Worcester v. Georgia - 31 U.S. 515 (1832)


U.S. Supreme Court

Worcester v. Georgia, 31 U.S. 6 Pet. 515 515 (1832)

Worcester v. Georgia

31 U.S. (6 Pet.) 515

Syllabus

A writ of error was issued to "The Judges of the Superior Court for the County of Gwinett in the State of Georgia" commanding them to send to the Supreme Court of the United States the record and proceedings in the said Superior Court of the County of Gwinett, between the State of Georgia, plaintiff, and Samuel A. Worcester, defendant, on an indictment in that Court. The record of the Court of Gwinnett was returned, certified by the clerk of the Court, and was also authenticated by the seal of the Court. It was returned with, and annexed to, a writ of error issued in regular form, the citation being signed by one of the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and served on the Governor and Attorney General of the State more than thirty days before the commencement of the term to which the writ of error was returnable.

By the Court: The Judicial Act, so far as it prescribes the mode of proceeding, appears to have been literally pursued. In February, 1979, a rule was made on this subject in the following words:

"It is ordered by the Court that the clerk of the Court to which any writ of error shall be directed may make return of the same by transmitting a true copy of the record, and of all proceedings in the same, under his hand and the seal of the Court."

This has been done. But the signature of the judge has not been added to that of the clerk. The law does not require it. The rule does not require it.

The plaintiff in error was indicted in the Supreme Court for the County of Gwinnett in the State of Georgia,

"For residing, on the 15th July, 1831, in that part of the Cherokee Nation attached by the laws of the State of Georgia to that County, without a license or permit from the Governor of the State, or from anyone authorized to grant it, and without having taken the oath to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the State of Georgia, and uprightly to demean himself as a citizen thereof, contrary to the laws of the said State."

To this indictment he pleaded that he was, on the 15th July, 1831, in the Cherokee Nation, out of the jurisdiction of the Court of Gwinnett County; that he was a citizen of Vermont, and entered the Cherokee Nation as a missionary under the authority of the President of the United States, and has not been required by him to leave it, and that, with the permission and approval of the Cherokee Nation, he was engaged in preaching the gospel; that the State of Georgia ought not to maintain the prosecution, as several treaties had been entered into by the United States with the Cherokee Nation by which that Nation was acknowledged to be a sovereign nation, and by which the territory occupied by them was guaranteed to them by the United States; and that the laws of Georgia under which the plaintiff in error was indicted are repugnant to the treaties, and unconstitutional and void, and also that they are repugnant to the treaties, and unconstitutional and void, and also that they are repugnant to the Act of Congress of March, 1802, entitled "An act to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian Tribes." The Superior Court of Gwinnet overruled the plea, and the plaintiff in error was tried and convicted, and sentenced "to hard labour in the penitentiary for four years." Held, that this was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States had jurisdiction by writ of error under

Page 31 U. S. 516

the twenty-fifth section of the "Act to establish the Judicial Courts of the United States," passed in 1789.

The indictment and plea in this case draw in question the validity of the treaties made by the United States with the Cherokee Indians; if not so, their construction is certainly drawn in question, and the decision has been, if not against their validity, "against the right, privilege, or exemption specifically set up and claimed under them." They also draw into question the validity of a statute of the State of Georgia

"On the ground of its being repugnant to the Constitution, treaties, and laws of the United States, and the decision is in favour of its validity."

It is too clear for controversy that the Act of Congress by which this Court is constituted has given it the power, and of course imposed on it the duty, of exercising jurisdiction in this case. The record, according to the Judiciary Act and the rule and practice of the Court, is regularly before the Court.

The act of the Legislature of Georgia passed 22d December, 1830, entitled "An act to prevent the exercised of assumed and arbitrary power by all persons under pretext of authority from the Cherokee Indians," &c., enacts that

"All white persons residing within the limits of the Cherokee Nation on the 1st day of March next, or at any time thereafter, without a license or permit from his Excellency the Governor, or from such agent as his Excellency the Governor shall authorize to grant such permit or license, and who shall not have taken the oath hereinafter required, shall be guilty of a high misdemeanor, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by confinement to the penitentiary at hard labour for a term not less than four years."

The eleventh section authorizes the Governor,

"Should he deem it necessary for the protection of the mines or the enforcement of the laws in force within the Cherokee Nation, to raise and organize a guard,"

&c. The thirteenth section enacts

"That the said guard, or any members of them, shall be, and they are hereby, authorized and empowered to arrest any person legally charged with or detected in a violation of the laws of this State, and to convey, as soon as practicable, the person so arrested before a justice of the peace, judge of the Superior, justice of Inferior Court of this State, to be dealt with according to law."

The extraterritorial power of every legislature being limited in its action to its own citizens or subjects, the very passage of this act is an assertion of jurisdiction over the Cherokee Nation, and of the rights and powers consequent thereto.

