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SAMUEL A. WORCESTER, PLAINTIFF IN ERROR v. THE STATE OF GEORGIA.

January 1, 1832

SAMUEL A. WORCESTER, PLAINTIFF IN ERROR
v.
THE STATE OF GEORGIA.



[Syllabus from pages 515-521 intentionally omitted]

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, 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 enrol 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.

'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, 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 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's, 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 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, 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 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, 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 1931, 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 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, 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:'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.

'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 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, Cerk.'

The case of Elizur Butler, plaintiff in error v. The State of Georgia, was brought before the supreme court in the same manner.

The case was argued for the plaintiffs in error by Mr. Sergeant and Mr Wirt, with whom also was Mr Elisha W. Chester.

The following positions were laid down and supported by Mr Sergeant and Mr Wirt.

1. That the court had jurisdiction of the question brought before them by the writ of error; and the jurisdiction extended equally to criminal and to civil cases.

2. That the writ of error was duly issued, and duly returned, so as to bring the question regularly before the court, under the constitution and laws of the United States; and oblige the court to take cognizance of it.

3. That the statute of Georgia under which the plaintiffs in error were indicted and convicted, was unconstitutional and void. Because:1. By the constitution of the United States, the establishment and regulation of intercourse with the Indians belonged, exclusively, to the government of the United States.

2. The power thus given, exclusively, to the government of the United States had been exercised by treaties and by acts of congress, now in force, and applying directly to the case of the Cherokees; and that no state could interfere, without a manifest violation of such treaties and laws, which by the constitution were the supreme law of the land.

3. The statute of Georgia assumed the power to change these regulations and laws; to prohibit that which they permitted; and to make that criminal which they declared innocent or meritorious; and to subject to condemnation and punishment, free citizens of the United States who had committed no offence.

4. That the indictment, conviction, and sentence being founded upon a statute of Georgia, which was unconstitutional and void; were themselves also void and of no effect, and ought to be reversed.

These several positions were supported, enforced and illustrated by argument and authority.

The following authorities were referred to:

2 Laws U. S. 65, sect. 25; Judiciary Act of 1789; Miller v. Nicols, 4 Wheat. 311; Craig v. State of Missouri, 4 Peters, 400, 429; Fisher v. Cockerell, 5 Peters, 248; Ex parte Kearny, 7 Wheat. 38; Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheat. 264; Martin v. Hunter, 1 Wheat. 304, 315, 361; 1 Laws U. S. 488, 470, 472, 482, 484, 486, 453; Blunt's Historical Sketch, 106, 107; Treaties with the Cherokees, 28th Nov. 1785, 2d July 1791, 26th July 1794, 2d Oct. 1798; 3 Laws U. S. 27, 125, 284, 303, 344, 460; 12 Journ. Congress, 82; Blunt's Hist. Sketch, 113, 110, 111, 114; Federalist, No. 42; 1 Laws U. S. 454; Holland v. Pack, Peck's Rep. 151; Johnson v. M'Intosh, 8 Wheat. 543; Cherokee Nation v. State of Georgia, 5 Peters, 1, 16, 27, 31, 48; Ware v. Hylton, 3 Dall. 199; Hughes v. Edwards, 9 Wheat. 489; Fisher v. Hamden, 1 Paine, 55; Hamilton v. Eaton, North Carolina Cases, 79; M'Cullough v. State of Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316; 2 Laws U. S. 121; 3 Laws U. S. 460; 6 Laws U. S. 750; Gibbon v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1.

Mr Chief Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This cause, in every point of view in which it can be placed, is of the deepest interest.

The defendant is a state, a member of the union, which has exercised the powers of government over a people who deny its jurisdiction, and are under the protection of the United States.

The plaintiff is a citizen of the state of Vermont, condemned to hard labour for four years in the penitentiary of Georgia; under colour of an act which he alleges to be repugnant to the constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States.

