Why did Indian Removal cause the Trail of Tears?

Revision as of 18:27, 6 May 2019 by Admin (talk | contribs)
Map showing the trails that Native Americans were forced to follow during Indian Removal

The Trail of Tears was a series of forced Indian removals by the United States government during, but the removal of the Cherokee nation from Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama is the most famous of these forced marches. While the Cherokee removal is the relocation that is most often associated with the Trail of Tears, but it was not the only one. The Seminoles (1832), the Choctaw (1830), the Chickasaw (1832), the Creek (1832), the Fox (1832), the Sauk and the Cherokee (1835) were all removed from their ancestral lands. Each of these removals resulted an appalling loss of life.

Why Remove Native Americans?

Why was Jackson so committed to removal? Jackson fundamentally believed that Native Americans represented a serious security risk to the United States. Jackson had taken part in the United States campaign against members of the Creek nation who followed Tecumseh in 1814. Tecumseh believed that the United States represented an existential threat to not only Creek tribe, but all Native Americans in the United States. Tecumseh lead a revolt against the United States to push back the advance of American settlers. Tecumseh's revolted was defeated at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814, but Jackson had already decided that Native Americans and US settlers could not live together peaceful. As a result the Tecumseh's defeat, Jackson imposed terms on the entire Creek nation that removed them from their ancestral lands.

Native Americans also held some of the farmlands in the Southeast United States. Several of these tribes had already begun to farm these lands and earnest and make them productive. Both states and settlers wanted to seize these agricultural lands from the Native Americans. The states, such as Georgia, cared little that Native Americans had placed farms on these lands, purchased slaves, or built homes. The tribes did not recognize the states authority over their lands, because they viewed themselves as independent nations.

Andrew Jackson and The Removal Act 0f 1830

Jackson strongly favored removing the 60,000 Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creek and Seminole (the Civilized Tribes) from North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi. Indian Removal was one of Andrew Jackson's most important goals. It was so important that during Jackson’s first message to Congress, he asked for a bill and funds to move these tribes west of the Mississippi. Jackson's message was clear, Indians needed to permanently removed west of Louisiana.

In Jackson's 1830 message to Congress he stated:

"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...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."

The first piece of legislation passed after Jackson took office was the 1830 Indian Removal Act. The 1830 Act was just a first step in a long process that forced Native American off their land to make way white settlers.

While there was some public opposition to Indian Removal, - Jackson ensured that Congress passed bills that removed Indians and gave Jackson the ability to set aside Western lands Jackson believed that removal was “just and humane” because it would leave the Indians free from influence of the states Jackson saw anti-removal movement as hypocritical considering the treatment of Indians in the North Compared to Clay and others - Jackson was more humane regarding Jackson was not a simple Indian hater, but he also did not believe that they should be assimilated like Jefferson Jackson also believed that Indians were inferior and reinforced notions of racial supremacy Jackson did little to compensate Indians for lost lands or homes (typically only received 10% to 20% of their value) Jackson provided woefully insufficient funds to ensure a safe relocation - while Trail of Tears occurred after his administration he set the policies in motion

Jackson was also outraged by the claim by the Cherokees that they were a sovereign nation - unconstitutional and unrealistic He believed that no new state could be created in the jurisdiction of a state

Opposition to Indian Removal

Triggered the creation of a reform movement - Catherine Beecher (later Stowe) started a the largest petition movement at the that time. “The William Penn Essays” was a anti-removal Treatise and became extremely well-known. Martin Van Buren was surprised by the level of opposition. Anti-removal reform movement led many activists to abolitionism.

Cherokee Legal Opposition

In Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, Marshall found that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because the Cherokee nation was a “domestic, dependent nation.” Cherokee Nation was not sovereign authority under Article 3 of Constitution and were wards of the federal government In Worcester v. Georgia, Marshall somewhat challenged his own ruling from a year before and held that Georgia laws violated Cherokee treaties, commerce clause, and sovereign authority of the Cherokee nation. Georgia had created a law that required whites on Cherokee lands to register with state authorities Seven missionaries were arrested for being in Cherokee lands and sentenced to 4 years hard labor Marshall created a mess with his two contradictory rulings. Did not require the law to be enforced Best described as an effort by Marshall to avoid staining his legacy without creating a direct conflict with the Executive Branch Jackson refused to accept the Worcester ruling and essentially ignored it. Became moot when Marshall died and he was replaced by Jackson ally and pro-removal Roger Taney Missionaries were freed after a few months

Early Removal

Most of the southern tribes gave up and moved west. Seminoles and fugitive slaves who lived with them - resisted the move. Started the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). Approximately 3,000 people (evenly split between Seminoles and US troops were killed). 3,000 Seminoles forced to move west - a small group remained in Florida.

Cherokee Removal and the Trail of Tears

Cherokees split on the issue of removal. Some members of the tribe left early and cherry picked some of the best lands in Oklahoma Chief John Ross supported passive resistance Martin Van Buren forcibly imprisoned and then removed 18,000 Cherokees In 1838-39, the 18,000 Cherokees were herded west and 4,000 died on the way The Federal government never adequately funded removal People starved and died of disease on the way west


The Cherokees were removed in 1835 despite a Supreme Court decision, Worchester v. Georgia, that found that Cherokee was a sovereign nation that had rights under existing treaties. Forcibly removing the Cherokees violated these treaties. Andrew Jackson ignored the courts rulings and pushed with Indian removal. Ultimately, over 4,000 Cherokees were killed during their march west. In a history full of civil rights violations - Indian Removal was one of the most egregious Indians were removed simply because states wanted to take over productive farming operations created by Indians, especially Georgia Numbers of Indians east of the Mississippi was minimal after removal