The principle

"that discovery of parts of the continent of America gave title to the government by whose subjects, or by whose authority it was made, against all other European governments, which title might be consummated by possession,"

acknowledged by all Europeans because it was the interest of all to acknowledge it, gave to the nation making the discovery, as its inevitable consequence, the sole right of acquiring the soil and making settlements on it. It was an exclusive principle which shut out the right of competition among those who had agreed to it, not one of which could annul the previous rights of those who had not agreed to it. It regulated the right given by discovery among the European discoverers, but could not affect the rights of those already in possession, either as aboriginal occupants or as occupants by virtue of a discovery made before the memory of man. It gave the exclusive right to purchase, but did not found that right on a denial of the right of the possessor to sell.

The relation between the Europeans and the natives was determined in each case by the particular government which asserted and could maintain this

Page 31 U. S. 517

preemptive privilege in the particular place. The United States succeeded to all the claims of Great Britain, both territorial and political, but no attempt, so far as it is known, has been made to enlarge them. So far as they existed merely in theory, or were in their nature only exclusive of the claims of other European nations, they still retain their original character, and remain dormant. So far as they have been practically exerted, they exist in fact, are understood by both parties, are asserted by the one, and admitted by the other.

Soon after Great Britain determined on planting colonies in America, the King granted charters to companies of his subjects who associated for the purpose of carrying the views of the Crown into effect, and of enriching themselves. The first of these charters was made before possession was taken of any part of the country. They purport generally to convey the soil, from the Atlantic to the South Sea. The soil was occupied by numerous and warlike nations, equally willing and able to defend their possessions. The extravagant and absurd idea that the feeble settlements made on the seacoast, or the companies under whom they were made, acquired legitimate power by them to govern the people, or occupy the lands from sea to sea, did not enter the mind of any man. They were well understood to convey the title which, according to the common law of European sovereigns respecting America, they might rightfully convey, and no more. This was the exclusive right of purchasing such lands as the natives were willing to sell. The Crown could not be understood to grant what the Crown did not affect to claim, nor was it so understood.

Certain it is that our history furnishes no example, from the first settlement of our country, of any attempt, on the part of the Crown, to interfere with the internal affairs of the Indians farther than to keep out the agents of foreign powers who, as traders or otherwise, might seduct them into foreign alliances. The King purchased their lands when they were willing to sell, at a price they were willing to take, but never coerced a surrender of them. He also purchased their alliance and dependence by subsidies, but never intruded into the interior of their affairs or interfered with their self-government so far as respected themselves only.

The third article of the treaty of Hopewell acknowledges the Cherokees to be under the protection of the United States of America, and of no other power.

This stipulation is found in Indian treaties generally. It was introduced into their treaties with Great Britain, and may probably be found in those with other European powers. Its origin may be traced to the nature of their connexion with those powers, and its true meaning is discerned in their relative situation.

The general law of European sovereigns respecting their claims in America limited the intercourse of Indians, in a great degree, to the particular potentate whose ultimate right of domain was acknowledged by the others. This was the general state of things in time of peace. It was sometimes changed in war. The consequence was that their supplies were derived chiefly from that nation, and their trade confined to it. Goods, indispensable to their comfort, in the shape of presents, were received from the same hand. What was of still more importance, the strong hand of government was interposed to restrain the disorderly and licentious from intrusion into their country, from encroachments on their lands, and from the acts of violence which were often attended by reciprocal murder. The Indians perceived in this protection only what was beneficial to themselves -- an engagement to punish aggressions on them. It involved practically no claim to their lands, no dominion over their persons.

Page 31 U. S. 518

It merely bound the Nation to the British Crown as a dependent ally, claiming the protection of a powerful friend and neighbour and receiving the advantages of that protection without involving a surrender of their national character.

This is the true meaning of the stipulation, and is undoubtedly the sense in which it was made. Neither the British Government nor the Cherokees ever understood it otherwise.

The same stipulation entered into into with the United States is undoubtedly to be construed in the same manner They receive the Cherokee Nation into their favour and protection. The Cherokees acknowledge themselves to be under the protection of the United States, and of no other power. Protection does not imply the destruction of the protected. The manner in which this stipulation was understood by the American Government is explained by the language and acts of our first President.

So with respect to the words "hunting grounds." Hunting was, at that time, the principal occupation of the Indians, and their land was more used for that purpose than for any other. It could not, however, be supposed that any intention existed of restricting the full use of the lands they reserved.

To the United States, it could be a matter of no concern whether their whole territory was devoted to hunting grounds or whether an occasional village and an occasional cornfield interrupted, and gave some variety, to the scene.

These terms had been used in their treaties with Great Britain, and had never been misunderstood. They had never been supposed to imply a right in the British Government to take their lands or to interfere with their internal government.

The sixth and seventh articles stipulate for the punishment of the citizens of either country who may commit offences on or against the citizens of the other. The only inference to be drawn from them is that the United States considered the Cherokees as a nation.

The ninth article is in these words:

"For the benefit and comfort of the Indians, and for the prevention of injuries or oppressions on the part of the citizens or Indians, the United States, in Congress assembled, shall have the sole and exclusive right of regulating the trade with the Indians and managing all their affairs as they think proper."

