Term Paper: Andrew Jackson

Pages: 7 (2794 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  Topic: Native Americans  ·  Buy This Paper

Andrew Jackson has the dubious honor of being the president who played the most active role in the political and military actions needed to ensure the removal of the Native Americans from their ancestral lands to those the government and its people chose for them. The most massive forced migrations of native peoples in the history of the U.S. occurred under the watch and with the active participation of Jackson's ideologies and actions. Though he was far from alone in the sentiment that natives needed to be contained and removed from land U.S. citizens wished to settle and in other ways exploit his decisive actions formed the backbone of the "legitimate" manner in which such was done. In a letter to Aaron V. Brown on February 12, 1843, Jackson summed up his concept of manifest destiny, as "extending the area of freedom." Jackson was in fact one of the most influential of all figures in American history, with regard to the alteration in policy from taming, educating and assimilating Native Americans to removing them from ancestral lands to places outside the desired areas of white settlement. There are many reasons for this change in policy but Jackson's experience in life, war and politics serve as an era standard for policy change and actions.

Jackson's involvement in Indian removal began long before he was to become a front runner in a presidential election that split the major political parties of the day. His involvement harkened back to his earliest involvement in the military of the day, as a leader of militiamen Jackson was involved in at least two Indian War battles, the Creek War of 1814 which occurred across Georgia and Alabama after a Creek raiding party has attacked Fort Mims and massacred settlers there and concluded with a decisive massacre of the Upper Creek on the part of Jackson's militia on the Tallapoosa River near what is not Alexander City, Alabama. At the close of the conflict the Creek relinquished a good portion of their land in the area. Jackson in fact felt so strongly about the need to vindicate the Creek attack on the fort that he himself mustered a militia and went to combat while still recovering from a gunshot wound he had incurred during a fight.

Jackson's feelings were so strong that during his Indian War leadership he executed a volunteer militiaman for desertion, his Indian challenge was a ruthless challenge that would pervade his fight and his politics for his entire career as both a soldier and a polititian.

The second Indian War Jackson was involved in was the First Seminal War that occurred between 1816 and 1818 and was the result of the Seminole defending runaway slaves and their land in Florida. Jackson and his men were unsuccessful in their bid to force the Seminole into submission and force the relinquishment of their land but Jackson and his men did begin the process of forcing Spain to relinquish its rights to the territory of most of modern Florida. The Seminole conflict would continue for many years, after this unsuccessful bid to rid the Seminole of their land, Jackson would take it up again as president several years later in 1835, as the Seminoles again resisted relocation.

Most Indian nations had been coerced through many creative means to accept relocation to lands West of the Mississippi, believing that even if such lands were inferior to those they already held at least they might be left alone.

While the first resistors that eventually held out long enough for the fight to end in actual combat the Black Hawk engaged in a war with President Jackson's Troops in 1832 and 1833, the Seminole hold outs waited their turn to resist removal and faced troops in 1835 a conflict which lasted until 1842, past Jackson's terms as president. According to Jackson his Indian removal dogma and later his policy was mutually beneficial, as it would prove to allow the white settlers to occupy land that is now occupied only by few "savage hunters" and will allow the bands of those "savage hunters" to continue to pursue their own end in land no one wanted, and as Jackson put it "under their own rude institutions. Jackson pursued this end with great vigor but did not prove capable of "persuading" all the regional Indians to accept the terms of the government for relocation assistance. The Cherokee nation was eventually forcibly removed and the travel they endured later became known as the trail of tears, given the number of Cherokees who died while in transit. The Seminole peoples in fact never relinquished their lands or officially ceded them, and the end of the conflict was only nominal, with President Tyler declaring it at an end in 1842 in his first term of office following Jackson.

Jackson served as the 7th president of the U.S. from 1829 to 1837 as a result of his active participation not only in the India War but in his military defeat of the British at New Orleans in 1812. Jackson was an incredibly popular military man with strong views about the needs of the nation and the native populations. Jackson contended that Native assimilation to white culture was not compatible with the plans of many white settlers to eek out a living from the rich lands the Natives inhabited. Jackson, like many others saw the native peoples as alien and incompatible to U.S. progress. One of Jackson's very first acts as president was to sign into law a piece of legislation that would allow the U.S. To officially change its historical policy of education and assimilation for the native populations and demand that they be removed from their ancestral land in exchange for land west of the Mississippi. The Indian Removal Act of 1830, was in large part written specifically for Jackson's leanings, as he has previously sought a smaller scale bill that was specific only to Georgia and then was offered by congress an alternative that covered a great deal more, in fact all the settled land east of the Mississippi.

According to one expert on the era, Jackson was not satisfied with submission of the "red man" he was completely and totally convinced, along with many of his white contemporaries that the nation would not be free of foreign dangers unless the Indians were removed from the land.

The fear being that historically the natives had been offered treaties which by default gave them real and practical ideologies of statuses as independent nations. As independent nations they could negotiate deals with the U.S. government, at all levels and any foreign body who offered them a better deal that the U.S., and this was especially true of the Cherokees. Likely as a result of his dealings with the Spanish in Florida, as an aspect of the Seminole wars Jackson was sure that the "red man," would logically negotiate with foreign parties to help them hold their ground, as they had done before. Jackson and many others believe that if the Indians were removed by treaty, coercion, or force that they would then be admitting submission to the U.S. government and would no longer be an inroad threat for foreign competitors for land and resources.

To this end Jackson, first as a war hero and then as a political leader contrived every opportunity to deal with the native nations in the east and especially the southeast that would lead to the removal of these people from this land. As president Jackson began in his inaugural address, to outline his Indian removal policy, and later legislation that basically gave the Cherokee of Georgia an ultimatum, either accept the governments offer to relocate across the Mississippi or remain in Georgia, not as a sovereign nation but as a people subject to all the laws of the state of Georgia.

The congressional political debates that ensued as a result of Jackson and other's Indian removal policies were heated and partisan. Jackson in many ways led the standard, through a development of an ideology, surrounding the situation of the presence of the Indians in land settlers (and especially farmers) wished to inhabit. Jackson's letters often define his affinity to the earth, and his empathy with the farmer, as he was a self-made man that referred to himself as "a plain cultivator of the soil." Jackson was much more than this, as a very wealthy land owner with refined taste, his own perceptual dogmatic self-identity was of a farmer, seeking out a living in toil but more than that always looking for another piece of land to plant. In many ways this was likely a strong impetus along with the other mentioned contextual issues of the day for his strong feelings regarding the soil he wished to strip the Indians of. In Jackson's farewell address he himself says this of his own legacy;

The States, which had so long been retarded in their improvement by the Indian tribes residing in the midst… [END OF PREVIEW]

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