Documents: Age of Jackson

Over the years from the first tariff in 1789, Congress had raised the tariff not only to raise revenue for the operation of the government, but sometimes to protect the growing industries of the U.S. When the tariff was raised to assure that the foreign manufactured goods were more than the U.S. goods, it was called a protective tariff. Most of the industries were in the Northern states, while the Southern states continued to rely on agriculture. Most farmers in the South were involved in cash-crop agriculture meaning they grew one major crop such as cotton, rice, indigo, and tobacco. Once they sold their crop they used their profits to buy whatever they needed and often had to pay tariffs for imported goods. The South resented the tariff since they felt it favored the Northern interests, especially when it was protective in nature. In 1828, Congress passed the Tariff of 1828 which raised the tariff to an average of 45% on certain manufactured goods imported from other nations mainly to protect New England mills. The South reacted by threatening to declare the tariff null and void. They even went so far to threaten to secede if the U.S. government tried to enforce the tariff. Eventually a compromise was reached and the tariff was lowered over the next few years.
Early during George Washington’s administration, our nation attempted to develop a Native American policy. His policy had been to recognize the tribes as autonomous nations and allow them to keep their tribal lands provided they began to assimilate with the American culture. However, as the nation grew, the wisdom of this policy became controversial. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson persuaded Congress to pass the Indian Removal Act. This act granted the Indians including the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, and the Cherokee unsettled land west of the Mississippi in exchange for Indian lands within existing state borders. Some believed that the only way to prevent the complete destruction of the Indian culture was to move them west. Others saw the movement west as a way for the Southerners to gain valuable land from the Indians. The results of this act included two Supreme Court cases, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Worcester v. Georgia and the “Trail of Tears” which occurred when Indians were forced to move west at gunpoint in the middle of winter.
The U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshall first addressed the question of the Indian’s land in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831). The Cherokees had appealed to the Supreme Court asking the federal government to step in against the laws being passed by the state of Georgia that threatened their land. The Court ruled that the Indians were not a foreign nation, but rather a domestic nation, dependent on the United States. Therefore, the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction to rule in this case. This left the Cherokees at the mercy of the land-hungry state of Georgia. Georgia responded to this decision by passing a law requiring anyone living on Indian territory to obtain a license from the state. This law was aimed at stopping Christian missionaries from living and helping the Indians keep their land.
Worcester, a non-Indian missionary along with several others had settled on Cherokee land at the request of the Cherokees and with the approval of the U.S. government. The state of Georgia charged Worcester and the other missionaries with “residing within the limits of the Cherokee nation without a license.” They were convicted and sentenced to four years of hard labor. Worcester and the others then appealed to the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Marshall ruled in favor of Worcester saying that the Cherokee nation was a “distinct community with self-government” in which the laws of Georgia had no force. In response to this Supreme Court ruling, President Jackson supposedly said, “John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it.” The struggle for the land continued and eventually resulted in the Native Americans being forced to move by gunpoint in the middle of winter in what has become known as the Trail of Tears.