Documents: Age of Jackson
The Indian Removal Act and the subsequent forced removal of several thousand Native Americans from their native lands to Oklahoma Territory eventually resulted in the death of many Native Americans in what is known as the “Trail of Tears.”
Supreme Court Cases
Speaking through Chief Justice John Marshall in Worcester v. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Worcester and the Cherokees. Marshall wrote that citizens of Georgia had no right to enter Cherokee land “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.” Therefore, Marshall concluded, “the acts of Georgia are repugnant to the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States.”
The Indians thus achieved a significant legal victory. However, this significant legal victory became an unfortunate chapter in American history. When President Andrew Jackson heard of the Supreme Court’s decision, he supposedly remarked, “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.” In one of the dark pages in American history, the Indians were compelled to leave their native land and move west to Oklahoma Territory. In what is referred to as “the Trail of Tears,” many did not survive the move.
In the late 1890s the Supreme Court overturned its decision in Barron v Baltimore and ruled that the Fifth Amendment’s “takings clause” does apply to the states. Decades later, a majority of the Supreme Court in a series of cases used the due process of law clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and a doctrine called “incorporation” to hold that most of the specific rights of the Bill of Rights are now also limitations on the states.