What was the importance of the court case Worcester v. Georgia?

1 Answer

It was a case where the state and local governments ignored the rulings of the Supreme Court.


The Cherokee Indian Tribe was a recognized by treaty autonomous political entity within the United States. As such the Cherokee Indian tribe had certain legal rights to land property and protection of the law.

The State of Georgia passed the Indian removal act. This law stated that the State of Georgia had the right to force the Cherokee Nation to leave their land in Georgia that had been acknowledged to belong to the Cherokee Nation by treaties with the Federal Government.

The Cherokee Nation sued ( Worchester vs Georgia) the state of Georgia claiming the Indian Removal Act was unconstitutional and violated the protection under the law that the Cherokee Nation had. The Supreme Court ruled (correctly) that the Indian Removal Act was indeed unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruling should have invalidated the State Law and prevented the Cherokee Nation from being forced from its lands and property.

Sadly President Andrew Jackson sided with the State of Georgia and used his executive power to send federal troops to enforce the law even after the Supreme Court had ruled the law unconstitutional. The State of Georgia was successful in removing the Cherokee Nation and taking over the gold field, forest, and rich farmlands that had belonged to the Cherokee Nation. The houses , schools, orchards, churches, and farms were confiscated and given to "greedy" white settlers. The Cherokee received semi desert land in Oklahoma in return.

The Cherokee were forced to march under armed guards in the middle of winter across Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas to their new "homes". Many died along the way, their livestock perished and the Cherokee nation was impoverished.

This case was important because it was an embarrassment to the ideals of American Democracy, that a ruling of the Supreme Court could be so completely ignored by the executive branch. The abuse of the Cherokee Nation by the state of Georgia with the support of the Federal government is one of the dark stains on the History of the United States.