The Cherokee Go to Washington

A virtual exploration of the Cherokee Nation

An Act to Prevent White Persons Living within Cherokee Land (1837) by Georgia General AssemblyGeorgia Public Broadcasting

In 1830, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation "preventing white persons from residing within that part ... of Georgia, occupied by the Cherokee Indians."

The law intended to limit the influence of white missionaries who were coming to New Echota from the North.

Samuel Worcester by Althea BassGeorgia Public Broadcasting

In 1827, Samuel Worcester, a minister from Vermont, moved to the Cherokee Nation to do missionary work. He promoted Christianity by translating the Bible into the Cherokee language.

Worcester also advised leaders of the Cherokee Nation about their political rights and supported their efforts to remove trespassing white miners and settlers. After Georgia passed a law in 1831 that prohibited white people from living on Cherokee land without state permission, Worcester refused to leave and was arrested. With legal representation provided by the Cherokee Nation, Worcester eventually appealed his arrest to the United States Supreme Court.

Samuel Worcester House (2016) by Georgia Public BroadcastingGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Constructed in 1828 by Reverend Samuel A. Worcester, the Worcester House (as it is known today) served as the New Echota mission station and the Worcester family home.

The reverend and his family were forced from the house in 1834 when it was confiscated by a Georgian who obtained a title to it in the state land lottery.

Worcester Home School (2016) by Georgia Public BroadcastingGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Worcester and his wife Ann, as well as their three daughters, Sarah, Jerusha, and Hannah, primarily lived on the first floor of the house. The second floor had a small school room and space for guests passing through New Echota.

John Ross PortraitGeorgia Public Broadcasting

In 1831, the United States Supreme Court heard the case of Cherokee Nation v. Georgia brought by Principal Chief John Ross and other Cherokee leaders. Their legal team argued that the state of Georgia could not make or enforce laws concerning the Cherokee Nation, which was its own sovereign state.

Chief Justice John Marshall spoke for the Court saying "their [the Cherokee] relation to the United States resembles that of a ward to his guardian." Marshall held that Article III of the U.S. Constitution did not recognize the Cherokee as a separate nation.

Worcester v. Georgia Supreme Court Case (2016) by Georgia Public BroadcastingGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Chief Justice John Marshall (1833) by Asher Brown Durand|Henry Inman|John MarshallThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

John Marshall (1801–1835) was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, a member of the Virginia General Assembly, and the Secretary of State under President John Adams.

He served for more than 30 years during the nation's early republic period and was the longest sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. It was Marshall who oversaw the Court's decisions in the Cherokee Nation and Worcester cases.

Marshall's legacy includes the principal of judicial review, the singular "opinion" of the Supreme Court as a written decision of a case, and the expansion of congressional authority.

U.S. Reports: Worcester v. the State of Georgia, 31 U.S. (1832) by John Marshall; Supreme Court of the United StatesGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Samuel Worcester was arrested in March of 1831 for not obtaining a permit from the state of Georgia to live on Cherokee land. While serving a four-year sentence in prison, his case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

In the landmark 1832 decision for Worcester v. Georgia, the court sided with the Cherokee Nation arguing that a previous case, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831), was incorrect in determining that the Cherokee were not a separate nation.

John Marshall's Opinion in Worcester v. Georgia (1832)Georgia Public Broadcasting

Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the court's famous opinion in Worcester v. Georgia. He argued that the treaties established between the United States and the Cherokee Nation proved that the Cherokees were "distinct, independent political communities retaining their original natural rights."

This opinion infamously irritated President Andrew Jackson who confided to a former commander that "the decision of the Supreme Court has fell still born, and they find that it cannot coerce Georgia to yield to its mandate."

Credits: Story

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

New Georgia Encyclopedia

Office of the Historian, Foreign Service Institute. United States Department of State

PBS. The Supreme Court. Thirteen/WNET New York

Credits: All media
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