In order for one to assess the Indian Removal policies at the time of Andrew Jackson’s term of presidency, one needs to gain background understanding of the situation which he would have inherited at the time of his coming into office. Manifest Destiny and the likes of Jefferson, John Quincy Adams and Monroe must be sought to fully comprehend “The Indian Problem”. It is hereby that one will come to understand why Andrew Jackson was and still is seen as an advocate of “Indian Removal”.
This will be done through examining the motivations and rationalizations behind Jackson’s policy of Indian Removal. At conclusion it will be seen why Jackson deemed this policy as the only way to solve the “Indian Problem” as well as the consequences thereof.
The Indian Removal essentially spans the time period of 1816 to 1850, this follows the War of 1812 after which American-Indian relations changed drastically . Removal can be seen as the dominant theme of policies regarding Native Americans, other policies or treaties made over this period of time include assimilation, as well as various polices regarding land.
Land was an issue which came to be accentuated over time with the greed of white Americans. In order to understand where the idea of physical removal was born reference must be made to Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase . Jefferson was said to favour what can be termed as voluntary removal, for the land was too great a prize for the Indians to make full use of or acknowledge their rights in. Thus, the Indians must move west into designated areas and fall under US laws. This is sadly far from the truth since removal in majority of cases was not at all voluntary in the end, removal was induced by creating conditions which would compel them to leave their land without having any say in the matter. This will later build on what has become infamously known as the Indian Removal, that being said Jefferson’s views laid the basis for forming later removal policies in particular.
Policies and treaties were the modus operandi for the Americans, for it is at the establishment of independence that the US government assumed treaty making power from the British with regards to the Native Americans. The making of treaties was simply the best way to deal with the Native Americans and it assured legality of such dealings. Typically, treaties dealt with land and transfer of ownership, progression of such should be noted in that with each treaty more and more land became ceded to the Americans. The means of acquisition of land will be dealt with later in this essay, as specific periods of time entail various details such as issues of voluntary removal and so on.
While land is seen as an important issue in all of this, racial issues also come to the fore. The issue of race and manifest destiny are strongly interconnected, for this is where the idea of who is an “American” comes from. It is from this that the mid- 19th century can be seen as a period in which racial destiny predominated within the American context . Americans were viewed as the “chosen people” and so-called inferior races were subordinates and therefore must be driven to eventual extinction. This further speaks to the Constitution with regards to who is eligible to vote and have equal participation as citizens of the United States of America.
These ideas have great influence from the British, who the Americans themselves are trying so hard to break away from at the establishment of independence. It is seemingly without them realising that they have used such a mindset to justify their various policies and treaties especially with regards to land which lies in the hands of the Native Americans. Their main overarching argument for justification of such would be that they as “Americans” are the only ones able to bring about political and economic changes that would make possible unlimited world progress.
There was hope that the Native Americans could be civilised and assimilate into so-called “American” ways and culture. In order for this to be achieved policies and treaties were put in place by the presidents in office over this vast time period. It is under Monroe that we see failure of such policies and the like, for he satisfied no one. While under Adams we see a definite hardening of attitudes toward the Indians at the national level. The Indian Removal thereby represents a major victory for the abovementioned ideas, this becoming fully explicit after 1830 with Andrew Jackson’s policies being necessitated within this period of time. By examining this in great detail one will come to note the change in severity in terms of how said removal was to be carried out.
The most notable change with regards to removal specifically and more generally the way in which the “Indian Problem” was dealt with, is evident when President Andrew Jackson was elected into office in 1829. Removal policies per se had dominated this period of time, however there was great division amongst the nation regarding such policies. Removal itself speaks to the matter of acculturation and assimilation into white “American” society as it was deemed to be the most humane way to deal with Indians, which was the goal of the Jeffersonians era; this was largely seen to be unattainable due it not coming to fruition, thereby in Jackson’s mind necessitating the Indian Removal policy of 1830.
In essence removal was the way in which the United States set out to prevent the formation of independent states within other states by so-called alien groups. The problem here being that these groups did not subscribe to white society’s ways of agriculture for the most part and thereby came to infringe upon territory which was no longer available to them to carry out their traditional practices of hunting and the like. These were real problems for the state and the Native American tribes. Acculturation and assimilation were however still the ultimate goals, yet it was thought that these goals would eventually be achieved through Jackson’s more aggressive removal policy.
While there were policies to be put in place regarding removal of the Indians, there have since the beginning of the republic been those who advocate removal and those who believed gradual assimilation was a possibility. These two positions represent the Gradualists and the Removalists .
The Gradualists advocated that peaceful coexistence was necessary until steady assimilation could take place especially through missionary work and the reordering of land usage. There was great emphasis on the change of ways for the Indians to agriculture as this was deemed a necessity . Further it was thought that the excess land which was in the hands of the Indians could be peacefully acquired by the whites. The Gradualists saw no issue with their policy and assumed it would work. It is thereby that the Indians would be civilised and be assimilated into white society as well as fostering peaceful relations on the frontier of westward movement. The Removalists essentially advocated for the opposite.
