The Indian Removal Act of 1830

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The Indian Removal Act of 1830



[President Andrew Jackson insisted this enactment of his 'wise and humane' Indian Removal Policy be applied only with the negotiated agreement of affected tribes. Fulfilling the written document's mandate, which left the intention of voluntary participation unstated, culminated tragically eight years later in the forced death-march known as the Cherokee Trail of Tears. The interim years proved no less tragic. Broken promises and treaties, fraudulent land purchases, and patronising, often brutal treatment by the military and government at all levels, combined with steadfast refusal by many tribes to be relocated, inevitably resulted in conflict and war. Tribes were 'dispersed or destroyed' and their remnants forcibly resettled West of the Mississippi.

Finally, in 1835 John Deere invented the "singing plow," which cuts through sticky prairie soil without clogging. Those lands West of the Mississippi which had been treatied to the Eastern Indians 'in perpetuity,' were rendered valuable farmland by Deere's invention. Settlers eventually flooded the territory. Inevitably, the Indians had nowhere else to go.]

The Indian Removal Act of 1830

CHAP. CXLVIII.--An Act to provide for an exchange of lands with the Indians residing in any of the states or territories, and for their removal west of the river Mississippi.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That it shall and may be lawful for the President of the United States to cause so much of any territory belonging to the United States, west of the river Mississippi, not included in any state or organized territory, and to which the Indian title has been extinguished, as he may judge necessary, 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; and to cause each of said districts to be so described by natural or artificial marks, as to be easily distinguished from every other.

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for the President to exchange any or all of such districts, so to be laid off and described, with any tribe or nation within the limits of any of the states or territories, and with which the United States have existing treaties, for the whole or any part or portion of the territory claimed and occupied by such tribe or nation, within the bounds of any one or more of the states or territories, where the land claimed and occupied by the Indians, is owned by the United States, or the United States are bound to the state within which it lies to extinguish the Indian claim thereto.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That in the making of any such exchange or exchanges, it shall and may be lawful for the President solemnly to assure the tribe or nation with which the exchange is made, that the United States will forever secure and guaranty to them, and their heirs or successors, the country so exchanged with them; and if they prefer it, that the United States will cause a patent or grant to be made and executed to them for the same: Provided always, That such lands shall revert to the United States, if the Indians become extinct, or abandon the same.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That if, upon any of the lands now occupied by the Indians, and to be exchanged for, there should be such improvements as add value to the land claimed by any individual or individuals of such tribes or nations, it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such value to be ascertained by appraisement or otherwise, and to cause such ascertained value to be paid to the person or persons rightfully claiming such improvements. And upon the payment of such valuation, the improvements so valued and paid for, shall pass to the United States, and possession shall not afterwards be permitted to any of the same tribe.

SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That upon the making of any such exchange as is contemplated by this act, it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such aid and assistance to be furnished to the emigrants as may be necessary and proper to enable them to remove to, and settle in, the country for which they may have exchanged; and also, to give them such aid and assistance as may be necessary for their support and subsistence for the first year after their removal.

SEC. 6. And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such tribe or nation to be protected, at their new residence, against all interruption or disturbance from any other tribe or nation of Indians, or from any other person or persons whatever.

SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for the President to have the same superintendence and care over any tribe or nation in the country to which they may remove, as contemplated by this act, that he is now authorized to have over them at their present places of residence.

President Andrew Jackson’s Messages to Congress concerning the Native Americans

First Annual Message to Congress, December 8, 1829

In which, in the closing paragraphs of the speech, Jackson lays out his policy for relocating Indians of the east to territories west of the Mississippi. This policy becomes law as the Indian Removal Act by his next annual address. An excerpt from the speech:

