Jackson's Second Annual Speech Before Congress, 1830
Andrew Jackson explains the Indian Removal Policy.
It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in
relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation. Two important tribes have
accepted the provision made for their removal at the last session of Congress, and it is believed that their example will induce the
remaining tribes also to seek the same obvious advantages.
The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States, to individual states, and to the Indians themselves. The
pecuniary advantages which it promises to the government are the least of its recommendations. It puts an end to all possible danger of
collision between the authorities of the general and state governments on account of the Indians. It will place a dense and civilized
population in large tracts of country now occupied by a few savage hunters. By opening the whole territory between Tennessee on the
north and Louisiana on the south to the settlement of the whites it will incalculably strengthen the southwestern frontier and render the
adjacent states strong enough to repel future invasions without remote aid. It will relieve the whole state of Mississippi and the western
part of Alabama of Indian occupancy, and enable those states to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power.
It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; free them from the power of the states; enable them to
pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their
numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the government and through the influence of good counsels, to
cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community. These consequences, some of them so certain
and the rest so probable, make the complete execution of the plan sanctioned by Congress at their last session an object of much
Toward the aborigines of the country no one can indulge a more friendly feeling than myself, or would go further in attempting to reclaim
them from their wandering habits and make them a happy, prosperous people. I have endeavored to impress upon them my own solemn
convictions of the duties and powers of the general government in relation to the state authorities. For the justice of the laws passed by
the states within the scope of their reserved powers they are not responsible to this government. As individuals we may entertain and
express our opinions of their acts, but as a government we have as little right to control them as we have to prescribe laws for other
With a full understanding of the subject, the Choctaw and the Chickasaw tribes have with great unanimity determined to avail themselves
of the liberal offers presented by the act of Congress, and have agreed to remove beyond the Mississippi River. Treaties have been
made with them, which in due season will be submitted for consideration. In negotiating these treaties, they were made to understand
their true condition, and they have preferred maintaining their independence in the Western forests to submitting to the laws of the
states in which they now reside. These treaties, being probably the last which will ever be made with them, are characterized by great
liberality on the part of the government. They give the Indians a liberal sum in consideration of their removal, and comfortable
subsistence on their arrival at their new homes. If it be their real interest to maintain a separate existence, they will there be at liberty to
do so without the inconveniences and vexations to which they would unavoidably have been subject in Alabama and Mississippi.
Humanity has often wept over the fate of the aborigines of this country, and philanthropy has been long busily employed in devising
means to avert it, but its progress has never for a moment been arrested, and one by one have many powerful tribes disappeared from
the earth. To follow to the tomb the last of his race and to tread on the graves of extinct nations excite melancholy reflections. But true
philanthropy reconciles the mind to these vicissitudes as it does to the extinction of one generation to make room for another. In the
monuments and fortresses of an unknown people, spread over the extensive regions of the West, we behold the memorials of a once
powerful race, which was exterminated or has disappeared to make room for the existing savage tribes. Nor is there anything in this
which, upon a comprehensive view of the general interests of the human race, is to be regretted. Philanthropy could not wish to see this
continent restored to the condition in which it was found by our forefathers. What good man would prefer a country covered with forests
and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms, embellished with all
the improvements which art can devise or industry execute, occupied by more than 12 million happy people, and filled with all the
blessings of liberty, civilization, and religion?
The present policy of the government is but a continuation of the same progressive change by a milder process. The tribes which
occupied the countries now constituting the Eastern states were annihilated or have melted away to make room for the whites. The
waves of population and civilization are rolling to the westward, and we now propose to acquire the countries occupied by the red men
of the South and West by a fair exchange, and, at the expense of the United States, to send them to a land where their existence may be
prolonged and perhaps made perpetual.
|Andrew Jackson (and the State of Georgia, insisting on "States' rights") was instrumental in creating
the Trail of Tears - believing in the white man's 'god-given right' to attain land at whatever cost, his
policies pushed the Native Americans off their home territories. His policy was furthered by the
Supreme Court, which denied nationhood status to Native American, making them subject to
American laws without the privilege of being American citizens (the court would reverse the decision,
but the damage had been done). This 'manifest destiny' spurred westward expansion, imperialism,
and genocide - as well as helped perpetuate the Southern slave system. Expansion was wholly
advocated by southern plantation owners, as they wanted more land to grow more cotton crops.
|Although Indian Territory was meant to be an area of settlement set aside for Native Americans, the Sooner rush negated that promise.
|When the eastern tribes entered into Indian Territory, the Plains Indians resented the intrusion. Their culture was very different from the
agricultural easterners. Above is a burial typical of Plains Indians; with the arrival of the 'foreign' tribes and the whites, the Plains Indians saw
their ways disappear.