To construe the expression "managing all their affairs" into a surrender of self-government would be a perversion of their necessary meaning, and a departure from the construction which has been uniformly put on them. The great subject of the article is the Indian trade. The influence it gave made it desirable that Congress should possess it. The commissioners brought forward the claim with the profession that their motive was "the benefit and comfort of the Indians and the prevention of injuries or oppressions." This may be true as respects the regulation of their trade and as respects the regulation of all affairs connected with their trade, but cannot be true as respects the management of their affairs. The most important of these is the cession of their lands and security against intruders on them. Is it credible that they could have considered themselves as surrendering to the United States the right to dictate their future cessions and the terms on which they should be made, or to compel their submission to the violence of disorderly and licentious intruders? It is equally inconceivable t hat they could have supposed themselves, by a phrase thus slipped into an article on another and mere interesting subject, to have divested themselves of the right of self-government on subjects not connected with trade. Such a measure could not be

Page 31 U. S. 519

"for their benefit and comfort," or for "the prevention of injuries and oppression." Such a construction would be inconsistent with the spirit of this and of all subsequent treaties, especially of those articles which recognise the right of the Cherokees to declare hostilities and to make war. It would convert a treaty of peace covertly into an act annihilating the political existence of one of the parties. Had such a result been intended, it would have been openly avowed.

This treaty contains a few terms capable of being used in a sense which could not have been intended at the time, and which is inconsistent with the practical construction which has always been put on them; but its essential articles treat the Cherokees as a nation capable of maintaining the relations of peace and war, and ascertain the boundaries between them and the United States.

The Treaty of Holston, negotiated with the Cherokees in July, 1791, explicitly recognising the national character of the Cherokees and their right of self-government, thus guarantying their lands, assuming the duty of protection, and of course pledging the faith of the United States for that protection, has been frequently renewed, and is now in full force.

To the general pledge of protection have been added several specific pledges deemed valuable by the Indians. Some of these restrain the citizens of the United States from encroachments on the Cherokee country, and provide for the punishment of intruders.

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 Indian nations had always been considered as distinct, independent political communities retaining their original natural rights as undisputed possessors of the soil, from time immemorial, with the single exception of that imposed by irresistible power, which excluded them from intercourse with any other European potentate than the first discoverer of the coast of the particular region claimed, and this was a restriction which those European potentates imposed on themselves, as well as on the Indians. The very term "nation," so generally applied to them, means "a people distinct from others." The Constitution, by declaring treaties already made, as well as those to be made, to be the supreme law of the land, has adopted and sanctioned the previous treaties with the Indian nations, and consequently admits their rank among the powers who are capable of making treaties. The words "treaty" and "nation" are words of our own language, selected in our diplomatic and legislative proceedings by ourselves, having each a definite and well understood meaning. We have applied them to Indians as we have applied them to the other nations of the earth. They are applied to all in the same sense.

Georgia herself has furnished conclusive evidence that her former opinions on this subject concurred with those entertained by her sister states, and by the Government of the United States. Various acts of her legislature have been cited in the argument, including the contract of cession made in the year 1802, all tending to prove her acquiescence in the universal conviction that the Indian nations possessed a full right to the lands they occupied until that right should be extinguished by the United States with their consent; that their territory was separated from that of any State within whose chartered limits they might reside by a boundary line established by treaties; that, within their boundary, they possessed rights with which no state could interfere; and that the whole power of regulating the intercourse with them was vested in the United States.

Page 31 U. S. 520

In opposition to the original right, possessed by the undisputed occupants of every country, to this recognition of that right, which is evidenced by our history in every change through which we have passed, are placed the charters granted by the monarch of a distant and distinct region parceling out a territory in possession of others, whom he could not remove and did not attempt to remove, and the cession made of his claims by the treaty of peace. The actual state of things at the time, and all history since, explain these charters, and the King of Great Britain, at the treaty of peace, could cede only what belonged to his crown. These newly asserted titled can derive no aid from the articles so often repeated in Indian treaties, extending to them, first, the protection of Great Britain, and afterwards that of the United States. These articles are associated with others recognising their title to self-government. The very fact of repeated treaties with them recognises it, and the settled doctrine of the law of nations is that a weaker power does not surrender its independence -- its right to self-government -- by associating with a stronger and taking protection. A weak state, in order to provide for its safety, may place itself under the protection of one more powerful without stripping itself of the right of government and ceasing to be a state. Examples of this kind are not wanting in Europe. "Tributary and feudal states," says Vattel,

"do not thereby cease to be sovereign and independent states so long as self-government and sovereign and independent authority are left in the administration of the state."

At the present day, more than one state may be considered as holding its right to self-government under the guarantee and protection of one or more allies.

The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community, occupying its own territory, with boundaries accurately described, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and which the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter but with the assent of the Cherokees themselves, or in conformity with treaties and with the acts of Congress. The whole intercourse between the United States and this nation is, by our Constitution and laws, vested in the Government of the United States.

The act of the State of Georgia under which the plaintiff in error was prosecuted is consequently void, and the judgment a nullity.

The acts of the Legislature of Georgia interfere forcibly with the relations established between the United States and the Cherokee Nation, the regulation of which, according to the settled principles of our Constitution, is committed exclusively to the Government of the Union.