The legislative power of a state, the controlling power of the constitution and laws of the United States, the rights, if they have any, the political existence of a once numerous and powerful people, the personal liberty of a citizen, are all involved in the subject now to be considered.

It behoves this court, in every case, more especially in this, to examine into its jurisdiction with scrutinizing eyes; before it proceeds to the exercise of a power which is controverted.

The first step in the performance of this duty is the inquiry whether the record is properly before the court.

It is certified by the clerk of the court, which pronounced the judgment of condemnation under which the plaintiff in error is imprisoned; and is also authenticated by the seal of the court. It is 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.

The judicial act (sec. 22, 25, 2 Laws U. S. 64, 65), so far as it prescribes the mode of proceeding, appears to have been literally pursued.

In February 1797, a rule (6 Wheat. Rules) 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.

In the case of Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, 1 Wheat. 304, 361, an exception was taken to the return of the refusal of the state court to enter a prior judgment of reversal by this court; because it was not made by the judge of the state court to which the writ was directed: but the exception was overruled, and the return was held sufficient. In Buel v. Van Ness, 8 Wheat. 312, also a writ of error to a state court, the record was authenticated in the same manner. No exception was taken to it. These were civil cases. But it has been truly said at the bar, that, in regard to this process, the law makes no distinction between a criminal and civil case. The same return is required in both. If the sanction of the court could be necessary for the establishment of this position, it has been silently given.

M'Culloch v. The State of Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, was a qui tam action, brought to recover a penalty, and the record was authenticated by the seal of the court and the signature of the clerk, without that of a judge. Brown et al. v. The State of Maryland, was an indictment for a fine and forfeiture. The record in this case, too, was authenticated by the seal of the court and the certificate of the clerk. The practice is both ways.

The record, then, according to the judiciary act, and the rule and the practice of the court, is regularly before us. The more important inquiry is, does it exhibit a case cognizable by this tribunal?

The indictment charges the plaintiff in error, and others, being white persons, with the offence of 'residing within the limits of the Cherokee nation without a license,' and 'without having taken the oath to support and defend the constitution and laws of the state of Georgia.'

The defendant in the state court appeared in proper person, and filed the following plea:

'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 committed 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 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 occcupied 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, 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 the ___ 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 prisoner, being arraigned, plead not guilty. The jury found a verdict against him, and the court sentenced him to hard labour, in the penitentiary, for the term of four years.

By overruling this plea, the court decided that the matter it contained was not a bar to the action. The plea, therefore, must be examined, for the purpose of determining whether it makes a case which brings the party within the provisions of the twenty-fifth section of the 'act to establish the judicial courts of the United States.'

The plea avers, that the residence, charged in the indictment, was under the authority of the president of the United States, and with the permission and approval of the Cherokee nation. That the treaties, subsisting between the United States, and the Cherokees, acknowledge their right as a sovereign nation 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. That the act under which the prosecution was instituted is repugnant to the said treaties, and is, therefore, unconstitutional and void. That the said act is, also, unconstitutional; because it interferes with, and attempts to regulate and control, the intercourse with the Cherokee nation, which belongs, exclusively, to congress; and, because, also, it is repugnant to the statute of the United States, entitled 'an act to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes, and to preserve peace on the frontiers.'

Let the averments of this plea be compared with the twenty-fifth section of the judicial act.

That section enumerates the cases in which the final judgment or decree of a state court may be revised in the supreme court of the United States. These are, 'where is drawn in question the validity of a treaty, or statute of, or an authority exercised under, the United States, and the decision is against their validity; or where is drawn in question the validity of a statute of, or an authority exercised under any state, on the ground of their being repugnant to the constitution, treaties or laws of the United States, and the decision is in favour of such their validity; or where is drawn in question the construction of any clause of the constitution, or of a treaty, or statute of, or commission held under the United States, and the decision is against the title, right, privilege or exemption, specially set up or claimed by either party under such clause of the said constitution, treaty, statute or commission.'

