UNITED STATES HISTORY
*Ever since his defeat in the House of Representatives in 1824,
Jackson and his followers had been campaigning for Jackson’s
presidential candidacy in 1828. The Republican Party split
into the National Republicans (under Adams and Clay) and the
Democratic-Republicans under Jackson.
*In 1828 Jackson’s supporters, managed by the brilliant Martin van
Buren (a veteran of the Byzantine politics of New York), came out
in vast numbers to cheer and to vote for Old Hickory. This
started to divide American under a Second Two-Party System that
would slowly solidify during Jackson's presidency.
*The Election of 1828 was almost certainly the dirtiest America
had yet seen.
*Jackson was called a dangerous man, and ‘coffin handbills’ were
published, with pictures of six coffins representing six men
hanged by Jackson shortly before the Battle of New Orleans for,
according to him, robbery, arson, and mutiny (or just wanting to
go home according to Jackson’s detractors), and his history of
duelling was described as murder.
*Jackson certainly had a long history of violence.
*Jackson was born in the Waxhaws near the North/South Carolina
border (so that both states sometimes claim him as a native son)
in 1767. His father had died when he was young, and he
joined the US Army during the Revolution and served as a
courier. He and his brother were captured by the British,
and a British officer ordered him to polish his boots; he refused,
and the officer slashed him with his sword. He and his
brother contracted smallpox while in captivity, and his brother
died just after they were released. His mother died of
cholera while serving as a nurse in the prison ships of
Charleston. He hated the British for all that for the rest
of his life.
*Although Jackson had little, if any, formal education before he
began to study law in North Carolina and Tennessee, where he
arrived in Jonesborough in 1788 riding one horse with a racehorse
trailing along behind. Although of poor birth and no
education, Jackson claimed to be a gentleman, which meant
defending his honour in duels. The first of these came
within a year of his arrival in Jonesborough, when Waightstill
Avery, a great North Carolina lawyer, ridiculed his legal
knowledge, and Jackson challenged him to a duel.
*The Jackson-Avery duel ended in both men discharging their guns
in the air, but Jackson’s future duels would not end so
*Jackson moved to the Mero District about 1790. There he met
Rachel Donelson Robards. She was technically married to a
man named Lewis Robards, but he had been an abusive husband, and
they had separated. Eventually Robards left for Kentucky,
and word came back that he had secured a divorce. Andrew and
Rachel married in 1791 and lived happily together until Robards
returned and revealed that he had never filed for divorce after
all. Andrew and Rachel had been living bigamously for almost
three years! A divorce was arranged in late 1793, and
Jackson married his wife again in January 1794, just to be
sure. At the time no-one was much distressed, but this would
come back to haunt the Jacksons.
*About this time, Governor William Blount made Jackson
attorney-general of the Mero District. A few years later he
served on the Tennessee constitutional convention, and went to
Philadelphia as Tennessee’s first Congressman. This was
boring, however, and he almost immediately returned to campaign
for his election to Major-General of the Tennessee militia.
*Jackson lost due to opposition from Tennessee’s popular former
governor, John Sevier. However, Jackson was chosen to fill
William Cocke’s old seat in the US Senate.
*Jackson found the Senate boring, too, and resigned, and upon
coming home to Tennessee was made a justice of the superior court,
in which he rode to the different counties and heard important
*In 1802 (or so the story goes, although some feel it is not well
enough documented to call proper history), Jackson was holding
court in Jonesborough, when he heard of the case of Russell Bean,
the first white child born in Tennessee, but now all grown up
(being about 33 years of age).
*Russell Bean had taken a flatboat to New Orleans, sold his furs
and other goods, sold the boat for firewood, and walked
home. In the intervening time, more than nine months, Mrs
Bean had given birth to a child. In a drunken fury, Russell
cut the infant's ears off, so he could tell it apart from his
own. By some accounts the child later died.
