Project: the trial of andrew jackson

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Adapted from a simulation by Eric Rothschild

Andrew Jackson the seventh President of the United States under the Constitution, has been impeached in the House of Representatives (not really, this is fictional – JACKSON WAS NOT REALLY IMPEACHED). He will go on trial in the U.S. Senate on July 1, 1838.
Here are the charges against Jackson:

  • Violating the rights of Native Americans, especially in his treatment of the Cherokee and Creek Indians

  • Stepping on state’s rights in his economic policy and his behavior in the nullification crisis

  • General bad character

You will work in groups I assign for the trial. Here are the group assignments:

  1. Prosecution Indictment #1 (arguing against Jackson)

  2. Prosecution Indictment #2 (arguing against Jackson)

  3. Defense Team Indictment #1(arguing for Jackson)

  4. Defense Team Indictment #2(arguing for Jackson)

  5. Andrew Jackson, witness for the defense

Indictment #1: President Jackson violated states rights in his dealings with South Carolina in the nullification crisis.

  1. Witness group: South Carolinian Nullifiers led by John C. Calhoun

  2. Witness group: Opponents of Nullification

Indictment #2: President Jackson violated laws, treaties, and court orders in his dealings with Native Americans.

  1. Witness group Native Americans led by Osceola

  2. Witness group: Supreme Court led by John Marshall

Each group will be given a reading packet with information on your group (Packets on my website, too). Here are your tasks:

  1. Each “witness” will prepare a typed paper (400-500 words, quotes add “wow” factor) containing an explanation of who your group is, major players in your group, and a report on Jackson’s guilt or innocence on the related indictment (one FULL paragraph with plenty of supporting details).

  1. The prosecution and defense lawyers should prepare a typed opening statement (300-400 words) in which the case is laid out and references quoted along with 2 well-thought out and insightful questions for each witness groups (10 total). Please type questions on a separate piece of paper with witness groups as headings.

  1. On trial day the witness groups will be given a list of the prosecution and defense teams’ questions and will be given a short time to prepare answers.

Here’s how the trial will work:

  1. The prosecution and defense teams will read opening statements – make sure you are engaging and convincing!

  2. Each witness group will take the stand in turn. You will explain who you are and what your positions are on Jackson’s actions. Then the prosecution and defense teams may ask questions. Jackson may take the stand if his defense team chooses.

  3. As witnesses take the stand, other groups will be taking notes in a provided note-taking form. This form will count as your classwork grade and is your ticket out.

  4. When all of the arguments, pro and con, have been made, the full "House of Representatives" [the entire class] will vote on each article of impeachment.

Trial notes:


Points Made by the Group

My thoughts, opinions, and reactions

Prosecution Team

Indictment 1: Nullification crisis

Indictment 2: Native Americans

Defense Team

Indictment 1: Nullification crisis

Indictment 2: Native Americans

South Carolina Nullifiers

Opponents of Nullification

Native Americans

Supreme Court

Resources for South Carolina Nullifiers , led by John C. Calhoun
Source One: From The American Spirit by Kennedy et al.
Senator Robert Hayne spoke in favor of nullification:
Thus it will be seen, Mr. President, that the South Carolina doctrine [of nullification] . . . was maintained by Virginia and Kentucky in the worst of times . . .
Sir, as to the [idea] that the federal government is the exclusive judge of the extent as well as the limitations of its powers, it seems to me to be utterly subversive of the sovereignty and independence of the states. It makes but little difference in my [opinion] whether Congress or the Supreme Court are invested with this power. If the federal government in all or any of its departments is to [set] the limits of its own authority, and the states are bound to submit to the decision and are not allowed to examine and decide for themselves when the barriers of the Constitution [have been] overleaped, this is practically “a government without limitation of powers.” The states are at once reduced to mere petty corporations and the people are entirely at your mercy.
Source Two: From The American Spirit by Kennedy et al.
This is an excerpt from the South Carolina Exposition, written by John C. Calhoun:
If we submit to this system of unconstitutional oppression, we shall voluntarily sink into slavery, and transmit that . . . inheritance to our children. We will not, we cannot, we dare not submit to this degradation; and our resolve is fixed and unalterable that a protecting tariff shall be no longer enforced within the limits of South Carolina. We stand upon the principles of everlasting justice, and no human power shall drive us from our position.
We have not the slightest [fear] that the General Government will attempt to force this system upon us by military power. We have warned our [brothers] of the consequences of such an attempt. But if, notwithstanding, such a course of madness should be pursued, we here solemnly declare that this system of oppression shall never prevail in South Carolina, until none but slaves are left to submit to it. We would infinitely prefer that the territory of the state should be the cemetery of freemen than the habitation of slaves.
Resources for Opponents of Nullification
Source One: From The American Spirit by Kennedy et al.
Daniel Webster argued against nullification:
If anything be found in the national Constitution, either by original provision or subsequent interpretation, which ought not to be in it, the people know how to get rid of it. If any construction [is] established [that is] unacceptable to them . . . they will amend it . . . . But while the people choose to maintain it as it is –while they are satisfied with it, and refuse to change it – who has given, or who can give, to the state legislatures a right to alter it, either by interference, construction, or otherwise? . . .
I profess, sir . . . to have kept . . . in view the prosperity and honor of the whole country, and the preservation of our Federal Union. It is to that Union we owe our safety at home and our consideration and dignity abroad. It is to that Union that we are chiefly indebted for whatever makes us most proud of our country.
Source Two: From The American Spirit by Kennedy et al.
Andrew Jackson spoke out against nullification:
For what would you exchange your share in the advantages and honor of the Union? For the dream of a separate independence – a dream interrupted by bloody conflicts with your neighbors and a vile dependence on a foreign power.
If your leaders could succeed in establishing a separation, what would be your situation? Are you united at home? Are you free from the apprehension of civil discord, with all its fearful consequences? Do our neighboring [Latin American] republics, every day suffering some new revolution or contending with some new insurrection, do they excite your envy?
But the dictates of a high duty oblige me solemnly to announce that you cannot succeed. The laws of the United States must be [carried out]. I have no discretionary power on the subject; my duty is emphatically pronounced in the Constitution.
. . .
Disunion by armed force is treason. Are you ready to incur its guilt? . . . On your unhappy state will inevitably fall all the evils of the conflict you force upon the government of your country . . . . The consequence must be fearful for you, distressing to your fellow citizens here and to the friends of good government throughout the world.
Resources for Native Americans led by Osceola
Indian removal was first suggested by Thomas Jefferson as the only way to ensure the survival of Native American cultures. The goal of this policy was to encourage the voluntary migration of Indians westward to tracts of land where they could live free from white harassment. Jackson favored removal as the solution to the Indian problem. This came partly as a result of a controversy between the Cherokee nation and the state of Georgia. The Cherokee people had claimed sole ownership of their land. The state responded by abolishing tribal rule and claiming that the Cherokee fell under its jurisdiction. The discovery of gold on Cherokee land triggered a land rush, and the Cherokee nation sued to keep white settlers from encroaching on their territory. In two important cases, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia in 1831 and Worcester v. Georgia in 1832, the Supreme Court ruled that states could not pass laws conflicting with federal Indian treaties and that the federal government had an obligation to exclude white intruders from Indian lands. Angered, Jackson is said to have exclaimed: “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it.”

The primary thrust of Jackson’s removal policy was to encourage Native Americans to sell their homelands in exchange for new lands in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Such a policy, the president maintained, would open new farmland to whites while offering Indians a haven where they would be free to develop at their own pace. “There,” he wrote, “your white brothers will not trouble you.”

Pushmataha, a Choctaw chieftain, called on his people to reject Jackson’s offer. Far from being a “country of tall trees, many water courses, rich lands and high grass abounding in games of all kinds,” the promised preserve in the West was simply a barren desert. Jackson responded by warning that if the Choctaw refused to move west, he would destroy their nation.

During the winter of 1831, the Choctaw became the first tribe to walk the “Trail of Tears” westward. Promised government assistance failed to arrive, and malnutrition, exposure, and a cholera epidemic killed many members of the nation. Then, in 1836, the Creek suffered the hardships of removal. About 3,500 of the tribe’s 15,000 members died along the westward trek. Those who resisted removal were bound in chains and marched in double file.

Emboldened by the Supreme Court decisions declaring that Georgia law had no force on Indian Territory, the Cherokees resisted removal. The federal government bribed a faction of the tribe to leave the land in exchange for transportation costs and $5 million, but most Cherokees held out until 1838, when the army evicted them from their land. All told, 4,000 of the 15,000 Cherokee died along the trail to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma.

A number of other tribes also organized resistance against removal. In the Old Northwest, the Sauk and Fox Indians fought the Black Hawk War (1832) to recover ceded tribal lands in Illinois and Wisconsin. The Indians claimed that when they had signed the treaty transferring title to their land, they had not understood the implications of the action. “I touched the goose quill to the treaty,” said Chief Black Hawk, “not knowing, however, that by that act I consented to give away my village.” The United States army and the Illinois state militia ended the resistance by wantonly killing nearly 500 Sauk and Fox men, women, and children who were trying to retreat across the Mississippi River. In Florida, the military spent seven years putting down Seminole resistance at a cost of $20 million and 1,500 casualties, and even then succeeding only after the treacherous act of kidnapping the Seminole leader Osceola during peace talks.

