Cherokee Essay, Research Paper
The Removal of the Cherokee from their land in the 1830’s remains a national disgrace today.
How could our great conscientious country have done such a thing? The Cherokee were brutally
moved west with disregard for the laws that existed. It showed that the United States government
felt it had the power to do as it wished (Wright 280). The fate of the Cherokee was to befall
most of the other Indian nations The U.S. encountered (Hudson 460).
It is however, unfortunate that the Cherokee were herded together like animals because they had
adopted many European ways (Wright 280). This did not satisfy the settlers’ hunger for land.
The growing of cotton rapidly depleted the soil, so much land was needed to grow (Kehoe 182).
The need for land became even worse with the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 (Kehoe 183).
Along with the competition between Cherokee farmers and local farmers (Kehoe 183) and the
discovery of gold (Spicer 63) in Cherokee land made it apparent that the Cherokee would have to
be moved if the white man was to prosper (Kehoe 183).
The United States was not the first power to force themselves upon the Cherokee. The British
had been tring to colonize the Cherokee’s land in the 1700’s (Kehoe 181). Although this was
different in the respect that the Cherokee nation resorted to violence. Involved in a costly
and destructive war that started in 1759, the Cherokee were forced to accept further colonization
of their ancestral lands in 1762 (Kehoe 181).
With the outbreak of the Revolutionary war in 1775, most Cherokee sided with British (Kehoe 181).
As bad as the British might have been, the thought of having lawless rebels roaming the
countryside bothered the Cherokee (Kehoe 181).
In the early 1800’s, Georgia ceded land in what is now Mississippi, to the Federal government.
In return, the federal government would help remove the Indians from Georgia (Spicer 58). Then,
on December 19, 1829, Georgia passed a law that incorporated a large part of Cherokee land. It
-All Cherokee laws were null and void.
-Unlawful for anyone to encourage the Cherokee to resist the state of Georgia.
- Illegal for any Indian to testify against a white person in court (Hudson 462).
The law gave whites a license to steal and cause trouble, without any consequence to whites,
since no Indian could testify against a white (Hudson 462). While the state of Georgia was
Tring to undermine the Cherokee’s rights to their land; President Jackson signing the removal
act of 1830 setting aside land for the Indians in exchange for their eastern lands (Kehoe 185).
The Cherokee also had supporters. The most effective were Protestant missionaries living in
Cherokee country (Hudson 462). Georgia’s solution was in 1830, made it illegal to reside on
Cherokee land without a license from the governor (Hudson 462). In order to get a license, they
signed an oath of allegiance to Georgia. Many of the missionaries refused, and were arrested.
Among those arrested was Samuel Worcester (Hudson 462). The charges would be dropped if they
signed the oath of allegiance. Worcester refused and was sentenced to four years hard labor
(Hudson 462). Worcester then appealed to the Supreme court.
In the controversial case, Worcester vs. Georgia,Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that they had
violated Worcester’s rights and that some of Georgia’s laws ere unconstitutional. Marshall
therefore ordered his release (Hudson 463). In the Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia ,Marshall ruled
that because the Cherokee nation was independent of Georgia, through previous treaties, Georgia
laws did not apply (Wright 280). President Andrew Jackson was furious, and reportedly remarked,
“John Marshall has rendered his decision; now let him enforce it” (Hudson 463). The results of
the two decisions were that the Cherokee were not protected under the Constitution, and they did
not own they land, just merely using it (Kehoe186). The catch was that the Cherokee could not
be moved because of existing treaties (Spicer 63).
The Supreme Court would not allow Jackson to move the Cherokee legally; Jackson, along with the
Georgia governor, would draw up a treaty so that the Cherokee would agree to removal (Spicer 63).
A small faction within the Cherokee’s ranks signed the treaty. John Ross argued in Congress
that the signatures on the treaty were void because they did not represent the whole Cherokee
nation (Spicer 63). Nevertheless, it was all in vain, removal now seemed inevitable. The
Cherokee still refused to leave their homeland (Hudson 462).