*A warrant was issued for Bean’s arrest, but he threatened to
shoot any man who tried to take him. The sheriff told the
court this, and Jackson told him to summon a posse. The
sheriff tried, but no-one would come. Jackson told him to
summon the whole town, if necessary, so the sheriff summoned
Jackson. Jackson called a recess of the court grabbed a
loaded pistol or two, went to Bean, and said 'surrender, you
infernal villain, this very instant, or I'll blow you
through.' Bean surrendered, explaining that he saw 'shoot'
in Jackson’s eyes. Bean was convicted and branded on the
hand. Some versions of the story say he bit off the brand
and spat it on the courthouse floor. He was also imprisoned,
*About this same time, Jackson again sought to be elected
Major-General of Tennessee’s militia, but this time things were
different. This time he won.
*Jackson retired from the superior court shortly after that, and
built the Hermitage near Nashville, and took to farming, land
speculation, and work with the militia. He also had a prize
racehorse named Thruxton, and he loved to bet on the races.
*Once after a race when some paper money changed hands, Jackson
became convinced that he might have been cheated. Certain
enemies helped play up his suspicions, because the man he accused
was the father-in-law of Charles Dickinson, and Dickinson became
involved in the dispute. Charles Dickinson was
regarded as the best shot in Tennessee and possibly the nation,
while Old Hickory was not considered a great shot, and Jackson's
enemies hoped it would come to a duel that would finish Jackson
off. Jackson and Dickinson exchanged increasingly nasty
notes, until 1806 when Dickinson published one to a Nashville
newspaper calling Jackson a 'worthless scoundrel... a poltroon and
a coward.' Jackson challenged him to a duel.
*Jackson stood stock still at the duel, wearing an over-sized coat
to deceive his opponent. Dickinson was apparently misled by
the large coat Jackson wore, for he did not kill Jackson outright,
although the ball did hit Jackson and stop within a fraction of an
inch of his heart, where it remained for the rest of his
life. Dickinson was forced by the code of the duel to stand
his ground, too, and with all the time he needed, Jackson,
ignoring the blood pooling in his boots, carefully aimed his
pistol and pulled the trigger. The gun snapped, but only to
half-cock. Jackson re-cocked the pistol and fired, hitting
Dickinson in the belly; he expired within hours.
*Some said Jackson’s re-cocking of the gun was in violation of the
code of the duel, and made it murder by any definition.
Others disagree, saying that if there was any dispute, the seconds
on the field would have called it on the spot. During the
election of 1828, though, it was called murder in the national
*Jackson’s fights eventually hurt his reputation in the state,
especially the last of them, which was more of a barroom brawl
than an interview between gentlemen. On 14 June, 1813,
Jackson had acted as a second for William Carroll, a young friend,
in a duel against Jesse Benton. Carroll, like Jackson in his
duel with Dickinson, stood and took a shot from Benton, losing a
part of his thumb. Benton then turned and crouched in his
spot while Carroll aimed and shot him in the butt. As
Jackson was much older than the others, Jesse’s brother Thomas
Hart Benton, who had once been Jackson’s friend, had written a
letter reprimanding Jackson for getting involved in other people’s
*On 4 September 1813, it was discovered that the Benton Brothers
were in Nashville on business. Jackson and some friends were
made aware of this, and Jackson stormed into the hall by the back
porch and yelled, 'Now defend yourself, you damned rascal!'
*People starting fighting and shooting left and right.
Jackson pulled a pistol from his coat and aimed it at Thomas Hart
Benton, who pulled out his own. Jesse was hidden behind
Jackson, and all three men fired at once. Jackson’s pistol
burnt Thomas’s coat, but Jackson was shot in the left shoulder,
*Three of Jackson’s friends charged at Thomas with guns, clubs,
knives, and a sword cane, and he was cut five times. Two of
them backed Jesse up against a wall and tried to stab him while he
tried to deflect the knives with his bare hands. A friend
came to help him, and Jesse pulled a gun and tried to shoot one of
his attackers, but the gun misfired. While Thomas tried to
defend himself, he stepped backwards out of the porch and fell
down the back stairs, and the fight more or less ended.
*Jackson had to be carried back to another hotel where he soaked
two mattresses through with blood. He nearly died, while
Thomas and Jesse Benton marched around outside calling names and
making fun. They then took the sword that Jackson had
dropped and broke it in the public square.
