Removal Act of May 28, 1830 was an act by both Houses of Congress of the U.S., which provided for an exchange of lands with the native Indian tribes residing in any of the states or territories and for their removal west of the Mississippi River, their traditional land, to the prairies. It was signed by then President Andrew Jackson into law.
The eviction of these Indian tribes from a land they called their own was part of the course of the Westward expansion by European-Americans. These tribes then lost their lands by purchase, war, disease or extermination but many were formalized by treaty. They fought for that right so hard that the Treaty of Greenville of 1785 had to be signed to end bloody Indian wars in Ohio (Goodman 2003). The agreement recognized such right for "as long as the woods grow and waters run."
The Constitution of 1789, moreover, empowered Congress to regulate trade with foreign nations, separated states and the Indian tribes (Public Affairs), in recognition of their sovereign entity. This was why for the first 40 years under the new republic, treaties were signed with them and usually followed a pattern, wherein the signatory tribe withdrew to some reservation in return for supplies, food and an annuity from the federal government. The colonial governments generally cooperated with the native American groups in avoiding full-scale and costly wars with them, conflicts that would drain resources that should otherwise be used for developing the colonies.
The then Secretary of War Henry Knox formulated the first Indian policy, the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act of 1790, providing for the maintenance of peace with the native peoples. Knox believed that these tribes would eventually adopt European manners, speaking, culture and thinking (Meyers 2000). President Washington recognized Indian sovereignty and promised them economic assistance, education and protection. Washington's successors, in general, maintained this manner of dealing with the natives, although not all of them fulfilled his promises of education, assistance and protection.
As more and more Europeans immigrated to the New World and the population (specifically of Georgia) grew, settlers in this State would push the tribes into the frontier (Golden Ink). By 1825, the Lower Creek was completely removed from the state, but the Cherokees continued in their cherished land until 1828. It was at this time that gold was rumored to have been discovered in the mountains of North Georgia. Then President Andrew Jackson believed that the only solution to the Indian problem was the removal of all native tribe from the Mississippi. This Removal Act of 1830 was the precise solution., which completely changed the United States' relations with the Indians from cooperation, assistance and protection to removal (Meyers). President Jackson's government would pay for improvements that the tribes had made on the lands, help them move west, provide subsistence for a year and even offered protection against trespassers and guaranteed their title to the exchanged land.
But the passage of the Removal Act was first very hotly debated in the newspapers, meetings, in Congress and in the courts. These debates centered on the legality, morality and justice of the removal. It will be remembered that a first attempt at removing the tribes was attempted after the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory in 1803, which provided for the transfer of Indian tribes to new territories beyond Mississippi. Indian tribes moved but the exchange of lands did not occur until 1817. Because of these, there were increasing clashes between the Americans and the Cherokees (Meyers).
The recommending passage came from the Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, Hugh I. White. In giving a historical review of Indian affairs from the colonial days until the adoption of the Constitution, he argued that, in the light of discovery.principle, the Indians had no legitimate title to uncultivated soil. He stressed that the first settlers considered the Indians savage and therefore, these settlers had valid claim over the land for civilization. White furthermore said that the Indians surrendered their independence for protection under the British crown. He added that the U.S. conquered the Indians who were allied with Great Britain, thereby, a non-sovereign people, who were subject to the governance and will of the U.S. government.
He also claimed that, under the U.S. Constitution, the central government could never sanction the formation or existence of an independent nation, such as the Cherokees', within the territorial limits of Georgia. The Cherokees' only choice was subjection to Georgia's laws.
John Forsyth of Georgia presented the Europeans and Americans' right of discovery to clim the title to lands, regardless of their occupancy by the Indians. He added that the U.S. government virtually ignored Indian land claims while dividing and selling the Northwest territory despite its promise to act in good faith towards the Indians residing there (Meyers). He likewise presented the 1777 Treaty of De Witt's Corner, with an article about the conquest of the Cherokees and therefore, jurisdiction over them. Another treaty he mentioned was the Treaty at Galphinton in 1785.
The anti-removal faction in the Senate was led by Theodore Frelinghuysn of New Jersey. He was a leading critic of President Jackson. In opposing the Indian Removal bill, he stressed that Jackson dishonored the prudent policy of his predecessor, Washington, who entrusted the Indians to the care of the Senate. He argued that the treaties did not create sovereignty but defined and perpetuated it. He insisted that the Indians always possessed sovereignty and owned their land by the very right of occupancy (Meyers). He also traced history as evidencing that the king, the colony and Congress derived their land titles from the Indians. He pointed to the 1763 Proclamation by the British Crown as a demonstration of its recognition of th Cherokees as a nation. Congress itself recognized Indian rights in the Northwest Territory with the 1787 Ordinance.
David Burton of Missouri advocated for the humane removal of the Indians and expressed skepticism towards Jackson's promise to make it voluntary. Asher Robbins of Rhode Island also opposed the bill because it was unnecessary and unconstitutional. He saw that the bill proposed to expand executive powers in a field traditionally shared by the Senate and the President. He emphasized that, if they Indians must be removed, it should be only the basis of a treaty signed by one of them who represented their majority.
One more opponent, Peleg Sprague of Maine, re-stressed the right of discovery and the historical use of the right, in much the same sense of the right of discovery of past and future voyagers, explorers and discoverers. This, he said, was how European powers divided the New World between themselves. Great Britain always recognized and respected the right of aborigines to the perpetual and exclusive occupancy of their lands (Meyers) and Washington and Jefferson maintained the same policy. He also cited a definite 1796 Georgia act, which declared all land within the state's boundaries as property of Gergia and "subject only to the right of treaty of th United States, to enable the State to purchase... The Indian title to the same."
Like other removal opponents, Congressman Henry Storrs of New York was apprehensive towards giving the President power to deal directly with the Indians. The bill, if approved by Congress, would vest the President precisely with that power. He stated James Madison's sentiment that the Founding Fathers would not have given one branch of government the power to conduct Indian affairs without the balanced advice and consent of the two others. But this bill would precisely give the President that sole authority to move the Indians out of their land by a mere executive order.
George Evans of Maine also argued that it was always Georgia's policy to press for the extinction of the Indians in that state, and this bill would be nothing more than the realization, formalization and legalization of Georgia's machinations. He called to memory the 1802 declaration to extinguish all Indian title to any land within the state. This policy, he claimed, would eventually lead to a forcible Indian removal.
Opponents clearly presented the best arguments when citing past treaties and the Constitution itself. Congress had the best claim to dealing with the Indians through treaties. Pro-removal congressmen's strongest asset, next to President Jackson himself, was the fact that government officials discarded any supposed Indian sovereignty shen it suited their intents. Few in Congress could dispute this, and regardless of the legality or morality of it.
The debates also touched on the meaning of the right-of-discovery law as applied to the first settlers of the New World and some historical interpretations. Some argued on the basis of history or in attempting to sway public opinion, regardless of the accuracy of their presentations. On a practical level, congressmen debated on the basis of an awareness of their constituents awareness of the debates or to put the image of their constituents in a more legal light. They had to select a historical argument that would…