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    CuriosiD: Lewis Cass, Michigan Governor, Architect of Indian Removal » WDET 101.9 FM

    WDET is Detroit's Public Radio Station. For over 60 years, WDET has provided an independent voice for Detroit through a mix of news, music and cultural programming that's unique as the city and region we serve.


    CuriosiD: Lewis Cass, Michigan Governor, Architect of Indian Removal

    June 27, 2017 admin

    Cass Avenue, Cass Technical High School, Cassopolis – they’re all named in honor of this guy.

    Shelby Jouppi

    Listener Alli Harnish submitted this question to CuriosiD, and the WDET audience voted to have it answered.

    Are the many different Cass locations in Michigan named after Lewis Cass? Do people know how horrible he was?


    From the Cass Avenue cultural hub in Detroit to Cass Cliff on Mackinac Island, Michigan is filled with places named in honor of a man with a complicated legacy – Lewis Cass.

    Cass was the governor of the Michigan Territory during the early 1800s and is credited with colonizing the unpopular territory and negotiating treaties with Indian tribes to acquire their land. But Cass also used his influence to lobby for the then very controversial policies of Indian removal, the forced relocation of Native tribes west of the Mississippi River, and popular sovereignty, specifically the states’ right to vote on slavery.

    While some may excuse Cass by considering him a product of his time, historians agree that he played an instrumental role in these two contentious national debates.


    For a quick version of Lewis Cass’ story, scroll or click through the timeline.

    For more details, read the full text below.

    Lewis Cass’ 18-year tenure as governor of the Michigan Territory was just one stop on a long political career.

    Cass, an easterner from New Hampshire, began as a lawyer in Ohio and moved up the ranks from state representative, to colonel in the War of 1812, and then was promoted to governor of the Michigan Territory. From there he went on to become Secretary of War under Andrew Jackson, ambassador to France, Democratic nominee for U.S. president, and Secretary of State under James Buchanan.

    Now that his resume is out of the way, let’s talk about what he really did.


    CASS IN MICHIGAN Promoting the Unpopular Territory

    President James Madison appointed Lewis Cass the governor of the Michigan Territory in 1813. Cass was 32 years old.

    John Fierst, a reference librarian at Central Michigan University’s Clarke Historical Library, refers to Cass as a “consummate politician.”

    “Not everybody liked him even. But he was very good at promoting himself,” says Fierst.

    Cass became known for promoting and colonizing the unpopular Michigan Territory. According to Fierst, by attracting settlers to the West, Cass was attempting to secure the Territory and prevent war from breaking out again.

    Burton Historical Collection

    The Michigan Territory was then the frontier of the U.S., and convincing homesteaders to make the trek was difficult. A survey had deemed the entire area an “interminable swamp.”

    “What the federal government was trying to do was expand opportunity in the West,” says Amy Elliot Bragg, author of “Hidden History of Detroit.”

    “Lewis Cass was kind of charged with this mission to make Michigan seem like a place that people would want to live,” says Bragg.

    Cass conducted a new survey, the Cass Expedition, that showed the nation the natural beauty and resources of northern Michigan and Wisconsin.

    Negotiating Treaties

    Michael Witgen, a professor of history and Native American studies at the University of Michigan, says that most of the territory was recognized as belonging to the Indians.

    “If you were a 15-year-old Native in 1805 you would be used to a world that’s all Native if you lived in Michigan,” says Witgen. “And in your lifetime …  you would see that world have vanished through a series of treaties that extinguished Native title and convert all that land to public domain available for white settlers.”

    During his time as governor, Cass negotiated 20 different treaties with Native American tribes, coercing them to hand their land over to the U.S.

    Witgen says that because Cass negotiated so many of these treaties he gained a reputation as a national expert in Indian affairs.


    U.S. policy toward Native Americans when Cass was governor was coerced cultural assimilation: tribes would give up their land in exchange for the “civilized” European life as Christian farmers.

    Drawing from his experience in Indian affairs, Cass wrote a series of articles in a popular magazine, The North American Review, attempting to convince the white American public that Indians should be moved west of the Mississippi River.

    This was a new and controversial idea.

    Library of Congress

    Wikimedia Commons

    In one of his essays, Cass wrote:

    “The Indians are impelled to war by passions. They have not only no principles of religion or morality to repress their passions, but they are urged forward in their career of blood by all around them.”

