The U.S. government’s policy of negotiating treaties with Native Americans and aggressively accumulating western land continued under President Andrew Jackson. Jackson was known for his contradictory actions toward Native Americans while he was a soldier in the U.S. army and then president from 1829 to 1837. His sympathy and concern for their well-being often coincided with aggressive enforcement of government policy that culminated with the final removal of the remaining tribes from the American southeast. He infamously ignored the Supreme Court’s ruling that the 1830 Indian Removal Act violated the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation, and then ordered their forced removal resulting in the Trail of Tears. In his 1830 annual message to Congress, he explains the progress of his Native American policy.
Now let’s take a look at portions of that speech. Look for the kind of language President Jackson uses to describe the Native Americans and U.S. policy. Read the excerpt from the speech below, and then explore specific statements that show Jackson’s point of view on Native American removal.
Andrew Jackson’s Message to Congress on Indian Removal
It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation. Two important tribes have accepted the provision made for their removal at the last session of Congress, and it is believed that their example will induce the remaining tribes also to seek the same obvious advantages.
The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States, to individual States, and to the Indians themselves. The pecuniary advantages which it promises to the Government are the least of its recommendations. It puts an end to all possible danger of collision between the authorities of the General and State Governments on account of the Indians. 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 southwestern frontier and render the adjacent States strong enough to repel future invasions without remote aid. It will relieve the whole State of Mississippi and the western part of Alabama of Indian occupancy, and enable those States to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power. It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; free them from the power of the States; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the Government and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.
– Excerpt from Transcript of President Andrew Jackson’s Message to Congress ‘On Indian Removal’ (1830)
Source: National Archives Our Documentsopens in new window
Now let’s take a look at portions of Jackson’s speech.
President Andrew Jackson’s policy to remove Native Americans continued the government’s aggressive pursuit of western land at the expense of tribes. Move on to the Conquer It section to review the second half of Jackson’s 1830 speech to Congress.