Letter from Chief John Ross, "To the Senate and House of Representatives"
Chief John Ross replies to the Trail of Tears
[Red Clay Council Ground, Cherokee Nation, September 28, 1836]
It is well known that for a number of years past we have been harassed by a series of vexations, which it is deemed unnecessary to recite
in detail, but the evidence of which our delegation will be prepared to furnish. With a view to bringing our troubles to a close, a
delegation was appointed on the 23rd of October, 1835, by the General Council of the nation, clothed with full powers to enter into
arrangements with the Government of the United States, for the final adjustment of all our existing difficulties. The delegation failing to
effect an arrangement with the United States commissioner, then in the nation, proceeded, agreeably to their instructions in that case, to
Washington City, for the purpose of negotiating a treaty with the authorities of the United States.
After the departure of the Delegation, a contract was made by the Rev. John F. Schermerhorn, and certain individual Cherokees,
purporting to be a "treaty, concluded at New Echota, in the State of Georgia, on the 29th day of December, 1835, by General William
Carroll and John F. Schermerhorn, commissioners on the part of the United States, and the chiefs, headmen, and people of the Cherokee
tribes of Indians." A spurious Delegation, in violation of a special injunction of the general council of the nation, proceeded to
Washington City with this pretended treaty, and by false and fraudulent representations supplanted in the favor of the Government the
legal and accredited Delegation of the Cherokee people, and obtained for this instrument, after making important alterations in its
provisions, the recognition of the United States Government. And now it is presented to us as a treaty, ratified by the Senate, and
approved by the President [Andrew Jackson], and our acquiescence in its requirements demanded, under the sanction of the
displeasure of the United States, and the threat of summary compulsion, in case of refusal. It comes to us, not through our legitimate
authorities, the known and usual medium of communication between the Government of the United States and our nation, but through
the agency of a complication of powers, civil and military.
By the stipulations of this instrument, we are despoiled of our private possessions, the indefeasible property of individuals. We are
stripped of every attribute of freedom and eligibility for legal self-defence. Our property may be plundered before our eyes; violence may
be committed on our persons; even our lives may be taken away, and there is none to regard our complaints. We are denationalized; we
are disfranchised. We are deprived of membership in the human family! We have neither land nor home, nor resting place that can be
called our own. And this is effected by the provisions of a compact which assumes the venerated, the sacred appellation of treaty.
We are overwhelmed! Our hearts are sickened, our utterance is paralized, when we reflect on the condition in which we are placed, by
the audacious practices of unprincipled men, who have managed their stratagems with so much dexterity as to impose on the
Government of the United States, in the face of our earnest, solemn, and reiterated protestations.
The instrument in question is not the act of our Nation; we are not parties to its covenants; it has not received the sanction of our people.
The makers of it sustain no office nor appointment in our Nation, under the designation of Chiefs, Head men, or any other title, by which
they hold, or could acquire, authority to assume the reins of Government, and to make bargain and sale of our rights, our possessions,
and our common country. And we are constrained solemnly to declare, that we cannot but contemplate the enforcement of the
stipulations of this instrument on us, against our consent, as an act of injustice and oppression, which, we are well persuaded, can never
knowingly be countenanced by the Government and people of the United States; nor can we believe it to be the design of these
honorable and highminded individuals, who stand at the head of the Govt., to bind a whole Nation, by the acts of a few unauthorized
individuals. And, therefore, we, the parties to be affected by the result, appeal with confidence to the justice, the magnanimity, the
compassion, of your honorable bodies, against the enforcement, on us, of the provisions of a compact, in the formation of which we have
had no agency.
From: The Papers of Chief John Ross, vol 1, 1807-1839, Norman OK. Gary E. Moulton, ed. University of Oklahoma Press, 1985
|Andrew Jackson and John Ross on the
Trail of Tears
|Fort Gibson became the end point for the Cherokees on the Trail of Tears. Over 2,000 people, including Chief John Ross' wife, died on the trail.