Since the Cherokee were stripped of their land title, white settlers started to seize their
land. Some whites, when they were in control of the land, sued the Cherokee for what little
money they had left (Hudson 463). Since no Indian could testify against a white, any Indian
automatically lost (Hudson 463). Other whites simply came in and beat the Cherokee men and
women with cowhides or anything else they could use (Hudson 463). The General who was in Charge
of intimidating the Cherokee, General Ellis wool tried to protect the Cherokee, but was
Court-martialed for trampling the rights of Alabama’s citizens. He was later cleared of all
Charges (Hudson 463).
Although some Cherokee had voluntarily left in the 1700’s, it was time for the remaining
Cherokees to relocate (Hudson 462). General Winefield Scott was put in Charge of removing the
Cherokee. He and 7,000 men came into Cherokee territory and set up headquarters in New Echota,
the Cherokee capital. General Scott also set up concentration camps to put the Cherokee until
they were ready to be moved (Hudson 463). After the soldiers arrested the Cherokee, they looted
their villages, burned their houses and even dug up their graves in search of the Cherokee’s
valuables (Hudson 463). Some Cherokee managed to escape to the mountains of western North
Carolina and remain there even today, but the rest were to move to Indian territory in present
day Texas and Oklahoma (Hudson 464). The conditions in the camps began to worsen. They were
cramped and filthy. Cholera broke out from time to time, killing a small number of Cherokee
((Hudson 464). About 2,000 Cherokee had already moved, about 5,000 left in the June of 1838, an
unusually hot and dry summer (Hudson 463). A larger party waited until fall to move, but they
suffered from measles, whooping cough and exposure. It took some Cherokee six months to reach
Indian Territory (Hudson 464). About 4,000 Cherokee of 16,000 died in the removal, known as the
“trail of tears” (Spicer 63). The conditions were not much better out there. After the civil
war, the land held by the Cherokee was again coveted and swindled by white settlers (Hudson 470).
So how could the United States be so brutal to the Indians, and the Cherokees in
particular? Was it that poor white farmers needed land to grow their crops on, to start
families? The answer is no, the need for land came not from the poor farmer, but from rich
planters who needed plenty of soil to plant cotton on (Hudson 451). It then became popular
onion that we should move the Indians west. It was one of the major reasons why Andrew Jackson
was reelected in 1832, on his position to move the Indians west of the Mississippi river (Wright
280). Jackson therefore defeated the Indian’s last hope, Henry Clay (Hudson 463).
Even Thomas Jefferson thought the Indians should give way to the needs of the white man
(Hudson 452). Why? Because it was believed that the white man could better use the land that
the Indians(Hudson 452). Jefferson even said that the poor whites should mix with the Indians
and become one people (Hudson 452).
It is very unfortunate, because the Cherokee and the other “five civilized tribes” had adopted
many of the white man’s ways. The Cherokee had their own newspaper, The Phoenix,
ratified a constitution written by the CHEROKEE (Kehoe 186). They gave women important roles in
government, such as councils (Kehoe 180). Yet the white man did not care, for the Cherokee
stood in the way of his hunger for land.
Andrew Jackson and the state of Georgia were in clear violation of the law when they first
tried to move the Cherokee, but that did not stop them. When their law stood in their way, they
simply went around it by ratifying a treaty that was obviously fraudulent (Spicer 63). The
removal of the Cherokee showed little respect for human life and human rights, causing the
needless death of about 4,000 people (Spicer 63). Although the Cherokee kept a delegation in
Washington, D.C. to fight removal, it was without success (Spicer 63). Once the Cherokees were
out in Indian territory, they were forced from it also. Texans ran them out of eastern Texas
In conclusion, I find frightening that the United States perceive someone as second class
people, and have the power to do as they wish. Given the United States’ stand on human rights
today, I find it ironic because our past, in particular the “trail of tears” we did not care at
all of human rights what so ever. Although, under the removal act of 1830, compensated the
Indians for relocation (Kehoe 185), it was not however, able to pay for the 4,000 dead Cherokee.
It remains a national disgrace that will forever stain our record of human rights how we so
brutally and unlawfully removed the Cherokee from their homes.