Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Native American Trail of Tears Essay Example for Free

The Native American Trail of Tears Essay Removal of the Cherokees and several other native nations during the 1830s allowed expansion of Anglo-American populations south and west through parts of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and neighboring states. At roughly the same time, industrial application of Eli Whitneys cotton gin created a mass market in moderately priced cotton clothing. Within a decade after the Trail of Tears, the Cherokees homeland had been replaced, in large part, by King Cotton and a revival of slavery. Between one-fourth and one-third of the 16,000 Cherokee people who were removed during 1838 died on the march to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) or shortly thereafter. The Cherokees name for the march, nuna-daa-ut-suny the trail where they cried, provided its English name, the Trail of Tears. President Jackson, having retired from his army career of Indian fighting, avidly supported the Removal Act of 1830, which led to the Cherokees Trail of Tears. Ross was the Cherokees foremost advocate against removal, the man most responsible for taking two major cases to the Supreme Court. Marshall worked the facts of the conflict into legal doctrine that has shaped law regarding Native Americans for more than a century and a half. The removal of the civilized tribes from their homelands is one of the most notable chapters in the history of American land relations. Jacksons repudiation of John Marshalls rulings, which supported the Cherokees rights to their homelands, comprised contempt of the Supreme Court, an impeachable offense under the Constitution. The subject of impeachment was not seriously raised, however. During the conflict over removal, which continued through most of Jacksons presidency, the entire United States debated assertions of states rights vis-à  -vis the federal government and the Cherokees in a prelude to the coming dissolution of the Union during the Civil War less than three decades later. Had Jackson followed Justice Marshalls rulings, the Civil War might have started during the 1830s. The explosion of westward migration after roughly 1800 generated enormous profits in land speculation. Fortunes were made in early America not usually by working the land, but by buying early and holding large parcels for sale after demand increased dramatically because of non-Indian immigration. As a frontier lawyer in Tennessee, Andrew Jackson often took his fees in land rather than money, which was as scarce along the frontier as land was plentiful. As a lawyer, Jackson acquired immense holdings with which he began a mercantile establishment and bought a plantation. . . . He built an expensive frame house at a time when most wealthy Tennesseeans still lived in log cabins, and spent large sums on whiskey, horses, and expensive home furnishings imported from Europe (Rogin 55). Jackson quickly acquired more than a hundred slaves, making him one of frontier Tennessees largest owners of human capital. He traded actively in slaves and occasionally wagered them on horse races in a display of expendable wealth that established power relationships on the frontier. In the realm of intellect, Jackson was not a subtle man. He admired Napoleon Bonaparte to the point of nearly totally ignoring the French emperors tendencies toward tyranny. Perhaps yielding to the aftertaste of the War of 1812, Jackson sincerely believed that a republic would spring from the wreck if Napoleans army would invade England and topple British royalty (Rogin 73). Jackson did not seek the removal of the Cherokees and other civilized tribesthe Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminolesbecause they did not know how to make productive use of the land. On the contrary, four of the five (the exception being the Seminoles, who had escaped to Florida) were called civilized tribes by the immigrants precisely because they were making exactly the kind of progress the Great White Father desired of them: becoming farmers, educating their children, and constituting governments modeled on that of the United States. Immigrants, many of them Scots and Irish, had married into native families. Some of them owned plantations and slaves. Removal had been proposed for the Cherokees as early as 1802, when Thomas Jefferson was president. During that year, the state of Georgia signed an agreement with the U.S. government (the Cherokees were not consulted) stating its intent to work toward extinguishment of all Cherokee land titles within state borders as early as the land could be peaceably obtained, and on reasonable terms (Moulton 24). By the time President Jacksons Removal Act was passed by Congress, most white Georgians regarded the United States as seriously delinquent in the bargain (Moulton 24). Before he emerged as an advocate of Indian removal, President