Trail Of Tears – The Abuse Of Federal Power

The struggle between federal power and states’ rights has been a controversy ever since the creation of the United States. The first two governing documents illustrate the search for balance within the two powers; the Articles of Confederation which gave the states more power, and the Constitution which gave more power to the central government. While the central and state governments have power they can often times contradict each other or one body can abuse its power. After the War of 1812 the nation started to spread to the south and west of the United States causing debates over domestic distribution of power (Tindall and Shi, 2007). One of those cases was the removal of indian tribes from Georgia in which the abuse of federal power was eminent.

Andrew Jackson became the President of the United States in 1829 and within a few months people discovered gold in Cherokee territory, word spread out and quickly gold seekers established in the area. The legislature of Georgia voided the Cherokee Constitution to take their land, divide it and distribute it among white settlers due to its value. The Cherokees, who had adopted a constitution that declared “they were not subject to any other state or nation” (Tindall and Shi 398), believed that the federal government was the only authority to make a treaty with them. They reached out to the Supreme Court to find a solution to this violation but in return they were given two choices: submit to Georgia law or to relocate to the west. In 1830 president Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act that guaranteed lands west of the Mississippi River to indians in exchange for the land they occupied in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi. Although he promised to protect the rights of Indians he soon forgot what he had promised arguing that this was an issue that needed to be addressed at a state level. In 1831 the Supreme Court’s case called Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, declared that they had no jurisdiction over this case since the Cherokees were a domestic nation. The Cherokee were forced to depart to the west on foot on what is known as the Trail of Tears by 1838. Many historians and critics have said that the intentions of Andrew Jackson were to protect indians and their cultures

This event was important to the United States’ history due to the abuse of power of the federal government. By 1830 the United States was becoming a multicultural nation with people migrating from various countries. Unfortunately, most whites were openly racist in regards of indians and blacks and President Andrew Jackson was no exception.