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American History: Native Americans Coursework

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Updated: Jun 4th, 2022

One of the most shameful stains on the American history and one of the heaviest burdens borne by the American nation historically is the way the federal government treated Native Americans for many decades from the 17th century. Native Americans were persecuted, chased out of their lands, deprived of what they had, and forbidden to practice their culture. The federal government constantly saw a threat in the Native American populations and was greedy for their property, which is why the rights of those people were repeatedly violated, and even the most important right—the right to life. A 2009 series of documentaries titled We Shall Remain is dedicated to the history of Native Americans, and its third episode, The Trail of Tears, is particularly about the forced removal of Cherokee from their lands in the southeastern territories of the United States in the 1830s. In this episode, Russell G. Townsend, a historic preservationist, said, “What we [the Americans] did in the 1830s to the southeastern Indians, it is ethnic cleansing.” Based on the evidence presented in the documentary, I agree with Townsend. Ethnic cleansing is defined as making a particular population more homogeneous through oppressing and repressing a weaker ethnic group by a stronger one. The federal government did both oppressing and repressing, as the Indian population was not only forced to live by the rules of the white people but also constantly persecuted, and the forced removal of Cherokee, known as the Trail of Tears, is an example of how it was carried out. The removal was designed as an act of oppression, and it was implemented in a cruel way, which is why it fully qualifies for being considered ethnic cleansing.

This idea can be supported by two things: the decision to remove Cherokee and the way it was implemented. First of all, it should be discussed what the federal government pursued with the removal. There were two main reasons: to chase Indians farther so that they become a lesser threat and to take away their property. As it is put in the documentary, “White settlers began to close the circle, ‘like vultures,’ said one federal officer, ‘ready to strip the Cherokee of everything they have.’” This intention of the government should be definitively condemned because no people should be removed from where they live and robbed, but it is not only the intention that made the Trail of Tears such a tragic page of the American history—it is the implementation, too. Cherokee were not only told to leave and robbed, but also removed with cruelty and under inhumane conditions. As a result, approximately 4,000 Cherokee died in the process. It is also noteworthy that the Cherokee population that lived in the southeastern territories had adopted the “whites’ lifestyle,” and they lived by the rules of the federal government, which is why it can be doubted that they were a threat to the United States in any way. And even if they had been, the way they were removed was a crime against humanity. I agree with Townsend who said, “The United States gained a lot of land, and farms, and taverns, and ferries, and things like that. But a loss for the American government is the blemish, the stain it places upon our national honor.” I think that one of the main aspects of the historic effort to wash this stain off is to admit that the Trail of Tears was ethnic cleansing, to condemn it, and to ensure that it will never happen again.

(From the perspective and in the voice of Charles Sumner.) Now that several years have passed since the execution of John Brown, it is becoming obvious that this man’s life, and especially the circumstances of his death, were of historic significance, and I believe it to be safe to assume that, for a long time henceforth, his figure will remain extremely controversial for our national history. John Brown called himself an abolitionist, and so dare I, but let me declare it here and now that, while I ardently support the antislavery movement, I may not support every antislavery advocate or his ways of participating in the movement. Political struggle is hard, and it is only knowing that we struggle for the right thing what helps us continue it, and we, slavery opponents, should work together, but I am also certain that we should not employ methods employed by John Brown, for those methods are hideous, while our purpose is righteous, and they would only soil it. As a person who experienced violence from a proslavery senator in Congress and was beaten unconscious, which was an unheard-of thing, I say let violence be their ways, not ours. Of course, in his address to the court, John Brown stated that he intended no murder and no insurrection, but I believe his actions were stating otherwise. Some hate John Brown for what he did for the antislavery movement, for how he ignited it and inspired, and I condemn those people and do not stand with them. Some praise John Brown and think him to be a martyr—I cannot say I stand with those people either. A zealot, Brown had played a significant role, and perhaps our force, the force of the free states, would not be such as it is now if it had not been for the hardihood of John Brown, but we, the proponents of freedom and justice, to chase the ugly harlot of Slavery out of this land, should appeal to human reason and conscience instead of terrorizing or murdering.

(From the perspective and in the voice of Samuel A. Cartwright.) Looking back at how antislavery sentiments have been spreading among the Americans shows that abolitionism is much more of a state of mind than a political position. Blinded by the idea that slavery is bad, abolitionists ferociously attack their opponents without taking an opportunity to look at the facts or listen to arguments. They have proved to be immensely irrational whenever it comes to objective reasoning. We know that it has repeatedly been claimed that slavery is bad for our economy because it is an unproductive kind of labor. However, the statistical data state otherwise, but what is statistics to those whose minds are contaminated by what they call struggling for freedom? It is nothing for them, for the phantoms of justice and equality do not let them think. John Brown is a vivid example: a man driven into madness by his perceived mission to save and liberate, he took up arms and killed innocent men to prepare a civil conflict from which no-one in our country could benefit. Many have called him a martyr, yet he is nothing but a murderer. We should all learn from his example how irrational ideas spoil the mind of a man and make him fall into fanaticism, and this is to show us how abolitionism is fundamentally harmful and destructive.

Every historical event, especially such large-scale and influential as a civil war, is a complicated process where identifying causes and effects is always challenging. In history, nothing happens for no reason, and wars cannot explode where there is no gunpowder for them and no sparks. When examining the history of the American Civil War, one discovers many developments that seem to have been leading to it inevitably, but it is only so in retrospect. For people who lived in the 1850s, the perspective was different, as some warned that the war was coming, while others were certain that is could be avoided. However, reflecting on the historical processes of those times after one and a half centuries allows arguing that the conflict between the two parties was too serious to have been resolved without an armed confrontation. In his Congress speech in 1856, Charles Sumner said, “[P]ortents hang on all the arches of the horizon threatening to darken the broad land, which already yawns with the mutterings of civil war.” Numerous signs can be seen in the antebellum era that showed how the war was inevitable.

One of such signs is Bleeding Kansas. A symbolic state in a sense, as it is situated in the very center of the modern United States, Kansas had become a battlefield for the opponents and proponents of slavery, and the political struggle was accompanied by fierce violence. According to Eric Foner, “a sporadic civil war broke out in Kansas in which some 200 persons eventually lost their lives.” This indicated how irreconcilable the free states and the slave states were. Many felt the inevitability of a wider war, as Charles Sumner said that “the whole country, in all its extent, [was] marshalling hostile divisions, and foreshadowing a strife which, unless happily averted by the triumph of Freedom, will become war fratricidal, parricidal war with an accumulated wickedness beyond the wickedness of any war in human annals.” It was also an indication of an upcoming war that, after his speech, Sumner was beaten in the hall of Congress with a cane by another Congressman, which had never happened in the American parliament before. Finally, the attempts of the federal government to remove the issue of slavery from the agenda and the congressional debate were constantly failing. According to Foner, “the new Fugitive Slave Act…made further controversy inevitable.” This reveals the most important argument of those who think that the war could have been avoided. If the federal government had not been striving to control the states to the extent of prohibiting them from having slavery, and if it had allowed some states preserve the institution of slavery, some say the war would not have happened. However, this argument is debatable because the country had come to a point where the interactions between the North and the South were impossible as long as the latter had slavery and the former did not. The states were too highly interconnected economically to become separated from each other, but their conflict based on the acceptability of slavery was too grave to let them be part of a single country. Therefore, a civil war was inevitable.

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