*Many years later, when Thomas Hart Benton was a senator, he and
President Jackson had again become good friends. By this
point, the ball with which he had shot Jackson had worked its way
to the surface of Jackson’s shoulder, and it was cut out. He
offered to give it back to Benton, but was assured that after 20
years, Jackson had a right to keep it.
*His violent past and his bigamy, both of which could easily be
proven, seemed like strong points against Jackson, but his
supporters made their own accusations against Adams.
*Adams was accused of being a son of privilege raised at the
government’s expense, of being an incipient king just like his
late father, of introducing gambling tables into the White House,
of being part of the corrupt bargain of 1824, and worst of all,
was said to have been a pimp while Ambassador to Russia, where he
had supposedly sold an American girl to the Tsar. Furious,
Adams responded with worse.
*Jackson’s mother was (completely falsely) accused of being a
prostitute brought to America by the British army during the
Revolution, which infuriated Jackson considered that his mother
had died of cholera contracted while acting as a nurse for
American prisoners of war. Jackson was also condemned for
selling (although not for owning) slaves. Worst of all was
when he was called an adulterer and his wife was accused of
bigamy. Technically this was true, but Rachel was hurt so
badly by the rumours and slanders that it broke her heart and she
died shortly after Jackson’s election.
*Jackson was also called a jackass, which he thought was so funny
that he turned the insult into a symbol of his own Democratic
*The common people did not hold Jackson's wild past against him
(and perhaps many of the common people who could now vote even
admired it), and he was elected with an overwhelming majority in
the electoral college (178 of 261 votes), much of it provided by
the political machines of the northeast, while Adams won only 83
electoral votes, although he did get 44% of the popular
vote. Adams, unlike all other ex-presidents, did not retire,
but ran for Congress and served in the House until his death in
1848. There he opposed slavery with such skill that he was
called ‘Old Man Eloquent.’
*Jackson’s supporters called the election of 1828 the Revolution
of 1828, and in some ways it was a revolution. It was the
first real triumph of popular, relatively democratic, elections
over the supposedly elitist entrenched interests of the
east. Jackson was the first western president—indeed, the
first president not to either be from Virginia or named
Adams. He was a man of the people: wild, a fan of
gambling, horse-racing, cock-fighting, and dueling; at his
inauguration so many people crowded into the White House that
Jackson himself was in danger of being crushed by the mob until
servants set up refreshments on the White House lawn to lure the
crowds outside. Jackson also stirred up the government with
the Spoils System in a way that none of his predecessors ever had.
*The Spoils System was the system of rewarding political
supporters with important posts in the government, and doing so on
a large scale. Jackson did this for two reasons.
First, of course, was the practical side of party patronage—one
had to reward one’s supporters, and while other presidents had
done this to a degree, none did so to the extent that Jackson did.
*Second, Jacksonian Democracy was based on the idea that anyone
could govern, so there was no reason not to let the common man
hold a government office. Jackson said that getting out the
old public servants—a few of whom had been appointed by Washington
almost forty years before—and replacing them with new ones was
‘rotation in office’ and healthy for a democracy as it kept the
government in touch with the people. Ultimately 20% of
current office-holders were replaced by Jackson supporters in
1828. These rewards for loyalty built a strong political
machine for Jackson while maintaining the ideals of Jacksonian
Democracy—the people must be heard.
*Jackson’s cabinet was, on the whole, unimpressive, filled largely
with people owed jobs by the party. His vice-president was
John C Calhoun, and his Secretary of State was Martin van
Buren. These two men quickly became rivals for power within
the administration. To make sure he got useful advice,
Jackson also had another set of unofficial advisors called
Jackson’s ‘kitchen cabinet.’ It was valuable for Jackson to
have such a group, because his official cabinet was soon rent by
the Peggy Eaton Affair.
*Peggy O’Neil Eaton was the daughter of a Washington, D.C.
tavern-keeper and the wife of Secretary of War John Henry Eaton,
an old friend of Jackson’s. It was rumoured that Mr and Mrs
Eaton had been as intimate as a husband and wife before they were
actually married. Furthermore, the high-class wives of most
of the rest of the cabinet sneered at the common-born Peggy,
hurting her feelings immensely in the 'War of the
Petticoats.' Jackson, whose own wife had been treated
harshly, was deeply sympathetic, and ordered his cabinet to make
their wives treat Peggy Eaton courteously, too. This, of
course, proved impossible, and Floride Calhoun was the most
condescending of all the wives.
