Andrew Jackson's Indian Relations

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Andrew Jackson was President of the United States from 1829-1837. Jackson was the first “common man” elected as president, and many historians call his presidency an important stage in the rise of democracy. This statement is true if you were an American who was white, male, and protestant. This time period was particularly difficult for the American Indians. In his inaugural address, Jackson emphasized that the well-being of white settlers was tied to removing American Indians beyond the Mississippi. Jackson stated, “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 SW frontier and render the adjacent States strong enough to repel future invasions without remote aid.”

Jackson's History

To understand Jackson’s ways and policy best, one must know his past. Andrew lived his early life in the Carolinas. His father died before he was born. When he was just thirteen, he enlisted with his two brothers in the Militia for the Revolutionary War and served as a courier. His oldest brother was killed, and Jackson and his other brother were captured by the British. While in captivity, he was ill-treated. This led to his great hatred of the British. When he was 14, he lost his remaining family when his brother died from smallpox and his mom from cholera she got caring for troops. Jackson then studied law and moved to Tennessee where he served as a representative, senator, and on the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Jackson's Military Career

Jackson then turned back to a military career during the war of 1812, first winning the Battle of Horseshoe Bend against the Red Stick Creek Indians (British allies), and then the battle for New Orleans against the British. These victories against the British made him a national hero. During these battles, Jackson earned the nickname “Old Hickory”. His troops said he was “tough as hickory” (hickory is the hardest of woods), and that neither illness nor injuries could keep him out of battle. He also used strict discipline in commanding his troops. Interestingly enough, the Cherokee, Choctaw, and southern Creek Indians all fought under Jackson’s command. Jackson then led the Tennessee Militia in the Creek War and the first Seminal Wars. Much of the Indian Territory taken during the Creek War belonged to Indians who had been Jackson’s allies against the British. He directly ordered the killing of 800 Creeks. Here Jackson ignored his orders to end the conflict quickly, and instead decided to get more land for the United States on his own.

President Jackson's Indian Relations

In 1830, just a year after taking office, Jackson introduced a new piece of legislation called the "Indian Removal Act". It gave the president power to negotiate removal treaties with Indian tribes living east of the Mississippi. At this time, most Americans assumed that the borders of the United States would end at the Mississippi River. Under these treaties, the Indians were to give up their lands east of the Mississippi in exchange for lands to the west. Any Indians wishing to remain in the east would become citizens of their home state. The removal was supposed to be voluntary and peaceful, and it was that way for the tribes that agreed to the conditions. But when the southeastern nations resisted, Jackson forced them to leave.

Another major conflict with the Cherokee Indians occurred while Jackson was President. This time, the Indians decided to maintain their land rights by using the court system instead of war. The Cherokee Nation established a constitutional government, and then declared that they were a sovereign nation who could not be removed from their land without their consent. This case went all the way to the United State Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of the Indians. Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that the Cherokees constituted a "domestic, dependent nation" that existed under the guardianship of the United States. Georgia ignored the Supreme Court's ruling, and continued to insist that the federal government remove the Cherokees. President Jackson did not enforce the Supreme Court’s decision against the state, and instead said the Cherokees needed to relocate or fall under Georgia's laws. (Although Jackson is widely quoted as saying, "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it," his actual words to Brigadier General John Coffee were: "The decision of the Supreme Court has fell still born, and they find that it cannot coerce Georgia to yield to its mandate.")

In 1833, the Cherokee were tricked with an illegitimate treaty, a removal agreement called the Treaty of New Echota. The group that signed this treaty had not been given the power to do so, and over 15,000 Cherokees -- led by Chief John Ross -- signed a petition in protest. The Supreme Court ignored the claims of the Indians, and ratified the treaty in 1836. The Cherokee were given two years to move on their own, or they would be removed by force. By 1838 only 2,000 had migrated and 16,000 remained on their land. 7,000 troops were sent by the government, and the Cherokees were forced into stockades at bayonet point. They were not even given time to gather their possessions, and as they left, whites looted their homes. Then began the march known as the Trail of Tears, in which 4,000 Cherokee people died of cold, hunger, and disease on their way to the western lands.


