With the onset of westward expansion and increased contact with Indian tribes, President Jackson set the tone for his position on Indian affairs in his message to Congress on December 6, 1830. Jackson’s message justified the removal policy already established by the Indian Removal Act of May 28, 1830.
The Indian Removal Act was passed to open up for settlement those lands still held by Indians in states east of the Mississippi River, primarily Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, and others. Jackson declared that removal would “incalculably strengthen the southwestern frontier.” Clearing Alabama and Mississippi of their Indian populations, he said, would “enable those states to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power.”
White inhabitants of Georgia were particularly anxious to have the Cherokees removed from the state because gold had been discovered on tribal lands. Violence was commonplace in Georgia, and in all likelihood, a portion of the tribe would have been decimated if they had not been removed.
Removal of the Indian tribes continued beyond Jackson’s tenure as President. The most infamous of the removals took place in 1838, two years after the end of Jackson’s final term, when the Cherokee Indians were forcibly removed by the military. Their journey west became known as the “Trail of Tears,” because of the thousands of deaths along the way.