chapter
The Cherokee Cases: A Study in Law, Politics, and Morality
Pages 33

An air of doom settled over the Supreme Court when the Justices gatheredfor the 1832 Term. The Court approached the case of Worcester v. Georgia1 as though caught in the clutches of fate and irresistible events. Georgia had imprisoned two white missionaries for living in Cherokee Territory without a license from the State, and the missionaries had appealed the case to the Supreme Court by challenging the authority of State law within the Cherokee territories. The Governor, legislators, and judges of Georgia had publicly dared the Supreme Court to interfere; and the President of the United States, who had encouraged-or at least winked at-this outrage, now seemed prepared to stand by and watch the State defy the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States. With a sense of duty and a premonition of defeat, the Justices issued the fateful decree that reversed the conviction of the missionaries and exposed the Court to the wrath of Georgia and of Jackson. Surely the Worcester case had all the elements of high tragedy.