address the issue that was presented by the state of Georgia that created the debate in the first place, which was that of having a state within the state which challenged their sovereignty of governance in their own state. President Jackson was the most reasonable and logical voice that was noted in the debate over whether the native tribes should be moved to reservations west of the Mississippi.
Many of the other arguments were well written and spoken, but were not as logical and were in the most part one-sided. President Jackson tried to address the needs of both of the populations by proposing the solution of the moving of the Indians. Unfortunately, the move became one of the biggest stains on the government of that time period because no matter how well spoken and well intentioned President Jackson was it became an involuntary move on the part of many of the native tribes of the southeast.
Courtney from Study Moose
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