Cherokee Phoenix

From the Utica Sentinel and Gazette

Published May, 7, 1831

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From the Utica Sentinel and Gazette.

The Cherokees and the Supreme Court.- The administration presses universally raise a note of exultation at the late decision of the Supreme Court on the case of the Cherokee Indians. Instead of taking the part of a weak and defenseless people against the tyranny of a 'sovereign state' we see them seizing upon every circumstance, which may tend to the slightest degree to hide the true question from the public eye; endeavoring, by every means, to palliate the conduct of Georgia, which aims at the total extinction of the Indian tribes.

Our neighbor of the Observer is peculiarly elated. Raising himself high in the buoyancy of 'republican' feeling, and pouring down a flood of denunciations upon those who have advocated the Indian rights, he breaks forth, in the generous exclamation, 'that their ridiculous ' unwarrantable claim is denied!' Then, to cap the climax of this patriotism, comes the grave conclusion-a conclusion which follows universally, whatever the promises may be--that this decision affords 'another evidence of the good sense and discriminating judgement of Gen. Jackson!'

In relation to the decision of the Supreme Court, it seems to be generally admitted by the friends of the Indians to be correct. Our opinion was expressed week before last in its favor. But the man must be destitute of common sense or common honesty, who would make this decision a ground for justifying Georgia in her laws, or for justifying the Executive in withholding that protection which had been solemnly pledged to the Cherokees by national treaties.

We never contended that the Supreme Court had jurisdiction in the case, as presented before it. We never contended that the Cherokees were a 'foreign state,' in the sense of the Constitution. The decision of the Court is not against any opinion that we ever expressed. But we have contended that no state has a right to violate national treaties, 'the Supreme law of the land,' and that when it attempts to do so, it becomes the duty of the Executive to put forth the strong arm of government to maintain the national faith.

The decision of the Supreme Court, was one of a purely legal nature, apart from all moral, philanthropic, or equitable consideration. The laws of Georgia, or the claims of the Cherokees, were no part of the investigation. It was merely a question of JURISDICTION, coming up under the third article of the constitution which declares that 'the judicial power shall extend-to controversies between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.' The Court, deciding that the Indian nations are not 'foreign states,' accordingly denied its jurisdiction in the case, and refused to grant the writ of injunction. That this decision is correct, appears from that article of the constitution, which gives to Congress the 'power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes:' thus making the Indian tribes distinct from foreign nations. But this same article, it will be seen, takes it out of the power of Georgia, to 'regulate commerce' with the Cherokees.

Neither does the decision effect the power of Treaties made with the Indians. It will remain a truth while the constitution remains, that 'the President shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties'- not with foreign nation merely, but such as had been made since the existence of the government, with foreign nations and Indian tribes- and that 'TREATIES' once made, become 'THE SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND'- the President's opinion to the contrary notwithstanding.

In the opinion of the National Intelligencer, this decision will be rather, beneficial than otherwise to the Indians. In the opinion of the Utica Observer, on the contrary, it has settled their fate forever, the conduct of Georgia so tyrannical and oppressive, is smoothed over in that paper with an artful sophistry and the Cherokees, once powerful, but now dependent, once sovereigns, but now 'in a state of pupilage,' are blasted with the reproach of 'savages' and turned over to the 'tender mercies' of tiger like and ferocious men.

The great question of the constitutionality of the laws of Georgia over the Cherokees remains undecided. This question has not yet come before the Supreme Court and this is the point in controversy. A private suit may be brought before the Supreme Court for individual damages, and this suit would involve the question of the constitutionality of these laws. In such a suit, there could be no question of jurisdiction in the case, nor could there be any appeal from the decision, except by a repeal of the Union. We feel exceedingly desirous to have the question decided by the competent authority, whether the treaties which have been so often and so long negotiated between the United States and the Indian tribes, are obligatory upon our government, or have been only made for the purpose of deluding the Indians, and enabling us in a cheap and comfortable manner to defraud them of their territory.