Jackson's attitude toward Native Americans has been described as paternalistic and patronizing -- he called them “children in need of guidance”, and believed the removal policy was beneficial to the Indians because the Indians could resettle in an area where they could govern themselves in peace, away from the white settlers. By 1837, Jackson and his administration had removed 46,000 Native American people from their lands east of the Mississippi, and had enough treaties signed which would lead to the removal of an even slightly larger number. Most members of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole nations had been relocated west, opening 25 million acres of land to white settlement and to African American slavery, which would eventually contribute to the Civil War. While Jackson is often included on historians’ lists of top presidents, he is also a controversial figure in history whose contributions are often debated and will be for years to come.

Annotated Bibliography

1). "A Brief History of the Trail of Tears." Cherokee Nation. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <>. This gives an account of the Trail of Tears from the Cherokee Indian standpoint. It mentions that the Cherokee saved Jackson’s forces during the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814, and how he later turned his back on them with the Indian Removal Act.

2). "Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act » HistoryNet." HistoryNet – From the World's Largest History Magazine Publisher. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <>. This website goes into great detail on what happened to the Cherokee nation specifically because of Andrew Jacksons Actions. This article goes into the specifics of what caused Jackson in many cases to make the decisions he did with the Cherokee and how this ultimately affected the Cherokee.

3). "Andrew Jackson's Case for the Removal of Indians." Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <>. This is President Jackson’s actual Address to congress about the Indian Removal act. It is very interesting to see the wordings, view points, and ideas Jackson puts forth in order to persuade congress. One in example is “The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States.” Statements like this are truly eye opening.

4). Berry, Christina. "Article - Andrew Jackson - The Worst President The Cherokee Ever Met." All Things Cherokee. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <>. This is an article that looks at Jackson strictly from the Cherokee’s point of view. I feel the articles title “Andrew Jackson - The Worst President the Cherokee Ever Met” really explains what the article helps explain. However the websites title “All Things Cherokee” does bring question about the reliability off all its facts.

5)."Cherokee NC Cherokee History: Trail of Tears as Told by the Cherokees." Cherokee NC Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. Cherokee North Carolina, 2010. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <>. This is an account of the trail of tears from the Indian standpoint. According to their website, “The Cherokees in Western North Carolina today descend from those who were able to hold on to land they owned, those who hid in the hills, defying removal, and others who returned, many on foot. Gradually and with great effort, they have created a vibrant society, a sovereign nation of 100 square miles where people in touch with their past and alive to the present preserve timeless ways and wisdom.”

6). "Creek War." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <>. This was an important turning point in the conflicts with the Indians over land. When Jefferson defeated the Creek Indians, who had been his allies in the War of 1812, the power of the Indians of the Old Southwest was broken. 23 million acres of land was ceded by the Creeks to the United States.

7)."Critical Thinkers :: Andrew Jackson Speaks: Indian Removal Policy :: Tracking Westward Expansion & the Trail of Tears." The Nomadic Spirit :: About Our Work. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <>. This site takes Jackson’s addresses to congress and picks out all the sections pertaining to Indians. It does a great job of pointing out that Jackson does not refer to the Indian removal act while talking about the Indian issues in his speeches.

8) Erbach, Jennifer. "Lincoln/Net: Lesson Plans: The Cherokee Removal." Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project. 2002. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <>. Excerpts from a speech made by Senator Sprague of Maine over the Indian Removal Act. He raised questions about the Indians, the Cherokee specifically, and how this act would affect them. Senator Sprague opposed the Indian Removal Act because he said the US was going back on promises it had made to the Indians, and they would not be safe and could not make a living west of the Mississippi.

