Was Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Policy Motivated by Humanitarian Impulses?
Authors: Anthony F. C. Wallace, Robert V. Remini, A Summary By: History 2111 Summer 2011
A summary comparison of views regarding the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Was it an act of humanitarianism intended to help and save the Native American culture from the white settlers, as Robert V. Remini has argued? Or was his intent to destroy the tribal culture and to get rid of the Native Americans, as Anthony F. C Wallace has argued?
Robert V. Remini argues that Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830 was socially motivated by humanitarian impulses, and that Jackson’s actions where driven by the desire to save the culture and populace of the Native Americans from white settlers into Indian territories. Robert V. Remini points out that Andrew Jackson believed that the only way for Indians to be “protected from certain annihilation” (pg3) was to remove the Native Americans from their land, to expel the Indians from their ancient lands.
To a majority of the Americans the Indians were inferior to them and that their culture was “a throw back to a darker age” (pg2). Mr. Remini strongly believed that that President Jackson was only trying to protect the Indians from this mentality and by moving the Indians to the west of the Mississippi this would protect them from the white man. Although the policy of removal was first suggested by President Jefferson as the alternative to the Native Americans, Mr. Remini explains how President Jackson had no hesitation in the belief that this was the right course of action.
President Jackson would proposed to the Indians that by moving west he would arranged for the exchange of land in the west for the land in the east, that the Indians that moved to the west would be given land titles and would be compensated for their land. President Jackson insisted that the Indians would not be forced to move, that some could stay if the understood and obeyed the laws of the state and recognized that they would be subject to them if they did not obey.
Although this proposal was never put into action because of corruption within those agents handling the removal and land greedy state officials. Jackson’s removal policy did not sit well with a lot of groups; many were uncomfortable about it but agreed it had to be done. President Jackson showed great leadership apart from everything else, and handled the Indian Removal act when no one else wanted to address the growing issue of Indian problem. Most government officials saw little to gain from addressing this and would do nothing.
Some historians believe the president’s motivation was clearly out of concern for the Indians customs, their culture and their language, but his first concern was the safety of the military, Indians occupying the east might jeopardize the defense of the United States. In December of 1830 President Jackson would submitted the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek to congress, it would be the first to win Senate approval. President Jackson wanted everything to go smoothly so that the American people would see that he was humane and that this Treaty would benefit both the Indians and the American nation at large.
With Jackson located too far away to oversee the actual removal of the Choctaw Nation, they would endure mismanagement, theft, corruption, and inefficiency on a level that would lead to their destruction. Jackson would be deeply offended and the removal of the Choctaw Nation would become one of the worse horror stories of modem era. Anthony F. C Wallace claims that Jackson’s actions as humanitarian were in fact the exact opposite, saying that Jackson was out to destroy the Indian Tribal culture and to move the Native Americans from the southeastern United States to areas west of the Mississippi by force.
Mr. Wallace objects to the belief that Jackson was acting humanely, and leans towards a more harsh truth and assessment of President Jackson’s actions and motives. That Jacksons alternative motive for acting like he cared about the Indians to the public and the Tribes was all in an effort to remove the Tribes completely from the southern United States in order to acquire their land. The Act gave the president the power to set aside land in the western territories for the Indians to be moved into. The 1820s was a new era for growth among banks, family farms; railroads in
Georgia, with the Cherokee constitution in effect nullified Georgia law and made the Indian nation a “state within a state. ” Georgia legislature 1828 passed a law after Andrew Jackson was elected president that extended the states jurisdiction over the Cherokees living within the state; Georgia was looking to force the president’s hand. Jackson quickly implemented a removal program that would resolve the Georgia’s crisis, but many would claim the removal was not justified but necessary to save the Indians from extinction.
Even though President Jackson preferred the Act over any other alternative, he stated that the Removal Act was “most arduous part of my duty” (pg15). The Indian removal bill covered many emotional issues, such as Christian, national honor, racial, prejudices, over all long and bitter and of course greedy. Both Houses of Congress were petitioned and solicited by all groups of religions and benevolent societies. Jackson’s Administration had successfully undermined the very essence of the Constitution by refusing to enforce existing treaties with Native Americans that had been policy from the time Washington on.
The Indians were finally forced to move out and where so sometimes by force. The Cherokee and the Seminoles resisted the removal and tried to hold their ground, by 1837 the Cherokee resistance was defeated, and the Seminoles where removed in 1842 after a long and costly war. President Jackson spoke of the removal in a friendly and concerned tone for Indian welfare stating, “They (the Indians) and my white children are too near to each other to live in harmony and peace”(pg17).
The harsh policies where nevertheless put into place. Jackson policies where not driven or influenced by humanitarian impulses but were a result of and expansionist mentality. Jackson was an Indian fighter from Tennessee and clearly wanted the Indians out of the picture as the country expanded. This view can be supported further by the fact that President Jackson ignored a Supreme Court ruling which stated that the Indians had a right to that land, Jackson still removed the Indians under harsh conditions and sometimes by force.
The Indian Removal Act was Jackson’s way of solving the “Indian Question.” Some people view the Indian Removal Act as a noble attempt by Jackson to save the Indians from the expansion of the United States, other see it as Jackson’s way of moving the Indians out of the picture and to secure more land for the growing country. Either way the Indian Removal Act is what it is, a crime against the Native Americans which had a right to the land of their ancestors and which they inhabited before American Expansion.