Page 76 - Cityview Magazine - July/August 2017
P. 76

city, New Echota. Worcester not only preached the words of the “Good Book” to the Cherokee but advised them of their treaty rights in their territory. Recognizing that Worcester and other missionaries had become obstructions to its goal of evacuating all tribes, Georgia enacted laws requiring a license for white persons to reside on Cherokee land. Worcester, who had no state- issued license, was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to four years. Instead
of accepting a pardon
offered after his trial, he
appealed to the Supreme
Court. In Worcester v.
Georgia, Marshall, then
in his 30th year on the
Court, addressed the
treaty issue head-on. In
the majority opinion,
he wrote that Native
American Nations were
sovereign with natural
rights to their lands.
Because the United
States Constitution
had granted Congress
the exclusive power
to enter treaties with
other nations, the Court
reversed Worcester’s
conviction, holding that
the Georgia licensing
laws could not be
enforced. President
Jackson, who had two
years earlier convinced
the Congress to pass
the Indian Removal Act, was not pleased. In response to the decision, Jackson was quoted as having said, “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it.” Although
those may not have been Jackson’s exact words, they clearly reflected
his position. Absent a presidential willingness to enforce the ruling, the Court’s opinion meant nothing. Some say Jackson quietly persuaded the Georgia governor to set Worcester
free. Regardless of whether he actually intervened, a pardon ensued, resolving the question of his incarceration. So
the Marshall Court never had to issue an order requiring compliance, thereby avoiding a constitutional crisis. Georgia, however, was emboldened by Jackson’s lack of direct intervention. Using
the Georgia controversy as leverage, Jackson persuaded the Cherokees to submit to the terms of the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, ceding their lands for $5,000,000. Congress approved the new treaty by a single vote, thereby paving the way for their removal to the west.
from their tribal lands and, perhaps
in consequence, lost his congressional seat in 1835. Fearing that Vice President Martin Van Buren, if elected as the next President, would continue the Indian removal policy, Crockett vowed to leave the country: “I will never live under [Jackson’s] kingdom,” he stated. “Before I will submit to his government, I will go to the wildes of Texas...Our happy days...are near at an end when a few is to transfer the many.” His departure
was fatal. Crockett died
at the Alamo on March 6, 1836. Nine months later, Van Buren, with Jackson’s considerable support, was elected President. On his watch, some 16,000 tribal members were moved into Indian Territory—modern day Oklahoma. Plagued
by rain, snow, disease, and starvation, an estimated 4,000 Native American perished–along their Trail of Tears.
The Oconaluftee Cherokee, who lived in the Smoky Mountains on lands owned by William Holland Thomas, were not subject to removal. Thomas, who had
been adopted by Chief Drowning Bear, had the trust not only of the tribe but also of the United States military and, later,
Jackson’s protégée, James K. Polk. Thanks in part to the Cherokee prophet, Tsali, who has been immortalized in
the outdoor drama Unto These Hills, Thomas was able to negotiate a treaty establishing the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, located within the Qualla Boundary of Western North Carolina. Thomas later became the only white man to serve as the tribal chief.
Gary Wade is a former Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court and the current dean and vice president of Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law.
Kentucky Senator Henry Clay was especially critical of the President’s refusal to act: “The consequences of the...decision of the Supreme Court must be very great. If...the President refuses to enforce it, there is virtual dissolution of the union.” Clay did not stand alone in his criticism of Jackson. Tennessee’s Davy Crockett, initially an ally in Jackson’s new Democratic Party, had lost support by opposing Jackson’s efforts to eliminate the Bank of the United States. Elected for a third term as a Whig, Crockett complained bitterly about the removal of the Cherokees

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