    Source : wdet.org

    Thomas Jefferson: Architect of Indian Removal Policy

    President Thomas Jefferson was the first to propose broad policies that called for the removal of Indians from their homelands.

    Thomas Jefferson: Architect of Indian Removal Policy

    President Thomas Jefferson was the first to propose broad policies that called for the removal of Indians from their homelands.

    Author: Alysa Landry Updated: Sep 13, 2018 Original: Jan 19, 2016

    Editor’s note: Voters this year will elect the 45th president of the United States. This is the third in a series of 44 stories exploring past presidents’ attitudes toward Native Americans, challenges and triumphs regarding tribes, and the federal laws and Indian policies enacted during their terms in office.

    Thomas Jefferson is perhaps best known for his role as principal author of the Declaration of Independence. But the third president of the United States was also the first to propose broad policies that called for the removal of Indians from their homelands.

    Jefferson took office in March 1801 and served two terms as president in a political system that viewed tribes as international sovereign entities. During his eight years in office, however, Jefferson pushed relentlessly for westward expansion, believing “Indian country belonged in white hands,” James Rhonda wrote in his 1997 book, Thomas Jefferson and the Changing West.

    As president, Jefferson exhibited a “passion for land,” Rhonda wrote. That passion became the central feature of federal Indian policy—what Jefferson called “our final consolidation” or the acquisition of lands east of the Mississippi River and removal of Indians to territories in the West.

    Yet Jefferson and his contemporaries never pretended the West was empty, Rhonda wrote. In fact, they referred to it as “the crowded wilderness,” signaling both concern about the indigenous population and a fantasy about the West that would fuel everything from homesteading to dude ranches in the coming centuries.

    “Jefferson invented much of what we call ‘the American West,’” Rhonda wrote. Although he never ventured west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Jefferson held on to a vision of a “garden of boundless fertility” where “the American republic would thrive and remain forever free.”

    Born in Virginia in 1743, Jefferson gained a reputation as an attorney who defended freedom-seeking slaves. He retired from law to serve on the Second Continental Congress, where he quickly emerged as a leader and helped draft the Declaration of Independence.

    Jefferson later served as state legislator and governor of Virginia, minister to France and secretary of state under President George Washington. A member of the newly formed Democratic-Republican Party, Jefferson came in second to John Adams during the election of 1796 and served as vice president before being elected as president in 1800.

    Jefferson was known as a “man of Indian enlightenment,” said Gaye Wilson, a senior historian at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, Jefferson’s historic plantation home in Virginia, which now operates as a museum and education center. As an intellectual outside the public sphere, Jefferson sought a deeper understanding, Wilson said.

    “From his boyhood in Virginia, he was fascinated by Indians,” she said. “He had a curiosity, an admiration. He had a romantic streak and the Indians caught his imagination, so he was interested in studying them, being with them, collecting languages and determining their origins.”

    But as a leader, Jefferson wrangled with the conflicting interests of Indian nations and white settlers. Removal of the Indians was his answer to questions of national security, Wilson said.

    Scroll to Continue

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    “Overall, Jefferson had to do what was best for security, the economy,” she said. “He was pushing westward and if the Indians resisted, they would have to be dealt with.”

    Jefferson first wrote about Indian removal in 1776, 15 years before he was president. Frustrated by growing conflicts between settlers and the Cherokee, Jefferson, then at work with the Continental Congress, reacted harshly.

    “Nothing will reduce those wretches so soon as pushing the war into the heart of their country,” he wrote. “But I would not stop there. I would never cease pursuing them while one of them remained on this side of the Mississippi.”

    In 1803, two years into his presidency, Jefferson was more succinct. He outlined his administration’s policy toward Indians with two objectives: “The preservation of peace” and “obtaining lands.”

    During his presidency, Jefferson orchestrated the Louisiana Purchase (nearly doubling the size of the United States), sent four groups of explorers on western expeditions (including the famous cross-country journey of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark) and oversaw 33 treaties with Indian nations.

    Jefferson was also the author of a more ominous strategy to acquire Indian land: the use of trading posts to drive Indians into debt, forcing them to relinquish acreage to pay their bills. The result was treaties with a dozen tribal groups that ceded to the United States nearly 200,000 square miles of land in nine states.

    Jefferson outlined this plan in a letter to William Henry Harrison, the territorial governor of Indiana: “To promote this disposition to exchange lands, which they have to spare and we want… we shall push our trading uses and be glad to see the good and influential individuals among them run in debt,” he wrote in February 1803. “We observe that when these debts get beyond what the individuals can pay, they become willing to lop them off by a cession of lands.”