Chief Justice John Marshall heard the Cherokee's challenge to Andrew Jackson's legislation. At first, Marshall
sided with the United States, but reversed his decision on appeal - which meant that the Supreme Court had
ruled Jackson's bill unconstitutional. But Jackson believed it was the Executive office that should rule on
constitutionality of acts passed by Congress. According to legend, Jackson said "Let the Supreme Court try to
enforce their decision," and proceeded to support the state of Georgia in throwing the Cherokees off their
|Learn more about the Indian Removal Act of 1830 on the Library of Congress' website.
As Southeners, the Choctaws, Creeks, Seminoles, Cherokees, and Chickasaws practiced plantation
slavery - and brought thousands of enslaved people into Indian Territory. Watch this fascinating report
about the "Other Trail of Tears: Black Slaves, Red Masters."
"Doubtless it will be painful to leave the graves of their fathers; but what do they more than our ancestors did or than our children are
now doing? To better their condition in an unknown land our forefathers left all that was dear in earthly objects. Our children by
thousands yearly leave the land of their birth to seek new homes in distant regions. Does humanity weep at these painful separations
from everything, animate and inanimate, with which the young heart has become entwined? Far from it. It is rather a source of joy that
our country affords scope where our young population may range unconstrained in body or in mind, developing the power and faculties
of man in their highest perfection. These remove hundreds and almost thousands of miles at their own expense, purchase the lands
they occupy, and support themselves at their new homes from the moment of their arrival. Can it be cruel in this government when, by
events which it cannot control, the Indian is made discontented in his ancient home to purchase his lands, to give him a new and
extensive territory, to pay the expense of his removal, and support him a year in his new abode? How many thousands of our own
people would gladly embrace the opportunity of removing to the West on such conditions? If the offers made to the Indians were
extended to them, they would be hailed with gratitude and joy.
And is it supposed that the wandering savage has a stronger attachment to his home than the settled, civilized Christian? Is it more
afflicting to him to leave the graves of his fathers than it is to our brothers and children? Rightly considered, the policy of the general
government toward the red man is not only liberal but generous. He is unwilling to submit to the laws of the states and mingle with their
population. To save him from this alternative, or perhaps utter annihilation, the general government kindly offers him a new home, and
proposes to pay the whole expense of his removal and settlement.
In the consummation of a policy originating at an early period, and steadily pursued by every administration within the present
century--so just to the states and so generous to the Indians--the executive feels it has a right to expect the cooperation of Congress
and of all good and disinterested men. The states, moreover, have a right to demand it. It was substantially a part of the compact which
made them members of our Confederacy. With Georgia there is an express contract; with the new states an implied one of equal
obligation. Why, in authorizing Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, and Alabama to form constitutions and become separate
states, did Congress include within their limits extensive tracts of Indian lands, and, in some instances, powerful Indian tribes? Was it
not understood by both parties that the power of the states was to be coextensive with their limits, and that, with all convenient
dispatch, the general government should extinguish the Indian title and remove every obstruction to the complete jurisdiction of the
state governments over the soil? Probably not one of those states would have accepted a separate existence--certainly it would never
have been granted by Congress--had it been understood that they were to be confined forever to those small portions of their nominal
territory the Indian title to which had at the time been extinguished.
It is, therefore, a duty which this government owes to the new states to extinguish as soon as possible the Indian title to all lands which
Congress themselves have included within their limits. When this is done the duties of the general government in relation to the states
and the Indians within their limits are at an end. The Indians may leave the state or not, as they choose. The purchase of their lands does
not alter in the least their personal relations with the state government. No act of the general government has ever been deemed
necessary to give the states jurisdiction over the persons of the Indians. That they possess by virtue of their sovereign power within
their own limits in as full a manner before as after the purchase of the Indian lands; nor can this government add to or diminish it.
May we not hope, therefore, that all good citizens, and none more zealously than those who think the Indians oppressed by subjection to
the laws of the states, will unite in attempting to open the eyes of those children of the forest to their true condition, and by a speedy
removal to relieve them from all the evils, real or imaginary, present or prospective, with which they may be supposed to be threatened.