The Trail of Tears

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Excerpts from Andrew Jackson's message to Congress, "On Indian Removal" (1830), and The Memorial of the Cherokee Nation (1830):

JACKSON: It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress
That the benevolent policy of the Government,
Steadily pursued for nearly thirty years,
In relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements
Is approaching to a happy consummation.
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
Embellished with all the improvements
Which art can devise or industry execute,
Occupied by more than 12,000,000 happy people,
And filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization and religion?

CHEROKEE NATION: 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.
Our only request is, that these treaties may be fulfilled,
And these laws executed.

JACKSON: It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites;
Free them from the power of the States;
Enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions;
Will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers,
And perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the Government
And through the influence of good counsels,
To cast off their savage habits
And become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.

CHEROKEE NATION: If we are compelled to leave our country,
We see nothing but ruin before us.
The country west of the Arkansas territory is unknown to us.
All the inviting parts of it, as we believe, are preoccupied by various Indian nations,
To which it has been assigned.
They would regard us as intruders.
The far greater part of that region is,
Beyond all controversy,
Badly supplied with wood and water;
And no Indian tribe can live as agriculturists without these articles.
All our neighbors . . . would speak a language totally different from ours,
And practice different customs.
Were the country to which we are urged much better than it is represented to be,
Still it is not the land of our birth,
Nor of our affections.
It contains neither the scenes of our childhood,
Nor the graves of our fathers. . .

JACKSON: Rightly considered, the policy of the General Government toward the red man
Is not only liberal, but generous.
He is unwilling to submit to the laws of the States
And mingle with their population.
To save him from this alternative, or perhaps utter annihilation,
The General Government kindly offers him a new home,
And proposes to pay the whole expense of his removal and settlement.

CHEROKEE NATION: We have been called a poor, ignorant, and degraded people.
We certainly are not rich;
Nor have we ever boasted of our knowledge,
Or our moral or intellectual elevation.
But there is not a man within our limits
So ignorant as not to know
That he has a right to live on the land of his fathers,
In the possession of his immemorial privileges,
And that this right has been acknowledged by the United States;
Nor is there a man so degraded
As not to feel a keen sense of injury,
On being deprived of his right
And driven into exile . . .

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon. Free for personal or non-commercial use.

Audio and Video Music: Sovereign Quarter. By Kevin MacLeod.
Performed by Kevin MacLeod at the Free Music Archive under an Attribution license.

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