Jackson, the Natives, scientific racism, and Manifest Destiny

Indian Removal Act

Indian Removal Act

The Indian Removal Act was Jackson’s main atrocity during his time as president. His hatred of the Native Americans had never been more prevalent than his physical relocation of them form their homeland. The move involved many deaths as the harsh conditions on The Trail of Tears caused anywhere between 4000-8000 deaths (Russel, 1984).

The justification for these actions came from the belief that Native Americans were inferior and had to be removed for the expansion of white Americans. When looking upon Native land, Americans did not see what they called civilization. There were no cities, no fences, no “advanced” commerce. But also, they did not think of Native Americans as having the capability to improve upon the land. 

 The most popular way to measure intelligence was craniology, also called phrenology, which is the scientific study of the shape and size of the skulls of different human races. By measuring the skulls of different racial groups and comparing them, scientists like Dr. Samuel George Morton, concluded that Native Americans ranked under white men but above blacks due to the length of their jaws and the size of their skulls (Gould, 1996).  Reasoning like this coupled with the belief of Manifest Destiny gave Jackson more than enough reason to boot the Native Americans west.

Craniology Averages of different racial groups

Craniology Averages of different racial groups 

The question arises; does craniology have any basis in truth? And the answer is simple: No. The size of the head does not accuratlily determine intelligence. After his death, Morton was found to have inaccurately recorded some data by excluding Hindus when calculating the Caucasians average due to their “small brains” while including Peruvian Incas to lower American Indians average.

In artist depictions of skulls, the lengths of the jaws were exaggerated to appear more ape like to show “obvious” racial and genetic inferiority in non-whites. Data so biased should be thrown out and deemed unusable however since it supported the views of those in charhe, nothing was done about it. Jackson’s own ambitions for Indian removal were based in “some combination of political ambition, financial greed, and philosophical rationalization (Wallace1996)As long as Jackson had a reason, he would make way for the common man, and more specifically himself.  

Jackson, the Natives, scientific racism, and Manifest Destiny