US Presidents: Andrew Jackson

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Andrew Jackson—our country’s seventh President and a decorated army general—is one of the most controversial figures in American history. Many praise him for his role in bringing about popular democracy and individual rights; however, Jackson’s role in the Indian Removal Act, his extreme racism, and his support for slavery cause many to question his legacy. Jackson’s involvement in the Seminole Wars is particularly disturbing since he not only authorized but actively encouraged the use of force against the women and children of the Seminole tribe. While Jackson was by no means the first leader to target civilian populations as a means to winning wars, the Seminole Wars are a particularly brutal example of this approach. The Seminole Wars exemplify the trend prevalent in American military history of using force against civilian populations as a tool for winning wars. The primary cause of the First Seminole War was the instability of Florida following the War of 1812. The Spanish were unable to prevent black slaves from running away from Georgian slave-owners and joining the Seminole tribe in Florida. The slaves who escaped and joined the Seminoles became known as “Black Seminoles.” The presence of the Black Seminoles angered American slave owners who feared the acceptance of the Black Seminoles would encourage more slaves to run away and join the Seminole forces. Further, the Creeks who lost their land following the War of 1812 also found refuge with the Seminole tribe. The principal source of conflict was a fort built by the British during the War of 1812, which was situated on the Apalachicola River. The fort was taken over by a force of 350 Black Seminoles and became known as “Negro Fort.” The United States viewed the newly-c... ... middle of paper ... ...ecca, and Self, Robert O. America: A Concise History Boston: Bedford 2012. History Channel. “Sherman’s March,” History Channel, www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/shermans-march (Accessed April 17, 2014). International Committee of the Red Cross “1949 Conventions and Additional Protocols, and their Commentaries,” ICRC, http://www.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/vwTreaties1949.xsp (Accessed April 20, 2017). Mahon, John. “The First Seminole War, November 21, 1817-May 24,1818.” Florida Historical Quarterly (1998) (Accessed April 16, 2014). Ralph, William W., “Improvised Destruction: Arnold, LeMay, and the Firebombing of Japan,” War In History (2006). (Accessed April 20, 2017). Rosen, Deborah A. “Wartime Prisoners and the Rule of Law: Andrew Jackson’s Military Tribunals During the First Seminole War.” University of Pennsylvania Press (2008) (Accessed April 16, 2014).
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