Indian Removal (Zinn Chapter 7) Essay, Research Paper
Once the white men decided that they wanted lands belonging to the Native Americans (Indians), the United States Government did everything in its power to help the white men acquire Indian land. The US Government did everything from turning a blind eye to passing legislature requiring the Indians to give up their land (see Indian Removal Bill of 1828). Aided by his bias against the Indians, General Jackson set the Indian removal into effect in the war of 1812 when he battled the great Tecumseh and conquered him.
Then General, later to become President, Jackson began the later Indian Removal movement when he conquered Tecumseh’s allied Indian nation and began distributing their lands (of which he invested heavily in). Jackson became the leader of the distribution of Indian lands and distributed them in unequal ways. In 1828 when Jackson was running for President his platform was based upon Indian Removal, a popular issue which was working its way through Congress in the form of a Bill. Jackson won a sweeping victory and began to formulate his strategies which he would use in an “Indian Removal campaign”. In 1829, upon seeing that his beloved Bill was not being enforced Jackson began dealing with the Indian tribes and offering them “untouchable” tracts of lands west of the Mississippi River if they would only cede their lands to the US and move themselves there. Jackson was a large fan of states rights-ism, hence he vetoed the charter for the Bank of the United States, and when faced with two issues concerning states rights (one with South Carolina regarding succession, one with Georgia regarding the Indians) he went with the suppression of South Carolina and gave Georgia all out support. When faced with the decision of Union or Indians he went with the Union and oppressed the Indians.
The Executive branch wasn’t the only part of government which suppressed the Indians, the Legislative branch also suppressed them. In 1828 Congress passed the Indian Removal Bill which forced the Indians in the south to relocate or “be subjected to state laws.” This Bill was strongly opposed by the north while it was supported by the south. The Bill, which barely passed it both House and Senate, was a support for the popular distribution of fertile Indian lands. The United States government was lured into the relocating of the Indians because it offered more farmland for southern farmers. As far as the actual relocation went, the task of relocating the Indians fell into the hands of the Army, who then mostly signed the task off to contractors. Indian attempts at conforming were futile and quickly crushed. When the Cherokees Americanized their tribe and converted to “the American Way” the state of Georgia quickly went in with militias and forced them along their way. Various tribes of Indians fought on the side of the United States against their Indian brothers in return for promised protection against removal, government promises proved to be false. The government (behind the lead of Jackson) sent a sign that it wanted the Indians to leave, and not conform.
The US government was quick, behind its powerful Executive, to turn an eye. In 1832 militia regiments from Georgia went onto Cherokee lands and imprisoned 4 missionaries whom they later released upon them swearing oath to the state of Georgia. Later, the same militia imprisoned 10 missionaries and sentenced them to four years hard labor. Their case (based on a treaty with the Cherokee years prior) was appealed to the US Supreme Court where John Marshall upheld their case (see Worcester v. Georgia). The state of Georgia never released them from imprisonment and Jackson never intervened. The government also turned a blind eye when dealing with treaties that were previously agreed to with the Indians. In 1791 the Cherokee nation acknowledged themselves to be under the protection of the United States and no other sovereign, also an agreement was made that white men could not be on their lands without passports. Jackson himself offered false promises to the Indians that they would have the lands west of the Mississippi “as long as Grass grows or water runs.” These lands were taken away barely 50 years after they were assessed.
The United States government played a cruel game when it relocated its Indian population (some could argue this as survival of the fittest, evolution). They turned a blind and mostly bias eye when it came to Indian politics and treaties they had made twenty years prior. They made promised that were going to be broken, and which there were no way of avoiding. In short, the government in a way did the same thing to the Indians that Jackson did to the Bank: extirpation.