"Our conduct toward these people is deeply interesting to our national character. Their present condition, contrasted with what they once were, makes a most powerful appeal to our sympathies. Our ancestors found them the uncontrolled possessors of these vast regions. By persuasion and force they have been made to retire from river to river and from mountain to mountain, until some of the tribes have become extinct and others have left but remnants to preserve for awhile their once terrible names. Surrounded by the whites with their arts of civilization, which by destroying the resources of the savage doom him to weakness and decay, the fate of the Mohegan, the Narragansett, and the Delaware is fast overtaking the Choctaw, the Cherokee, and the Creek. That this fate surely awaits them if they remain within the limits of the states does not admit of a doubt. Humanity and national honor demand that every effort should be made to avert so great a calamity." -- Andrew Jackson

Second Annual Message to Congress, December 6, 1830

Jackson announces Indian Removal nearing consumation; the Chocktaw and Chickasaw peoples agree to relocation; this development will induce other tribes to follow; states his good-will toward aboriginal people;

"Toward the aborigines of the 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." -- Andrew Jackson

Third Annual Message to Congress, December 6, 1831

Funds are appropriated for the removal of eastern tribes; treaty negotiation for actual removal of the Choctaw and Chickasaw underway; Cherokee registration in Georgia recommences with hopes of up to two-thirds participation; removal efforts concentrated in Ohio and Indiana where treaties extinguished all Ohio reservations; philanthropists and missionaries invited to help removed Indians advance "from barbarism to the habits and enjoyments of civilized life."

"It is pleasing to reflect that results so beneficial, not only to the States immediately concerned, but to the harmony of the Union, will have been accomplished by measures equally advantageous to the Indians. What the native savages become when surrounded by a dense population and by mixing with the whites may be seen in the miserable remnants of a few Eastern tribes, deprived of political and civil rights, forbidden to make contracts, and subjected to guardians, dragging out a wretched existence, without excitement, without hope, and almost without thought." -- Andrew Jackson

Fourth Annual Message to Congress, December 4, 1832

Substantial deficit reduction despite Indian 'removal and preservation' costs; oblique reference to economics of converting Indian land first to public land, then selling parcels to settlers at cost; Sac and Fox uprising put down -- disaffected tribes 'dispersed or destroyed'; the 'wise and humane' Indian removal policy is steadily pursued and approaching consummation -- Secretary of War reports; Georgian Cherokees resist removal.

"After a harassing warfare, prolonged by the nature of the country and by the difficulty of procuring subsistence, the Indians were entirely defeated, and the disaffected band dispersed or destroyed. The result has been creditable to the troops engaged in the service. Severe as is the lesson to the Indians, it was rendered necessary by their unprovoked aggressions, and it is to be hoped that its impression will be permanent and salutary." -- Andrew Jackson

Fifth Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1833

Survivors of Sac and Fox War of 1832 removed west of Mississippi; 'inferior' Georgian Cherokee continue to resist 'force of circumstances' and refuse removal; Jackson reiterates removal and 'political reorganisation' form the best and only option for continued existence of eastern Indians.

"My original convictions upon this subject have been confirmed by the course of events for several years, and experience is every day adding to their strength. That those tribes can not exist surrounded by our settlements and in continual contact with our citizens is certain. They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any favorable change in their condition. Established in the midst of another and a superior race, and without appreciating the causes of their inferiority or seeking to control them, they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disappear." -- Andrew Jackson

Sixth Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1834

Military blocks 'inroads' of Western frontier Indians; Creek removal imminent, Seminole next, Cherokee stubbornly refuse against own best interests; Indian Trade and Intercourse Acto of 1834 made law, restricting treatied sovereignty of Western Indians.

"I regret that the Cherokees east of the Mississippi have not yet determined as a community to remove. How long the personal causes which have heretofore retarded that ultimately inevitable measure will continue to operate I am unable to conjecture. It is certain, however, that delay will bring with it accumulated evils which will render their condition more and more unpleasant. The experience of every year adds to the conviction that emigration, and that alone, can preserve from destruction the remnant of the tribes yet living amongst us." -- Andrew Jackson

Seventh Annual Message to Congress, December 7, 1835

Inexplicably, Jackson makes no direct reference to Indian removal in this message, though it was in this year that the Seminole were ordered to leave Florida. In fact, the only reference to native issues is made obliquely in a paragraph concerning the sale of public lands, much of which were once treatied Indian territories.

