APUSH Discussion Groups: Was Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Policy Motivated by Humanitarian Impulses? (Yes)

Alright, so this discussion group was one where I had to argue the more difficult position; the position that Andy Jackson deported the Native Americans from their own lands “for their own good”. Basically, the gist of my argument is the fact that the Native Americans would have entered into conflict with the white settlers more directly and with more intensely if they had stayed in their traditional lands and would have probably been wiped out but by moving them, gave them a chance to re-establish elsewhere. Not a strong argument but that’s all I have. Since I had a partner to argue this position with me, this isn’t the whole of the Yes side so some information that could be used is missing.

Position: Yes (moral side of the argument and explaining Jackson’s goals and motivations)

Synthesis and Thesis: During WWII, the US government implemented a series of actions to protect against the infiltration of citizens from enemy countries. The most prominent group that was targeted were the Japanese. In February of 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, giving the military broad permission to ban any citizen along the West coast, which also happened to be where most Japanese-Americans lived. These exiled citizens would then be moved to internment camps for “the security of the United States”. This sentiment, while spurred on by Pearl Harbor, was further bolstered by racist thoughts that many Americans harbored. This combination of anti-Japanese paranoia with the American people’s ability to act on their thoughts meant that many Japanese-Americans were sent to these internment camps under horrible conditions in hostile environments. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 that Andrew Jackson passed may be similar in the atrocities committed, but the president himself was trying to do the best for a people that would have otherwise been completely wiped out. Many unfortunate things happened during the relocation of the Native American population, but the original goal was to preserve the peace and help secure the continuing safety of the Native American culture in establishing reserves just for them. As the President has personal connections to the Native American people, that also strengthened his bond to the cause. All in all, President Andrew Jackson had the Native American’s best interests at heart in his plan to remove the isolated pockets of Native Americans within the white-dominated states.

Note: NA = Native Americans


  • Relationships with Indians already bad
    • Past history
    • Indians refuse to cooperate and prez can’t force states to back down (GA)
    • States want power over Indians, removal solves that problem
    • Previous prez ignored the problem
  • Jackson: nationalist, states’ rights, experienced with frontier and expansionist
    • GA trouble w/ Cherokees, solved that w/o aggravating either
    • Offered exemption from Plan if Indians converted
    • Removal of Indians: saves state from rebelling and Indians from dying
    • Satisfied public & saved Indians
  • Bloodshed
    • Example: Black Hawk War cuz whites and NAs were close to each other
    • Would have more if not for removal
  • Jackson’s connection to NA
    • Has fought by and against them (ex: War of 1812)
    • Adopted NA child, Lyncoya
  • No other options
    • Assimilation: racism, NA won’t cooperate
    • Sovereignty: threatens US gov’t and state power
    • Removal more acceptable by both, prevented total annihilation

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