Why did Indian Removal cause the Trail of Tears?

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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 In Jackson’s first message to Congress - he asked for funds to remove the tribes west of the Mississippi

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

Indian Removal Act of 1830

Despite public opposition - 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

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

Map showing the trails that Indians were forced to follow during 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


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