History Timeline 1830s

Photo above: Independence Rock on the Oregon Trail. First mentioned by Parker in 1835, and carries an inscription on the rock with the names of early trappers and explorers. Photo William H. Jackson, circa 1870. Right: Painting by Percy Moran, 1912, reflects the intensity of the battle of the Alamo. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Alamo

U.S. Timeline - The 1830s

Conquering the West



Sponsor this page for $75 per year. Your banner or text ad can fill the space above.
Click here to Sponsor the page and how to reserve your ad.


  • Timeline

  • 1830 - Detail

    May 26, 1830 - The United States Congress approved the Indian Removal Act, which facilitated the relocation of Indian tribes from east of the Mississippi River. Although this act did not order their removal, it paved the way for increased pressure on Indian tribes to accept land-exchange treaties with the U.S. government and helped lead the way to the Trail of Tears.

    Indian Policy


    It was, at best, a measure of indignity, of pique, that the United States Congress, and the President, would consider a policy that would lead to the Trail of Tears. And while this particular act, the Indian Removal Act of 1830, did not codify the individual treaties between the various nations of the southeast and the United States, over the next decade, those treaties would be made, and the removal of the majority of those tribes, including the Five Civilized Nations Tribes of the Creek, Cherokee, Seminole, Chikasaw, and Choctaw, would occur.

    The wars of the past in the southeast and the migration of European immigrants to follow had caused a problem. With President Andrew Jackson in the White House, the man who had battled in more than a couple of these conflicts; the Red Stick War, the First Seminole War, etc., and a Congress that was looking for a way to solve it, it was easy to see an outcome that would not benefit the Indian tribes of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and the southern part of North Carolina.

    By 1929, President Jackson admitted in his State of the Union address, that removal would be his policy. He did think that it should voluntary.

    1829 Andrew Jackson State of the Union, Portion Regarding Indian Removal


    The condition and ulterior destiny of the Indian tribes within the limits of some of our States have become objects of much interest and importance. It has long been the policy of Government to introduce among them the arts of civilization, in the hope of gradually reclaiming them from a wandering life. This policy has, however, been coupled with another wholly incompatible with its success. Professing a desire to civilize and settle them, we have at the same time lost no opportunity to purchase their lands and thrust them farther into the wilderness. By this means they have not only been kept in a wandering state, but been led to look upon us as unjust and indifferent to their fate. Thus, though lavish in its expenditures upon the subject, Government has constantly defeated its own policy, and the Indians in general, receding farther and farther to the west, have retained their savage habits. A portion, however, of the Southern tribes, having mingled much with the whites and made some progress in the arts of civilized life, have lately attempted to erect an independent government within the limits of Georgia and Alabama. These States, claiming to be the only sovereigns within their territories, extended their laws over the Indians, which induced the latter to call upon the United States for protection.

    Under these circumstances the question presented was whether the General Government had a right to sustain those people in their pretensions. The Constitution declares that "no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State" without the consent of its legislature. If the General Government is not permitted to tolerate the erection of a confederate State within the territory of one of the members of this Union against her consent, much less could it allow a foreign and independent government to establish itself there.

    Georgia became a member of the Confederacy which eventuated in our Federal Union as a sovereign State, always asserting her claim to certain limits, which, having been originally defined in her colonial charter and subsequently recognized in the treaty of peace, she has ever since continued to enjoy, except as they have been circumscribed by her own voluntary transfer of a portion of her territory to the United States in the articles of cession of 1802. Alabama was admitted into the Union on the same footing with the original States, with boundaries which were prescribed by Congress.

    There is no constitutional, conventional, or legal provision which allows them less power over the Indians within their borders than is possessed by Maine or New York. Would the people of Maine permit the Penobscot tribe to erect an independent government within their State? And unless they did would it not be the duty of the General Government to support them in resisting such a measure? Would the people of New York permit each remnant of the six Nations within her borders to declare itself an independent people under the protection of the United States? Could the Indians establish a separate republic on each of their reservations in Ohio? And if they were so disposed would it be the duty of this Government to protect them in the attempt? If the principle involved in the obvious answer to these questions be abandoned, it will follow that the objects of this Government are reversed, and that it has become a part of its duty to aid in destroying the States which it was established to protect.

    Actuated by this view of the subject, I informed the Indians inhabiting parts of Georgia and Alabama that their attempt to establish an independent government would not be countenanced by the Executive of the United States, and advised them to emigrate beyond the Mississippi or submit to the laws of those States.

