IntroductionIn 1795, GeorgeWashington said that if the US government wanted peace with the Indians then ithad to be given to them (“Seventh Annual Message to Congress, December 8, 1795”).Washington was a consistent supporter of the acculturation of Indians (Perdue52). Thomas Jefferson’s policy then built off of Washington’s proposition andallowed the “Five Civilized Tribes” to live in the east of the Mississippi Riveras long as they adopted to American principles and behavior (“Jefferson’sIndian Policy”). Ironically, on May 28, 1830, President Andrew Jackson signedThe Indian Removal Act which legally authorized him to negotiate with Indian tribesfor their relocation to federal territory west of the Mississippi River fortheir current lands (“Primary Documents in American History: Indian Removal Act”).?The Indian Removal Act established the basis of tribal sovereignty and wasinstigated by a conflict which was caused by political bias in treaties, thecompromise in Supreme Court cases that proved to be futile, and consequentlycaused the mass movement and near extinction of the Cherokee. General Andrew Jackson and the Indians Before AndrewJackson became the President, he served as major general in the War of 1812,Battle of New Orleans, Creek War, and the First Seminole War (“The War of 1812and Indian Wars”). On June 18, 1812 Congress officially declared war on Britainwhich started the War of 1812 (“An Act Declaring War Against UK and Ireland”).
Jacksonleads an army of 2,071 Tennessee volunteers to New Orleans but is instructed tostop at Natchez, and then Secretary of War, John Armstrong sends a messageordering him to turn over his force to Wilkinson. Jackson obeys and alsopromises to march them back to Nashville and face numerous hardships on thejourney back but pays for all of the provisions and earns himself the respectand praise of the people of Tennessee (“The War of 1812 and Indian Wars”). OnAugust 30, 1813 a group of Creek Indians executed the Fort Mims massacre wherehundreds of American settlers were killed. As a result, Jackson, with 2,500men, is ordered by Tennessee’s governor to engage in warfare against the CreekIndians lead by Red Eagle and Peter McQueen and then leads a mass slaughter ofthe residents at the Creek village of Talluschatchee and claims it as aretaliation for the Fort Mims slaughter (Willentz 25). Jackson and his men areforced to retreat to Fort Strother with 2,000 troops after they are attacked inthe Battles of Emuckfaw and Enotachopo in January 1814. Consequently, on March 27,1814, Jackson engaged the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend wherethey were successful and three weeks later, it ended with Red Eagle’s surrender(Remini 215). These endeavors and subsequent treaties led by Jackson will serveas foundation and be a supplement to his philosophy when he proposes the IndianRemoval Act and will be a predilection for future decisions.
President Andrew Jackson’s Treaties and Policy Jacksonwas nominated as a candidate for the U.S. presidency by the Tennesseelegislature in October, 1825 and wins the election against John Adams and is inauguratedinto the office on March 4, 1829 (“Pursuing the Presidency”) (Refer to AppendixA for Election Results). In his first annual message to Congress he states thatIndians still have retained their “savage” habits and if they do not move westof the Mississippi River or submit to state law, then they will face extinctionas did the Delaware or Mohegan (“First Annual Message”).
In this message, heclearly states the intentions that during his presidency he will be a strongproponent in either moving the Indians or having them legally bound to thestate law and the land west of the Mississippi River will be set aside for theIndians. His statement also highlighted that the remaining tribes that hadalready been established as autonomous nations would face extinction if theydid not submit to Jackson’s constraints. Eventually, President Jackson signedthe Indian Removal Act on May 28, 1830. Prior to the signingthere had been conflict within the Senate as people spoke out against thelegislation like Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen and Congressman Davy Crockett (Howe345). In their view they believed that the Government honored Indian rights toland and independence included in past treaty agreements and presidentialproclamations, and for the federal government to provide the protection, security,and monetary payments provided for in the treaties (Refer to Appendix B forSenate Debate). However, amendments to the bill that would support theseactions were all rejected (Senate 383). As said previously, Jackson had leadtreaties that earned the US major parts. After the Creek war had ended in theBattle of Horseshoe Bend, they were forced to cede approximately 23 million acresof their land in the Treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814 Jackson dictated the terms ofthe treaty and from the way the terms were it looked like it was almost as anact of revenge as the treaty stated that prior to Jackson’s military expeditionof that part of the Creek Nation, they were hostile towards the Americans andmany sins and aggressions were committed by the Creeks against the Americans (“Treatywith The Creeks, August 1814”).
