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Jeremiah Evarts William Penn Essays

Jeremiah F. Evarts (February 3, 1781 – May 10, 1831), also known by the pen nameWilliam Penn, was a Christian missionary, reformer, and activist for the rights of American Indians in the United States, and a leading opponent of the Indian removal policy of the United States government.

Early years[edit]

Evarts was born in Sunderland, Vermont, the son of James Evarts, and graduated from Yale College in 1802. He was admitted to the bar in 1806. Evarts married the widow Mehitabel Sherman Barnes, a daughter of United States Declaration of Independence signer Roger Sherman, and a member of the extended Baldwin, Hoar & Sherman family that had a great influence on U.S. public affairs. Jeremiah and Mehitabel Sherman Evarts were the parents of William M. Evarts, who later became a United States Secretary of State, US Attorney General and a US Senator from New York.

Battle against Indian removal[edit]

Evarts was influenced by the effects of the Second Great Awakening and served the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions as its treasurer from 1812-1820 and Secretary from 1821 until his death in 1831.

Evarts was the editor of The Panoplist, a religious monthly magazine from 1805 until 1820, where he published over 200 essays. He wrote twenty-four essays on the rights of Indians under the pen name "William Penn". He was one of the leading opponents of Indian removal in general and the removal of the Cherokees from the Southeast in particular. He engaged in several lobbying efforts including convincing Congress and President John Quincy Adams to retain funding for civilizing efforts. He was a leader of the unsuccessful fight against President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830. This law led to the forcible removal of the Cherokees in 1838, known as the Trail of Tears.

Historian John Andrew III explains how Evarts hoped to defeat the Indian Removal Act: "Evarts' tactics were clear. He planned to organize a phalanx of friendly congressmen to present the case against removal on the floor of the House and Senate, hoping to convince enough Jacksonians that the immorality of removal required them to vote against the Indian Removal Bill. At the same time, he would continue to barrage the public with letters, pamphlets, and articles on the Indian question, along with whatever other information might create a groundswell of public opinion against removal."[1]

In 1830, Georgia passed a law which prohibited whites from living on Indian territory after March 31, 1831 without a license from the state. This law was written to enable removing the white missionaries that Jeremiah had organized through the ABCFM. These missionaries were trying to help the Indians resist removal through efforts to integrate them into the white society through conversion and education. In the wake of the passage of the Indian Removal Act, Jeremiah encouraged the Cherokees to take their case against this and other laws that they felt were intended to annihilate them to the Supreme Court of the United States, which they did in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia.

Death and legacy[edit]

He died of tuberculosis on May 10, 1831 in Charleston, South Carolina having overworked himself in the campaign against the Indian Removal Act. He was buried in the Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven, CT. According to historian Francis Paul Prucha, "the Christian crusade against the removal of the Indians died with Evarts."

The effect that Evarts's activism for the rights of indigenous peoples had on U.S. foreign policy through his son, William M. Evarts who was Secretary of State during the Hayes administration (1877-1881), is a question for historians. The moral and religious arguments that Evarts used against the Indian Removal Act had later resonance in the abolitionism movement.

Publications by or referring to Evarts[edit]

  • Andrew, John A., III. From Revivals to Removal: Jeremiah Evarts, the Cherokee Nation, and the Search for the Soul of America. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992.
  • Norgren, Jill, Cherokee Cases: Two Landmark Federal Decisions in the Fight for Sovereignty, University of Oklahoma Press (2004).
  • Oliphant, J. Orin, ed. Through the South and West with Jeremiah Evarts in 1826. Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press, 1956.
  • Prucha, Francis Paul, ed. Cherokee Removal: The "William Penn" Essays & Other Writings by Jeremiah Evarts. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1981; containing essays originally published as Essays On The Present Crisis..American Indians in 1829.
  • Tracy, E.C. Memoir of the Life of Jeremiah Evarts, Esq. Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1845.
  • Massachusetts Marriage Index, 1784-1840


  1. ^John A. Andrew III, From Revivals to Removal: Jeremiah Evarts, the Cherokee Nation, and the Search for the Soul of America (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992), 220.

