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The Cherokee Victory

The Cherokee Indians, the most cooperative and accommodating to the political institutions of the united states, suffered the worst fate of all Native Americans when voluntarily or forcibly moved west. In 1827 the Cherokees attempted to claim themselves as an independent nation within the state of Georgia. When the legislature of the state extended jurisdiction over this nation, the Cherokees sought legal actions, not subject to Georgia laws and petitioned the United States Supreme Court. The case became known as Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia in 1831.

Supreme Court Justice John Marshall denied their claim as a republic within Georgia, he then deemed the Cherokee as a domestic dependent nation. One year later through the case of Worcester vs. Georgia, the Cherokees were granted federal protection from the molestation by the state of Georgia. Through the Indian Removal act in 1830 President Andrew Jackson appropriated planning and funding for the removal of Native Americans, Marshalls rulings delayed this for the Cherokee Nation, and infuriated President Jackson. Marshalls decision had little effect on Jackson and ignoring this action the president was anxious to see him enforce it.

The federal government proceeded to find a way around this decision and had three minor Cherokee chiefs sign the Treaty of New Echota in 1835 giving the Cherokee lands to the government for 5. 6 million dollars and free passage west. Congress got the treaty ratified by only one vote. Members of their tribes murdered all three chiefs who took part in the signing of the treaty. After this event there was not much the Cherokees could do and were forcibly moved west on what they called and are known today as the Trail of Tears, which became a constitutional crisis in our history.

In this instance the lack of cooperation between the branches of the government was the downfall for the Cherokee nation. The way the Cherokees were forced west caused losses of up to twenty percent of the nation. This figure is only a guess and scholars think it was more a third of the nation was lost. The Trail of Tears was also a morale issue in the United States, later having an impact on our history the way other Native American races in general are treated in the future.

If Chief Justice John Marshall had claimed that in either case of Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia or Worcester vs. Georgia the Indian Removal act was unconstitutional, the history of the Cherokee nation would have forever changed. In my alternate history, John Marshall claimed that the Indian Removal act, passed by President Jackson, was unconstitutional. In the case of Worcester vs. Georgia, not only do the Cherokee have a distinct political community and granted federal protection from molestation by the state, further removal of the tribe through the Indian Removal act would be considered immoral and unconstitutional. This is clearly illustrates by the fourth and ninth amendments.

With this one decision alone, a chain of events would have taken place: First the United States federal government would not have forcibly removed the Cherokees. Events would therefore change, in favor of the Cherokee, which would inflame the Georgian legislature. This would mean that previous involuntarily moved tribes would be deemed compensation, such as sovereignty much earlier on in history if it were sought. The Cherokees would have been able to form their own tribal government granting them rights, for example to be a witness in a court case against caucasians.

They would be able to collect debts, properly owed to them. Properties, such as land and homes, would not be taken as in the case of Chief John Ross. His home was taken by the state of Georgia later on being placed a lottery. President Andrew Jackson would also have something to say with good regard to the decision. As history goes President Jackson would have fired John Marshall and appointed a new chief justice. Jackson would have liked to do this in pursuit of getting his way. If he had fired John Marshall, there would be no reason for the people of Georgia to rebel against the government of the United States.

In fact they would most likely agree with his decision as with most other settlers in the south trying to push west and acquire more land through Indian removal. Indian removal would be sought in other ways such as residents of Georgia illegally harassing the Cherokees and forcing them to move with the possibility of causing a war between the new Cherokee Nation and Georgian residents. President Jackson would have to consider his presidency and reelection if he does seek further attempts of removal after it already being deemed unconstitutional.

This would surely create a moral issue with the north. Then again being a clear defender of the states rights and a staunch unionist, he would have to take the ruling under consideration and how it would effect his career, possibly forcing the differing branches of the government to work together if he wanted to secure another term in office. Never the less the Cherokees would not have had to move west and their populace and unity would remain intact for the time unless a voluntary move would benefit them otherwise.