Andrew Jackson's Presidency

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Describe, discuss and explain the significance of the Trail of Tears?

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The Cherokee Nation had once occupied a large swath of the Southeast, but by the early nineteenth century, it had been reduced by wars and treaties to a small parcel of land in western North Carolina, northern Georgia, and eastern Tennessee. The Cherokee had fully accepted the assimilationist polices of...

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The Cherokee Nation had once occupied a large swath of the Southeast, but by the early nineteenth century, it had been reduced by wars and treaties to a small parcel of land in western North Carolina, northern Georgia, and eastern Tennessee. The Cherokee had fully accepted the assimilationist polices of the United States government. They had become farmers and planters, they framed a western-style constitution, many purchased slaves, and most adopted western dress. They were the most assimilated of the so-called "Five Civilized Tribes" that inhabited the southeast, but like the other four tribes (the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole) they were facing pressures from white expansion as southern whites, eager for land to plant cotton, eyed their traditional homelands, making claims to it based on racial superiority.

In 1828, gold was discovered in Cherokee lands, and Andrew Jackson, a determined expansionist, became president. Two years later, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which gave states the power to negotiate removal treaties with the Cherokee. When Georgia did so, with a small faction of Cherokees, the vast majority refused to leave, and sued the federal government. The Supreme Court, in Worcester v. Georgia, ruled in favor of the Cherokee, but Jackson ignored the decision, and ordered the removal of the Cherokee from Georgia, negotiating the Treaty of New Echota to bring this into effect.

From 1837 to 1838, the US government sent federal troops to forcibly remove Cherokees from their lands and march them to Indian territory, located in modern Oklahoma. This began the infamous Trail of Tears, in which scores of Cherokee died of disease and exposure on their long march. The removal continued to have terrible repercussions for the Cherokee Nation, which remained divided among political factions for decades. Those who had opposed the move and those who had supported it because they thought it was inevitable remained bitter political enemies.

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