They are in direct hostility with treaties, repeated in a succession of years, which mark out the boundary that separates the Cherokee country from Georgia; guaranty to them all the land within their boundary; solemnly pledge the faith of the United States to restrain their citizens from trespassing on it; and recognise the preexisting power of the Nation to govern itself.

They are in equal hostility with the acts of Congress for regulating this intercourse and giving effect to the treaties.

The forcible seizure and abduction of the plaintiff in error, who was residing in the Nation with its permission and by authority of the President of the United States, is also a violation of the acts which authorize the Chief Magistrate to exercise his authority.

Will these powerful considerations avail the plaintiff in error. We think they will. He was seized and forcibly carried away while under guardianship of treaties guarantying the country in which he resided and taking it under the protection of the United States. He was seized while performing, under the

Page 31 U. S. 521

sanction of the Chief Magistrate of the Union, those duties which the humane policy adopted by Congress had recommended. He was apprehended, tried, and condemned under colour of a law which has been shown to be repugnant to the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States. Had a judgment liable to the same objections been rendered for property, none would question the jurisdiction of this Court. It cannot be less clear when the judgment affects personal liberty and inflicts disgraceful punishment -- if punishment could disgrace when inflicted on innocence. The plaintiff in error is not less interested in the operation of this unconstitutional law than if it affected his property. He is not less entitled to the protection of the Constitution, laws, and treaties of his country.,

This was a writ of error to the superior court for the county of Gwinnett, in the state of Georgia.

On the 22d December 1830, the legislature of the state of Georgia passed the following act:

"An act of prevent the exercise of assumed and arbitrary power, by all persons, under pretext of authority from the Cherokee Indians and their laws, and to prevent white persons from residing within that part of the chartered limits of Georgia occupied by the Cherokee Indians, and to provide a guard for the protection of the gold mines, and to enforce the laws of the state within the aforesaid territory."

"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Georgia in general assembly met, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, that, after the 1st day of February 1831, it shall not be lawful for any person or persons, under colour or pretence of authority from said Cherokee tribe, or as headmen, chiefs or warriors of said tribe, to cause or procure by any means the assembling of any council or other pretended legislative body of the said Indians or others living among them, for the purpose of legislating (or for any other purpose whatever). And persons offending against the provisions of this section shall guilty of a high misdemeanour, and subject to indictment therefor, and, on conviction, shall be punished by confinement at hard labour in the penitentiary for the space of four years."

"Sec. 2. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that, after the time aforesaid, it shall not be lawful for any person or persons, under pretext of authority from the Cherokee tribe, or as representatives, chiefs, headmen or warriors of said tribe, to meet or assemble as a council, assembly,

Page 31 U. S. 522

convention, or in any other capacity, for the purpose of making laws, orders or regulations for said tribe. And all persons offending against the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a high misdemeanour, and subject to an indictment, and, on conviction thereof, shall undergo an imprisonment in the penitentiary at hard labour for the space of four years."

"Sec. 3. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that, after the time aforesaid, it shall not be lawful for any person or persons, under colour or by authority of the Cherokee tribe, or any of its laws or regulations, to hold any court or tribunal whatever for the purpose of hearing and determining causes, either civil or criminal, or to give any judgment in such causes, or to issue, or cause to issue, any process against the person or property of any of said tribe. And all persons offending against the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a high misdemeanour, and subject to indictment, and, on conviction thereof, shall be imprisoned in the penitentiary at hard labour for the space of four years."

"Sec. 4. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that, after the time aforesaid, it shall not be lawful for any person or persons, as a ministerial officer, or in any other capacity, to execute any precept, command or process issued by any court or tribunal in the Cherokee tribe, on the persons or property of any of said tribe. And all persons offending against the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a trespass, and subject to indictment, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine and imprisonment in the jail or in the penitentiary, not longer than four years, at the discretion of the court."

"Sec. 5. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that, after the time aforesaid, it shall not be lawful for any person or persons to confiscate, or attempt to confiscate, or otherwise to cause a forfeiture of the property or estate of any Indian of said tribe in consequence of his enrolling himself and family for emigration, or offering to enroll for emigration, or any other act of said Indian in furtherance of his intention to emigrate. And persons offending against the provisions of this section shall be guilty of high misdemeanour, and, on conviction, shall undergo an imprisonment in the penitentiary at hard labour for the space of four years. "

Page 31 U. S. 523

"Sec. 6. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that none of the provisions of this act shall be so construed as to prevent said tribe, its headmen, chiefs or other representatives, from meeting any agent or commissioner on the part of this State or the United States for any purpose whatever."

"Sec. 7. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that all white persons residing within the limits of the Cherokee Nation, on the 1st day of March next, or at any time thereafter, without a license or permit from his Excellency the Governor, or from such agent as his Excellency the Governor shall authorise to grant such permit or license, and who shall not have taken the oath hereinafter required, shall be guilty of a high misdemeanour, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by confinement to the penitentiary at hard labour for a term not less than four years: provided, that the provisions of this section shall not be so construed as to extend to any authorised agent or agents of the Government of the United States or of this State, or to any person or persons who may rent any of those improvements which have been abandoned by Indians who have emigrated west of the Mississippi; provided, nothing contained in this section shall be so construed as to extend to white females, and all male children under twenty-one years of age."

