Sharp Knife
Andrew Jackson and the American Indians
by Alfred A. Cave
October 2017, 241pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-6039-3
$75, £58, 66€, A103
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eBook Available: 978-1-4408-6040-9
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How did President Andrew Jackson violate the terms of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, despite the Congress understanding that all relocations would be voluntary and all existing treaties respected?

Drawing on a wide range of sources, this book exposes Andrew Jackson's failure to honor and enforce federal laws and treaties protecting Indian rights, describing how the Indian policies of 'Old Hickory' were those of a racist imperialist, in stark contrast to how his followers characterized him, believing him to be a champion of democracy.

Early in his career as an Indian fighter, American Indians gave Andrew Jackson a name—Sharp Knife—that evoked their sense of his ruthlessness and cruelty. Contrary to popular belief—and to many textbook accounts—in 1830, Congress did not authorize the forcible seizure of Indian land and the deportation of the legal owners of that land. In actuality, U.S. President Andrew Jackson violated the terms of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, choosing to believe that he was not bound to protect Native Indian individuals’ rights.

Sharp Knife: Andrew Jackson and the American Indians draws heavily on Jackson’s own writings to document his life and give readers sharp insight into the nature of racism in ante-bellum America.

Noted historian Alfred Cave’s latest book takes readers into the life of Andrew Jackson, paying particular attention to his interactions with Native American peoples as a militia general, treaty negotiator, and finally as president of the United States. Cave clearly depicts the many ways in which Jackson’s various dishonorable actions and often illegal means undermined the political and economic rights that were supposed to be guaranteed under numerous treaties. Jackson’s own economic interests as a land speculator and slave holder are carefully documented, exposing the hollowness of claims that “Old Hickory” was the champion of “the common man.”


  • Offers a chronological account of the life of Andrew Jackson, with particular attention to his interactions with Native American peoples as he advanced through various positions of power
  • Provides an extremely detailed look at Andrew Jackson's abuse of power in dealing with Native Americans and at the underlying racist ideology that, in Jackson's mind, justified his denial of the rights they had previously been guaranteed under federal law
  • Presents fascinating factual information that will interest general readers, in particular individuals concerned with the origins and impact of racism in American history; with the U.S. presidency; and with the abuse of presidential power
Alfred A. Cave is professor emeritus of history at the University of Toledo. He has written extensively on Indian-white relations in early America. Among his recent books are The Pequot War, Greenwood's The French and Indian War, Prophets of the Great Spirit: Native American Revitalization Movements in Eastern North America, and Lethal Encounters: Englishmen and Indians in Colonial Virginia. He received the Distinguished Historian Award from the Ohio Academy of History in 2012 and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Florida in 2015.


"Cave stops short of rendering judgment, and wisely so, but presents a complex story that could not be more relevant. Summing Up: Recommended. General collections, and upper-division undergraduates and above."—Choice, April 1, 2018
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