POTUS v SCOTUS
President Of The U.S. versus Supreme Court Of The U.S.
In Part I, we discussed the history of Presidential disputes with the Supreme Court of the United States. Also in Part I, there was a reference to a total complete impasse between POTUS and SCOTUS during the Presidency of Andrew Jackson – that dispute is the subject matter of this Part II.
What we will be leading up to is a dismal event in the history of the United States – one which almost everybody is aware: The Trail of Tears. First we’ll cover a few historical highlights leading up to that event.
The Cherokee had occupied the lands of northern Georgia for centuries before the events leading up to their removal from the area.
Georgia was the fourth state admitted to the Union, January 2, 1788 – Delaware was first on December 7, 1787. In 1802 the Georgia legislature passed the Act of Cession (not succession) recognizing Indian nations’ right to their territory and that changes could only occur through negotiations with the U.S. government.
Beginning in the 1820s Georgia began working to remove the Indians of the Cherokee Nation from northern Georgia and redistributing the land. The Cherokee resisted these efforts and had many who were sympathetic with them. They built Anglo style town, created their own constitution and had their capital at New Echota – near present day Calhoun.
Among those who sympathized with the Cherokee was a missionary by the name of Samuel Worcester who arrived in 1825. Among his first activities was to start a newspaper titled Cherokee Phoenix printed in New Echota promoting the interests of the Cherokee Nation.
In 1828 gold was discovered in northern Georgia and by 1829 the Georgia gold rush began in earnest. Some say this was the first gold rush in the U.S. however there was a lesser one that preceded it in North Carolina. There was flood of prospectors coming in and further efforts to move the Cherokee out.
The same year of the discovery of gold in Georgia, Andrew Jackson was elected POTUS. Jackson was sympathetic to the political powers of Georgia and worked with them to remove the Cherokee. One of Jackson’s earliest efforts was to get Congress to pass the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This Act gave the President the power to make removal agreements with Indian Nations.
In 1831 the Cherokee Nation challenged a number of the laws passed by the state of Georgia in the Supreme Court in Cherokee Nation v Georgia. SCOTUS dismissed the suit by stating that the Cherokee Nation was a “domestic, dependent nation” and not a foreign nation and therefore the Court lacked jurisdiction.
One of the laws that had been passed by the Georgia legislature was one requiring non-Indians to obtain a license from the Governor in order to be allowed on Indian lands. Samuel Worcester and 11 others were arrested under this law. Worcester was convicted and sentenced to 4 years hard labor. He appealed his case to SCOTUS in 1832.
SCOTUS seems to have reversed its decision in the Cherokee Nation v Georgia case by ruling virtually the opposite in Worcester v Georgia just a year later. In Worcester it ruled that only the U.S. government could deal with other nations and that states could only deal with their own citizens within their own borders. The Georgia law was struck down by SCOTUS and Samuel Worcester was to be set free.
Neither Georgia nor President Jackson paid any attention to SCOTUS. It is reported that Jackson said: “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it.” Nobody knows for certain what Jackson actually said – some give the quote as: “How many troops does John Marshall have?” In any case Jackson did not comply with the position of SCOTUS.
Worcester was not set free until another governor was elected and took office.
Jackson, using the 1830 Indian Removal Act and with the full cooperation of the state of Georgia, began coercing the removal of Cherokees from northern Georgia.
What is remembered as The Trail of Tears actually involved more that the Cherokee Nation of northern Georgia – however they suffered the greatest. Jackson was president from March 4, 1829 to March 4, 1837. During his tenure in office the following Indian Nations were forced from their homes and made to walk to the area that is now roughly Oklahoma:
1831 Choctaw from Mississippi
1832 Seminoles from Florida
1834 Creek from Alabama
1837 Chickasaw from Mississippi
While some of the Cherokees were being forced out over a long period of time, their final removal and The Trail of Tears came after Jackson left office. The mass removal of the Cherokee from northern Georgia began in 1838 and lasted into 1839 under the Presidency of Martin Van Buren. The numbers who were forced out is an exact number – 16,543. The number who perished along the way is estimated from as low as 2,000 to as high as 6,000 with 4,000 being the most commonly reported number.
There is a monument and other remembrances of New Echota and the Cherokee Nation near Calhoun, Georgia. It may be worth a visit one day.
At the end of Part I, questions were raised regarding if we were perhaps moving toward a Dictatorship of the Judiciary with its unpredictable decisions based on personal biases and unknown consequences. It also asked if we would rather bring back another Andrew Jackson. Perhaps not?