"Sec. 8. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that all white persons, citizens of the State of Georgia, who have procured a license in writing from his Excellency the Governor, or from such agent as his Excellency the Governor shall authorise to grant such permit or license, to reside within the limits of the Cherokee Nation, and who have taken the following oath, viz., 'I, A.B., do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the State of Georgia, and uprightly demean myself as a citizen thereof, so help me God,' shall be, and the same are hereby declared exempt and free from the operation of the seventh section of this act."

"Sec. 9. And be it further enacted that his Excellency the Governor be, and he is hereby, authorized to grant licenses to reside within the limits of the Cherokee Nation, according to the provisions of the eighth section of this act."

"Sec. 10. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid

Page 31 U. S. 524

that no person shall collect or claim any toll from any person for passing any turnpike gate or toll bridge by authority of any act or law of the Cherokee tribe, or any chief or headman or men of the same."

"Sec. 11. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that his Excellency the Governor be, and he is hereby, empowered, should he deem it necessary, either for the protection of the mines or for the enforcement of the laws of force within the Cherokee Nation, to raise and organize a guard, to be employed on foot, or mounted, as occasion may require, which shall not consist of more than sixty persons, which guard shall be under the command of the commissioner or agent appointed by the Governor, to protect the mines, with power to dismiss from the service any member of said guard, on paying the wages due for services rendered, for disorderly conduct, and make appointments to fill the vacancies occasioned by such dismissal."

"Sec. 12. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that each person who may belong to said guard, shall receiver for his compensation at the rate of fifteen dollars per month when on foot, and at the rate of twenty dollars per month when mounted, for every month that such person is engaged in actual service; and, in the event, that the commissioner or agent, herein referred to, should die, resign, or fail to perform the duties herein required of him, his Excellency the Governor is hereby authorised and required to appoint, in his stead, some other fit and proper person to the command of said guard; and the commissioner or agent, having the command of the guard aforesaid, for the better discipline thereof, shall appoint three sergeants, who shall receive at the rate of twenty dollars per month while serving on foot, and twenty-five dollars per month, when mounted, as compensation whilst in actual service."

"Sec. 13. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that the said guard, or any member of them, shall be, and they are hereby, authorised and empowered to arrest any person legally charged with, or detected in, a violation of the laws of this State, and to convey, as soon as practicable, the person so arrested before a justice of the peace, judge of the superior or justice of inferior court of this State, to be dealt

Page 31 U. S. 525

with according to law; and the pay and support of said guard be provided out of the fund already appropriated for the protection of the gold mines."

The legislature of Georgia, on the 19th December 1829, passed the following act:

"An act to add the territory lying within the chartered limits of Georgia, and now in the occupancy of the Cherokee Indians, to the counties of Carroll, De Kalb, Gwinnett, Hall, and Habersham, and to extend the laws of this State over the same, and to annul all laws and ordinances made by the Cherokee Nation of Indians, and to provide for the compensation of officers serving legal process in said territory, and to regulate the testimony of Indians, and to repeal the ninth section of the act of 1828 upon this subject."

"Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the senate and house of representatives of the State of Georgia in general assembly met, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, that, from and after the passing of this Act, all that part of the unlocated territory within the limits of this State, and which lies between the Alabama line and the old path leading from the Buzzard Roost on the Chattahoochee, to Sally Hughes', on the Hightower River; thence to Thomas Pelet's on the old federal road; thence with said road to the Alabama line be, and the same is hereby added to, and shall become a part of, the County of Carroll."

"Sec. 2. And be it further enacted that all that part of said territory lying and being north of the last mentioned line and south of the road running from Charles Gait's ferry, on the Chattahoochee River, to Dick Roe's, to where it intersects with the path aforesaid, be, and the same is hereby added to, and shall become a part of, the County of De Kalb."

"Sec. 3. And be it further enacted,that all that part of the said territory lying north of the last mentioned line and south of a line commencing at the mouth of Baldridge's Creek; thence up said creek to its source; from thence to where the federal road crosses the Hightower; thence with said road to the Tennessee line, be, and the same is hereby added to, and shall become part of, the County of Gwinnett."

"Sec. 4. And be it further enacted that all that part of the said territory lying north of said last mentioned line and south

Page 31 U. S. 526

of a line to commence on the Chestatee River, at the mouth of Yoholo Creek; thence up said creek to the top of the Blue ridge; thence to the head waters of Notley River; thence down said river to the boundary line of Georgia, be, and the same is hereby added to, and shall become a part of, the County of Hall."

"Sec. 5. And be it further enacted that all that part of said territory lying north of said last mentioned line, within the limits of this State, be, and the same is hereby added to, and shall become a part of, the County of Habersham."

"Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, that all the laws, both civil and criminal, of this State, be, and the same are hereby, extended over said portions of territory, respectively; and all persons whatever, residing within the same, shall, after the 1st day of June next, be subject and liable to the operation of said laws in the same manner as other citizens of this State, or the citizens of said counties, respectively, and all writs and processes whatever, issued by the courts or officers of said courts, shall extend over, and operate on, the portions of territory hereby added to the same, respectively."

"Sec. 7. And be it further enacted that, after the 1st day of June next, all laws, ordinances, orders and regulations, of any kind whatever, made, passed or enacted, by the Cherokee Indians, either in general council or in any other way whatever, or by any authority whatever of said tribe, be, and the same are hereby declared to be, null and void, and of no effect, as if the same had never existed, and, in all cases of indictment or civil suits, it shall not be lawful for the defendant to justify under any of said laws, ordinances, orders or regulations; nor shall the courts of this State permit the same to be given in evidence on the trial of any suit whatever."

"Sec. 8. And be it further enacted that it shall not be lawful for any person or body of persons, by arbitrary power or by virtue of any pretended rule, ordinance, law or custom of said Cherokee Nation, to prevent by threats, menaces or other means, or endeavour to prevent, any Indian of said Nation residing within the chartered limits of this State, from enrolling as an emigrant, or actually emigrating or removing from said nation; nor shall it be lawful for any person or body of persons, by arbitrary power or by virtue of any pretended rule,

Page 31 U. S. 527

ordinance, law or custom of said nation, to punish, in any manner, or to molest either the person or property, or to abridge the rights or privileges of any Indian, for enrolling his or her name as an emigrant, or for emigrating or intending to emigrate, from said nation."

"Sec. 9. And be it further enacted that any person or body of persons offending against the provisions of the foregoing section shall be guilty of a high misdemeanour, subject to indictment, and on conviction shall be punished by confinement in the common jail of any county of this State, or by confinement at hard labour in the penitentiary, for a term not exceeding four years, at the discretion of the court."

"Sec. 10. And be it further enacted that it shall not be lawful for any person or body of persons, by arbitrary power, or under colour of any pretended rule, ordinance, law or custom of said nation, to prevent or offer to prevent, or deter any Indian headman, chief or warrior of said nation, residing within the chartered limits of this State, from selling or ceding to the United States, for the use of Georgia, the whole or any part of said territory, or to prevent or offer to prevent, any Indian, headman, chief or warrior of said nation, residing as aforesaid, from meeting in council or treaty any commissioner or commissioners on the part of the United States, for any purpose whatever."

"Sec. 11. And be it further enacted, that any person or body of persons offending against the provisions of the foregoing sections, shall be guilty of a high misdemeanour, subject to indictment, and on conviction shall be confined at hard labour in the penitentiary for not less than four nor longer than six years, at the discretion of the court."

"Sec. 12. And be it further enacted, that it shall not be lawful for any person or body of persons, by arbitrary force, or under colour of any pretended rules, ordinances, law or custom of said nation, to take the life of any Indian residing as aforesaid, for enlisting as an emigrant, attempting to emigrate, ceding, or attempting to cede, as aforesaid, the whole or any part of the said territory, or meeting or attempting to meet, in treaty or in council, as aforesaid, any commissioner or commissioners aforesaid; and any person or body of persons offending against the provisions of this section shall be guilty of

Page 31 U. S. 528

murder, subject to indictment, and, on conviction, shall suffer death by hanging."

"Sec. 13. And be it further enacted that, should any of the foregoing offences be committed under colour of any pretended rules, ordinances, custom or law of said nation, all persons acting therein, either as individuals or as pretended executive, ministerial or judicial officers, shall be deemed and considered as principals, and subject to the pains and penalties hereinbefore described."

"Sec. 14. And be it further enacted that for all demands which may come within the jurisdiction of a magistrate's court, suit may be brought for the same in the nearest district of the county to which the territory is hereby annexed, and all officers serving any legal process on any person living on any portion of the territory herein named shall be entitled to recover the sum of five cents for every mile he may ride to serve the same, after crossing the present limits of the said counties, in addition to the fees already allowed by law; and in case any of the said officers should be resisted in the execution of any legal process issued by any court or magistrate, justice of the inferior court, or judge of the superior court of any of said counties, he is hereby authorised to call out a sufficient number of the militia of said counties to aid and protect him in the execution of this duty."

"Sec. 15. And be it further enacted that no Indian or descendant of any Indian residing within the Creek or Cherokee Nations of Indians shall be deemed a competent witness in any court of this State to which a white person may be a party, except such white person resides within the said nation."

In September 1831, the grand jurors for the county of Gwinnett in the State of Georgia, presented to the superior court of the county the following indictment:

"Georgia, Gwinnett county: The grand jurors, sworn, chosen and selected for the county of Gwinnett, in the name and behalf of the citizens of Georgia, charge and accuse Elizur Butler, Samuel A. Worcester, James Trott, Samuel Mays, Surry Eaton, Austin Copeland, and Edward D. Losure, white persons of said county, with the offence of 'residing within the limits of the Cherokee Nation without a license:' For that the said Elizur Butler, Samuel A. Worcester,

Page 31 U. S. 529

James Trott, Samuel Mays, Surry Eaton, Austin Copeland and Edward D. Losure, white persons, as aforesaid, on the 15th day of July 1831, did reside in that part of the Cherokee Nation attached by the laws of said State to the said county, and in the county aforesaid, without a license or permit from his Excellency the Governor of said State, or from any agent authorised by his Excellency the Governor aforesaid to grant such permit or license, and without having taken the oath to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the State of Georgia, and uprightly to demean themselves as citizens thereof, contrary to the laws of said State, the good order, peace and dignity thereof."

