Life in the Antebellum U.S. Essay

Submitted By Bmgallant7
Words: 3598
Pages: 15

Assignment 4: Life in the Antebellum USUpon assuming office in 1801, Thomas Jefferson refined the plan of civilization. In what later became known as Jeffersonian Indian policy, the third president proposed to lead Indians from savagery to civilization by instructing men in agriculture and women in the domestic arts (house-hold tasks such as spinning and weaving cloth). According to Jefferson, Indians—when versed in English, arithmetic, and Christianity—could eventually be incorporated into the Republic. His policy revealed an Enlightenment faith in progress and human reason; excepting Africans, he asserted, all humans had the innate ability to reason and to improve themselves. This apparently benevolent policy presumed the inferiority of indigenous cultures and predicted—in fact, encouraged—the disappearance of Native Americans as separate and distinct peoples.
Jeffersonian Indian policy ultimately failed. Its failure is best measured by the emergence of the Shawnee leader Tecumseh in the early nineteenth century. As mentioned in Dowd’s essay, there was quite a resistance to the Jeffersonian Indian Policy. Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa began urging Ohio Native Americans to return to their traditional ways. In 1810, Tecumseh traveled south to ask the Creeks and others to join him in a united attack against white colonists. Although most leaders rejected his plea, thousands of common Creeks and Seminoles, disillusioned with the plan of civilization, launched their own resistance to white authority. In the Old Northwest, Tecumseh's movement ended with the British and Indian defeat in the War of 1812. In the Southeast, it culminated in the Creek War of 1813 and 1814, in which U.S. troops put an end to radical resistance in the region.
The Indian wars in the Old Northwest and the South, coupled with a rising demand by planters for southern cotton lands, led to more virulent attitudes toward Indians in the 1810s and 1820s. These attitudes would culminate in the 1830s with a formal government program to remove all Indians living east of the Mississippi River to territories in the West. Knox and Jefferson had insisted that the social and physical distinctions between Native peoples and whites were purely a product of environmental differences. They believed that, if raised in a patriarchal household in a democratic republic, clothed in European garb, and fed on a diet of domesticated beef, Indians would eventually look and behave like white Americans. In Perdue’s essay, she discusses how the Cherokee Indians went along with this way of life as their only chance to salvage their land. It turned out that this new way of life was not much different from the old way, and they easily adapted to this new lifestyle. By the 1820s, however, some Americans began asserting that there were immutable racial differences between Indians and whites. Since racial differences were immutable, these Americans argued, the plan of civilization was naïve at best and cruel and destructive at worst. Backed by the weight of science, they argued that removal would better serve Native peoples.
In fact, Jefferson first proposed removal in 1803, when he suggested that the Louisiana Purchase might provide eastern Indians with a new homeland. But it was not until the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828 that removal received the full support of the federal government. Jackson, a Tennessee frontiersman, a southerner, and an old Indian fighter, showed great consideration for the demands of his white compatriots and little sympathy for Native peoples. The combination did not bode well for Indians. In his first State of the Union address in 1829, Jackson outlined his plan to remove Native Americans to lands west of the Mississippi River. A year later, Jackson's removal policy became law. The law did not appear to condone coercion, but no matter; where Indians refused to relocate, federal troops drove them westward at gunpoint. By the end of the 1830s,