Jacksons name had scorched the memories of Native American peoples for decades as an Indian fighter. As a general in the U.S. Army, Jackson blazed a trail of fire throughout the South, refusing to even when his superiors ordered him to relent. In a battlefield confrontation with William Weatherfords Creeks at Horseshoe Bend, Alabama, Jackson imprisoned assistants who advised retreat. For those who retreated in battle without authorization, the penalty levied by General Jackson was harsher: Any officer or soldier who flies before the enemy without being compelled to do so by superior force . . . shall suffer death (Tebbel 75). By the time the Removal Act was passed in 1830, the Cherokees had 22,000 cattle, 7,600 horses, 46,000 swine, 2,500 sheep, 762 looms, 2,488 spinning wheels, 172 wagons, 2,943 plows, 10 sawmills, 21 grist mills, 61 blacksmitheries, 18 schools, 8 cotton gins, and 1,300 slaves. All of these things indicated that they led prosperous lives very much like those of the European-American settlers who sought their land. Removal was never popular among the Cherokees. The federal governments representatives disregarded the majority opinion and relied on the minority Treaty Party to negotiate removal treaties, largely ignoring John Rosss National Party. One proposed treaty, signed during February 1835, was voted down by a substantial number of Cherokees. The result (114 yes, 2,225 no) was a fair indication of the proposals popularity. Despite the manifest unpopularity of removal, a minority of Cherokee leaders in the Treaty Party, including Elias Boudinot, John Ridge, and several others, journeyed to Washington, D.C., in 1835 to negotiate removal, an initiative that was not sanctioned by the Cherokee government. On December 29, 1835, Boudinot and nineteen other Cherokees signed the Treaty of New Echota, which ceded Cherokee lands as of May 23, 1836. This treaty, called the Christmas trick by its many opponents, was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1836 by a one-vote margin (Cole 116). Although Ross continued to protest removal for two more years, the state of Georgia started to coerce the Cherokees into selling their lands for a fraction of their real value. Marauding whites plundered Cherokee homes and possessions and destroyed the Cherokee Phoenixs printing press because the paper opposed removal. Opposition to removal by a large proportion of the Cherokees continued until the Trail of Tears began. On March 10, 1838, with removal impending, the Cherokees assembled a petition opposing removal with more than 15,000 signatures. While some of the signatures may have been invalid (the entire Cherokee population at the time was about 16,000), the petition demonstrated widespread Cherokee opposition to the terms of the Treaty of New Echota. John Ross was deeply disappointed by Jacksons unwillingness to enforce the law as interpreted by Chief Justice Marshall. When Ross faced removal from his own plantation-style home, he may have recalled words he had told a delegation of Senecas in 1834: â€Å"We have been made to drink of the bitter cup of humiliation; treated like dogs; our lives, our liberties, the sport of whitemen; our country and the graves of our Fathers torn from us in cruel succession; until driven from river to river, from forest to forest, and thro [sic] a period of upwards of two hundred years, rolled back nation upon nation, we find ourselves fugitives, vagrants, and strangers in our own country, and look forward to the period when our descendants will perhaps be totally extinguished by wars, driven at the point of the bayonet into the Western Ocean, or reduced to . . . the condition of slaves.† (Moulton 55) By 1838, the Cherokees had exhausted all their appeals. As they were being forced to leave their homes, the Cherokees passed a memorial that expressed the manifest injustice of their forced relocation: â€Å"The title of the Cherokee people to their lands is the most ancient, pure, and absolute known to man; its date is beyond the reach of human record; its validity confirmed by possession and enjoyment antecedent to all pretense of claim by any portion of the human race. The free consent of the Cherokee people is indispensable to a valid transfer of the Cherokee title. The Cherokee people have neither by themselves nor their representatives given such consent. It follows that the original title and ownership of lands still rests with the Cherokee Nation, unimpaired and absolute. The Cherokee people have existed as a distinct national community for a period extending into antiquity beyond the dates and records and memory of man. These attributes have never been relinquished by the Cherokee people, and cannot be dissolved by the expulsion of the Nation from its territory by the power of the United States Government.