The indictment and plea in this case draw in question, we think, 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, specially 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, then, we think, 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. This duty, however unpleasant, cannot be avoided. Those who fill the judicial department have no discretion in selecting the subjects to be brought before them. We must examine the defence set up in this plea. We must inquire and decide whether the act of the legislature of Georgia, under which the plaintiff in error has been prosecuted and condemned, be consistent with, or repugnant to, the constitution, laws and treaties of the United States.

It has been said at the bar, that the acts of the legislature of Georgia seize on the whole Cherokee country, parcel it out among the neighbouring counties of the state, extend her code over the whole country, abolish its institutions and its laws, and annihilate its political existence.

If this be the general effect of the system, let us inquire into the effect of the particular statute and section on which the indictment is founded.

It 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 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.'

The eleventh section authorises 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 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 with according to law.'

The extra-territorial 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 on jurisdiction.

The first step, then, in the inquiry, which the constitution and laws impose on this court, is an examination of the right-fulness of this claim.

America, separated from Europe by a wide ocean, was inhabited by a distinct people, divided into separate nations, independent of each other and of the rest of the world, having institutions of their own, and governing themselves by their own laws. It is difficult to comprehend the proposition, that the inhabitants of either quarter of the globe could have rightful original claims of dominion over the inhabitants of the other, or over the lands they occupied; or that the discovery of either by the other should give the discoverer rights in the country discovered, which annulled the pre-existing rights of its ancient possessors.

After lying concealed for a series of ages, the enterprise of Europe, guided by nautical science, conducted some of her adventurous sons into this western world. They found it in possession of a people who had made small progress in agriculture or manufactures, and whose general employment was war, hunting, and fishing.

Did these adventurers, by sailing along the coast, and occasionally landing on it, acquire for the several governments to whom they belonged, or by whom they were commissioned, a rightful property in the soil, from the Atlantic to the Pacific; or rightful dominion over the numerous people who occupied it? Or has nature, or the great Creator of all things, conferred these rights over hunters and fishermen, on agriculturists and manufacturers?

But power, war, conquest, give rights, which, after possession, are conceded by the world; and which can never be controverted by those on whom they descend. We proceed, then, to the actual state of things, having glanced at their origin; because holding it in our recollection might shed some light on existing pretensions.

The great maritime powers of Europe discovered and visited different parts of this continent at nearly the same time. The object was too immense for any one of them to grasp the whole; and the claimants were too powerful to submit to the exclusive or unreasonable pretensions of any single potentate. To avoid bloody conflicts, which might terminate disastrously to all, it was necessary for the nations of Europe to establish some principle which all would acknowledge, and which should decide their respective rights as between themselves. This principle, suggested by the actual state of things, was, 'that discovery 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.' 8 Wheat. 573.

This principle, 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 of 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 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 pre-emptive 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 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. This 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 sea coast, 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.

The power of making war is conferred by these charters on the colonies, but defensive war alone seems to have been contemplated. In the first charter to the first and second colonies, they are empowered, 'for their several defences, to encounter, expulse, repel, and resist, all persons who shall, without license,' attempt to inhabit 'within the said precincts and limits of the said several colonies, or that shall enterprise or attempt at any time hereafter the least detriment or annoyance of the said several colonies or plantations.'

The charter to Connecticut concludes a general power to make defensive war with these terms: 'and upon just causes to invade and destroy the natives or other enemies of the said colony.'

The same power, in the same words, is conferred on the government of Rhode Island.

This power to repel invasion, and, upon just cause, to invade and destroy the natives, authorizes offensive as well as defensive war, but only 'on just cause.' The very terms imply the existence of a country to be invaded, and of an enemy who has given just cause of war.

The charter to William Penn contains the following recital: 'and because, in so remote a country, near so many barbarous nations, the incursions, as well of the savages themselves, as of other enemies, pirates, and robbers, may probably be feared, therefore we ...


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