*Only van Buren, a widower, managed to be considerate of the
Eatons, and thenceforth he, rather than Calhoun, would be
Jackson’s favourite, while Jackson and Calhoun grew further and
further apart. This business badly disrupted the cabinet
until Eaton eventually resigned, and even then, bitter feelings
lingered and cabinet members were frequently replaced.
*Jackson gained many enemies during his presidency, chief among
them Henry Clay. One of the accusations against him was that
he himself was a tyrant. As president, Jackson used the
power of the veto twelve times, more than all other previous
presidents put together. Eventually his detractors called
Jackson ‘King Andrew I,’ and depicted him in cartoons trampling on
the Constitution as he vetoed new laws.
*One of his most controversial vetoes was that of the Maysville
Road Bill in 1830. This was a direct blow against Clay and
his American system, and also a victory for certain factions in
the South and for the East against the West.
*Some parts of the South opposed the bill on the grounds that it
interfered with states rights, and if the government started doing
that in the realm of internal improvements, it might eventually
move on to other things, such as slavery, which Southerners had
been increasingly tense about since Vesey’s rebellion.
*Many Easterners opposed the bill because it would drain men away
from the factories of the East to cheap land in the West.
With the veto of the Maysville Road Bill, a New England senator
introduced a bill that would stop the survey of western lands
until all existing surveyed land had been sold, which would hurt
western expansion and the West immensely. Now the South
sided with the West, and a great debate arose in the Senate.
*This debate is known as the Hayne-Webster Debate, as the South
was represented by Robert Hayne of South Carolina and New England
by the Godlike Daniel Webster. Although initially about
land, the debate quickly came to revolve around who had the final
say in the interpretation of laws. Hayne argued that the
states had the right to interpret and even nullify laws that were
unconstitutional. His argument was that the Constitution was
a compact of independent and sovereign states, each of which had
the right to interpret internal laws for itself. This was
not meant to dismember the Union, but to give the states a way to
deal with grievances while remaining in the Union.
*Webster claimed that the Constitution was not an alliance between
the states, but rather a creation of ‘We, the people,’ and that
the Supreme Court ultimately decided the constitutionality of
laws. His famous line, reprinted throughout the nation (as
all the debate was), was ‘Liberty and Union, now and forever, one
and inseparable.’ Webster, perhaps the greatest orator his
day, would have his speeches read throughout the Union and
memorized by a generation of Yankee schoolboys, who would later go
out to fight to preserve the Union he described. Neither
side won the debate, but it put the disagreement between states’
rights and the supremacy of the Federal Government out in the open
for all to see.
*The sectional controversy was further highlighted by Jackson’s
invitation to the Jefferson Day Banquet held on Mr Jefferson’s
birthday, 13 April, 1830. Calhoun requested that Jackson
attend, meaning to sound him out on the issue of states’ rights
and the ending of the 1828 Tariff of Abominations. A series
of toasts to Jefferson were offered, tailored to lead to a toast
to states’ rights. However, Jackson had been apprised of the
plan, and was prepared. He offered the toast to ‘Our
Union: it must be preserved!’ Calhoun, tough to the
end, countered with ‘Our Union: next to our liberty most
*The sectional controversy continued to grow worse as South
Carolina, following the suggestions of Calhoun's South Carolina
Exposition, attempted to nullify the Tariff of Abominations.
However, a 2/3 majority in the South Carolina legislature was
required to declare this, and the vote fell slightly short.
*A new tariff was created in 1832 reducing the rate to 35% (from
45%), but this was not enough for South Carolina. In
response, South Carolina took advantage of the election year to
elect a legislature that would vote to nullify the tariff.
