This study is the first to show how state courts enabled the
mass expulsion of Native Americans from their southern homelands in
the 1830s. Our understanding of that infamous period, argues Tim
Alan Garrison, is too often molded around the towering
personalities of the Indian removal debate, including President
Andrew Jackson, Cherokee leader John Ross, and United States
Supreme Court Justice John Marshall. This common view minimizes the
impact on Indian sovereignty of some little-known legal cases at
the state level.
Because the federal government upheld Native American
self-dominion, southerners bent on expropriating Indian land sought
a legal toehold through state supreme court decisions. As Garrison
discusses Georgia v. Tassels (1830), Caldwell v.
Alabama (1831), Tennessee v. Forman (1835), and other
cases, he shows how proremoval partisans exploited regional
sympathies. By casting removal as a states' rights, rather than a
moral, issue, they won the wide support of a land-hungry southern
populace. The disastrous consequences to Cherokees, Creeks,
Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles are still unfolding.
Important in its own right, jurisprudence on Indian matters in
the antebellum South also complements the legal corpus on slavery.
Readers will gain a broader perspective on the racial views of the
southern legal elite, and on the logical inconsistencies of
southern law and politics in the conceptual period of the
anti-Indian and proslavery ideologies.
Subjects: Law, History
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