The Removal of the Cherokee Nation: Manifest Destiny or National Dishonor?

By Louis Filler; Allen Guttmann | Go to book overview

Andrew Jackson:


THE CONDITION AND ULTERIOR DESTINY OF THE INDIAN TRIBES (DECEMBER 8,1829)

We speak often of "Jacksonian" America, and in so doing we acknowledge the hero of the Battle of New Orleans as one of the most important leaders of his time. Andrew Jackson was, as John William Ward has suggested in a book on the subject, a symbol even to his contemporaries.1 Old Hickory entered the White House as the champion of the "common man." His eviction of the learned and scholarly John Quincy Adams meant, to mournful New Englanders and to jubilant frontiersmen, that the West had come of age. It meant also a new impetus to the drive for the removal of the Indians then dwelling within the borders of the States. Jackson argued that he was furthering traditional policies, but his emphases and his attitudes reveal discontinuities as well as continuities. It was, moreover, not easy to say just what these traditional policies were.

Although the Continental Congress had recognized the importance of Indian policy and had, by the Act of July 12, 1775, divided the country into "departments" and appointed "commissioners," our national policy was first set forth by Henry Knox, George Washington's Secretary of War. Knox, in a message to the president, urged that Congress purchase western lands from the Indians and remove the tribes before allotting the lands to settlers.2 From Washington's administration to Jackson's, American presidents followed this course. Knox had also argued that, "instead of exterminating a part of the human race," we should have devoted ourselves to imparting "our knowledge of cultivation and the arts to the aboriginals of the country. . . ."3Thomas Jefferson spoke in his first Annual Message of "the continued efforts to introduce among [the Indians] the implements and the practice of husbandry and of the household arts . . . ,"4 and Jef

____________________
1
See John William Ward, Andrew Jackson: Symbol for an Age ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1955).
2
American State Papers: Indian Affairs, I, 52-54.
3
Ibid., p. 53.
4
J. D. Richardson, ed., Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents: 1789-1897, I, 326.

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