Cherokee Phoenix

From the National Intelligencer of Jan. 4

Published February, 12, 1831

Page 4 Column 1a-3a

From the National Intelligencer of Jan. 4.

In the official paper of yesterday morning appeared the following paragraph:

'We congratulate the friends of state rights upon the case, and the manner in which GEORGIA has been cited to the bar of the Supreme Court. The time too is auspicious. The spirit of Liberty and Reform is abroad upon the earth, and the position in which the Supreme Court is placed by the proceedings of Georgia, demonstrates the absurdity of the doctrine which contends that Court is clothed with supreme and absolute control over the States.

U. S. Tel. Jan 1.

In such terms as these does the Official Government Paper exult, in the defiance which the Legislature of the State of Georgia has bid to the authority of the Constitution and the Laws of the United States. 'The spirit of Liberty and Reform is abroad upon the earth;' and to the reforms already effected under the administration, the Government paper rejoices that there is to be added that of the prostration of the Supreme Court of the United States, the only safeguard of the rights and liberties of either the States or the People. This, too, until authentically contradicted, must be taken to be the sentiment of the present administration.

It is time, fellow citizens, that we come to a pause, and solemnly reflect upon our situation. The Tariff has been declared to be unconstitutional by more than one State. Internal Improvement has been denounced in the same manner; and the United States Bank has been assailed in the same manner; and, worst of all, the authority of the Judiciary is set at nought-all under the banner of 'Liberty and Reform.' It is not necessary for us to add, that, sustain these doctrines, and our government is at an end. The sword and the bayonet will have usurped the office of appeals and writs of error, and the Supreme Court will be substituted by some tribunal of more summary proceeding.

We should not speak of the Resolutions of the Legislature of Georgia in this tome of alarm, if they were not seconded in spirit by the Official Paper. Those resolutions, passed under the influence of strong feeling, will operate probably, to produce no tangible effect and are not irreversible. Whether reversed under the influence of better views upon the subject or not, if they operate upon nothing, they will have only the effect of the declaration of an opinion. But the approval of the spirit of them by the Government paper, following as it does other recent demonstrations of hostility to the Supreme Court, from the same quarter, is calculated to fill the mind of every Constitutional Republican in the country with alarm and dismay.

What, in brief, is the case presented by the documents now in possession of the public? An Indian condemned to be hanged by the Georgia Court, under a law of the State, sued out a writ of error from the Supreme Court of the United States, to bring the cause into that Court, upon the ground that the law of the State of Georgia under which he was condemned, was void, as being against laws and treaties of the United States. The Judiciary of the United States has jurisdiction of such cases, by the express provision of the 25th section of the Judiciary act, passed at the first organization of this Government. It has repeatedly exercised such jurisdiction, and the States have yielded to its decision.

The execution of the Indian was to have taken place, we believe, on the 24th ultimo, and no doubt did take place, at the time set for it; so that the death of the plaintiff will have abated the suit and the citation of the Chief Justice, and the Resolutions of the Legislature of Georgia, as regards that particular case, will be equally inoperative. But the Resolutions go farther, and say, that the State of Georgia 'will never so far compromit her sovereignty as to become a party to the case sought to be made before the Supreme Court of the United States, by the writ in question.' 'The Case' here alluded to, is a case involving the validity of the same treaties of the United States, which, in the case which has actually occurred, the decision of the Georgia Court has determined not be valid as a defence for the criminal.

Whether the defence set up by this Indian was a valid defence, is not the question, and, one way or the other, can have no bearing upon it. The question is simply whether, in a case between a State and an individual, involving the validity of a law of the United States, or a treaty, the individual has the right of appeal to the Supreme Court, which the Constitution, as well as the laws of the United States, have expressly declared shall have jurisdiction in such cases.

The Resolutions of the Legislature, as well as the Message of the Governor, seem to make it a point, that the execution of the Criminal Law of the State is inferred with. But the Constitution makes no distinction between civil and criminal law-it speaks of all laws; and the case of Cohens vs. the State of Virginia, and that of McCulloh vs. Maryland, wherein the authority of the Supreme Court was maintained, had their origin in the penal laws of those States. It is in vain for the State of Georgia to declare that 'the right to punish crimes, 'cd is an original and necessary part of sovereignty, which the State of Georgia has never parted with.' for, since the establishment of the Constitution, there is no such thing as a sovereign state, independent of the Union. We quote the language of the greatest lawyer of our country, when we say 'the General Government, though limited as to its objects, is supreme as to those objects. This principle is a part of the Constitution: and if there be any who deny its necessity, none can deny its authority.' If there be anything which is peculiarly an object of the General Government, it is the execution of Treaties, and the guaranty of their sanctity. These Treaties are the 'supreme law of the land.' What language can be stronger than that which is used to this effect in the second clause of the 6th article of the Constitution! It is not necessary, however, to insist upon this point; for the State of Georgia has declared that she will not permit herself to be brought to plead before the Supreme Court in any case affecting her criminal. She will not suffer it to be enquired whether her laws do contravene Treaties made by the authority of the United States. This is the more unfortunate in the case before us, from the circumstance that there is no appellate jurisdiction within the State; the Circuit Courts of Georgia, as appears by the Governor's Message, having exclusive jurisdiction in all criminal cases.

Is it not obvious that, in this course, on the part of the State of Georgia the theory of Nullification is reduced to practice? Suppose that a State makes it penal to collect duties from its citizens under the Tariff, or any other laws of the United States. An officer of the United States, however, (the collector of the port of New York for example,) trusting to the virtue of his commission, goes on to collect; he is tried, condemned and sentenced to death by one of these State Courts, which have exclusive jurisdiction. Is he to suffer death for the discharge of his sworn duty? Most certainly he will, if the ground taken by the State of Georgia be maintained, and the militia refuse to march, when called out 'to execute the laws of the Union.'

Our fellow citizens will see, at once, that, with the authority of the Supreme Court, not only the laws, but the Constitution also, must be nullified. We know that there is a portion of the people of one State (a respectable portion of a respectable State) who think that this process of nullification is an undeniable and harmless right of the States. This we had regarded as the delusion of a day, which would soon pass away. But the late proceeding on the part of the State of Georgia shows, that in that State also, a lamentable infatuation blinds the majority to the awful consequences of the doctrine which they have not only proclaimed, but acted upon. We find, in addition the confidential organ of the Executive Government of the Union giving countenance to these revolutionary movements. Is there not reason for alarm? Will the body of the people of these States who are attached to the Union, repose in false security undermined by these insidious and fatal doctrines, which are making rapid progress under the seductive but delusive guise of a regard for State rights? Will our Sampson slumber until his locks are shorn? Or, will not the friends of the Union rouse themselves, and look the danger in the face? It requires nothing but a general rally, we are confident, to bring a moral force into the field which will utterly rout and discomfit these heresies of modern date, but most dangerous tendency.

We have neither time nor room for all comment which the occasion invites. We take space enough however, to refute the suggestion, (for it is not an assertion,) of the administration paper that there is a party in this country which contends that the Supreme Court 'is clothed with supreme and absolute control over the States.' There is no such party; and in the whole range of our knowledge such a doctrine has never been advanced from any quarter. We contend for such control only, over the judicial proceedings of the State Courts is as expressly vested in the Supreme Court by the Constitution.