Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Daniel Littlefield


The election of Andrew Jackson to the presidency in 1828 coincided with the rise of the nation's "second party system." The divide which emerged between Jacksonian Democrats and their opposition party, the Whigs, is generally accepted as marking the origin of an American political culture defined by a partisan divide. Political historians of the period have often focused on the key divisive issues: South Carolina's nullification agitation, the Bank Crisis, and working class identity politics have been most often featured in this scholarship. The Indian Removal Debate has generally been examined as ancillary to these partisan developments, an after-effect for all intents and purposes. This study places the Indian Removal Debate at the center of the emerging partisan rift, and argues that the debate actually helped craft the partisan identities that would inform both sides. In particular, Jacksonian Democrats pursued a dialogue of racial constmction regarding Indians, and the resulting constmct served to fortify their identity claims as the party of "practicality." The results of the Indian Removal De bate reached far beyond the Indian issue, as Democrats carried the identity forged in that debate into other arenas as well. The study is based on the records of the United States Congress for the relevant period, and also includes examinations of personal and professional writings created by William Gilmore Simms, and by former Georgia governors and engaged Indian Removal activists George Gilmer and Wilson Lumpkin.

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