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The Indian Removal Act of 1830

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 was a monumental legislation that violated the legal and political rights of Native Americans that was sanctioned by President Andrew Jackson. It authorized him to resettle Native Americans to the lands west of Mississippi so that their ancestral lands could be occupied by white settlers (Nelson, 2018). The goal was to move them from within existing state borders. President Jackson argued that the relocation would end collisions between the General and State Government authorities, it would place civilized populations in expansive lands, and it would strengthen the southwestern frontier through white settlement (Crutchfield et al., 2015). He also stated the move would promote the advancement of the State of Mississippi with regard to population, wealth, and power. He believed that it would benefit the native tribes, as they would pursue happiness in their own way and become civilized. These were insufficient reasons for the relocations because many Native Americans resisted the evictions and were killed. Their travels were characterized by diseases such as cholera, starvation and exhaustion, limited supplies, and harsh environmental conditions (Crutchfield et al., 2015). Many people were forced to abdicate their property and ancestral lands that had great spiritual significance.

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The Act gave the President the power to implement a statute that aimed to offer the land owned by the native tribes to white settlers. It bequeathed him the authority to give unsettled land west of the Mississippi River to them in exchange for their ancestral lands that would be offered to civilized populations (Crutchfield et al., 2015). The Act stipulated that they were supposed to be compensated. However, the government used military force to gain their compliance to relocate.

President Jackson’s First Inaugural Address moved the people as he promised to respect the limits of executive power and expressed his desire to respect the rights of the Native Americans. He did not keep these promises as he later expanded the executive powers and signed the Indian Removal Act into law in 1830 (Nelson, 2018). As a result, thousands of Native American’s were forcefully banished from their ancestral lands. For instance, members of the Cherokee tribe were coerced to relocate to the designated Indian Territory, and approximately 4,000 people died on the move (Nelson, 2018). President Jackson promised to be humane and considerate toward Native Americans. On the contrary, he was harsh and inhumane. He violated the Act’s stipulations by his failure to negotiate with the tribes and offer proper compensation. The use of military force to gain compliance showed that he did not mean what he said during his address regarding respecting the rights of Native Americans.

The Declaration of Independence clearly postulated that all people had equal rights, among them the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In that regard, the Native Americans had a right to their land, which was taken away by President Jackson. This was a violation of a key principle. However, the document further stated that they were savages who were in need of civilization. It despised the Native Indians because they acted as pawns of a tyrannical king (Nelson, 2018). Therefore, their removal was in accordance with that stipulation for they fought against the freedom and liberty of Americans. They would take away their lands and offer them civilization. According to the Declaration of Independence, their only obligation was to civilize them and get rid of their savagery, and not protect their lands. In that regard, the removal of the Native Americans did not violate the principles found in the Declaration of Independence.

References

Crutchfield, J. A., Moulton, C., & Del Bene, T. (2015). The settlement of America: An encyclopedia of westward expansion from Jamestown to the closing of the frontier. Routledge.

Nelson, K. R. (2018). The trail of tears: A journey of loss. Greenhaven Publishing, LLC.

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