† (OBrien 57) The U.S. Army forced Cherokee families into prison camps before their arduous trek westward. As a result of unhealthy and crowded conditions in these hastily constructed stockades, some Cherokees died even before the Trail of Tears began. James Mooney, an ethnologist, later described how the Cherokees were forced from their homes: Squads of troops were sent to search out with rifle and bayonet every small cabin hidden away in the coves or by the sides of mountain streams. . . . Families at dinner were startled by the sudden gleam of bayonets in the doorway and rose up to be driven with blows and oaths along the trail that led to the stockade. Men were seized in their fields or going along the road, women were taken from their wheels, and children from their play.† (Van Every 242) A U.S. Army private who witnessed the Cherokee removal wrote: â€Å"I saw the helpless Cherokee arrested and dragged from their homes, and driven by bayonet into the stockades. And in the chill of a drizzling rain on an October morning I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep into wagons and started toward the west. . . . Chief Ross led in prayer, and when the bugle sounded and wagons started rolling many of the children . . . waved their little hands goodbye to their mountain homes.† (Worcester 67) More than 4,000 Cherokees died of exposure, disease, and starvation, about a quarter of the total Cherokee population. Quatie, Rosss wife, was among the victims of this forced emigration. After removal, the miserable conditions continued. Many Cherokees died after they arrived in Indian Territory as epidemics and food shortages plagued the new settlements. An observer in Kentucky described the Cherokees midwinter march to Arkansas: â€Å"Even aged females, apparently nearly ready to drop into the grave, were travelling with heavy burdens attached to their backs, sometimes on frozen ground, and sometimes on muddy streets, with no covering for their feet.† (Collier 124) On the subject of the Cherokees removal, Ralph Waldo Emerson weighed in solidly with John Ross. Emerson wrote to President Martin Van Buren on April 23, 1838, about the impending Trail of Tears: â€Å"A crime is projected that confounds our understandings by its magnitudea crime that really deprives us as well as the Cherokee of a country, for how could we call the conspiracy that should crush these poor Indians our government, or the land that was cursed by their parting and dying imprecations our country, any more? You, sir, will bring down that renowned chair in which you sit into infamy if your seat is set to this instrument of perfidy; and the name of this nation, hitherto the sweet omen of religion and liberty, will stink to the world.† (Moquin 105) In his letter to Van Buren, Emerson seemed concerned less with Indian suffering or a sense of injustice than with a belief that their removal would stain his image of the presidency and the national history of the United States. Portions of the same letter to Van Buren contain assumptions that might have pleased Andrew Jackson, had Emersons letter been addressed to him. Emerson spoke of the Cherokees frame homes, grist mills, farms, government, and written language as painful labors of these red men to redeem their own race from the doom of eternal inferiority . . . to borrow and domesticate in the tribe the arts and customs of the Caucasian race (Black and Weidman 272). Despite the cruelty of the marches they were forced to endure, as well as the death, disease, and deprivation that dogged their every step, the surviving Cherokees, with Ross again in the lead, quickly set about rebuilding their communities. Much as they had in the Southeast, the Cherokees, Creeks, and others built prosperous farms and towns, passed laws, and set about rather self-consciously civilizing themselves once again. John Ross set about recreating a new Cherokee homeland with the same energy that had characterized his battle against removal. Works Cited Black, Nancy B, and Bette S. Weidman. White on Red: Images of the American Indian. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1976. Cole, Donald B. The Presidency of Andrew Jackson. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1993. Collier, John. Indians of the Americas. New York: New American Library, 1947. Moquin, Wayne, ed. Great Documents in American Indian History. New York: Praeger, 2003. Moulton, Gary E. John Ross: Cherokee Chief. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998. O’Brien, Sharon. American Indian Tribal Governments. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999. Rogin, Michael Paul. Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995. Tebbel, John W. The Compact History of the Indian Wars. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1966. Van Dale Every. Disinherited: The Lost Birthright of the American Indian. New York: William Morrow Co., 1996. Worcester, Donald E., ed. Forked Tongues and Broken Treaties. Caldwell, ID: Caxton Printers, 1995.

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