    Source : indiancountrytoday.com

    Indian Removal

    Indian Removal Act Trail of Tears 1838, Treaty of New Echota 1835 History, Forced Removal of Cherokees West Oklahoma Territory Cherokee Indian Nation Principal Chief John Ross Cherokee Nation Oklahoma

    Indian Removal, Cherokee Trail of Tears, and Indian TerritoryCherokee Indian Nation of Oklahoma HistoryIndian Removal

    Indian removal was a nineteenth century policy of the government of the United States to relocate Native American tribes living east of the Mississippi River to lands west of the river. The Indian Removal Act, part of a United States government policy known as Indian removal, was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson (D) on May 26, 1830.

    In the first four decades of the nineteenth century, the United States cajoled, bribed, arrested, and ultimately removed approximately seventy thousand American Indians out of their ancestral lands in the American South. Although President Andrew Jackson is often deemed the architect of this program, the removal of the Chickasaw, Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole (commonly referred to as the Five Civilized Tribes) began years before the 1830 Indian Removal Act and Jackson's subsequent use of the military to relocate the Indians. (See: Indian Territory and Westward Expansion: 1803-1861.)

    In 1802 the state of Georgia agreed to cede its westernmost lands to the federal government, and in return the government vowed to extinguish the Indian title to lands within Georgia as soon as possible. In the following years the United States made only a few serious efforts to live up to that promise. After the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson pressured the Cherokee and other Indian nations to exchange their eastern domains voluntarily for regions in the newly acquired western territory. Only a few tribes accepted the offer. After the War of 1812 the United States obtained thousands of acres of Creek lands in Georgia and Alabama, but the acquisition did not accompany a larger plan for Creek removal.

    Finally, in the 1820s, Georgians began to demand that the United States extinguish the Indian title to lands within their state. President James Monroe determined that arranging the exchange of acreage in the East for areas in the West was the best means to accomplish this goal. While the federal government tried to create inducements to convince the Southeastern Indians to leave their homes, the discovery of gold in Georgia led to more aggressive demands for immediate Indian removal.

    The United States would later justify its Indian removal policy as Manifest Destiny.

    The election of Andrew Jackson to the presidency in 1828 encouraged Georgia and its land-hungry settlers. Jackson made his position clear in his first message to Congress. He told the Cherokees that they had no constitutional means to resist and that it was in their best interest voluntarily to move west. Staying would lead to their destruction. As Congress debated the issues, several Cherokees negotiated a removal agreement with the United States. Major Ridge, a Cherokee planter and soldier, his son John Ridge, and his nephew Elias Boudinot conducted these negotiations with the United States despite the expressed wishes of the majority of their nation. Most Cherokees, including Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation John Ross, protested and tried to stop Ridge and his so-called Treaty Party.

    On May 28, 1830, while Ridge and his supporters negotiated terms of removal with the United States, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. This law provided the president with $500,000 to establish districts west of the Mississippi River, to trade eastern tribal lands for those districts, to compensate the Indians for the cost of their removal and the improvements on their homesteads, and to pay one years worth subsistence to those who went west. Armed with this authority, President Jackson authorized agents to negotiate and enforce treaties.

    Chief John Ross hired former attorney general William Wirt to represent the Cherokee in (1831) and then in (1832). In each case the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the sovereignty of the Cherokee tribe. The latter determined that Georgia could not make laws for the Cherokee people. The Supreme Court's rulings, however, could not prevent forced removal. Georgia and the United States ignored the ruling and refused to recognize Cherokee sovereignty.

    President Jackson embraced Ridge and the Cherokee minority, and together they signed the Treaty of New Echota in 1835. Ridge ceded all Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi in return for territory in present northeastern Oklahoma, five million dollars, transportation west, and one year of subsistence. Amid a chorus of protests by Cherokees and their American supporters, the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty. Nearly two thousand Cherokees moved west in accordance to the agreement, but most of the nation remained. They still hoped that their Constitutional victories and the illegalities of the treaty might be recognized. In 1838 the United States sent armed soldiers to enforce the law. The federal troops confined the Cherokees in disease-ridden camps for several months before forcing them to proceed west via Trail of Tears. Death and hardship was common, and nearly one in four Cherokees died.

    Source : www.thomaslegion.net

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