Interpreting Primary Sources
Toward the aborigines of this country no one can indulge a more friendly feeling than myself, or would go further in attempting to reclaim them from their wandering habits and make them a happy, prosperous people.
Humanity has often wept over the fate of the aborigines of this country, and philanthropy has been long busily employed in devising means to avert it, but its progress has never for a moment been arrested, and one by one have many powerful tribes disappeared from the earth. To follow to the tomb the last of his race and to tread on the graves of extinct nations excites melancholy reflections. But true philanthropy reconciles the mind to these vicissitudes as it does to the extinction of one generation to make room for another....Nor is there anything in this which, upon a comprehensive view of the general interests of the human race, is to be regretted. Philanthropy could not wish to see this continent restored to the condition in which it was found by our forebears. What good man would prefer a country covered with forests and ranged by a few thousand savages to our extensive Republic, studded with cities, towns, and prosperous farms?
Andrew Jackson defends the removal policy, 1830
The Cherokees were happy and prosperous under a scrupulous observance of treaty stipulations by the government of the United States, and from the fostering hand extended over them, they made rapid advances in civilization, morals, and in the arts and sciences. Little did they anticipate, that when taught to think and feel as the American citizen, and to have with him a common interest, they were to be despoiled by their guardian, to become strangers and wanderers in the land of their fathers, forced to return to the savage life, and to seek a new home in the wilds of the far west, and that without their consent.
We wish to remain on the land of our fathers. We have a perfect and original right to remain without interruption or molestation. The treaties with us, and laws of the United States made in pursuance of treaties, guaranty our residence and our privileges, and secure us against intruders.
Memorial and Protest of the Cherokee Nation, 1836
The Cherokee nation...is a distinct community, occupying its own territories, with boundaries accurately described, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and which the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter.
Chief Justice John Marshall
The ingenuity of man might be challenged to show a single sentence of the Constitution of the United States giving power, either direct or implied, to the general government...to nullify the laws of a State...or coerce obedience, by force, to the mandates of the judiciary of the Union.
Wilson Lumpkin, Governor of Georgia
Questions To Think About
1. Could Indians and white Americans peacefully coexist?
2. How does Andrew Jackson defend his removal policy?
3. Was John Marshall's Supreme Court decision realistic? Can a president and states disregard a high court decision?
4. Was Jackson's policy unjust? What policy might have been better?