Dbq: Indian removal--is it justified?

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This document based question (DBQ) asks you to be part of history. It asks you to experience an episode in our history from the viewpoints of the people who took part in it. As you complete this DBQ essay, imagine that you are living in the spring of 1830. Those who actually lived at that time did not know how events would unfold. Pretend that you don't know what happened, either. Use information from the following documents and what we have discussed in class to write a newspaper editorial on the Indian Removal Act.

Historical Background
In January 1830, a bill entitled the Indian Removal Act was introduced into Congress. President Andrew Jackson strongly supported this law. It proposed that Congress open talks with the Indian tribes in the southeastern United States. The object was, first, to take their lands. Then the U.S. government would force those Indians to relocate. They would move west, beyond the Mississippi River to the area we know today as Oklahoma.

At this time, approximately 100,000 Native Americans lived among the five major tribes in the southeastern United States. The Cherokees were in northern Georgia and western North Carolina. The Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes resided in Mississippi. The Seminoles lived in Florida. Many still lived as their ancestors had years earlier. Others had gone far in accepting the values and lifestyles of American white society. Many had converted to Christianity. Some settled as farmers and adopted the farming methods of whites. The Cherokees even developed and alphabet and a written language. They also adopted a written constitution based on the U.S. Constitution.

The people of all these tribes were living on their own lands. Years earlier, treaties with the United States government had granted these lands to them forever. But by the 1820's, nearby white settlement was growing. Farmers, prospectors, and others wanted Indian land. They put pressure on state governments to force the Indians off of their property. In 1828, the Georgia state legislature passed a law that denied the right of the Cherokees to rule themselves. This law also divided Cherokee lands for future settlement by other people of Georgia. The Cherokees were alarmed. They began efforts to protect themselves and their treaty rights. They quickly filed a lawsuit in federal court. They asked the U.S. government to protect their rights from being violated by the state of Georgia.

This was the situation in the late winter and early spring of 1830 as Congress debated the Indian Removal Act. You, as a newspaper editor, must decide whether to support or oppose the proposed law. You must write and publish your editorial on this subject in the next edition of your paper. Use your knowledge of the issues and evidence from the following documents to help you with your writing.

DIRECTIONS: The question below is based on the documents (1-5) that follow.
It's April 1830, and Congress is debating the Indian Removal Act. Should this law be passed? Write a newspaper editorial that expresses your opinion.
The documents that follow will help you answer the DBQ. Read each document carefully. Answer the question or questions that follow each document. This should help you understand the question and formulate your opinion.

The Indian Removal Act was proposed in Congress in January of 1830. Long before that, political leaders were concerned about the place of Indians within American society. President James Monroe spoke of this concern to Congress. It was one of his last messages to Congress before retiring as president in 1825. Monroe spoke in general terms. He also talked about the situation of the Cherokees in Georgia. Here are some excerpts from that message:

the removal of the Indian tribes from the lands which they now occupy within the limits of the several states and territories is of …high importance to our Union, and may be accomplished in a manner to promote the interest and happiness of those tribes…For the removal of the tribes within the limits of the State of Georgia the motive has been peculiarly strong. The removal of [these] tribes…would not only shield them from impending ruin, but promote their welfare and happiness…[If this doesn't happen] their degradation and extermination will be inevitable.

Why did President Monroe call for the removal of the Cherokee from Georgia?

According to Monroe, what would happen to the Indians if they did not leave their land?

Andrew Jackson became U.S. president in March 1829. Right away, he had to face the growing conflict between Georgia and the Cherokee Indians who lived in the state. The Cherokees appealed to Andrew Jackson for help. They asked him to enforce the treaties and protect them from the demands of Georgia.

Jackson gave his first annual message to Congress on December 8, 1829. In it, he responded to the pleas from the Cherokees. Here are some excerpts from that message:

I informed the Indians inhabiting parts of Georgia and Alabama that their attempt would not be [accepted] by me, and advised them to emigrate (move) beyond the Mississippi River…
As a means to effecting this end, I suggest…setting apart an ample district west of the Mississippi to be guaranteed to the Indian tribes as long as they shall occupy it.

Whose side of the argument did President Jackson support, the Cherokee or Georgia?

What solution to the conflict between the Cherokee and Georgia did Jackson propose?

The Cherokees now appealed to Congress. Surely, they hoped, Congress would uphold their rights. The Cherokees made their appeal to Congress in December of 1829.

To the honorable…Senate and House of Representatives of the United States…
This is the land of our nativity, and the land of our birth. We cannot consent to abandon it for another far inferior, and which holds out for us no inducements. We do, moreover, protest against the…measures of our neighbors, the state of Georgia, in her attempt to extend her laws over us…in direct opposition to treaties of the United States. To protect us from these encroachments upon [our] rights, we earnestly pray [you].

What were the Cherokees asking Congress to do?

In January 1830, at President Jackson's request, the Indian Removal Act was introduced into Congress. The following are sections of that law:

the President of the United States [may] cause…territory belonging to the United States, west of the river Mississippi…to be divided into a suitable number of districts, for the reception of such tribes or nations of Indians as may choose to exchange the lands where they now reside, and remove there…
in the making of any such exchange or exchanges, the President [shall] solemnly assure the tribe or nation…that the United States will forever secure and guarantee to them, and their heirs or successors, the country so exchanged with them.

Summarize what the Indian Removal Act of 1830 said.

Congress debated Indian removal in the spring of 1830. Theodore Frelinghuysen was a U.S. senator from New Jersey. He was a senator who supported the cause of the Indians and opposed to the Indian Removal Act. He thought the U.S. government would trick, bribe, and bully Indian tribes as it carried out the law. The trickery, he feared, would lure the Indians into selling their lands. They would accept wastelands in the West in the place of their land in the South. Here are some excerpts from a six-hour long speech Frelinghuysen made during the debates over the Indian Removal Act:

God, in his providence, planted these tribes on this continent.
We cannot rightfully complete the cession of their lands, or take them by violence, if their consent be withheld…
The confiding Indian tribes [over many years] listened to our professions of friendship; we called him brother, and he believed us. Millions after millions he has yielded to our importunity, until we have acquired more than can be cultivated in centuries--and yet we crave more. We have crowded the tribes upon a few miserable acres; it is all that is left to them of their once boundless forests, and still…our insatiated cupidity cries, Give! Give!

What, according to Frelinghuysen, was the real reason why President Jackson wanted to relocate the Cherokees and other tribes west, beyond the Mississippi River?

It's April 1830, and Congress is debating the Indian Removal Act. Should this law be passed? Write a newspaper editorial that expresses your opinion.
The final draft of your paper should be typed in 12-point font and be approximately two pages in length, double-spaced. Remember, an editorial is written to persuade people to take a certain position on an issue. Use historical evidence to from the documents you have read to support your ideas. Don't forget to come up with a headline for your article.
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