Statements from the Debate on Indian Removal
"Being deeply impressed with the opinion that the removal of the Indian tribes from the lands which they now occupy within the limits of the several states and Territories . . . is of very high importance to our Union, and may be accomplished on conditions and in a manner to promote the interest and happiness of those tribes, the attention of the Government has been long drawn with great solicitude to the object. For the removal of the tribes within the limits of the State of Georgia the motive has been peculiarly strong, arising from the compact with that State whereby the United States are bound to extinguish the Indian title to the lands within it whenever it may be done peaceably and on reasonable conditions. . . . The removal of the tribes from the territory which they now inhabit . . . would not only shield them from impending ruin, but promote their welfare and happiness. Experience has clearly demonstrated that in their present state it is impossible to incorporate them in such masses, in any form whatever, into our system. It has also demonstrated with equal certainty that without a timely anticipation of and provision against the dangers to which they are exposed, under causes which it will be difficult, if not impossible to control, their degradation and extermination will be inevitable."
--President James Monroe, in an 1825 message to Congress, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, vol. 2, in Native American Voices: A History and Anthology, ed. Steven Mintz (St. James, New York: Brandywine P, 1995) 111-112.
"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."
--The Removal Act of 1830, section I, in The American Indian and the United States, A Documentary History, ed. Wilcomb E. Washburn, vol. 3 (New York: Random House, 1973) 2169
"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."
--The Removal Act of 1830, section III, in The American Indian and the United States, A Documentary History, ed. Wilcomb E. Washburn, vol. 3 (New York: Random House, 1973) 2170.
"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. Two important tribes have accepted the provision made
for their removal . . . and it is believed that their example will induce the remaining
tribes also to seek the same obvious advantage.
"The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States, to individual States, and to the Indians themselves. . . . It puts an end to all possible danger of collision between the authorities of the General and State governments on account of the Indians. It will place a dense and civilized population in large tracts of country now occupied by a few savage hunters. By opening the whole territory between Tennessee on the north and Louisiana on the south to the settlement of the whites it will incalculably strengthen the southwestern frontier and render the adjacent States strong enough to repel future invasions without remote aid. 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 . . . to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community. . . .
"Toward the aborigines of the country no one can indulge a more friendly feeling than myself, or would go further to reclaim them from their wandering habits and make them a happy, prosperous people . . . .
"Humanity has often wept over the fate of the aborigines of this country. . . . To follow to the tomb the last of his race and to tread on the graves of extinct nations excite melancholy reflections. But true philanthropy reconciles the mind to these vicissitudes as it does to the extinction of one generation of people to make room for another. In the monuments and fortresses of an unknown people, spread over the extensive regions of the West, we behold the memorials of a once powerful race, which was exterminated or has disappeared to make room for the existing savage tribes. . . . 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 . . . and filled with all the blessings of liberty, civilization, and religion? . . .
"Doubtless it will be painful to leave the graves of their fathers; but what do they more than our ancestors did or than our children are now doing? To better their condition in an unknown land our forefathers left all that was dear in earthly objects. . . . Can it be cruel in this Government when, by events which it can not control, the Indian is made discontented in his ancient home, to purchase his lands, to give him a new and extensive territory, to pay the expense of his removal, and support him a year in his new abode? How many thousands of our own people would gladly embrace the opportunity of removing to the West on such conditions!"
--Andrew Jackson, in his second annual message to Congress, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, vol. 2, in Native American Voices: A History and Anthology, ed. Steven Mintz (St. James, New York: Brandywine P, 1995) 115-116.
"The evil, Sir, is enormous; the inevitable suffering incalculable. Do not stain the fair fame of the country. . . . Nations of dependent Indians, against their will, under color of law, are driven from their homes into the wilderness. You cannot explain it; you cannot reason it away. . . . Our friends will view this measure with sorrow, and our enemies alone with joy. And we ourselves, Sir, when the interests and passions of the day are past, shall look back upon it, I fear, with self-reproach, and a regret as bitter as unavailing."
--Edward Everett, Speeches on the Passage of the Bill for the Removal of the Indians Delivered in the Congress of the United States (Boston, 1830), 299, in Native American Voices: A History and Anthology, 114.