One of President Andrew Jackson’s most characterizing moments came when he drafted a proposal for the removal of native people living in the eastern part of the United States. Though there were sensitive issues of culture and humanity at play in the idea of removing these natives, Jackson wrote and enacted a plan that was particularly obtuse and inconsiderate of those ideals. With his plan, he set the precedent for American relations with natives and set the stage for conflicts that would continue decades into the future.
Jackson’s removal plan itself was a fairly simple one. It was based upon the theory that the culture and attitudes of the native people would not mesh with the newly settled Americans that inhabited those lands. He went so far as to write in his proposal that, “The plan for removal and reestablishment is founded upon the knowledge we have gained of their character and habits and has been dictated by a spirit of large liberality” (Jackson).
The interesting thing about his proposal was that Jackson based his decision upon his own very limited knowledge, as well as some of the prejudices that obviously permeated his thinking. The President did have within his plan some benefits for both the American people and for the natives that he was so graciously kicking off of their own land. He writes of the fact that they will supply the natives with their own territory where they should have the ability to be fairly self sustaining.
This was an important part of the equation. He was removing the natives, but wanted to place them in an area where they would not only feel comfortable, but have the ability to sustain themselves based upon their knowledge and their cultures. Likewise, he made provisions within the act that gave the natives some supplies with which they could get started. In reality, it appeared as if some of the things he was suggesting were small change to natives when one considered that they were being removed from their land.
The act was also strange in that it sought to somewhat “cleanse” the natives of what Jackson thought was plaguing their culture. Among those things were spirits and alcohol, which he saw as their own particular vice. Though Jackson’s version of the plan seemed a little bit more caring in nature, when one considers it from another perspective, it is easy to see how Cherokees in Georgia were not treated well. Every takes the time in his work to make quite a few comparisons and he holds no punches when it comes to taking a hard line stance against Jackson.
He even goes so far as to compare the removal of the native people to the Babylonian captivity of the Jews in Biblical times. This penchant for comparison is what spearheads his strong writing style and sets the stage for harsh criticism for the president in this instance. He describes the Cherokee people as being “homeless, hungry, and destitute”. All in all, it seems as if the removal of native people from the eastern United States had a much more negative impact than President Jackson had originally imagined.
He had hoped that such a removal would enable the native people to live in harmony and retain their culture, but as the writings of Every clearly show, there was much more devastation going on than there was any sort of social liberation. With this in mind, it is easy to see where the President’s removal of the natives failed on many levels, as it ended up being a brutal tactic that left an entire population of people in a state of complete and honest disarray.