"The extraordinary receipts from the sales of the public lands invite you to consider what improvements the land system, and particularly the condition of the General Land Office, may require. At the time this institution was organized, near a quarter century ago, it would probably have been thought extravagant to anticipate for this period such an addition to its business as has been produced by the vast increase of those sales during the past and present years. It may also be observed that since the year 1812 the land offices and surveying districts have been greatly multiplied, and that numerous legislative enactments from year to year since that time have imposed a great amount of new and additional duties upon that office, while the want of a timely application of force commensurate with the care and labor required has caused the increasing embarrassment of accumulated arrears in the different branches of the establishment." -- Andrew Jackson

Eighth Annual Message to Congress, December 5, 1836

Indian wars force massive mobilisation of troops, militia and volunteers; Seminoles refuse to relocate and win early upper-hand in Second Seminole War; Urgent need for further appropriations to 'suppress hostilities;' Creek defeated and relocated West of Mississippi; Cherokee country pacified and secured by ongoing military vigilance; Mexico authorises expeditions to quell Indians beyond US frontier; Commissioner of Indian Affairs suggests larger military presence in Indian country to protect Western frontier from Indians, and the Indians from each other; Jackson prematurely declares Indian Removal to be consummated--Cherokee forcibly relocated two years later in 1838.

"The national policy, founded alike in interest and in humanity, so long and so steadily pursued by this Government for the removal of the Indian tribes originally settled on this side of the Mississippi to the West of that river, may be said to have been consummated by the conclusion of the late treaty with the Cherokees." -- Andrew Jackson

Gen. Winfield Scott's

Address to the Cherokee Nation

(May 10, 1838)


From the Cherokee Agency, Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott delivered an ultimatum to the Cherokees remaining in northern Georgia -- they had to go west, and they had to go now:

"Cherokees! The President of the United States has sent me with a powerful army, to cause you, in obedience to the treaty of 1835 [the Treaty of New Echota], to join that part of your people who have already established in prosperity on the other side of the Mississippi. Unhappily, the two years which were allowed for the purpose, you have suffered to pass away without following, and without making any preparation to follow; and now, or by the time that this solemn address shall reach your distant settlements, the emigration must be commenced in haste, but I hope without disorder. I have no power, by granting a farther delay, to correct the error that you have committed. The full moon of May is already on the wane; and before another shall have passed away, every Cherokee man, woman and child in those states must be in motion to join their brethren in the far West.

My friends! This is no sudden determination on the part of the President, whom you and I must now obey. By the treaty, the emigration was to have been completed on or before the 23rd of this month; and the President has constantly kept you warned, during the two years allowed, through all his officers and agents in this country, that the treaty would be enforced.

I am come to carry out that determination. My troops already occupy many positions in the country that you are to abandon, and thousands and thousands are approaching from every quarter, to render resistance and escape alike hopeless. All those troops, regular and militia, are your friends. Receive them and confide in them as such. Obey them when they tell you that your can remain no longer in this country. Soldiers are as kind-hearted as brave, and the desire of every one of us is to execute our painful duty in mercy. We are commanded by the President to act towards you in that spirit, and much is also the wish of the whole people of America.

Chiefs, head-men and warriors! Will you then, by resistance, compel us to resort to arms? God forbid! Or will you, by flight, seek to hid yourselves in mountains and forests, and thus oblige us to hunt you down? Remember that, in pursuit, it may be impossible to avoid conflicts. The blood of the white man or the blood of the red man may be spilt, and, if spilt, however accidentally, it may be impossible for the discreet and humane among you, or among us, to prevent a general war and carnage. Think of this, my Cherokee brethren! I am an old warrior, and have been present at many a scene of slaughter, but spare me, I beseech you, the horror of witnessing the destruction of the Cherokees.

Do not, I invite you, even wait for the close approach of the troops; but make such preparations for emigration as you can and hasten to this place, to Ross's Landing or to Gunter's Landing, where you all will be received in kindness by officers selected for the purpose. You will find food for all and clothing for the destitute at either of those places, and thence at your ease and in comfort be transported to your new homes, according to the terms of the treaty.