External links[edit]


Northern Humanitarian Protest Over Cherokee Removal


 During the 1800s, the majority of US citizens believed that the Indigenous peoples of North America, namely Native Americans were uncivilized and were a stain and a hindrance on the great country of the United States. In 1830, President Andrew Jackson along with the western states and many humanitarians of the day, called to move all Native Americans west of the Mississippi where they could be kept safe and segregated from white squatters.

       Most Native Americans were exceedingly opposed to removal and fought against it. The tribe with the most famous resistance to the Indian Removal Act was the Cherokee.

       A few people of the1830s supported Cherokees claim of sovereignty and land ownership and spoke out against their removal. In this paper, I intend to examine and prove what arguments the Northern Humanitarians used to stop the removal of the Cherokee Nation.




Primary Sources




Emerson, Ralf Waldo.  “III Letter to President Van Buren.” RWE.org-The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson - Volume XI -Miscellanies (1884). 20 April 2007



Emerson writes in his third letter addressing President Van Buren stating that the removal of the Cherokee Nation would be an unjust and tragic act. Emerson believed that the President has a commitment to protect every inhabitant of the US. Emerson states that Van Buren will bring shame on the office of the Presidency and the entire country. Emerson affirmed that the Indian removal is “fraud and robbery”.



“Indian Removal Act of 1830.”A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 – 1875 Statutes at Large, 21st Congress, 1st Session 411-412. 19 April 2007



This is a digitalized version of the Indian Removal Act was passed by the house and Senate. The act itself does not call for the removal of any particular Indian tribe but gives the President the power to exchange Indian land east of the Mississippi for land west of the Mississippi, in “Oklahoma”. The act was very controversial caused heated debates thought the country. 



“Removal of the Indians.” The North American Review volume 30 issue 66 January 1830 20 April 2007 <http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/ncps:@field(DOCID+@lit(ABQ7578-0030-5))>.


The North American Review distributed a 66-page essay to its readers supporting Indian removal. This is one of the earliest and most through sources on the removal, written before the debate on the Indian Removal Act. The bias of this piece is quite apparent and is written more like a speech or editorial then an article, with the continual mention of “fellow New Yorkers”. The paper discredits the advances made by the Cherokee to the point that the paper possibly has strong ties to the Democratic Party.



Storrs, William. House of Representatives, Representative Mr. Storrs on the Indian Removal Act of 1830, 21 Congress, 1 session, Register of Debates of the House of Representatives of the United States of America, 14 May, 1830. 16 April 2007  994-996.



Mr. Storrs gives his disapproval of the Indian Removal Act based on the fact the actions of the State of Georgia. Mr. Storrs recounts the actions leading up to the Indian Removal act no different then the other current histories although his speech was given 170 years before those histories were written. He concludes his speech by begging that the US government try one more time to negotiate with the Cherokee Nation for their removal out of Georgia. If the negotiation is unsuccessful, then the US legislature can impose any law they want to remove the Cherokee next session. Clearly, Mr. Storrs is admitting the lack of power and futility of his argument.


“Treaty at Hopewell with the Cherokee Nation.” The Library of Congress American Memory Collection 31 Jan 1786. 24 April 2007 <http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/bdsdcc:@field(DOCID+@lit(bdsdcc18101))>.


The Treaty at Hopewell defined the Cherokee’s boundaries by selecting an area of land by the rivers that flow around it. It also guarantees the Cherokee Nation’s independence from state governments. The treaty states that the US government would not come to the aide of white squatters and recognized tribal authority.






Secondary Sources


Conrad, Joshua J. “The Cherokee Cases:  Motivation and Morality” Loyola University Department of History. (2001) 25 April 2007. <http://www.loyno.edu/history/journal/Conrad.htm#49>.


                    This research paper describes the influences of economic factors in Georgia that encouraged the removal of the Cherokees. Conrad’s paper won the Loyola University History Award for Outstanding Semester Research Paper for the 2000-2001 Academic Year. Along with covering the economic factors that encouraged removal in Georgia, Conrad also focused on the efforts of Wert and Sergeant, who bring two cases against Georgia to the Supreme Court. Conrad also summarized the majority, minority, and concurring statements in both rulings.


