Historical Article Andrew Jackson vs the Cherokee 1.  Who did chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall, side with in the case Worcester vs Georgia (1832)?  Explain. 2.  How would you...

Historical Article

Andrew Jackson vs the Cherokee

1.  Who did chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall, side with in the case Worcester vs Georgia (1832)?  Explain.

2.  How would you describe the legacy of Andrew Jackson's Indian Policy?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the 1820s and 1830s, the state of Georgia campaigned strenuously to remove the Cherokee Nation from territories in the Southeast, especially in Georgia itself. The Cherokee Nation, however, contended that they were a sovereign nation and could not be removed without their consent. Incensed by this refusal to depart, the legislature of Georgia abolished the Indian government, seized the land, and redistributed it among the white citizens of the state. Then, in 1830, representatives from Georgia and neighboring states pushed Congress to pass The Indian Removal Act, a bill which gave President Andrew Jackson the power to remove the Native American tribes. However, the Cherokees again refused to accept any terms, still claiming sovereignty as a nation. So, in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831), Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that the Cherokees constituted ¨a domestic dependent nation that was under the guardianship of the United States.¨

Prior to this ruling, in 1825 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions had assigned Samuel Worcester to the Brainerd, Tennessee, mission, and then gave his two years in New Echota, Georgia. Worcester was a friend to the leaders of the Cherokees, advising them of their rights. When the Georgia government recognized the influence that Worcester had upon the tribe, the legislature passed a law prohibiting any white persons from living with the Cherokee Nation; moreover, the missionaries were issued an order to vacate the reservation or produce a license of residency. When the missionaries challenged the state, they were arrested. Worcester was later released because his lawyer argued that he was a federal postmaster. But, Georgia's governor persuaded the federal government to relieve Worcester of this position. Again, the missionaries were ordered to depart; Worcester, Butler and several others refused to do so; therefore, they were arrested and tried and sentences to four years in prison.

The missionaries made an appeal to the Supreme Court.

In Worcester v. Georgia, the court struck down Georgia's extension laws. In the majority opinion (1.)Marshall wrote that the Indian nations were "distinct, independent political communities retaining their original natural rights" and that the United States had acknowledged as much in several treaties with the Cherokees. Although it had surrendered sovereign powers in those treaties with the United States, he wrote, the Cherokee Nation remained a separate, sovereign nation with a legitimate title to its national territory. Marshall harshly rebuked Georgia for its actions and declared that the Cherokees possessed the right to live free from the state's trespasses.

Despite this ruling by the Supreme Court, Georgia refused to comply and pushed to have the Cherokees removed. President Andrew Jackson did not enforce the decision of the Supreme Court and, instead, ordered the Cherokees to relocate or fall under the jurisdiction of Georgia. So, in 1838 a faction of Cherokees signed a removal treaty under protest. Federal troops moved in and marched the Indian Nation to the U.S.Indian territory in present-day Oklahoma. This forced march over hundreds of miles, some on foot and bound in chains, became known as the Trail of Tears as along the way, many died. 

Jackson's refusal to enforce the ruling of the Supreme Court did not come as a surprise because he had previously fought Creeks in Georgia and Alabama and the Seminoles in Florida. On the long Trail of Tears, 3,500 of 15,000 did not survive. (2.) Before he was president, Jackson had been an advocate of ¨Indian Removal¨; apparently, he still believed in this condition as he turned a deaf ear to the plights of Indians who were forced from their homes. His Indian policy seemed only one of extinction. ¨Sharp Knife¨ as he was called by the Indians, was a dangerous foe.

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