By twentieth-century standards, Jackson’s Indian policy was both callous and inhumane. Despite the semblance of legality--94 treaties were signed with Indians during Jackson’s presidency--Native American migrations to the West almost always occurred under the threat of government coercion. Even before Jackson’s death in 1845, it was obvious that tribal lands in the West were no more secure than Indian lands had been in the East. In 1851 Congress passed the Indian Appropriations Act, which sought to concentrate the western Native American population on reservations.

Source Two: from The American Spirit by Kennedy et al.

In the following excerpt, Jackson suggests Indian Removal

. . . I suggest for your consideration the propriety of setting apart an ample district west of the Mississippi, and without [outside] the limits of any state or territory now formed, to be guaranteed to the Indian tribes as long as they shall occupy it, each tribe having a distinct control over the portion of their own choice . . . . There the benevolent may endeavor to teach them the arts of civilization, and, by promoting union and harmony among them, to raise up an interesting commonwealth, destined to perpetuate the race and to attest the humanity and justice of this government.

This emigration should be voluntary, for it would be as cruel as unjust to compel the [Indians] to abandon the graves of their fathers and seek a home in a distant land. But they should be distinctly informed that if they remain within the limits of the states they must be subject to their laws.

Resources for Supreme Court led by John Marshall
Source One: Accessed at on October 25, 2009.

(Excerpted from Andrew Jackson and His Indian Wars by Robert V. Remini. Copyright Robert V. Remini, 2001. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc. The excerpt was originally published in August 2001 issue of American History Magazine.)

The government of the state of Georgia during Jackson's presidency began encroaching on the rights of the Cherokee Nation, insisting that the tribe surrender its independence and submit to state laws. The Cherokee intended to resist, and they figured they had many ways to do it. As a last resort they planned to bring suit before the Supreme Court.
Prior to that action, they sent a delegation to Washington to plead their cause. They petitioned Congress to protect them against the unjust laws of Georgia that had decreed that they were subject to its sovereignty and under its complete jurisdiction. They even approached the President, but he curtly informed them that there was nothing he could do in their quarrel with the state.
So the Cherokee took their case to the Supreme Court. In Cherokee Nation v. Georgia they sought a court order that would permit them to remain in Georgia without interference by the state. They argued that they constituted an independent nation and had been so regarded by the United States in its many treaties with them.
Speaking for the majority of the court, Chief Justice John Marshall handed down his decision on March 18, 1831. As an American nationalist, he rejected the argument that the Cherokee were an independent nation, but he also rejected Jackson’s claim that they were subject to state law. The Indians were ‘domestic dependent nations,’ he ruled, subject to the United States as a ward to a guardian. Indian territory was part of the United States but not subject to action by individual states.

The Cherokee believed Marshall’s decision meant that they had won the case, that Georgia lacked authority to control their lives and property, and that the courts would protect them. So they stayed right where they were, and missionaries working with them at the time encouraged them to stand fast.

But Andrew Jackson and the authorities of Georgia would cause more difficulties. In late December 1830, the state passed another law prohibiting white men from entering Indian country after March 1, 1831, without a license from the state. The law was apparently intended to keep interfering clergymen from inciting the Indians to disobey Georgia law. Eleven such missionaries were arrested for violating the recent statute, nine of whom accepted pardons from the governor in return for a promise that they would cease violating Georgia law. But Samuel A. Worcester and Dr. Elizur Butler refused the pardon, and they were sent to the state penitentiary, ‘there to endure hard labor for the term of four years.’ They appealed the verdict and their case came before the Supreme Court.
On March 3, 1832, Marshall again ruled in Worcester v. Georgia, declaring all the laws of Georgia dealing with the Cherokees unconstitutional, null, void, and of no effect. In addition he issued a formal mandate two days later ordering the state’s superior court to reverse its decision and free the two men.

Jackson was presently involved in a confrontation with South Carolina over the passage of the Tariffs of 1828 and 1832. The state had nullified the acts and threatened to secede from the Union if force were used to make her comply with them. The last thing Jackson needed was a confrontation with another state, so he quietly nudged Georgia into obeying the court order and freeing Butler and Worcester. A number of well-placed officials in both the state and national governments lent a hand and the governor, Wilson Lumpkin, released the two men on January 14, 1833.

Once the problem with the two missionaries was solved, both the state of Georgia and Jackson continued to lean on the Cherokees to get them to remove.

Source Two: From

In two important cases, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia in 1831 and Worcester v. Georgia in 1832, the Supreme Court ruled that states could not pass laws conflicting with federal Indian treaties and that the federal government had an obligation to exclude white intruders from Indian lands. Angered, Jackson, despite his role as chief executive, is said to have exclaimed: “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it.”
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