To this indictment, the plaintiff in error pleaded specially, as follows:

"And the said Samuel A. Worcester, in his own proper person, comes and says that this Court ought not to take further cognizance of the action and prosecution aforesaid, because, he says, that on the 15th day of July in the year 1831, he was, and still is, a resident in the Cherokee Nation, and that the said supposed crime, or crimes, and each of them, were committed, if committee at all, at the town of New Echota, in the said Cherokee Nation, out of the jurisdiction of this Court, and not in the county Gwinnett, or elsewhere within the jurisdiction of this Court. And this defendant saith, that he is a citizen of the State of Vermont, one of the United States of America, and that he entered the aforesaid Cherokee Nation in the capacity of a duly authorised missionary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, under the authority of the President of the United States, and has not since been required by him to leave it; that he was, at the time of his arrest, engaged in preaching the gospel to the Cherokee Indians, and in translating the sacred Scriptures into their language, with the permission and approval of the said Cherokee Nation, and in accordance with the humane policy of the Government of the United States, for the civilization and improvement of the Indians, and that his residence there, for this purpose, is the residence charged in the aforesaid indictment, and this defendant further saith that this prosecution the State of Georgia ought not to have or maintain, because he saith that several treaties have, from time to time, been entered

Page 31 U. S. 530

into between the United States and the Cherokee Nation of Indians, to-wit, at Hopewell on the 28th day of November, 1785; at Holston on the 2d day of July, 1791; at Philadelphia on the 26th day of June, 1794; at Tellico on the 2d day of October, 1798; at Tellico on the 24th day of October, 1804; at Tellico on the 25th day of October, 1805; at Tellico on the 27th day of October, 1805; at Washington City on the 7th day of January, 1805; at Washington City on the 22d day of March, 1816; at the Chickasaw Council House on the 14th day of September, 1816; at the Cherokee Agency on the 8th day of July, 1817, and at Washington City on the 27th day of February, 1819, all which treaties have been duly ratified by the Senate of the United States of America, and by which treaties the United States of America acknowledge the said Cherokee Nation to be a sovereign nation, authorised to govern themselves, and all persons who have settled within their territory, free from any right of legislative interference by the several states composing the United States of America in reference to acts done within their own territory, and by which treaties the whole of the territory now occupied by the Cherokee Nation on the east of the Mississippi has been solemnly guarantied to them, all of which treaties are existing treaties at this day, and in full force. By these treaties, and particularly by the treaties of Hopewell and Holston, the aforesaid territory is acknowledged to lie without the jurisdiction of the several states composing the Union of the United States; and, it is thereby specially stipulated that the citizens of the United States shall not enter the aforesaid territory, even on a visit, without a passport from the Governor of a State, or from some one duly authorised thereto by the President of the United States, all of which will more fully and at large appear by reference to the aforesaid treaties. And this defendant saith that the several acts charged in the bill of indictment were done or omitted to be done, if at all, within the said territory so recognized as belonging to the said Nation, and so, as aforesaid, held by them, under the guarantee of the United States; that for those acts the defendant is not amenable to the laws of Georgia, nor to the jurisdiction of the courts of the said State; and that the laws of the State of Georgia, which profess to add the said territory to the several adjacent counties of the said State, and to extend the laws of Georgia over the said territory

Page 31 U. S. 531

and persons inhabiting the same, and, in particular, the act on which this indictment against this defendant is grounded, to-wit:"

"An act entitled an act to prevent the exercise of assumed and arbitrary power by all persons, under pretext of authority from the Cherokee Indians, and their laws, and to prevent white persons from residing within that part of the chartered limits of Georgia occupied by the Cherokee Indians, and to provide a guard for the protection of the gold mines, and to enforce the laws of the State within the aforesaid territory,"

"are repugnant to the aforesaid treaties, which, according to the Constitution of the United States, compose a part of the supreme law of the land, and that these laws of Georgia are therefore unconstitutional, void, and of no effect; that the said laws of Georgia are also unconstitutional and void because they impair the obligation of the various contracts formed by and between the aforesaid Cherokee Nation and the said United States of America, as above recited; also that the said laws of Georgia are unconstitutional and void because they interfere with, and attempt to regulate and control, the intercourse with the said Cherokee Nation, which, by the said Constitution, belongs exclusively to the Congress of the United States; and because the said laws are repugnant to the statute of the United States, passed on ___ day of March 1802, entitled 'an act to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes, and to preserve peace on the frontiers;' and that, therefore, this Court has no jurisdiction to cause this defendant to make further or other answer to the said bill of indictment, or further to try and punish this defendant for the said supposed offence or offences alleged in the bill of indictment, or any of them; and therefore this defendant prays judgment whether he shall be held bound to answer further to said indictment."

