Andrew Jackson Trial Verdict

In this trial, Andrew Jackson has been charged with three things – committing crimes against the indians, breaking treaties and laws, and creating a climate hostile to the indians. I find Andrew Jackson not guilty of all three charges. He committed no crimes against the indians; rather, he was working to keep them safe from the crimes the white settlers committed against them. By going into detail, looking at each law and Supreme court ruling, we see that Jackson broke no previous treaties or laws by signing any of the treaties he signed. Jackson did not create a climate hostile to the indians; rather, one already existed years before he ever became president.

First of all, Andrew Jackson committed no crimes against the indians. The prosecution argued that Jackson influenced the removal of the indians, and that they had no say in their removal. According to the prosecution, Jackson, in a sense, killed many indians, because he signed the Treaty of New Echota. All Jackson did, though, was sign the treaty. He did not oversee the actual removal of the indians. He did not say that the indians had to be mistreated, and he even gave them two years to leave on their own time.

The actual removal, though, did not take place while Jackson was president. Jackson had left office already and his successor, Martin Van Buren, oversaw the removal of the indians. The prosecution here, again, would argue that Jackson influenced the poor treatment of the indians because he told Van Buren what he wanted done when he left office. This, too, isn’t true because, after the two years was up, Georgia wanted to take over the indians’ land right away. Georgia even threatened to harm any U.S. troops (sent by Van Buren) that tried to stop them. Van Buren was forced to give in to Georgia; he didn’t want to start a civil war. If Andrew Jackson influenced anyone, it would have been his successor, who prevented harsh treatment during the removal as much as he could.

Another point I believe the prosecution mentioned was the fact that the settlers committed crimes against the indians and Jackson didn’t do anything to stop it, therefore that somehow makes him a partner in crime and guilty of the crimes also. It is not Jackson’s fault if the people of his country commit crimes. We can’t start making the President a scapegoat for the people’s wrong actions. Using that reasoning, you could say Jackson’s parents are guilty for raising him a certain way. Then, you could say his grandparents are at fault for raising his parents the way that they did. The line has to be drawn somewhere. The people actually committing the crimes are the ones truly guilty of them.

In addition to the crimes committed by white settlers against the indians, we have to remember that the indians did similar things to the settlers. Take, for example, the act of scalping. One of my sources said that the Native Americans were the first to practice scalping, and the settlers picked it up from them. This shows that both sides – both the settlers and the indians – did not get along. Jackson saw that and urged the indians to move westward – there is no crime in urging someone to do what’s best for them. Few indians listened to Jackson’s words, which shows that any influence Jackson had was ignored.

The second charge against Andrew Jackson is that he broke treaties and laws. First of all, allow me to mention the system of checks and balances in the United States government. Each of the three branches of government – the legislative, the judicial, and the executive branch – have ways of “checking and balancing” out each other. For example, when a law is being made, it passes through both Congress (legislative branch) and the President (executive branch). If there is something unconstitutional in a law, the legitimacy and constitutional correctness of it can be taken to the Supreme Court and debated.

Originally, before 1832, the Cherokee Nation was considered dependant on the United States. If I understand it correctly, the Cherokee had no say in laws made regarding them, but were bound by treaties created by the United States. One of the prosecution witnesses brought up the Treaty of Hopewell, signed November 28, 1785. That witness mentioned that the Cherokee were promised their land. The prosecution tried to argue that Jackson broke this treaty by signing the Indian Removal Act (1830), which took the land mentioned in the 1785 treaty. In reality, the people of Georgia and the Georgia legislature are the ones who broke the treaty – three weeks after Jackson became president, the Georgia legislature annexed all Cherokee land within the state’s borders. The treaty had already been broken, and, the Supreme Court, in Worchester vs. Georgia (1832), ruled that the Cherokee were independent of the U.S. This shows the system of checks and balances. Jackson (as well as Congress) had signed a law that the Supreme Court thought was unconstitutional.

Whether Jackson actually broke any treaties in signing the Indian Removal Act is debatable – Georgia had already annulled the Treaty of Hopewell, therefore it was no longer a valid treaty and a new one had to be made. You could also say that the treaty was still valid. Legally, I’m not sure if it was. Neither side mentioned anything either way. If, in fact, the treaty was still valid, despite Georgia’s disobedience to it, then Jackson is guilty. I’m basing my opinion on that treaty being annulled by Georgia’s breaking of the treaty. If you look at it the other way, you still have to take into consideration his reasoning. Jackson was looking out for his people and the indians, looking to have a more peaceful situation between the two, and, since relations between the people groups change over time, treaties can’t always last forever. Treaties must eventually be broken by someone.

Since the Treaty of Hopewell had been broken (again, if you look at it that way), and the Supreme Court had ruled that the Cherokee Indians were independent of the U.S., a new treaty had to be formed. The one formed was the Treaty of New Echota (1835). The prosecution tried to argue that only a minority signed this treaty, because the others were signing a petition. Handbills were passed out throughout the Cherokee Nation, informing them of the meeting where the Treaty of New Echota was to be signed. If the Cherokee really wanted some say in their matters, they could have gone to a more important meeting regarding a treaty that would probably be formed, than to go sign a petition. The governor of Georgia said, “Nineteen-twentieths of the Cherokees are too ignorant and depraved to entitle their opinions to any weight or consideration in such matters.” The fact that the Cherokee went to a less important meeting proves his point. If they were truly educated as they said they were, they would have gone to the more important and influential meeting.

The third and last charge against Andrew Jackson is the charge of creating a climate that was hostile toward the indians. This is absolutely untrue. I really don’t even see where they get this point. There had obviously been conflict between the Cherokee and white settlers before Jackson became president, or there would have been no reason for the Cherokee to learn to write, and to learn English, and to dress in a more European style. If the Cherokee and the white settlers had no problems with each other, the whites wouldn’t have tried to get the Cherokee to assimilate into a more “peaceful” tribe. There was a long, long history of conflict between the white settlers and indians.

In this trial, I think I did a pretty good job. It was difficult, though, to find information for my side of the case since it’s hard to know what information has been revised to be politically correct, and what information is the truth. One thing I’d like to do on my next research project is use a larger variety of resources. For this project, I mostly used the Internet, which contains more politically correct information than books. Next project I do, I’d like to use some other resources along with the Internet, depending on the topic, of course. The sources of information depend somewhat on the type of information I’m looking for. The second thing I will do differently for my next research assignment is try and figure out exactly what I’m trying to prove/find before starting the research. With this project, I was unsure of what I wanted to prove because I had such a hard time finding information useful to me. When reading the Trail of Tears packet the first time, I didn’t really see much information helpful to me, so I was unsure of where to begin research. I think if I’d had a better idea of exactly what I was looking for, I would have had an easier time beginning my research.

In closing, the defense proved that Andrew Jackson is not guilty of the three charges. As I’ve shown in my verdict, he has not committed crimes against the indians – rather, it was the white settlers committing crimes against the indians and vise versa. He did not break any treaties in the signing of new treaties – the people of the U.S., mostly Georgia and the Georgia government, broke the treaty. Lastly, Jackson did not create a climate hostile to the indians – one already existed before he was born.