This was a tone set by Jackson and his negotiationstrategies that would be almost identical when land was being negotiated withthe Seminoles or Cherokees. Jackson was able to relocate the Chickasaw andChoctaw but experienced trouble with the Seminoles. They still resisted becauseof 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 wasthe Treaty of Moultrie Creek in which the Seminoles had given up all theirclaims to the Florida Territory in return for a reservation in the center ofthe Florida peninsula which gave them the legal right to stay there (Missal63-64). Despite the facts, the U.S. still engaged in conflict with theSeminoles which turned into the Second Seminole War which lasted for over sixyears starting in 1835 (Graff 110).
This shows of how even though the Seminolescould legally live in their current area, they were unjustly forced off oftheir home. Shortlyafter Jackson became President, the Georgia legislature passed a series of lawsabolishing the independent government of the Cherokee which destroyed some of thegoals in the Washington and Monroe Administration had in making the Indiantribes autonomous nations that peacefully interacted with the Americans (Graff89). Eventually the actions regarding the treaty moved forward and the Treatyof New Echota was signed on December 29, 1835. The terms that were establishedwere that the Cherokee Nation ceded all of its territory and move west.However, the treaty was not approved by the Cherokee National Council, as theywere deemed to be legally illegitimate by the U.S.
government, or the PrincipalChief John Ross (Ehle 45). John Ross was a particular opponent to this treatybecause he protested to Congress in 1836 and said that the Cherokee werepeaceful and happy and even under the constraints of treaties and bystipulations of the Government, they still prospered and have made advances intheir civilization in multiple fields, and it will be unjust to have themwander in undiscovered lands and into a savage life. He also states that thetreaty that was drafted and signed was fraudulent and made by unauthorizedindividuals against the wishes of the Cherokee people (“Chief John Ross’Memorial and Protest to Congress 1836”). This protest explicitly highlights thefact that the actions that were taken regarding the treaty were falsified andthey did not receive the full consent of the Cherokee people to ratify thetreaty and this shows how a compromise was reached unjustly even after themultiple occasions they were treated unfairly.
Supreme Court Cases Priorto the Treaty of New Echota, there had been two main Supreme Court cases,Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Worcester v. Georgia. In 1829, gold wasdiscovered in Georgia and a gold rush occurred, and this increased the people’sdetermination to remove the Cherokee from their homeland (Williams 3). Followingthe discovery of gold, the Georgian legislature forbade the Cherokee to diggold and in the following session they stripped them of all of their landbesides their residences where they lived. Even if state judges interfered in theseactions they were denied jurisdiction in such cases. (Perdue 104).
This clearlyshows that there was political bias and the state government was actingreactively instead of acting proactively and looking at the losses the Cherokeeswould face. This then instigated the case Cherokee Nation v. Georgia. In June1830, a delegation of Cherokee led by John Ross and William Wirt, attorney generalin the Monroe Administration, were selected to obtain a federal injunctionagainst laws that were passed by the Georgia state legislature depriving themof their rights within the state borders (“Cherokee Nation v. Georgia”). They claimedthat Georgia created laws that “go directly to annihilate the Cherokees as apolitical society,” and since they were a foreign government, Georgia’s lawswere not legally binding to them. As a counter, Georgia was trying to make the pointthat the Cherokee Nation was not a foreign government because they did not havea constitution or a strong central government The primary request that wasbeing 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 thataccording to the Constitution, the Cherokee Nation was not a foreign state andcannot officially make or maintain an action in the Supreme Court, but theymight rule in favor of the Cherokee if they had a proper case.
(“CherokeeNation v. Georgia 1831”). SamuelWorcester, a minister, and eleven other missionaries had met at New Echota andpublished a resolution to go against an 1830 Georgian law prohibiting all whitemen from living on Indian land without a state license (Mize “Worcester,Samuel Austin”). Governor George Gilmer then ordered the militia to arrestWorcester and the others and after two trials they were all convicted (“Worcesterv. Georgia 1832”). The Cherokee then decided to take this case to the SupremeCourt which then was Worcester v.
