The Assimilation of the Cherokee Nation
Thomas Jefferson firmly believed in white supremacy and the inferiority of other races to the American race. He praised the agrarian lifestyle and believed that it represented the only true American vocation. Due to this notion, he advocated for the assimilation of other races into a homogeneous society based upon American culture. However, Jefferson did not believe that every race had the inherent capabilities of assimilation. He maintained that the African American race and the whites could never coexist in a society together due to the fundamental differences in their nature. According to Jefferson, the intelligence of the black man was far inferior to that of the white man. However, he saw the potential in Native Americans assimilating into the American culture. Whereas he doubted the validity of Black intelligence, he perceived Native American intelligence as highly underdeveloped. Thus, Jefferson called for the Native Americans to live as one people with the whites which would reaffirm his desire for a truly republican society. He was more lenient to those peaceful tribes who acquiesced to American policy rather than to those tribes who tried to maintain their personal sovereignty. This perspective clearly manifests itself in Jefferson’s myriad of addresses to Indian tribes, especially in his address To the Chiefs of the Cherokee Nation written January 10, 1806. In this address, Jefferson reaffirms the value of assimilation into an agrarian lifestyle based upon labor and cultivation and his ill-sentiments to any Native American tribe who has yet to do so.
The desire for more land coerced many white settlers to either persuade Indian tri...
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...et Jefferson failed to acknowledge the time, money, and other resources needed to be successful in this endeavor. He also miscalculated the desire of other tribes to want to maintain their sovereignty and not assimilate into American culture. Jefferson’s address To the Chiefs of the Cherokee Nation clearly reflects all of these notions. He was proud of these individuals who relinquished their old ways of hunting for an American way of farming, and also warned them about those aggressive tribes across the Mississippi River, who had yet to assimilate and renounce tribal claims. Jefferson’s dream was to create a republic, yet such a republic cannot exist if members in a society are forced to be there against their will. Jefferson should have recognized the legitimacy of the Native Americans’ way to life before he tried to force American society and culture upon them.
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