This is the address of a warrior to warriors. May his entreaties by kindly received and may the God of both prosper the Americans and Cherokees and preserve them long in peace and friendship with each other!

Source: Edward J. Cashin (ed.), A Wilderness Still The Cradle of Nature: Frontier Georgia (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1994), pp. 137-38.

23d Congress, 1st Session.       [Doc. No. 71.]       Ho. of Reps.



Resolution of a Joint Committee of the Legislature of North Carolina,
relative to the Cherokee Indians.

January 27, 1834.
Referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs.

Executive Department, North Carolina,

Raleigh, January 20, 1834.

        SIR: In compliance with the request of the General Assembly of this State, I transmit to you the enclosed memorial, and request that it may be presented to that branch of the National Legislature of which you are a member.

I have the honor to be, sir,

With high consideration,

Your obedient servant,


To the Hon. James Graham.

        The joint select committee, to which was referred so much of the Governor's message as relates to the Cherokee Indians, have had the same under consideration, and respectfully report:

        That they have had the subject under consideration, and submit the accompanying memorial as the best mode of settling all difficulties with the Indians, and recommend the adoption or the following resolution:

        Resolved, That the Governor transmit a copy of this memorial to each of the Senators and Members of the House of Representatives from this State in Congress, with a request that they present the same to both Houses of Congress.

J. W. GUINN, Chairman.

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To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in
Congress assembled:

The memorial of the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina

Respectfully Represents:

        That, at the close of the revolutionary war, the territory composing the sovereign and independent State of North Carolina was bounded on the east by the Atlantic, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the north by a line beginning on the sea shore, in the southern boundary of Virginia, 36 deg. 30 m. north latitude, and thence west to the Pacific Ocean, and on the south by a line beginning on the sea side, at a cedar stake, at or near the mouth of Little river, thence a northwest course, through the boundary house, which stands in 33 deg. 56 m. to 35 deg. north latitude, and thence nest to the Pacific Ocean. The Congress of the United States having repeatedly recommended to the respective States in the Union, owning vacant western territory, to cede the same to the United States, an act was passed by the Legislature of this State, at its session in the year 1789, authorizing certain commissioners to convey to the United States all those lands situate within the chartered limits or North Carolina, being west of a line beginning on the extreme height of the Stone mountain, at the place where the Virginia line intersects it; thence, along the extreme height of said mountain, to the place where the Watauga river breaks through it; thence, a direct course, to the top of the Yellow mountain, where Bright's road crosses the same; thence, along the ridge of said mountain, between the waters of Doc river and the waters of Rock creek, to the place where the road crosses the Iron mountain; thence, along the extreme height of said mountain, to where Nolichucky river runs through the same; thence to the top of the Bald mountain; thence, along the extreme height or said mountain, to the Painter rock on French Broad river; thence, along the highest ridge of said mountain, to the place where it is called the Great Iron or Smoky mountain; thence, along the extreme height of said mountain, to the place where it is called the Unika mountain; thence, along the main ridge of said mountain, to the southern boundary of this State, upon certain conditions therein expressed. In pursuance of said act, the commissioners executed the deed of cession, which was duly accepted and ratified by the United States in Congress assembled, on the 2d of April, 1790. By the acceptance of this cession, the United States, among other obligations thereby assumed, became bound that the land laid off, or directed to be laid off, by an act or acts of the General Assembly of this State, for the officers and soldiers thereof, their heirs and assigns, respectively, shall by and enure to be use and benefit of the said officers and soldiers, their heirs and assigns, respectively; and that all the lands thus ceded, and not appropriated as aforesaid, shall be considered as a common fund, for the use and benefit of all the States, North Carolina inclusive, according to their respective and usual proportions in the general charge and expenditure, and shall be faithfully disposed of for that purpose, and for no other use or purpose whatsoever.