*Fearing civil war as unionists and nullies in South Carolina
began forming militias and drilling for battle and as some leaders
in South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union outright,
Henry Clay, despite his love for tariffs, stepped forward and
negotiated a decrease in the tariff. This Compromise Tariff
of 1833 would gradually reduce the tariff by 10% to about 20-25%
*Jackson took a more direct approach, and privately threatened to
hang the nullifiers including his own Vice-President, John C
Calhoun, and publicly sent a small detachment of the army to
police the state, while preparing a larger force for
invasion. Congress even passed the Force Bill, authorizing
Jackson to send up to 50,000 troops to South Carolina.
*South Carolina rescinded her nullification of the tariff, but, to
prove her point, nullified the Force Bill.
*Although South Carolina had hoped other Southern states would
join her in nullification and perhaps secession, none seemed
especially eager to do so. Although sectional problems would
continue to bedevil the nation, for the moment they had been
contained once again. For this, credit belongs to the Great
Compromiser, Henry Clay, and his bitter rival, Andrew
Jackson. Whatever his other flaws might be, Jackson may well
have preserved the Union in 1833, at a time when a Civil War
probably would have split the nation permanently.
*Although the Nullification Crisis was important in 1832, the big
issue of that election year was the Bank of the United States,
which Jackson was known to hate and which Clay and his supporters,
sure of its popularity, chose to make an issue for the election by
trying to renew its charter early.
*The First Bank of the United States held its charter from
1791-1811, when the Jeffersonian Republicans allowed its charter
to lapse. The Second Bank of the United States had been
chartered for twenty years in 1816, and Henry Clay had been one of
its main supporters. It was based in Philadelphia but
eventually with twenty-five branches across the country. Not
only did it allow the United States Treasury to invest its money
at a profit, but it could issue reliable paper money implicitly
backed by the deposits of the US Treasury.
*Although the bank held government funds, lent money to numerous
institutions, issued paper money, and regulated and stabilised the
economy, it was unpopular in some circles, including Andrew
Jackson’s. Although it functioned very much like a part of
the Federal government, it was a private institution.
*As a private institution, it unanswerable to the people, and run
by the brilliant but aristocratical Nicholas Biddle of
Philadelphia, who put the interests of the bank’s wealthy
investors and stockholders first, or so it was said.
Although the United States government was a 20% stockholder in the
Bank, there were about 4,000 other investors (including about a
thousand Europeans, mostly British (whom Jackson particularly
despised). Of those 4,000 investors, most of the stock was
controlled by a few hundred wealthy Americans. Furthermore,
during the Panic of 1819, the Bank of the United States had
demanded payment in specie, which many Westerners (including
western banks) could not pay, ruining many Westerners and making
the Panic of 1819 worse.
*Although the Bank of the United States had been upheld as
constitutional in McCulloch v Maryland, Jackson accused it and its
president of being monopolistic and corrupt, and contended that
whatever the Supreme Court might have said, the Bank was, or at
least ought to be, unconstitutional.
*With the election of 1832 on the horizon, Henry Clay came up with
what he thought was a brilliant scheme to discredit Jackson in the
upcoming election. He would do so by using the Bank of the
United States, soon due to be re-chartered in 1836. Clay,
however, would use his influence in Congress to move the renewal
of the charter back to 1832. Once the bill was passed, it
would go to Jackson’s desk, where as President he would either
have to sign it into law or veto it.
*If Jackson let the recharter pass into law, he would alienate
many of his western allies, who felt as he did about the
Bank. If he vetoed the charter bill, he would annoy the
eastern commercial interests, and lose valuable support
there. Either way, Clay thought, Jackson was destined to
*Jackson vetoed the bill, condemning what he called ‘the monster
Bank’ as anti-Western and even anti-American, reminding the voters
of the foreign investors in the Bank. Thus, Jackson used
anti-centralisation and anti-foreign sentiments against the Bank
and against Clay.
*The Bank unquestionably had bad points.
1. It was anti-Western, being hostile to
western banks, and thus seemed to represented
sectional, rather than national, interests.
2. It foreclosed on the loans of many western
3. It was indeed run by a plutocratic
president, Nicholas Biddle, who was
aristocratic in his tastes.
