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President Andrew Jackson:
The Tariff, States Rights, and Indian Removal

by William P. Meyers

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Andrew Jackson was a President of the United States of America and the founder of the Democratic Party. Before his election he murdered many of his fellow men and lived a life of depravity unmatched, so far as we know, by any other American President.

Continued from President Jackson's Agenda

Andrew Jackson had stated his agenda, but events decided which items would be acted on and which would remain verbiage.

Secretary of State Van Buren had edged out all others to become Jackson's closest advisor during 1829. He was concerned that, although he supported Federal money for roads and canals, the amount being spent was getting out of hand. Each Representative wanted federal funds spent in his district, and so they mutually supported each other's proposals, a process called log-rolling. Jackson agreed that there had to be limits, and in particular purely local projects that benefited only one state should not get federal funding. In April 1830 Jackson vetoed a bill to build a road to Lexington, Kentucky, in the heart of a pro-Jackson district. His veto message explained that reducing the national debt would do the people more good than building that particular road. For the most part, the people accepted his reasoning. After that, Congress was more careful in its internal improvements project spending, fearing more vetoes.

One of the great debates about states' rights took place in Congress in 1830, with Daniel Webster representing the nationalist view against Robert Hayne's state-centered view. Although Hayne's case for the right of States to refuse to apply federal legislation was strongly based on historical precedent, Webster argued that nullification of national law by states was both impractical and defied the logic of the U. S. Constitution. It was not a theoretical debate; President Jackson had a very real decision to make about the issue.

The State of South Carolina was resisting the federal customs tariff. Jackson chose to attend the April 13, 1830 dinner in remembrance of Thomas Jefferson, who generally favored a minimal federal government and strong state governments. Jackson made the first toast of the evening: "Our union: it must be preserved." Vice-President Calhoun, however, made a longer toast calling for "respecting the rights of the States." With the possibility of a new tariff bill being enacted, and with much of the nation siding with Jackson, there was no immediate confrontation with South Carolina. Both sides were willing to see how the tariff would be amended.

Andrew Jackson strongly opposed nullification when it did not serve his purposes. He also endorsed it when that resulted in a policy he agreed with. Native American Indian tribes, or nations, had continually made treaties with the United States of America, only to have them broken "whenever frontiersmen should become sufficiently numerous or intrepid to do so. To this fast and loose policy of nullification of Federal instruments Andrew Jackson, in the successive roles of border lawyer, land-speculator, frontier soldier and member of Congress, had frequently been a party." [James p. 548] Jackson's position, however, was not unpopular. At his request Congress had passed the Indian Removal Act, which President Jackson signed on May 28, 1830. The Act allowed the President to grant lands [taken from Indian tribes] west of the Mississippi in exchange for Indian lands within the organized states, but it did not compel tribes to accept such exchanges [See text of Indian Removal Act and Andrew Jackson's 1830 message to Congress On Indian Removal].

Since the War of 1812 the eastern tribes (Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws and Chickasaws) had kept the peace in Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama. The Cherokee in particular became better at the arts of European civilization than most of their neighbors in Georgia. The Cherokee Republic had a written Constitution, literate citizens and prosperous farms. This simply made the greedy white residents of Georgia more eager to steal Indian lands. Just before Jackson took office the State of Georgia nullified the Cherokee treaties with the U.S. and declared their lands annexed. Mississippi and Alabama did the same to their tribes. President Jackson sided with the states against the Indians. The Cherokees took their case to the federal courts. Jackson personally threatened the tribes, at the same time making the usual promise that if they moved west, they would be left in peace there. Having been told by Jackson himself, in person, that he would not protect them, the Choctaws and Chickasaws agreed to this great ethnic cleansing and land theft.

In February 1832 the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Worcester v. Georgia (31 US 515). The State of Georgia was wrong. The Cherokee were indeed guaranteed their land and rights by their treaty with the United States of America. Jackson wrote "the decision of the supreme court has fell still born," for Jackson was unwilling to send Federal troops to defend the Cherokee against the Georgia militia or volunteer gangs of criminals. If the Cherokee defended themselves, they would be accused of aggression, and Jackson would have had no problem slaughtering them. The Creeks, offered large areas of land in the West (which could be stolen later), gave in next. By the end of 1832 the Cherokee were isolated. Many moved west to the new reservation during Jackson's terms in office. However, the restr were not forcibly removed until after Jackson's presidency, in the infamous Trail of Tears in 1838.

Next: President Jackson Attacks the Bank of the United States

Main source: The Life of Andrew Jackson by Marquis James, Bobbs-Merrill company, 1938.

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