Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab

Article excerpt

Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab. By Steve Inskeep. (New York: Penguin Press, 2015. Pp. [xxii], 421. $29.95, ISBN 978-1-59420-556-9.)

In this well-written narrative, National Public Radio Morning Edition cohost Steve Inskeep weaves together the stories of Andrew Jackson and Cherokee chief John Ross from their first meeting in 1813 through the Cherokee removal in 1838. As a military commander, Jackson negotiated nine major treaties with southeastern tribes between 1814 and 1824. As president, he secured passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, authorizing the negotiation of additional removal treaties. Ross, a twenty-three-year-old mixed-race merchant, served in the Cherokee regiment that fought under Jackson at the battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. Thereafter, Ross rose to political prominence, and by 1828 he was the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and the leading opponent of removal.

Greed drives this story. Inskeep would agree with Edward E. Baptist's interpretation in The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (New York, 2014) that lust for land and profit drove America's expansion into the Old Southwest. Far more than previous historians, Inskeep depicts Jackson as a land speculator who personally enriched himself, his relatives, and his associates at the expense of Native Americans. Jackson exploited the vague wording of one of his own treaties to try and seize control of Native land in the Muscle Shoals area after 1815, land he eventually got. Throughout the Southeast, Jackson used the unrelenting advance of white settlers, whom he refused to expel, to extort land from tribes at prices he demanded. Jackson, Inskeep contends, "selectively obeyed orders, pushed laws to the limit, trafficked in inside information, and took advantage of his official position and connections" (pp. 103-4).

Previous biographers have paid far less attention to Jackson's personal land dealings. For example, in Andrew Jackson and His Indian Wars (New York, 2001), Robert V. Remini spends less than one page on the subject, contending that there is insufficient evidence. And herein lies the major problem with Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab. …

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