4. Biddle was known to lend money to friends
and influential politicians (Daniel Webster was
on his payroll as a director of the bank, its
chief legal counsel, and its defender in the
5. 59 members of Congress are known to have
borrowed money from the Bank in 1831; Webster
was thousands of dollars in debt to the bank.
*Despite its flaws, the Bank also had a number of good points.
1. Its stability and regulation of the economy
restricted ‘wildcat’ banks, which were often
little more than some office furniture and some
printed bank notes.
2. It generally reduced bank failures.
3. It issued sound bank notes (called ‘Old
4. It promoted economic expansion.
5. It was a safe place for federal deposits.
*In the election of 1832, Jackson and a new Vice-Presidential
Candidate, Martin van Buren, led the Democratic-Republicans, or
now just the Democratic Party (or simply the Democracy).
*They faced not only the National Republican Henry Clay, but also
the Anti-Masonic party. Originally founded in 1826 when a
former Freemason who revealed the society’s secrets vanished in
upstate New York, it attacked privilege and secret societies, but
also attacked Jackson, who was a Mason. Not only were the
Masons seen as undemocratic, they were possibly Unchristian, and
the Anti-Masonic party had as part of its platform policies to
effect religious and moral reform, such as banning the mail and
stage lines from running on Sundays. This offended
Democrats, who wanted the national government to stay out of
people’s lives for good or bad.
*All three parties adopted formal platforms and selected their
candidates through nominating conventions with delegates from the
states. This was meant to make the selection process seem
more democratic and responsive to the common people.
*Despite a donation of $50,000 from the Bank of the United States
and widespread support in the newspapers, Clay was soundly
defeated in 1832. Clay won only 49 electoral votes compared
to Jackson’s 219.
*Jackson now meant to go whole hog in destroying the Bank.
Although its charter kept it in existence until 1836, Jackson
would not wait that long. He began to withhold deposits,
instead placing federal specie in state banks, which came to be
known as ‘pet banks,’ many of which were poorly managed and lost
the money making bad loans to land speculators.
*Furious, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and other politicians who
supported the Bank or were otherwise opposed to Andrew Jackson
began to formally organise against him. Remembering that the
Whigs in Britain had opposed a powerful monarchy, they officially
formed their own Whig Party in 1833 to fight Jackson in his Bank
War and other policies. They also absorbed the Anti-Masonic
Party and its appeals to morality and to the common man.
*Among the first actions of the Whigs was a movement in the
Senate to officially censure Jackson for his removal of federal
deposits from the Bank of the United States, which passed 26-20 on
28 March, 1834, although later the censure was expunged from the
official Congressional record in January, 1837 through the work of
Thomas Hart Benton and other Jacksonian Democrats.
*To intimidate Jackson and instil fear in the people, Biddle began
calling in loans from weaker banks, which caused many of those
banks to call in loans to individuals, or collapse, or in many
cases do both, thus undermining the Bank's own claim to economic
credibility as a force for economic stability.
*With the Bank of the United States (and everyone else) low on
hard money, there was a greater need for paper, and wildcat banks
began printing it in greater and greater quantities, unchecked by
the Bank. To ensure that the government got fair payment for
western lands, Jackson issued the Specie Circular in 1836,
requiring that all federal lands be paid for in specie. This
brought the wild speculation and booming economy to a halt, and
led to financial panic and an economic crash in 1837 just after
the Bank’s old charter and the Bank itself expired, although
Jackson himself was out of office by then.
*As the Bank War was raging, Jackson visited Congress on 30
January, 1835. An unemployed painter named Richard Lawrence
who blamed Jackson’s Bank War for his economic problems approached
him, pulled out a pistol, and fired at the President. The
pistol mis-fired, so Lawrence pulled a second one, and mis-fired
again. Jackson then took his cane and proceeded to beat
Lawrence until both men were restrained (including by Congressman
Davy Crockett). Lawrence was later deemed insane and
sentenced to life in a mental institution. When the pistols
were later tested, they worked fine, so that many Americans
assumed that God was watching over Andrew Jackson, as He watched
over America as a whole. This was the first assassination
attempt on a US President.
