The Removal of the Cherokee Nation: Manifest Destiny or National Dishonor?

By Louis Filler; Allen Guttmann | Go to book overview

THE CLASH OF ISSUES
Preparing to annex the Indian lands, Georgia extends her laws throughout the Cherokee territory:

And be it . . . enacted, That after the first day of June next, all laws, ordinances, orders and regulations of any kind whatever, made, passed, or enacted by the Cherokee Indians . . . are hereby declared to be null and void and of no effect, as if the same had never existed. . . .

The Cherokees protest:

We wish to remain on the land of our fathers. We have a perfect and original right to remain without interruption or molestation. The treaties with us, and laws of the United States made in pursuance of treaties, guaranty our residence and our privileges, and secure us against intruders.

And the Supreme Court upholds the rights of the Cherokees:

The Cherokee nation . . . is a distinct community, occupying its own territories, with boundaries accurately described, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and which the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter. . . .

-- JOHN MARSHALL

But, with President Jackson's tacit approval, the Governor of Georgia defies the Supreme Court:

The ingenuity of man might be challenged to show a single sentence of the Constitution of the United States giving power, either direct or implied, to the general government . . . to nullify the laws of a State . . . or coerce obedience, by force, to the mandates of the judiciary of the Union.

-- WILSON LUMPKIN

The Indians are removed from Georgia, and a New Englander writes in condemnation:

In the whole history of our Government's dealings with the Indian tribes, there is no record so black as the record of its perfidy to [the Cherokee] nation.

-- HELEN HUNT JACKSON

But a Southern historian justifies the policy of Indian removal:

This threat of being deprived of a great part of her domain by an alien and semi-barbarous people appeared intolerable and unthinkable to Georgia. . . . [She] forbade the Indians to play with their make-believe government. . . . With the Indians finally out of the way, Georgia was for the first time in her existence master of her own territorial destiny.

-- E. MERTON COULTER

-xi-

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