Case | HBS Case Collection | December 2011 (Revised February 2014)

The Indian Removal Act and the 'Trail of Tears'

by Tom Nicholas, Ari Medoff and Raven Smith


Native Americans were subjected to a protracted and painful process of forced removal from their land. The case provides "first hand" evidence on the debate over Indian removal as it took place during the early nineteenth century. The first document is excerpted from Andrew Jackson's First Annual Message to Congress in 1829 and the second document from Jackson's Second Annual Message in 1830, the year the Indian Removal Act was passed. The third and fourth documents cover the Congressional debate over the relocation of Indians, which led to strong partisan splits and divisions between the North and the South. Document three is excerpted from Whig Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey's six-hour speech to Congress opposing Indian removal. Document four is excerpted from a speech by Senator John Forsyth, a Democrat and former Governor of Georgia who spoke in response to Senator Frelinghuysen's remarks. A final document presents the Cherokee perspective and the reasons for their opposition to removal as represented by a memorial letter, written to the United States Congress in 1829. A statistical portrait follows the documentary evidence.

Keywords: History; Laws and Statutes; United States;


Nicholas, Tom, Ari Medoff, and Raven Smith. "The Indian Removal Act and the 'Trail of Tears'." Harvard Business School Case 812-079, December 2011. (Revised February 2014.)