*In addition to the Bank War, and an assassination attempt,
Jackson had another problem with which to contend: the
*The various Indian tribes had officially been treated, at least
since the treaty of Greenville in 1795, as separate and
semi-sovereign ‘dependent nations’ within the borders of the
United States. Jackson believed this could not last,
*Jackson advocated the removal of all Indian tribes west of the
Mississippi, for their own good as well as that of whites.
*In 1830, Jackson and Congress passed the Indian Removal Act,
which allowed the President to give Indians land in an Indian
Territory set aside in the old Louisiana Purchase (in modern
Oklahoma) in exchange for their lands in the east.
*In 1832, the Sauk and Fox, led by Black Hawk went on the warpath
in what is called the Black Hawk War in Wisconsin and
Illinois. They and their followers were defeated at the
Battle of Bad Axe. Among the militiamen who were called up
to fight in the Black Hawk War was a young Abraham Lincoln,
although he never saw combat, claiming to have only lost blood to
*The five major tribes remaining in the Southeast, the Cherokee,
the Creek, the Chickasaw, the Chocktaw, and the Seminole had come
to be known as the Five Civilised Tribes, but this did not save
*The Cherokee had indeed become civilised. They had, as they
put it, taken the White Man's Path. They had adopted white
clothing, architecture, planting, farming, and slave-owning.
The Cherokee Sequoya developed a syllabary for the Cherokee
despite never having learnt to read any other language, and they
eventually produced their own written constitution and a published
a tribal newspaper, the Phoenix.
*However, when gold was found in Cherokee territory in northern
Georgia in 1829, Georgians wished to seize the land. The
Cherokee, by now a civilised and acculturated people, sued, and in
1832 won the Supreme Court case of Worcester v Georgia.
However, the ruling of this case was not enforced by Jackson, who
supposedly said ‘John Marshall has made his decision, let him
*Some of the other South-eastern tribes accepted money to move, or
simply gave up and left, but not all.
*Beginning in 1835, the Seminole in Florida fought a guerrilla war
in the swamps of Florida. Their leader, Osceola, was
eventually captured and the war officially ended in 1842, but some
Seminole fled deep into the Everglades and were never
defeated. Their descendents live there to-day.
*In 1835, some Cherokee leaders, including Major Ridge, John
Ridge, and Elias Boudinot, but not including Principal Chief John
Ross, signed the Treaty of New Echota (ratified by Congress in
1836) ceding Cherokee land in the Southeast in exchange for land
in Indian Territory.
*This was typical of those seeking to buy Indian lands. It
was common to exploit factional differences within a tribe, buying
from willing sellers while others were opposed, but taking full
possession of the land regardless.
*In 1838, General Winfield Scott, although personally an opponent
of Removal, was sent to arrest the Cherokee and begin the process
of Removal. A few Cherokee did escape, and some were allowed
to remain on land owned by their white neighbours. Some
escaped into the mountains of Western North Carolina and the
government eventually allowed them to stay.
*The rest, however, about 17,000 Cherokee and 2,000 of their
slaves, were put in forts where they spent the late spring and
early summer, and many died of dysentery. In late August
they began marching toward Indian Territory, many freezing to
death during the winter on what the Cherokee call the Trail of
*The precise number of Cherokee who died on the Trail of Tears is
unknown. Estimates range from 2,000 to 8,000.
*In 1839, Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Elias Boudinot, all of whom
had signed the Treaty of New Echota, were killed by other
Cherokee. The Cherokee in Indian Territory remained divided
between those who had accepted removal willingly and those who had
been forced West on the Trail of Tears, and the two sides would
fight something like a civil war until 1846 (and during the
American Civil War, they would take opposite sides, with Ross’s
people fighting for the North and others fighting for the South).
*Like the Panic of 1837, the execution of this cruellest element
of the Indian Removal Act took place after Jackson left office,
but his successor, Martin van Buren, described Indian Removal as
‘a happy and certain consummation’ of a ‘wise, humane, and
*By this point, Jackson had retired to the Hermitage in Nashville,
having held the Union together in the face of the Nullification
Crisis and being beloved as the Hero of the Common Man, but also
leaving a legacy of financial instability and merciless treatment
of American Indians.
This page last updated 19 August, 2021.