    Our conduct toward these people is deeply interesting to our national character. Their present condition, contrasted with what they once were, makes a most powerful appeal to our sympathies. Our ancestors found them the uncontrolled possessors of these vast regions. By persuasion and force they have been made to retire from river to river and from mountain to mountain, until some of the tribes have become extinct and others have left but remnants to preserve for a while their once terrible names. Surrounded by the whites with their arts of civilization, which by destroying the resources of the savage doom him to weakness and decay, the fate of the Mohegan, the Narragansett, and the Delaware is fast over-taking the Choctaw, the Cherokee, and the Creek. That this fate surely awaits them if they remain within the limits of the States does not admit of a doubt. Humanity and national honor demand that every effort should be made to avert so great a calamity. It is too late to inquire whether it was just in the United States to include them and their territory within the bounds of new States, whose limits they could control. That step can not be retraced. A State can not be dismembered by Congress or restricted in the exercise of her constitutional power. But the people of those States and of every State, actuated by feelings of justice and a regard for our national honor, submit to you the interesting question whether something can not be done, consistently with the rights of the States, to preserve this much- injured race.

    As a means of effecting this end I suggest for your consideration the propriety of setting apart an ample district west of the Mississippi, and without the limits of any State or Territory now formed, to be guaranteed to the Indian tribes as long as they shall occupy it, each tribe having a distinct control over the portion designated for its use. There they may be secured in the enjoyment of governments of their own choice, subject to no other control from the United States than such as may be necessary to preserve peace on the frontier and between the several tribes. There the benevolent may endeavor to teach them the arts of civilization, and, by promoting union and harmony among them, to raise up an interesting commonwealth, destined to perpetuate the race and to attest the humanity and justice of this Government.


    Buy Chronology

    Chronology Book Ad

    After The Speech


    While the speech had been precipitated by the conflicts prior, plus a seemingly paternalistic care by the President, whether actual or not, as well as an 1802 promise to Georgia that the tribes would be removed, but had not yet been enacted, Jackson's speech became another push toward forcing Congress to act. Jackson fundamentally disagreed with George Washington's contention that the Indian Tribes were foreign nations; he thought they should be assimilated under the laws of the state where they resided, but if not, self-rule could only be accommodated on the federal lands of the west.

    Significant opposition arose. Northern citizens were against; Southern citizens for. Davy Crockett, a Tennessee Congressman disagreed, as did Christian Missionaries. Despite the protestations, the Senate passed the measure on April 24, 1830, by a vote of 28 to 19. Who voted against the Indian Removal Act? Both Senators from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont. States who split their vote against: Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. One Senator from Maryland did not vote.

    On May 26, 1930, the House of Representatives voted 101 to 97 for its passage, with eleven congressmen not voting. Two days later, President Jackson signed it into law. Within four months, treaties were being signed with the individual tribal nations of the Five Civilized Tribes and smaller bands. Not all tribes would leave peacefully, as the Second Seminole War between 1835 and 1842 attested.



    Indian Removal Act, Text


    An Act to Provide for the Exchange of Lands with the Indians residing in any of the states or territories, and for their removal west of the river Mississippi.

    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.

    Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for the President to exchange any or all of such districts, so to be laid off and described, with any tribe or nation of Indians now residing within the limits of any of the states or territories, and with which the United States have existing treaties, for the whole or any part or portion of the territory claimed and occupied by such tribe or nation, within the bounds of any one or more of the states or territories, where the land claimed and occupied by the Indians, is owned by the United States, or the United States are bound to the state within which it lies to extinguish the Indian claim thereto.

    Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, 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 sucessors, 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.

    Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That if, upon any of the lands now occupied by the Indians, and to be exchanged for, there should be such improvements as add value to the land claimed by any individual or individuals of such tribes or nations, it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such value to be ascertained by appraisement or otherwise, and to cause such ascertained value to be paid to the person or persons rightfully claiming such improvements. And upon the payment of such valuation, the improvements so valued and paid for, shall pass to the United States, and possession shall not afterwards be permitted to any of the same tribe.

    Sec. 5. And be if further enacted, That upon the making of any such exchange as is contemplated by this act, it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such aid and assistance to be furnished to the emigrants as may be necessary and proper to enable them to remove to, and settle in, the country for which they may have exchanged; and also, to give them such aid and assistance as may be necessary for their support and subsistence for the first year after their removal.

    Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such tribe or nation to be protected, at their new residence, against all interruption or distrubance from any other tribe or nation of Indians, or from any person or persons whatever.

    Sec. 7. And be it further enacted, That is shall and may be lawful for the President to have the same superintendence and care over any tribe or nation in the country to which they may remove, as contemplated by this act, that he is now authorized to have over them at their present places of residence: Provided, That nothing in this act contained shall be construed as authorizing or directing the violation of any existing treaty between the United States and any of the Indian tribes.

    Sec. 8. And be it further enacted, That for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of this act, the sum of five hundred thousand dollars is hereby appropriated, to be paid out of any money in the treasury, not otherwise appropriated.

    Approved, May 28, 1830.

    Image above: Lithograph of political cartoon titled "Our Indian Policy - A House of Cards," 1881, Joseph Ferdinand Keppler. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: Portion of Map showing Indian Removal and Trail of Tears, 2007, Nikater/Demis/Handbook of North American Indians. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Info Source: Acts of the 21st Congress, Section 1, Chapter 48, 1830; Wikipedia Commons; Library of Congress; govtrack.us.

    Trail of Tears



    History Photo Bomb