9). Feller, Daniel. "History Now. The Historians Perspective." The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History . Home. Dec. 2009. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <>. Discusses Andrew Jackson's presidential reputation and why it is one of the most difficult to summarize or explain. While most people recognize his name, they can’t list his main contributions like they can with Lincoln or Roosevelt.

10). Garrison, Tim A. "Worcester v. Georgia (1832)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 27 Apr. 2004. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <>. A summary of the Supreme Court case involving the Cherokees and their land rights. Samuel Worcester was a missionary who worked with the Cherokee and often advised them on their political and legal rights under the Constitution.

11). "Indian Removal." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <>. This is a public television article that does an excellent job describing Jackson and his key role in the Indian removal act. This website describes everything especially with the Cherokee nation that the American Indian act put into play.

12). “Jackson: Cherokees, Tariffs and Nullification.” 2011. The History Channel website. Apr 11 2011, 8:01 short video from the History Channel. Jackson, the Trail of Tears, and the Indian Removal Act are all mentioned. This video does a great job of giving an overview of the trail of tears with graphics.

13). Katz, Amy. "Andrew Jackson and Indian Removal Policies: by Amy Katz." Arts & Sciences |Washington University in St. Louis. 2002. Web. 11 Apr. 2011<>. A summary of Jackson’s Indian removal policies. Katz is a student at Washington University in St. Louis. The information agreed with what I had read from other sources.

14). "Letter to the Cherokee from Major General Scott." Cherokee Nation. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <>.This letter from Major General Scott to the Cherokees was an ultimatum to the remaining Cherokees in northern Georgia to move west. The language he uses is interesting, especially his use of the exclamation point. He emphasizes that they must obey the President or his troops will enforce the treaty of Echota and remove them forcibly.

15). McBride, Alex. "Cherokee Indian Cases (1830s)." The Supreme Court. PBS, Dec. 2006. Web. 6 Apr. 2011. <>.This sight summarizes the Supreme Court cases involving the Cherokee Indians. This was considered a landmark case. Although the court ruled in favor of the Cherokee, the state of Georgia and President Jackson refused to enforce the ruling.

16). Moran, J. "Andrew Jackson and Indian Removal | Teach US History." Homepage | Teach US History. 5 June 2007. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <>.This website not only discusses what Jackson said to congress in his term as president but has letters written to The House of Representatives, The Senate, and Jackson himself pleading for the Indians case. It’s interesting to see that there were groups of people back then that were fighting for the Indians case.

17). Remini, Robert. "Andrew Jackson and Indian Removal." Tuscon Unified School District Teacher Resources. Tuscon Unified School District. Web. 8 Apr. 2011. <>.This is an article for high school teachers written by an expert on Andrew Jackson. It was very easy to read and understand.

18). "Robert Remini []." Independence Hall Association, Philadelphia, 23 Mar. 1999. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <>. This is an interview with Robert Remini, a professor from the University of Illinois and a highly regarded Jacksonian scholar. He discusses the quote that Jackson never made about Supreme Court Justice John Marshall's ruling in the Cherokee Indian's case.

19). Robin C. Jett. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <>. This site contains primary source documents, including a letter from Chief John Ross concerning the Trail of Tears, Jackson’s second annual speech to Congress, Chief Justice John Marshall’s court opinions in Cherokee Nation v. State of Georgia 1831, and Worcester v. Georgia 1832.

20). "|We Shall Remain | American Experience | PBS." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. 2008. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. This is an episode of a PBS Series called “We Shall Remain” called “Trail of Tears”. The visuals and opinions of historians give another perspective on the Trail of Tears. The information is consistent with the other information I found.

21). Sturgis, Amy. "Not the Same Old Hickory." Reason Magazine, May 2004. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <>. This is a review of a book, The Passions of Andrew Jackson. The reviewer focuses on Jackson's personality and how he was much more controversial than he has been portrayed.