A reasoned consideration Old Hickory’s Native American policy, from the man who probably knows more about Andrew Jackson than anyone alive today.
Although Jackson is well known for his war against the Five Civilized Tribes (“which did not end for some twenty-five years, until he had removed them from the ancestral homeland and sent them into a wilderness across the Mississippi River”), Remini (The Battle of New Orleans, 1999, etc.) points out that his reputation as an Indian fighter began decades earlier when he was growing up in South Carolina. He charts that course with a linear precision that would make any surveyor proud, from those first Natchez attacks until the Trail of Tears, all the while keeping Native American and settler perspectives at play. The author eloquently distills Jackson’s life and times while stirring in Native American political and military history—but he makes it painfully clear that “to Jackson, killing Indians and driving them further south and west was a necessary function of life in the wilderness.” His was a scourge-and-banish approach (“as early as 1809, if not earlier, he began discussing the possibility of Indian removal”), and he pursued it with messianic zeal, for “vengeance and atonement.” And though Jackson could be accommodating to tractable natives, to most of them he was a bully and a briber—a violent opportunist who dismissed native customs and fully shared the settlers’ “racism, their decades-old fear and mistrust of Native Americans, and their insatiable desire for the land they occupied.” All the native tribes, from Apalachicola to Wyandot, felt Jackson’s sting: “Only about 9,000 Native Americans were without treaty stipulations requiring their removal when Jackson departed Washington.”
A sharp and haunting portrait of a brilliant statesman’s darker side.