Andrew Jackson & Indian Legislation and Treaties

Signature page of Treaty of New Echota

Signature page of the Treaty of New Echota (1835)

Despite the Supreme Court ruling in Worcester v. Georgia,President Andrew Jackson continued to fight for Indian Removal. He argued that the movement of Indian’s westward would not only benefit the American people, but also the Native Americans. He wrote, “It will relieve the whole State of Mississippi and the western part of Alabama of Indian occupancy, and enable those States to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power. 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 and interesting, civilized, and Christian community.” While Jackson’s views seem to be extreme, not all Native Americans disagreed with him. In 1835, a group of Cherokee Indians signed the Treaty of New Echota. The treaty was an agreement between the Cherokee Nation and the U.S Government that would remove the Cherokee from their lands in return for compensation. The treaty had been negotiated by a Cherokee leader, Major Ridge, who claimed to represent the Cherokee Nation when, in fact, he spoke only for a small faction. (7) 

The signing of the Treaty of New Echota sparked controversy not only within the Cherokee Nation, but throughout the U.S. William Thomas, a senator from North Carolina, writes to Congress on behalf of the Cherokee Nation. He argues that the U.S Government does not have a right to negotiate with Major Ridge because he is not representative of the Cherokee Nation. He writes, “Did the Cherokees, who were parties to the treaty, possessing of the attributes of sovereignty and as a body politic possessing these powers become a party to the treaty? Or did they, as private individuals in a state of duress, sign the treaty for the benefit of themselves…” (8) Despite protests, Supreme Court rulings, and illegitimate treaties, Andrew Jackson and his removal supporters persisted. Congress ratified the Treaty of New Echota in March of 1836, and the process of Cherokee Removal began.