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Andrew Jackson and Indian Removal

50 min
  • Did a series of President Andrew Jackson’s decisions regarding Indian Removal conflict with America’s constitutional principles and civic values? If so, how?

Students will:

  • Understand some of the major events leading up to the Trail of Tears.
  • Analyze American civic values and constitutional principles and their application to events during the Andrew Jackson administration.
  • Assess the claim that the forced removal of American Indians from their native lands is one of the most dishonorable periods in American history.

  • Handout A: Andrew Jackson and Indian Removal
  • Handout B: America’s Constitutional Principles and Civic Values
  • Handout C: Discussion Questions
  • Second Message to Congress Extension Reading

To create a context for this lesson, students complete Constitutional Connection: The President as Enforcer of the Law.

Have students read Handout A: Andrew Jackson and Indian Removal and answer the questions.

Ask students to brainstorm important American principles and values, and agree upon a short, simple definition for each. In addition to the ideas students generate, you may offer:

Honor: keeping one’s word

Respect: esteem for others

Majority rule versus minority rights: natural rights are not subject to majority vote

Property rights: being able to keep one’s possessions and the fruits of one’s labor

Popular sovereignty: government and laws based on the consent of the governed

Representation: laws are only legitimate if the people they affect have a say in them

Responsibility: taking care of oneself, one’s family, and one’s community

Equal treatment under law: no one is above the law

Separation of powers: powers are divided among branches of government

Write the following quotation from the petition of the ladies of Steubenville, Ohio, on the board.

“To you [Congress], then, as the constitutional protectors of the Indians within our territory, and as the peculiar guardians of our national character, …. we solemnly and earnestly appeal to save this remnant of a much injured people … and to shelter the American character from lasting dishonor.”

Ask students: Why were the petitioners concerned about “lasting dishonor” to the American character?

Have students work in pairs to complete Handout B: America’s Constitutional Principles and Civic Values.

Reconvene the class and fill in the chart using a projection of Handout B.

Distribute Handout C: Discussion Questions. As a large group, discuss the questions on the Handout.

Have students use one of the discussion questions from the lesson as a prompt and write a one-page response paper.

Have students read the entire message from Jackson’s Second Message to Congress and write a one page response that might have been given by a member of Congress.

Have students write a one-page position paper arguing whether or not Indian Removal could have taken place after:

  • The passage of the Fourteenth Amendment?
  • The bombing of Pearl Harbor?
  • The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?