Georgia. In this case, the Supreme Court removedthe conviction of Samuel Worcester. Interestingly, Georgia did not send anyoneto represent them as they said, “no Indian could drag it into court.” SupremeCourt Justice John Marshall clearly established the relationship between theIndian tribes, states, and the federal government, stating that the federalgovernment had the sole authority to deal with Indian nations (“Worcester v.Georgia”). This then nullified the Geogia statue prohibiting non-NativeAmericans from being present on their land without a state license.
It alsodeclared the Cherokee as a sovereign nation thus nullifying all laws that Georgiaimposed on it (Ehle 24). This case would be cited and be used as a precedent inthe future when the laws of tribal sovereignty and reservation system was beingestablished. However, President Jackson blatantlyignored the ruling and responded in a famous quote, “John Marshall has made hisdecision, now let him enforce it!” (“Worcester v. Georgia 1832”). Cherokee Relocation Followingthe decision of Worcester v Georgia, President Jackson disregarded it and stillwanted to relocate the Cherokee.
However, he feared that if he continued hisactions he might start a civil war between federal troops and the Georgiamilitia, so he needed another legal way to justify their movement (Worcester v.Georgia and the Nullification Crisis”). The Indian Removal Act gave Jackson thepower to negotiate treaties with the Indians, he then used the conflict thatwas created from the Worcester v. Georgia case to coerce the Cherokee to signthe treaty that would remove them from their homelands and get relocated (Prucha212). In his speech to Congress on Indian Removal he said in his speech that “itwill enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rudeinstitutions; will retard the progress of decay-to cast of their savage habitsand become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community” (“Andrew Jackson’sSpeech to Congress on Indian Removal”).
His belief that it would be beneficialfor the Indians garnered support especially from the people who wouldeconomically benefit primarily because of the gold previously discovered inGeorgia. The problem augmented when the state only recognized individual titlesand 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 administrationswhich then caused the harsh journey that the Cherokees would have to face (Prucha97). The entire movement was coined as the Trail ofTears (For the Map of the Movement Refer to Appendix C), and it lasted from1831-1850 (Ehle 1). As said previously the Seminole were relocated after theyhad lost in the Second Seminole War, and the Creeks were relocated after theygave up their claims to the land. The mass movement of Indians was the resultof the multiple wars and conflicts the Indians and Americans had and even with thecompromise that was reached in court cases, they were still relocated becauseof Jackson’s strong desire and goal to relocate the Indians for colonial andeconomic expansion.
Thetreaty to relocate the Cherokee was imposed by President Van Buren and an armedforce of 7,000 men under General Winfield Scott were ordered to relocate 13,000Cherokees (Mooney 130). In the winter of 1838, they began the 1,000-milejourney with very little clothing and because of disease, they were not allowedto go into any towns or villages, so this meant they had to travel asignificantly longer distance to go around them (Ehle 34). After they crossedTennessee and Kentucky, they faced a challenge at the Ohio River where theywere not allowed to cross until everyone else who wanted to cross went on theferry, so they were forced to take shelter under a bluff where many diedbecause of the poor conditions like disease and the temperature (Ehle 48).
Asoldier from Georgia who was on the journey said, “I fought through the WarBetween the States and have seen many men shot, but the Cherokee Removal wasthe cruelest work I ever knew” (Remini 169). The Cherokee unfortunatelysustained the most casualties on the trek through southern Illinois because ofthe freezing temperatures. The Cherokee sustained about 4,000 casualties (Ehle64).Conclusion TheIndian Removal Act was the result of a strong philosophy that was formed byyears of policy and debate especially from the Jefferson and Jacksonadministration, and it was set in stone after General Jackson had numerousencounters with Indian negotiations and conflicts and when he entered thePresidency, he made it his goal to relocate the rest of the Indian tribes westof the Mississippi River for colonial and economic expansion. When numerouspeople like Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen, Congressman Davy Crockett, CherokeeChief John Ross, and Samuel Worcester had written petitions, debated, and takencases to court to reach a compromise, it was ruled in the Cherokee’s favor, butbecause of political bias and desire, they were still forced to relocate andembark on a treacherous journey.
This has left a mark in our history as itestablished the laws of tribal sovereignty and the reservation system that isseen today.