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

By Louis Filler; Allen Guttmann | Go to book overview

John Marshall:


WORCESTER VS. THE STATE OF GEORGIA

Shortly after the meeting of the missionaries on December 29, 1830, the Georgia guard entered the Cherokee territory and, under provisions of the Georgia Law of December 22, 1830, arrested a number of missionaries for residing in the Cherokee territory without a license from the State of Georgia. The Superior Court of Gwinnett County, Judge Augustin S. Clayton presiding, released the missionaries upon the ground that they were, as missionaries, agents of the United States. However, when Governor Gilmer inquired about this, President Jackson informed him that the men, except for the Rev. Samuel Worcester, were not United States agents. Moreover, Worcester, who was United States postmaster at New Echota, was removed from that office by President Jackson and, subsequently, arrested once again, tried, and found guilty. The case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Once again, John Marshall rendered the majority opinion.

THIS cause, in every point of view in which it can be placed, is of the deepest interest.

The defendant is a state, a member of the union, which has exercised the powers of government over a people who deny its jurisdiction, and are under the protection of the United States.

The plaintiff is a citizen of the state of Vermont, condemned to hard labour for four years in the penitentiary of Georgia; under colour of an act which he alleges to be repugnant to the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States.

The legislative power of a state, the controlling power of the Constitution and laws of the United States, the rights, if they have any, the political existence of a once numerous and powerful people, the personal liberty of a citizen, are all involved in the subject now to be considered.

It behooves this court, in every case, more especially in this, to examine into its jurisdiction with scrutinizing eyes; before it proceeds to the exercise of a power which is controverted.

The first step in the performance of this duty is the inquiry whether the record is properly before the court.

It is certified by the clerk of the court, which pronounced the judgment of condemnation under which the plaintiff in error is imprisoned; and is also authenti-

____________________
From Peters Reports, VI, 536-563.

-69-

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