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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersThe Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing, 1815-1850
The Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing
Topic: Culture of the Common ManTopic: Cult of DomesticityTopic: ReligionTopic: ExpansionTopic: America in 1850
Topic: Expansion
Overview of Triumph of Nationalism
Resource Menu: Expansion
Text 1. Charles Sellers
Text 2. Hezekiah Niles
Text 3. Elias Boudinot
Text 4. Lewis Cass
» Reading Guide
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Text 5. James Glover Baldwin
Text 6. George Fitzhugh
Text 7. Henry David Thoreau
Text 8. Harriet Beecher Stowe

RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
4.  Lewis Cass, excerpts from "Removal of the Indians," North American Review, January, 1830

In 1828 the Cherokees in Georgia adopted a constitution and claimed sovereign jurisdiction over their territories. The state of Georgia sued them, claiming that they were subject to the state's laws. Georgia lost in the Supreme Court, but Andrew Jackson, who believed that the Indians should be brought into the market economy, refused to enforce the ruling. Lewis Cass, the governor of the Michigan Territory from 1813 to 1831, was considered an expert on Indians. In this selection he supports Georgia's position, opposing the view expressed by Boudinot. To a large extent Cass's argument depends upon his view of the land and its use. He sees it purely in market terms, as a commodity, whose exploitation is divinely sanctioned. In the possession of the Indians it is "doomed to perpetual unproductiveness." Like Boudinot he addresses the problems that arise when whites and Indians live in close proximity. As long as Indians control territory that adjoins civilization, he contends, they will continue to decline "in numbers, morals, and happiness." Hence, for economic, legal, and religious reasons—indeed, for their own good—they should be sent west to a land "where they and their descendents can be secure in the enjoyment of every privilege which they may be capable of estimating and enjoying." Could be used with students. 8 pages.

Background:  "The Effects of Removal on American Indian Tribes"

Discussion questions
  ·  How does Cass engage the sympathy of his readers?
  ·  How does Cass define civilization?
  ·  What image of the Indian does Cass present?
  ·  How does Cass view attempts to "civilize" the Indians?
  ·  How does Cass handle the case of Boudinot's tribe, the Cherokees?
  ·  What rules does Cass posit to guide relations with the Indians?
  ·  What justification does he offer to justify the appropriation of Indian lands?
  ·  What is the land to be used for?
  ·  Why are the Indians unfit for incorporation into a market economy?
  ·  Compare Cass's portrayal of Indians with George Fitzhugh's portrayal of slaves in his Sociology. (See below.)
  ·  Compare Cass's views on the Indians' compatibility with the market economy with Fitzhugh's views on the slaves' compatibility with the market economy.

Reading highlights
  ·  Note how Cass condemns Indian institutions by pointing to their "unprofitableness."
  ·  Note how Cass sees only "two races of men" dividing the slaveholding Southern territories about which he is writing.
  ·  Note how he attributes "moral evils" to "physical causes."

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Topic Framing Questions
  •  How did the various people living in the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century respond to the emergence of a national market economy?

Toolbox: The Triumph of Nationalism / The House Dividing
Common Man | Cult of Domesticity | Religion | Expansion | America in 1850

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