Evarts, Jeremiah. “A Brief View of the Present Relations between the Government and the People of the United States and the Indians within Our National Limits.” The Cherokee Removal A Brief History with Documents. Ed. Theda Perdue and Michael D. Green. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1995. 96 - 105


          The Cherokee Removal was an incredibly useful little book that made accessing high quality primary sources very easy. The book is made up of 26 complete selected primary sources with background information to tie the pieces together. 


          The William Penn papers, written by Jeremiah Evarts, were some of the most influential writings against Indian removal. His essays were widely read and published. His essays are very elegantly written and were a thorn in the side of the Democratic Party. He argues that the hundreds of treaties made with various Indian groups in the past prove that Indians are outside the jurisdiction of states. He also argues against treaties make with unqualified Indian representatives.



Evarts, Jeremiah. “If the Agents.” The Trail of Tears: the Rise and fall of the Cherokee Nation. Ed. John Ehle. NYC: Anchor Books, 1988. 228 - 229


The Trial of Tears is a very informative narrative covering Cherokee history from the 1600s to the 1840s just after the Cherokee removal. There are many letters and newspaper articles that show both the support and opposing of the Cherokee removal.


Jeremiah Evarts essay “If the Agents” pg 228 argues against the maltreatment of the Cherokee by the state of Georgia. Evarts argues since the US gives treaties to the Cherokee Nation the act of treaty making and ratification guarantees its sovereignty. The state of Georgia believed that national law and treaty were not valid within the state of Georgia. Georgia did not bring one formal compliant against the Cherokee within their boundaries for the past 40 years leading up to the removal. The United States forbids states making treaties with Indians yet the state of Georgia trampled the Cherokee with impunity. 



Frelinghuysen, Theodore. “Senator Frelinghuysen’s Speech to the Senate” The Village of Old Sturbrige 1810. 20 April 2007



          The Village of Old Sturbridge produced one of the most useful pieces of research used in my paper. The library and museum created this summery as a free teachers lesson plan. The OSV summarized Senator Frelinghuysen’s six-hour speech into four concise pages.

          In his speech, Frelinghuysen states that Indians have a God given right to their land that extends beyond the claim of the US government. He also makes several strong claims against the theory that removal is best thing for the Indians. 



Gagnon, Joshua A. “The ‘Great American Desert’: The Congressional Debate on the Indian Removal Act of 1830” University of Maine at Farmington20 April 2007 <http://studentorgs.umf.maine.edu/~aio/historian/vol3iss2/indianremoval_article.pdf>.


Gagnon paper the Indian Removal Act of 1830 summarized various books findings on the removal of the Indians and the Senators and Representatives that spoke for and against the act. Gagnon cites the Library of Congress Century of Lawmaking Debates and summarizes them. For each speech, Gagnon introduces that congressmen, quotes a paragraph of their speech, and concludes with a few paragraphs of summery. 


Remini, Robert. Andrew Jackson and His Indian Wars. New York: Viking, 2001.


          Remini’s book is narrative of Andrew Jackson’s battles with the Indians. He cites hundreds of sources that are minced into his book; direct quotes of more then a few words are very rare.

Remini’s thesis is that the removal of the Five Civilized Tribes was the only feasible solution to the conflict between natives and whites (Remini115). Remini supports Jackson’s decision to move the Indians but states strong disapproval of the method and speed of which it was done.



 “Trail of Tears” About North Georgia Publisher: Randall L. Golden 2007. 28 February 2007 <http://ngeorgia.com/history/nghisttt.html>.


About North Georgia is an online publication that tries to increase tourism to rural north Georgia. The site has good information on the Cherokee gold rush. About North Georgia is unique it its focus on describing the exact locations of settlements and concentration camps used in the Cherokee removal. It is nice when a source describes an event occurring in are mote area in northwestern part of Lufkin county verses in the Cherokee Nation.



Photo, “Cherokee payments” The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog 20 April 2007






Adam Oliphant














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