Worcester v. Georgia


Chief Justice Marshall wrote in his majority opinion in Worcester v. Georgia that the:

Treaties and laws of the United States contemplate the Indian territory as completely separated from that of the states; and provide that all intercourse with them shall be carried on exclusively by the government of the union... The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community occupying its own territory in which the laws of Georgia can have no force. The whole intercourse between the United States and this nation, is, by our constitution and laws, vested in the government of the United States. 

 

President Andrew Jackson's Response

The famous apocryphal quote records Jackson as saying, “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!" In reality, this quote was found thirty years later in a textbook published by famous Jackson critic and New York Tribune editor, Horace Greeley. Jackson wrote to Brigadier General John Coffee, ". . . the decision of the Supreme Court has fell still born, and they find that they cannot coerce Georgia to yield to its mandate." 

Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, which authorized the president to negotiate with Native American tribes for their removal from the Southeast U.S. to lands west of the Mississippi River. There was, however, bitter debate in Congress over the act, especially from Christian missionaries and Northern politicians who thought the forcible removal was immoral. The Act passed in the Senate by 28 to 19 and the House by 101 to 97. 

The Act was enforced under the Jackson and Van Buren administrations. Population growth along the Eastern U.S. and the discovery of gold in Georgia created popular support for the Indian Removal Act. Early American presidential administrations focused on forcing assimilation of Native Americans into Colonial culture by encouraging Christianity, English, and private property ownership. The policy of assimilation changed to one of removal, however, under President Andrew Jackson. In his first State of the Union address in 1829, he called for Indian removal from the Southeast United States. Jackson agreed to divide territory west of the Mississippi to replace tribal lands that had been reallocated. 

The Indian Removal Act led to the Trail of Tears, a series of forced relocation of Native Americans from the American Southeast to territory West of the Mississippi river. An estimated 60,000 people were removed from their homes by state and local militias, with over 4,000 fatalities from disease and starvation en route. Forced removals included members of Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations, and their slaves. Forced relocation occurred between 1830 and 1850 and included additional relocations further west.