Enjoy the final article on Andrew Jackson before our Chautauqua performance August 13th at 7PM!
Part Three – Becoming Old Hickory – Andrew Jackson Before Indian Removal
By Director of Education Ken Johnston
1828 – Election Year! The first election in the still young Republic when enough property requirements to qualify for voting had been lifted (most of you reading this wouldn’t have voting rights if pre-1828 requirements were still in effect!) as to have a meaningful effect. After the bitter “corrupt bargain” election of 1824 in which (to Jackson’s mind, at least) Henry Clay arranged for John Quincey Adams to cheat him of victory, Andrew Jackson wins the campaign and becomes President. Of course, in the minds of the defeated Adams, Clay and others, a dangerous demagogue was now Chief Executive of the United States. Whether opponent or adversary, however, no one could have plausibly been surprised at the policies he wasted no time in pursuing - paramount among which was implementing a policy of Indian Removal.
While one can very rightly assert that a plan for getting the Native Americans east of the Mississippi to lands west of it was very much aligned with Jackson’s personal inclination, it must be stated in unequivocal terms that it was also a driving wish of the newly enfranchised voters that in large part brought him to power – the lower and middling Whites, hungry for land, of the South. While the Native Americans of the American South East – the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole – who were going to be the primary targets of the policy could with perfect right, justification, and legality state that it was grasping Whites that were encroaching on and disrespecting Native American land rights and boundaries, the Whites viewed themselves as on the defensive: hostile Seminole at war against them in Florida, hostile Creek at war against them in Alabama and Georgia, recalcitrant Cherokee refusing to sell land to anyone…if only there was someone who understood their plight, who had the power to do something, who was beholden to them for his election – wait a minute! Andrew Jackson!
Campaign Broadside From the 1828 Election
Jackson is inaugurated in March of 1829 and by spring of 1830 (which is pretty fast by early 19th century standards) he has the Indian Removal Act ready for the House and Senate – and this is where another aspect of the 1828 Election should be mentioned. Not only did it bring Jackson to the Presidency, it was also the first time there was direct popular election of Senators in many states – Senators who would in narrow majority pass the Removal Act as Senators recently elected by that same Jackson constituency. The Removal Act itself called for negotiations of treaties for voluntary removal, specifically and technically forced removal would be illegal. As reprehensible and repugnant as we find it in the 21st century there is sadly nothing the Native American Nations could have done to resist a Removal Policy supported by the majority of the electorate (even if a bare majority in some regions), the House and Senate – and President Andrew Jackson. War, as ultimately a method of policy carried out by other than political means if they chose not to remove via treaty, could not have ultimate chances of success – as the Seminole (despite some tactical success) and Creek were finding out. No one wanted to test Andrew Jackson fully going to war against them. So then it became a matter of who could negotiate successfully with Jackson – who for all practical purposes was the government on this issue. The Choctaws did, mainly by giving him what he wanted in the form of a swiftly negotiated treaty, a quick removal time frame, and no trouble – for which they received the most money of any Nation, and the best land. Indeed their land was so good that the Chickasaw, with their Government pay out, bought some of it from them to remove to – once again a contingency that went down well with Jackson. It was the Cherokee, however, who caused the most trouble for Jackson – mainly in the person of Cherokee John Ross.
John Ross (left) and John Ridge (right)
When the powerful Cherokee political family the Ridges – Cherokee National Council members Major Ridge and son John – saw clearly the writing on the wall and negotiated the treaty for Cherokee Removal, Ross refused to acknowledge it. And while Ross certainly viewed himself as a Cherokee Patriot, his years long struggle against the Ridge Party and the Federal Government simply divided the Cherokee with a minority heading across the Mississippi and the majority heeding Ross admonition to stay and defy Jackson – with Jackson ultimately leaving office before the Ross Party and its adherents face removal. But removed they were nevertheless, demonstrating that while Andrew Jackson, as President, was the architect of the Indian Removal Act, its machinery continued to run after him, to completion. In summing up there can be no doubt that Indian Removal as a piece of legislation was supported and made possible by Jackson; he certainly executed it vigorously. The iconoclast and individual Andrew Jackson, however, for all his Indian Removal reputation as a leader was in the final instance a follower – of the will of “the people."
