Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


American History

Major Professor

Daniel Feller

Committee Members

Stephen V. Ash, Lynn Sacco, Michael R. Fitzgerald


This dissertation offers a history of Indian removal as a political issue from the War of 1812 to the signing of the Indian Removal Act in 1830. Its central argument is that federal removal policy emerged and evolved due to a precise and largely unforeseen sequence of events. Drawing on Indian treaties, journals of negotiations, minutes of cabinet meetings, Congressional debates, personal memoirs, and a variety of other sources, the dissertation charts and elucidates the evolution of United States Indian policy from a diplomatic to a domestic concern. One of the central themes of the dissertation is how most white statesmen gradually, once Anglo-American dominion was established east of the Mississippi River after the War of 1812, abandoned long-held notions of “assimilation” and instead viewed the American Indian communities as the quintessential “other.”

Chapter 1 examines American-Indian relations at the outbreak of the War of 1812. It argues that the federal government’s policy toward the Native Americans was both contradictory and incompatible with the nation’s desire for western expansion. Chapter 2 describes the establishment of American hegemony in eastern North America during and immediately after the War of 1812. Chapter 3 considers the efforts of the James Monroe administration to reform the contradictory modes of interacting with the Indians. It argues that these efforts were stymied by the determination of Georgia to remove all Indians from their state, which led to clashes between the federal government and the state over Indian affairs. Chapters 4 and 5 discuss the fraudulent Treaty of Indian Springs, conducted with the Creeks in 1825, and its aftermath. They argue that the controversy over the treaty and its subsequent annulment created a political environment in which removal came to be viewed by the majority of politicians as the only solution to the tensions both in the American government and in the southern borderlands. Chapter 6 argues that Andrew Jackson inherited an unofficial policy of Indian removal in 1829 and describes the efforts of his administration to codify removal as official policy. Chapter 7 delineates the debate over the removal bill in Congress and the subsequent vote.

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