The American Whigs: An Anthology

By Daniel Walker Howe | Go to book overview

2
THE RIGHTS OF THE INDIANS
Theodore Frelinghuysen
THE CHEROKEE LANDS

One of the sharpest issues dividing the parties of the Jackson era was Indian policy. The most dramatic confrontation arose from the expropriation and forced migration of the so-called Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole. White settlers in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi demanded that these Indians be dispossessed of lands that had been guaranteed to them by treaty. The state governments, disregarding the treaties, asserted sovereignty over the Indian lands. When Andrew Jackson entered the White House, he avowed his sympathies with the white settlers. A bill to commence arrangements for Indian removal, backed by the administration, occasioned the following speech by one of the president's opponents.

Theodore Frelinghuysen ( 1787-1862) was an attorney and senator from New Jersey. He later served as mayor of Newark and in 1844 was Henry Clay's vice-presidential running mate. The following speech caused William Lloyd Garrison, always a friend to nonwhites, to cite him as a "patriot and Christian." ( Frelinghuysen was a very active lay churchman and temperance advocate.) In their defense of the Indians, Frelinghuysen and his allies failed; the removal bill narrowly passed Congress. The United States Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshall vindicated the right of the Indians to their lands in 1832, but Jackson simply defied the court. Most of the Indians were rounded up and driven by the army to what is now Oklahoma. Some, especially the Seminoles, managed to escape into impenetrable areas from which they waged guerrilla warfare.

The Senate resumed the bill to provide for an exchange of lands with the Indians residing in any of the States or Territories, and for their removal west of the Mississippi.Mr. Frelinghuysen moved to add to the bill the following:
"Sec. 9. That, until the said tribes or nations shall choose to
____________________

SOURCE. Theodore Frelinghuysen, "Speech on the Cherokee Lands," U.S. Congress, Register of Debates, Vol. VI; Part I ( April 9, 1830), 309-320.

-189-

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