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

By Louis Filler; Allen Guttmann | Go to book overview

John Marshall:


THE CHEROKEE NATION VS. THE STATE OF GEORGIA

As the removal bill became law, as the State of Georgia proclaimed its sovereignty over the territory of the Cherokee nation, the chiefs of the nation, led by John Ross, turned to the Supreme Court for the relief which they could not obtain from President Jackson. They had good reason to expect that John Marshall would give them a favorable hearing. Although he had been born in a log cabin on the Virginia frontier, although he was largely self-educated (his legal training was informal except for a series of lectures given, at William and Mary, by the eminent chancellor, George Wythe), John Marshall was quite unlike Andrew Jackson. Marshall had, for thirty years, dominated the Supreme Court. In decision after decision, he asserted the right of judicial review. In case after case, he maintained the Federalist's determination to protect the rights of property. Moreover, Marshall disliked Jackson and had, in 1828, dropped the mantle of judicial impartiality in order to campaign against Jackson's election to the presidency. The Cherokees were hopeful.

THIS bill is brought by the Cherokee nation, praying an injunction to restrain the state of Georgia from execution of certain laws of that state, which, as is alleged, go directly to annihilate the Cherokees as a political society, and to seize, for the use of Georgia, the lands of the nation which have been assured to them by the United States in solemn treaties repeatedly made and still in force.

If courts were permitted to indulge their sympathies, a case better calculated to excite them can scarcely be imagined.

A people once numerous, powerful, and truly independent, found by our ancestors in the quiet and uncontrolled possession of an ample domain, gradually sinking beneath our superior policy, our arts and our arms, have yielded their lands by successive treaties, each of which contains a solemn guarantee of the residue, until they retain no more of their formerly extensive territory than is deemed necessary to their comfortable subsistence. To preserve this remnant, the present application is made.

Before we can look into the merits of

____________________
John Marshall, "The Cherokee Nation vs. The State of Georgia," from Peters Reports, V, 75-20.

-61-

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