From the perspective of the Removalists most Indians had little interest in being “civilised”. They raised the question of the seemingly evident incapacity of the Indians to be civilized. The Indians were thus doomed to extinction and any effort to civilise them would prove futile. The evidence was clear that westward expansion was happening much too rapidly to ensure peaceful coexistence and this ultimately led to the potential for imminent warfare. The only solution here being that the Indians must exchange their lands east of the Mississippi River for the land west of the Mississippi. Should the Indians resist such a policy then forced removal was the final answer or solution. The Removalists saw this as common sense and that their suggestions would provide lasting peace for the United States. The Removalist argument provides the ideology which came to form the basis of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 as signed by President Andrew Jackson.
The policy of removal was the first of many policies to be drawn up over the decades following Andrew Jackson’s term in office as well as his act of Indian Removal in 1830. This essentially set the tone for the following decades and proved to be detrimental to the very existence of the Indian in America . Jackson was not afraid to speak his mind on this matter for he did not find the Indian problem intimidating and he had vast experience with the Indians himself allowing him to provide clear evidence and justification for the policies he was to put in place. He speaks to the wide spread failure to introduce civilisation in the hope that the Indians would leave their ways of wondering. Great indifference was experienced from the Indian side in that they had for the most part retained their ways of wondering .
It clear from his point of view that it was not right for one to treat the Indians as if they were capable of being sovereign, independent nations, due to the impending evidence that treaties allowing for such were never a success. This was the view that many a white man held at the time with regards to the Indians. As such under his impression Indians should no longer be able to exist independently or even attempt to establish sovereignty within the states, thereby they must move west or be subject to state law. Jackson essentially held this view since it could be seen that within the attempt of assimilation; the Indians had been driven to destruction and decay. To prevent further destruction, removal was the only way to ensure the protection of the Indians. This removal was said to be voluntary, however this wasn’t the case.
Jackson got his way when the Indian Removal Act of 1830 came into play, for this enabled him to proceed with his policy of removal and to negotiate removal treaties with the more resistant southern tribes. Exchange of land took place and new territory West of the Mississippi was assumed by the Indians. Behind the scenes of this act entail the minor detail of added incentives which would ultimately would have promoted the idea of removal amongst the Indians themselves. These incentives include promises of protection from other tribes, payment upon removal, further payment should land condition improve and among others alcohol.
The Cherokees are famously known for their resistance to the Indian Removal Act and its incentives, what follows their resistance is known as the Trail of Tears. President Jackson plays a key role in this. The Cherokees had formed their own constitution and assumed sovereignty. Such sovereignty came to be over looked by the state of Georgia when state law came to extend over Cherokee territory. The gold discovery of 1829 did not help matters. Cherokee Nation vs Georgia 1831, ended in favour of the Cherokees. The court lacked jurisdiction and ruled them a “domestic dependent nation”. Thus, the Cherokees had an “unquestionable right” to the land unless it was decided to cede their territory to the US. The acts of the US government recognise the Cherokee Nation as a state and the courts are bound by these acts. A further court case in 1832 did not play into the hands of the Georgians, however the decision regarding this case was never implemented and it was hereby that the Trail of Tears began with a treaty in 1835 forcing the Cherokees to cede their land.
It is shortly after the Trail of Tears that Jackson renews his thoughts on Indian Removal. He claims that the policy is at its height and further reiterates that all was carefully considered for the Indians. The new territory was said to be well suited for the Indians, this conclusion was based on their patterns of living. Furthermore, it was guaranteed that white society would not impinge upon these territories. The Indians cannot live in contact with civilisation and prosper, as was seen by the failure of previous policies. Thus, it was the moral duty of the US government to instate removal.
To conclude that Andrew Jackson was an Indian hater at heart, is a much too simplistic view for one to maintain. His dominant goal even before his presidency was to ensure the security and well-being of all inhabitants of the United States. His attitudes predominantly stem from an anti-British mindset. Much of Jackson’s reputation is based on his hard stance against hostile Indians, however it must be seen that he wanted justice served regardless of the attitudes of the Indians so that their rights may be upheld . He did however not view the Indians as noble savages and deemed it necessary to utilise fear in their interactions instead of higher motive.
In the Jacksonian sense Indians were not evil nor inferior, it was more a case of their barbaric ways being detrimental to survival, thus calling for change. Majority of interaction was governed by Jackson’s long held view that sovereignty was impossible for the Indians to maintain, which further posed a threat to the power of the US. Land was a necessity however they should be allowed no more. The treaties which had been put in place previously no longer served the interests of the United States and the Indians since it gave hegemony to the chiefs etc. Hereby, raising concern on Jackson’s part for Indian well-being . In essence the Jacksonian Indian removal was a culmination of his predecessor’s views, particularly that of Jefferson. Several solutions were posed and for Jackson removal was the most humane option which held the interests of the Indian at heart.
Cite this essay
Andrew Jackson and Trail of Tears. (2020, Sep 10). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/andrew-jackson-and-trail-of-tears-essay