Unworthy Republic

by Claudio Saunt
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What are the core arguments of Unworthy Republic?

The core arguments of Unworthy Republic are that the deportation of Native Americans in the 1830s was not inevitable and that the forced expulsions were financed by bankers and speculators both in the United States and Europe, who stood to gain most from the expulsions.

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When many people think about the forced expulsions of Native American tribes west of the Mississippi, they tend to think of this dark chapter in American history as somehow inevitable. White Americans wanted more land, and the Native American tribes who lived on that land were in the way, and...

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When many people think about the forced expulsions of Native American tribes west of the Mississippi, they tend to think of this dark chapter in American history as somehow inevitable. White Americans wanted more land, and the Native American tribes who lived on that land were in the way, and so at some point, it was inevitable that they would be forcibly removed.

This common version of events is challenged by Claudio Saunt in Unworthy Republic. Far from being inevitable, he argues, the forced resettlement of countless Native Americans almost never happened. Due to the resistance of the Indigenous people and the support of white political allies, the Jackson Administration's plans for deportation were highly contentious and did not enjoy anything like universal support.

That it did happen was down largely to the support of powerful financial institutions, both in the United States and Europe. It is ironic, to say the least, that one of the main policies of Andrew Jackson, a man who heartily despised big banks and, in particular, the East Coast banking establishment, relied to a considerable extent on finance from bankers in Boston, London, and elsewhere to make dispossession a reality.

To be sure, Southern plantation owners, staunch supporters of Jackson, also played their part in the forced removal of Native Americans. But without financial backing from the big banks, the policy simply could not have been carried out.

The bankers profited considerably from the acquisition of Native American land. This was an ironic outcome indeed in a country whose president prided himself on being an implacable foe of the American and international banking establishment.

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