This plea was overruled by the court; and the jurisdiction of the Superior Court of the County of Gwinnett was sustained by the judgment of the court.

The defendant was then arraigned, and pleaded "not guilty," and the case came on for trial on the 15th of September 1831, when the jury found the defendants in the indictment guilty. On the same day the court pronounced sentence on the parties so convicted, as follows:

Page 31 U. S. 532

"The State v. B. F. Thompson and others. Indictment for residing in the Cherokee Nation without license. Verdict, Guilty."

"The State v. Elizur Butler, Samuel A. Worcester and others. Indictment for residing in the Cherokee Nation without license. Verdict, Guilty."

"The defendants in both of the above cases shall be kept in close custody by the sheriff of this county until they can be transported to the penitentiary of this State, and the keeper thereof is hereby directed to receive them, and each of them, into his custody, and keep them, and each of them, at hard labour in said penitentiary, for and during the term of four years."

A writ of error was issued on the application of the plaintiff in error, on the 27th of October 1831, which, with the following proceedings thereon, was returned to this court.

"United States of America, ss. -- The President of the United States to the honourable the judges of the Superior Court for the County of Gwinnett, in the State of Georgia, greeting:"

"Because in the record and proceedings, as also in the rendition of the judgment of a plea which is in the said superior court, for the county of Gwinnett, before you, or some of you, between the State of Georgia, plaintiff, and Samuel A. Worcester, defendant, on an indictment, being the highest court of law in said State in which a decision could be had in said suit, a manifest error hath happened, to the great damage of the said Samuel A. Worcester, as by his complaint appears. We being willing that error, if any hath been, should be duly corrected, and full and speedy justice done to the parties aforesaid in this behalf, do command you, if judgment be therein given that then under your seal distinctly and openly, you send the record and proceedings aforesaid, with all things concerning the same, to the Supreme Court of the United States, together with this writ, so that you have the same at Washington on the second Monday of January next, in the said Supreme Court, to be then and there held; that the record and proceedings aforesaid being inspected, the said Supreme Court may cause further to be done therein, to correct that error, what of right, and according to the laws and custom of the United States, should be done. "

Page 31 U. S. 533

"Witness, the honourable John Marshall, chief justice of the said Supreme Court, the first Monday of August in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-one."

"WM. THOS. CARROLL"

"Clerk of the Supreme Court of the United States"

"Allowed by HENRY BALDWIN."

"United States of America to the State of Georgia, greeting:"

"You are hereby cited and admonished to be, and appear at a Supreme Court of the United States, to be holden at Washington, on the second Monday of January next, pursuant to a writ of error filed in the clerk's office of the superior court for the county of Gwinnett, in the State of Georgia, wherein Samuel A. Worcester is plaintiff in error, and the State of Georgia is defendant in error, to show cause, if any there be, why judgment rendered against the said Samuel A. Worcester, as in the said writ of error mentioned, should not be corrected, and why speedy justice should not be done to the parties in that behalf."

"Witness, the honourable Henry Baldwin, one of the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, this 27th day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-one."

"HENRY BALDWIN."

"State of Georgia, county of Gwinnett, sct: -- On this 26th day of November, in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and thirty-one, William Potter personally appeared before the subscriber, John Mills, a justice of the peace in and for said county, and being duly sworn on the holy evangelists of Almighty God, deposeth and saith that, on the 24th day of November instant, he delivered a true copy of the within citation to his excellency, Wilson Lumpkin, Governor of the State of Georgia, and another true copy thereof he delivered, on the 22d day of November, instant, to Charles J. Jenkins, Esq. Attorney General of the State aforesaid, showing to the said Governor and Attorney General, respectively, at the times of delivery herein stated, the within citation. WM. POTTER."

"Sworn to and subscribed before me the day and year above written. JOHN MILLS, J.P."

This writ of error was returned to the Supreme Court with

Page 31 U. S. 534

copies of all the proceedings in the Supreme Court of the County of Gwinnett, as stated, and accompanied with certificates of the clerk of that court in the following terms:

"Georgia, Gwinnett county. I, John G. Park, clerk of the Superior Court of the County of Gwinnett and State aforesaid, do certify that the annexed and foregoing is a full and complete exemplification of the proceedings and judgments had in said court against Samuel A. Worcester, one of the defendants in the case therein mentioned as they remain of record in the said Superior Court."

"Given under my hand, and seal of the court, this 28th day of November, 1831."

"JOHN G. PARK, Clerk"

"I also certify that the original bond, of which a copy of annexed (the bond was in the usual form), and also a copy of the annexed writ of error, were duly deposited and filed in the clerk's office of said Court, on the 10th day of November in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and thirty-one."

"Given under my hand and seal aforesaid, the day and date above written."

"JOHN G. PARK, Clerk"

The case of Elizur Butler, Plaintiff in Error v. The State of Georgia, was brought before the Supreme Court in the same manner.

Page 31 U. S. 536



Official Supreme Court caselaw is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia caselaw is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.