What were the major arguments for and against Indian removal?
Although we typically think that the US was overwhelmingly in favor of Indian removal, this is not necessarily true. In fact, the vote in Congress was very close. The Senate passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830 by 28 to 19 while the House vote was much closer, with the act passing by 102 to 97.
The arguments for Indian removal rested on two main grounds. First, they argued that the white Americans (and their black slaves) needed the land and could make better use of it. They argued that Americans could make the land more economically productive than the Indians had been able to. Second, the proponents argued from the idea of white superiority. They argued that the Indians were inferior and that it was not necessary to treat them fairly.
The opponents of Indian removal disagreed with each of these at least in part. They did not deny that whites would make better use of the land than Indians. However, they felt the Indians should be taught “civilization.” They pointed to the Cherokee as proof that this was possible. The Cherokee had become largely sedentary and agrarian and had developed a written language and a constitution. Thus, they said, Indians should be civilized, not removed. Second, they argued that the US was morally required to live up to agreements it had signed. It could not morally tear up treaties that it had signed just because it was stronger than the people with whom it had made those treaties.
There were arguments for and against removing the Native Americans from the lands on which they lived that were located east of the Mississippi River. Those people who were in favor of removing the Native Americans argued that the Native Americans were holding back the progress of the country. As the United States was growing, these people felt that the customs and ways of living of the Native Americans slowed the growth of the United States. They felt that building factories, expanding farming, and constructing new roads and railroads would be a better use of the land. These people also believed that the white ways of living were superior to the Native American ways of living.
Other people felt it was wrong to remove the Native Americans. In some cases, it was illegal. The Supreme Court ruled that the Cherokee tribe couldn’t be forced off of their land. Yet, President Andrew Jackson ignored that decision. There were people who felt this was morally wrong. Other people believed it wasn’t right to take away somebody’s land because they felt they could use and develop it better.
There were arguments for and against the removal of Native Americans from the lands on which they lived.
By seeking Indian removal, the United States was contradicting its own values and was also going against treaties that allowed Indians to own land. Earlier agreements were being neglected by the settlers and the act.
The colonists attempted to convert the natives and actively criticized their way of life. The approach by the colonists was distasteful and disrespectful. Indian resistance was met by forced removal from their land.
The colonists did not consider that the land was their ancestral land and parts of it held significant cultural, social, and even religious symbolism for the natives.
The natives were also being forced to build new settlements afresh, and the progress that they had made over the years was being undone.
Those supporting removal suggested that removing the Indians and forcing them to settle elsewhere would help them maintain their heritage.
Removal would also help them return their population to earlier numbers.
Relocation of the natives was also aimed at reducing conflicts with the settlers.
Some of the settlers also believed that they had a chance of putting the land to better use by producing cash crops for commerce.