        A pad of the territory so ceded now forms the State of Tennessee, bounded on the east by the western boundary of North Carolina, as described in the act of cession, and on the west by the Mississippi river, to

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the north and south by the northern and southern lines of the ceded territory. All the lands laid off, or directed to be laid off as aforesaid, by the General Assembly of North Carolina, lie within the limits of the State of Tennessee; and after the location of all the said lands, there remained within the limits of Tennessee a very large and valuable residue, which should have been appropriated to the use of the Several States of the Union, including North Carolina, in the proportion set forth in the act of cession. The United States still holds under this cession, for the like uses and purposes, an immense extent of country of great value, situate between the river Mississippi and the Pacific Ocean, and between the northern and southe n limits of the ceded territory. It is true that the act or cession did not require the United States to stipulate that all rights and titles of the Indians to lands Within the limits of North Carolina should be extinguished by the United States, as has been done by Georgia. North Carolina, acknowledging the parental care of the General Government, generously confiding in her sense of justice, and believing that good policy would dictate the extinguishment of the Indian title, did not demand such stipulation, which, if required, would have been a very inadequate consideration for the territory conveyed and the sovereignty granted. It is believed that the portion to which North Carolina was entitled by the act of cession of the residue of lands in Tennessee, after the location of all the military claims, would have been amply sufficient for the extinguishment of the Indian title to lands within the limits or North Carolina, but the United States have appropriated this residue exclusively to the use of the State of Tennessee.

        The United States, acknowledging the rights of North Carolina, and yielding to her just claims, attempted, by the treaties of 1817 and 1819, with the Cherokee tribe of Indians, to extinguish their title to all the land Within the limits of this State. This attempt proving abortive, by a mistake in describing the territory intended to be surrendered by the Indians, the language of the treaties leaves little doubt of the intention of the contracting parties to extinguish the Indian title to all the lands within this State, but the application of a technical rule produces the difficulty. The treaties stipulate that the Cherokees shall surrender all their lands lying within the limits of North Carolina, and then unfortunately set forth the supposed metes and bounds of the territory intended to be surrendered. In these metes and bounds there is a great mistake; the former is called a general, the latter a particular description; and it is said that the particular controls and restrains the general description. The lands in the occupancy of the Cherokees, not embraced by these metes and bounds, and within the limits of North Carolina, are of great extent and value. This tract of country, from the most accurate information now to be obtained, includes nearly million of acres of land, and is estimated to be worth four hundred thousand dollars, and is occupied by almost twenty-five hundred Indians. The extinguishment of the Indian title to this district of country, and the removal of this unfortunate race beyond the Mississippi, is of momentous importance to the interest of this State. The fertility of the soil, the extent and value of territory, are sufficient inducements to urge the extinguishment of the Indian title, especially as we think we have just claims on the General Government. These are not the only inducements. The red men are not within the pales of civilization; they are not under the restraints of morality, nor the influence of religion, and

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they are always disagreeable and dangerous neighbors to a civilized people. The proximity of those red men to our white population, subjects the latter to depredations and annoyances, and is a source of perpetual and mutual irritation. It is believed this unfortunate race of beings might easily, at the present, from the policy pursued towards them by the respective States in which their possessions are situate, be induced to exchange their lands in this State for territory beyond the Mississippi, whither so many of their brethren have already gone.

        In addition to all these considerations, the right of North Carolina to have this title extinguished by the General Government, is strengthened by the policy which has been pursued towards the Cherokees by the States of Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama. They have been driven, or are now flying from that portion of their lands lying within the limits of these States, and take refuge within our borders, where they are permitted to preserve their own peculiar laws and usages. The effect of this policy will be to transfer their entire population to our territory, until an exhausted soil will compel them to seek another home.

        The General Assembly submit it to the justice or Congress to determine whether the continued liberality of North Carolina to this unfortunate race shall be thus rewarded. Let it be recollected that the region of country in Arkansas, on which those Cherokees who have removed are now settled, was once a portion or this State, and that the result of the legislation of Congress, and of the particular States interested, has been, and will be, to remove to it all the Indians but those inhabiting her territory. Shall that State alone, which furnished an asylum for the relief of all, be denied the benefits flowing from her own liberality?

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