On this day in history, President Jackson delivered his State of the Union address to Congress, declaring in part:
It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly 30 years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation. Two important tribes have accepted the provision made for their removal at the last session of Congress, and it is believed that their example will induce the remaining tribes also to seek the same obvious advantages.
The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States, to individual States, and to the Indians themselves. The pecuniary advantages which it promises to the Government are the least of its recommendations. It puts an end to all possible danger of collision between the authorities of the General and State Governments on account of the Indians. It will place a dense and civilized population in large tracts of country now occupied by a few savage hunters.”
The 17,000 Cherokees, to take one example, were not exactly savage hunters. Rather, they were farmers, blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, owners of property. A census of 1826 showed 22,000 cattle, 7,600 horses, 46,000 swine, 726 looms, 2,488 spinning wheels, 172 wagons, 2,943 plows, 10 saw mills, 31 grist mills, 62 blacksmith shops, 8 cotton machines, 18 schools.
Nevertheless, Jackson could not countenance their claims to the rich land he wanted for himself, his friends, and other whites. He pushed for Indian Removal, and Creeks, Choctaws, Cherokees and others were evicted from their homes by armed forces and sent, mostly on foot, to the West. Some 10,000 Native Americans lost their lives during the process, from a combination of exposure, disease and starvation.