Term Paper: Removal Act of May 28

Pages: 10 (2862 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Native Americans  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Despite heavy historical argumentation, it appeared to all that their opponents were impressed with historical arguments, which another interpretation or another emphasis merely turned around.

The debates ended with the bill being passed by the House with a close vote of 102-97 on May 26. Two days later, President Jackson signed it. As feared by opposing congressmen, it indeed gave the President explicit powers to negotiate the expulsion of the Cherokees from Georgia. It ended the U.S. government's past policy of extending education, assistance and protection to this peace-loving tribe.

The Georgia problem was characterized by two events: the signing of a compact between the central government and the Cherokees in 1802, wherein they would cede western land claims in exchange for the government's giving up arms within Georgia's limits. But Georgia's citizens had become impatient. The other event was the Cherokee's adoption of a constitution, expressly declaring their sovereignty within their own borders. This directly ignored Georgia's laws and offended the Georgians.

Some things must be said about the Cherokees at this point. They lived at the Georgia-Tennessee border (Pagewise 2001) and were the richest and most culturally advanced Indian tribe. As traditional farmers, they grew 40,000 acres worth of crops and ran 22,000 cattle and 7,200 horses. Many black slaves worked for them in their sawmills. These expelled Cherokees in the 1830s were not wild Indians. One of them even developed the first Indian alphabet. They could even read. Furthermore, the Cherokees tried every means to live in peace with their white neighbors. But the whites were envious of their lands and wanted to claim these lands for themselves. Unlike uncivilized tribes, the Cherokees resisted the whites' aggressions by taking their case to the United States courts

One immortal name was that of Davy Crockett, the congressman from Tennessee, who opposed the Indian Removal Act in support of the Cherokees. This destroyed his political career.

In 1833, the U.S. Supreme Court, through Chief Justice John Marshall, declared the Cherokees as a "domestic, dependent nation" and that the state of Georgia had no right to extend or impose its laws over them. This was a victory for the Cherokees, whom the court considered wards of the federal government. The following year, the court declared them "indeed sovereign and immune" from Georgia's laws. He declared the removal of the natives invalid and would be valid only if they agreed to it by means of a Treaty, ratified by the Senate.

President Jackson refused to go by the court's decision. He was well-known for his Seminole Wars against the Indians in Georgia and Florida and was a strong defender of states' rights. The Cherokees themselves were divided and disconsolate. Most of them supported Principal Chief John Ross. But a minority of less than 500, who were led by Major Ridge and his son John and Elias Boudinot, favored removal. It was Ridge who signed agreement to relocate under the Treaty of Enchola as the representative of the majority. But this document was what President Jackson needed. And so, Congress ratified the agreement, despite the protests of Daniel Webster and Henry Clay in 1835 (Bureau of Public Affairs). A petition was drafted to repudiate the treaty and which had 16,000 signatories, but President Jackson ignored it and, instead, set a deadline for the complete ejection of the Cherokees on May 23, 1838.

When Cherokee chief John Ross tried desperately to hold on to their land, Jackson ordered military action. Many of the leaders of the army sent to enforce the order were ashamed of it (Pagewise). General John Wool, in protest, resigned his command. He uttered that the tragic event had a good side to it, which was that it would place the Indians beyond the reach of those white men, who "like vultures, were watching, ready to pounce on their prey and strip them of everything they have."

General Wool was replaced by General Winfield Scott who led 7,000 men, who would escort the 15,000 Cherokees. General Scott told his men t treat the Cherokees with kindness and warned that any injury shown to a Cherokee would be dealt with swiftly and severely (Pagewise). President had wanted and ordered the immediate and complete removal of the natives, but General Scoot waited for better weather in obeying his order.

On a summer day, one of the saddest events in the tribe's history, men, women and children were driven from their land and forced to march a thousand miles across the Mississippi. Some took the boat under cruel conditions under generally indifferent army commanders (Golden Ink). During this infamous trek (notably called the "Trail of Tears")to Oklahoma, around 4,000 died. Chief John Ross urged General Scott to let his people lead the tribe west, to which the General agreed. The Cherokees were organized in smaller groups and led separately through the wilderness to look for food. The natives under General Ross, which left nearly in the Fall, arrived in Oklahoma during the harsh winter of 1838-1839. Not only was the journey a disaster to many of them, the land given to them was completely different to what they had cultivated, loved and left (Pagewise), The conditions of this land would not allow them to live as planters of corn or farmers of the land. Worse, the once united tribe evolved into disunity and torn apart by internal conflicts, recriminations, and a civil war. Most of all, they found other tribes already in that place when they arrived. These were the Choctaws, the Creeks and the Chickasaws.

The motivation behind this brutal "Trail of Tears" and the United States government's refusal to abide by the conditions and obligations of its treaty with the Indian tribe wee unmistakably the European settlers' bottomless desire for cheap land. What made the experience more inhumane was that Indians had a different view of land ownership. They cultivated and relished it for hunting, farming or dwelling. Europeans, on the other hand, viewed land for individual ownership. Furthermore, Indians were a loose, decentralized, democratic and un-authoritarian people, led by chiefs, who were respected men, informally chosen. Quite often, those Indian leaders who signed treaties did not have the authority or consensus of the tribe, hence, these treaties were often broken.

Many historians have studied the Indian Removal Act and the conflict surrounding it. They analyzed facts (Meyers), reviewed and charted consequences and perused motives. Or else, they placed the removal debate on a broader historical context as just another piece of political event during the Jackson period. But one feature of the debate is that the manner in which the congressmen used history as they knew, understood or interpreted it also told students of history about the kind of legislators there were at that time

Those who did not or do not know much about history may have been left with the impression that the great Indian ward in the old West occurred in the 1800s, those cowboy and Indian" days. Facts bear out that those days were not so. At that time, the tribe was relentlessly under attack. It was more a series of a mopping up. Around the time of the Trail of Tears, their numbers were nearly decimated, and their extinction complete. Their peaceful existence in the land they called their home came to halt with their killing, enslavement, oppression and theft of their domicile with the ingress of the Europeans. But what made it all a diabolical scheme was that it became public policy under the dreadful regime of President Andrew Jackson.


Ferraro, Vincent. Indian Removal Act of 1830. Mount Holyoke College International Relations, 2003. http://www/mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/removal.htm

Golden Ink Internet Solutions. The Trail of Tears - Cherokee Indians Forcibly Removed from North. http://ngeorgia.com/history/nghistt.html

Goodman, Rebecca. Indian Removal Act Broke Greenville Treaty. Ohio Moments: The Cincinnati Enquirer, 2003. http://enquirer.com/editions/2003/05/28/loc_ohiodate0528.htm

Meyers, Jason. No Idle Past: Uses of History in the 1810 Indian Removal Debates. Historian Journal, 2000.

Pagewise. What is the Indian Removal Act of 1830? Pagewise, Inc., 2002, http://la.essortment.com/whatisindianr_thin.htm

Public Affairs Division. Indian Treaties and the Removal Act of 1830. U.S. Department… [END OF PREVIEW]

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