Losing the “Middle Ground”: Conflict, Culture, and Civilization in the Southeastern Borderlands

Losing the “Middle Ground”: Conflict, Culture, and Civilization in the Southeastern Borderlands

This essay is a part of our series, Borders in the Classroom

On March 4, 1817, Andrew Jackson wrote a letter to President James Monroe that proposed a radical shift in the way the Federal government negotiated with Native American groups who still maintained their autonomy on the American frontier. In his experience as a soldier, governor of Tennessee, and treaty negotiator, Jackson had concluded, “The Indians are the subjects of the United States inhabiting a territory and acknowledging its sovereignty, then is it not absurd for a sovereign to negotiate by treaty with subject….” According to Jackson, the Federal government should assume a strong position and impose its will on the Native American population because “circumstances have entirely changed, and the time has come when a just course of policy can be exercised towards them- their existence and happiness now depend upon a change in their habits and customs which can only be effected by a change of policy in the Government.” The United States by 1817 had firmly established itself as the primary power of the previously contested Southeastern Borderlands along the Gulf coast. The Choctaws, the second largest Native American group along the Gulf coast, still held a strong position despite the growing power of the United States. In response to the strengthened U.S. and proposed changes of policy, the Choctaws developed and engaged in new strategies to maintain their negotiating position, political autonomy, and territorial integrity.


Edited by Andrae M. Marak

(c) 2015 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 11, Fall, 2015. http://TheMiddleGroundJournal.org See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.