Director of Communications Libba Beaucham traveled to New Haven Reads in New Haven, Connecticut last week to conduct research for the History Center's future reading program. Before joining the History Center, Libba was an Assistant Site Director at New Haven Reads, which provides free one-on-one tutoring to students struggling with reading. We saw the potential for the History Center to offer a smaller-scale version based on the New Haven Reads model to the Gainesville community. Last year during our annual Taste of History fundraiser, we were overwhelmed with the generosity of its attendees who raised over $55,000 for the program! We are grateful to the New Haven Reads staff for offering their consultation and advice. Stay tuned for more details on becoming a Volunteer Tutor for the program beginning in 2020! To donate to the program visit this link.
Libba Beaucham with New Haven Reads Education Director Hayley Herrington
Pirates? You mean murderers, robbers, extortionists, and kidnappers who prefer to work from a boat? No? Well, too bad – that’s what they are! In this episode, Ken and Glen discuss those people who in the popular imagination are happy-go-lucky, free-spirited, mischievous sailing enthusiasts, but who are in reality rum-soaked criminals. Click here to listen!
This week From the Archives is a tin of S.C. Johnson’s Powdered Wax for Dancing Floors. Established in 1886, S.C. Johnson remains one of the longest-running family-owned businesses in America. Johnson’s products were originally made for floors and included wax for parquet style, wood, and dance floors. Johnson has expanded the business in its 133 years to include products such as Glade, Ziploc, Windex, Scrubbing Bubbles, and Drano. The company stopped making Dancing Floor Wax in the 1950s.
This large-sized tin was made in November 1919 at the S.C. Johnson headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin. The instructions were to “sprinkle lightly over the surface of the floor and the feet of the dancers will do the rest.” The tin in our archives is timeworn but still has most of the powdered wax inside, all we need is a dance floor to try it!
New Gainesville Chautauqua 2019 Season: The 1830s – a Decade of Removal
August 13th at 7:00 PM
$6 cash/card at the door or Free for Museum Members
Our Chautauqua series for the 2019 season explores the decade of the 1830s; the years that saw the passage of the Indian Removal Act and its implementation, and the treaty negotiations between the Indian Nations and the Federal Government - whether perceived as realistic or perceived as forced. We’ll hear from a Chief who looked to make the best deal as quickly as possible, a Chief who delayed removal as long as possible, and the President who sought to ensure removal as essential to his view of the United States.
August 13 – President Andrew Jackson – portrayed by Ken Johnston
Andrew Jackson, the man perceived in the popular imagination as being almost single-handedly responsible for the Indian Removal Act and the resultant Trail of Tears. Jackson could be ambivalent regarding Native Americans, treating the Red Stick Creek as enemies at Horseshoe Bend, while the Cherokee and Choctaw as allies at Horseshoe Bend and New Orleans, respectively. Whether Jackson viewed Indian Nations as enemies or allies, though, his first and overriding priority was White settlement and expansion; and as Jackson saw it the Nations had best accommodate Removal for their own good - regardless of how the Native American Nations themselves saw it.
Family Day - Past Times, Pastimes
September 8th from 1-4PM
Free to the public thanks to the Ada Mae Ivester Education Center
It’s hands-on fun front and center in September with Past Times, Pastimes – a look at entertainment in Georgia from the 18th to 20th centuries. Hands-on activities, living history interpretation and demonstrations, and audience participation in games, song, and dance will make the past come alive with fun!
For more fascinating photos and information on our region's past, follow our social media!
A photograph from 1899 of Main Street in Flowery Branch, Georgia covered in bales of cotton.