Portrait of Andrew Jackson by Ralph E.W. Earl ca. 1835
Lewis Cass was governor of the Michigan Territory from 1813 to 1830 and was responsible for U.S. relations with Indian nations in present-day Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. He was personally in contact with many Native peoples, and was considered by whites to be an authority on Indian languages and culture.
Cass was appointed Secretary of War by Andrew Jackson. He helped frame the president’s Indian policy. He claimed that removal was morally justified because it was necessary for Indian survival:
"...the sooner the Indians migrate to the region east of the river, the sooner they will be relieved of their present position, and placed in a situation where they may physically and morally improve, and look forward to a prosperous and permanent destiny." —Lewis Cass
"Toward the aborigines of the country no one can indulge a more friendly feeling than myself."
— Andrew Jackson
Second Annual Message to Congress, 1830
Andrew Jackson was intent upon dispossessing the Indians and giving their lands to the people who elected him. The Indian Removal Act was one of his signature accomplishments as president.
Many Americans—and most Ohioans—thought Jackson’s Indian Removal Act was both illegal and immoral. They waged a bitter debate in Congress, but lost narrowly.
"That those tribes can not exist surrounded by our
settlements and in continual contact with our citizens is certain. They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any favorable change in their condition...They must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disappear."
– Andrew Jackson
Fifth Annual Message to Congress, 1833
Lewis Cass by W. J. Edwards, ca. 1850 Daguerrotype
MEMORIAL OF THE LADIES OF STEUBENVILLE, 1830
The public was deeply divided over removal. The Cincinnati Chronicle called the Indian Removal Act “expensive and not conducive” to helping the Indians.
A group of sixty-two women from Steubenville used their only political right and petitioned Congress “to have mercy on the Indians.” While they acknowledged their petition might be “unbecoming the character of American Females,” they believed as mothers they were guardians of public morality. They argued that removal would lead to the Indians’ extinction and bring “lasting dishonor” to the United States.
Memorial of the Ladies of Steubenville, 1830
Image courtesy National Archives and Records Administration
Market Street, Steubenville, Ohio by Henry Howe, ca. 1840. Image courtesy Ohio History Connection
SOUTHWEST OHIO AND THE INDIAN REMOVAL ACT
Many people living in southwestern Ohio had emigrated from Virginia and Kentucky, and the region had strong economic ties with the South. The public and its politicians were more supportive of the Indian Removal Act than in other parts of the state.
Cincinnati’s congressman, James Findlay, voted in favor of the Indian Removal Act.
U.S. senator Jacob Burnet of Cincinnati voted against it. Earlier, as a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court, he had ruled in favor of an Indian who had been cheated out of a parcel of land.
Jacob Burnet by Henry Sadd
THE UNITED STATES, OHIO, AND THE INDIANS