Date of Award

Summer 7-8-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

David Sehat

Second Advisor

Wendy Venet


This thesis examined the rhetoric and discourse of the elite political actors in the Cherokee Indian Removal crisis. Historians such as Ronald Satz and Francis Paul Prucha view the impetus for this episode to be contradictory government policy and sincere desire to protect the Indians from a modernizing American society. By contrast Theda Perdue, Michael D. Green, and William McLoughlin find racism as the motivating factor in the removal of the Cherokee. In looking at letters, speeches, editorials, and other documents from people like Andrew Jackson, Theodore Frelinghuysen, Elias Boudinot, and John Ross, this project concluded that the language of civilization placed the Cherokee in a no-win situation. In internalizing this language, the Cherokees tacitly allowed racism to define them as an inferior group to Anglo-Americans. In the absence of this internalization, the Cherokee Indians surely would have faced war with the United States.