In the early nineteenth century, an infant America was increasing in population and expanding in the South until settlers were faced with the dilemma of the Native Americans. Anglo-Americans had two very distinct stances on how to deal with southern Indian tribes, particularly the Cherokee. One side was eager for land and developed the idea that Indians were both racially and culturally inferior and a hindrance to American progress, while on the other hand, some Americans believed that the Cherokee tribe was a sovereign, independent nation and that moral responsibility required the United States to protect them.
Pro-removal Americans rallied behind leaders such as, Andrew Jackson and William Cass. Jackson’s patronizing attitude toward Native Americans was, based on his ideology that Native Americans were children in need of guidance. Jackson also advocated that the removal policy was beneficial to the Indians. Cass believed the Native Americans were unsophisticated and white settlers were racially superior. In his essay, Removal of the Indians, Cass depicts, “We doubt there is, upon the face of the globe, a more wretched race than the Cherokees, as well as the other southern tribes, present….
The Cherokee Removal, pg. 117). ”
Cass alluded to the underlying racism that piloted the argument for expulsion of the Cherokee. Many white settlers concurred with the belief that Indians were racial inferior and therefore white settlers and Native Americans could not live together. Cass also asserted in the same essay “A barbarous people, depending for subsistence upon the sanctity and precarious supplies furnished by the chase, cannot live in contact with a civilized community (The Cherokee Removal, pg. 116). Some Americans supported this because they deemed anything different than them as wrong. The pro-removal argument was justified thru the belief that race determined character.
For some Anglo-Americans race made Native Americans menial and disposable. Americans against removal united behind the idea that the Native Americans were born on this land and should be left in peace. Jeremiah Evarts under the pen name, William Penn, in A Brief View of the Present Relations between the Government and People of the United States and the Indians within Our National Limits, said, “Those Indian tribes and nations, which have remained under their own form of government, upon their own soil, and have never submitted themselves to the government of the whites, have a perfect right to retain their original form of government, or to alter it, according to their own views of convenience and property(The Cherokee Removal, pg. 106). ”Evarts’ opposition to removal was based on the fact the Indians were born on the land and therefore it was rightfully theirs.
He also pointed out, “For one hundred and fifty years, innumerable treaties were made between the English colonists and the Indians, upon the basis of the Indians being independent nations, and having a perfect right to their country and their form of government (The Cherokee Removal, pg. 106). ” Evarts’ argument was that white settlers legally could not disregard treaties made with Native Americans for hundreds of years. Some Anglo-Americans knew removal of the Cherokee was unconstitutional and to renege on agreements made throughout history was morally incompetent.
Catherine Beecher also advocated against Indian removal, writing, “Nor are we to think of these people only as naked and wandering savages. The various grades of intellect and refinement exist among them as among as (The Cherokee Removal, pg. 112). ” Beecher and other Americans opposed removal because they did not believe it was morally righteous to degrade Indians because of race, they considered them people too, and respected the differences in both race and culture.
Evarts and Anglo-Americans against removal foresaw the inhumanity of removal, Evarts stated, “The removal of any nation of Indians from their country by force would be an instance of gross and cruel oppression. (The Cherokee Removal, pg. 107). ” Both perspectives on Indian removal had a few commonalities. Some people such as John Knox believed that, “the central premise of which was that United States Indian policy should make expansion possible without detriment to the Indians (The Cherokee Removal pg. 10).
The only consistent agreement however was that the white settlers’ culture and Native American cultures would never successfully co-inhabit. Americans realized that the differences in culture would only continue to cause problems. However the differences was some believed the Indians should be forced west and others believed they should be left in peace. There was an agreement that the Cherokee were uncivilized and to some, even worse not Christian. Again there was another divide on the solution for the primitivism of the Cherokee. Some sought assimilation and of course, removal.
In my final analysis, the Cherokee removal argument never reached a consensus, and like most political matters, was won by the most power hungry side. Due to a burgeoning population, racial bigotry, and the lack of centralized government enforcement of the 18th century the Cherokee were forced to leave their homes. The consequence was a forced tumultuous, cross-country walk, where they faced disease, hunger, and fatigue now known as the Trail of Tears. Thousands died, and the removal of the Cherokee had permanent affects on them, as well as all Native Americans.