At the moment, I am expanding the demographic data I have for the 21st Congress (the one that voted on the Indian Removal Act) to include the birthplaces of the members of Congress that voted on the Act.
I have already entered in the data on the towns these congressmen represented. After I did that, I created color-coded location markers in Google Earth that indicated the town the congressmen represented and whether they voted Yea, Nay, or Abstain. I was hoping to find geospatial correlations between how the congressmen voted and the location of their constituency in relation to the frontier both then and in earlier decades, as well as in relation to major Indian battles. I found that those who represented areas located on the frontier during the Seven Years War, American Revolution, and War of 1812 (the three conflicts with the most Indian attacks) were slightly more likely to support the Act than oppose it, suggesting that some congressmen’s constituents may have been urging them to support the bill because they had at one time or another been the victims of Indian attacks along the frontier.
I am adding the birthplaces of the congressmen to the mix because I want to see if their personal memories of Indian violence were a more powerful motivator than the memories of their constituents. I am only partially done with the process. It is exceedingly laborious to search for the birthplaces in the Congressional Biographical Database online, add it to the Excel spreadsheet I’ve created containing all of the demographic material I have, and then create markers on Google Earth to then be exported to ArcGIS for further geospatial manipulation and comparison (Google Earth has fewer of the mapping capabilities that I need than ArcGIS, but I like Google’s interface for adding location markers better so a one-step process has become a two-step process).
Even though I’m only partially done, I have noticed some trends. It would appear that the congressmen’s birthplaces played a larger role in their decision-making process than influences from their constituency, but only slightly. More frontier ‘natives’ supported the Act than those who represented frontier districts but were born elsewhere. Even more interesting, almost all of the congressmen that abstained from the vote represented frontier districts but were born farther east, indicating that they may have been pressured to support the Act by their constituency but were personally opposed to it (perhaps because, as ‘natives’ of the eastern areas, they were not influenced by memories of Indian violence because the area in which they had been raised had not been near the frontier or Indian attacks for well over a century).
These ideas are only preliminary, but I’m starting to get a clearer picture of how my argument is going to unfold. I’ve got the large majority of my primary source material and data and have – with a few exceptions – entered it into the analytical programs I will be using. At this point, I am primarily focusing upon small details that will slightly expand my project as I discover new avenues of exploration. The big picture stuff is basically complete (albeit unedited).