Friday, April 22, 2016

Pierce and Indigenous People

Alyssa Landry has written a nice article about the relationship between the Pierce administration and American Indians. As you may suspect, given the general attitudes during  Pierce's lifetime, the relationship was one of antagonism of the government toward the Indians, as whites coveted Indian lands for settlement and expansion of the railroads. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, which was signed by Pierce, aided westward expansion, as well as stoking the conflict over slavery. He also aided western expansion with the Gadsden Purchase in 1854, acquiring 30,000 square miles of territory in the current southwest U.S. from Mexico. He wanted to add Alaska, Hawaii, and Cuba to the U.S., but those efforts failed.

Ironically, the U.S. Mint issued "peace medals" featuring a bust of Pierce on the obverse, with the reverse showing a scene of a settler in front of an American flag, instructing an Indian on the values of "LABOR, VIRTUE, HONOR," which are engraved above the flag.