Saturday, March 3, 2012

Was Andrew Jackson Right to ignore the Supreme Court?

How Andrew Jackson's Opponents Viewed Him

One of the greatest challenges the Supreme Court has ever faced was when Andrew Jackson refused to follow the will of the Court in regards to a case involving Native Americans in Georgia. The Supreme Court took up the case that challenged President Jackson forcing the Native Americans out of Georgia and ruled in their favor. After the Supreme Court ruled on the case Jackson still defied it, knowing that the Supreme Court did not have the military power to enforce their decisions. Jackson forced the Cherokee Indians out of Georgia and into Oklahoma, leading to the devastating Trail of Tears in which thousands of Native Americans died.

The Trail of Tears
Disregarding historical presentism, the act of viewing history through a modern lens, it is not hard to realize why Jackson forced the Native Americans out of Georgia. As America began to expand it was important to find a way to get rid of the Indian population in frontier territories. The Native American populace posed a threat to frontier settlers, even if imagined, and their presence got in the way of creating new settlements. As a veteran Indian fighter Jackson had experiences fighting Native Americans and was therefore more predisposed to decide against them.

A Map of the Trail of Tears
However I believe that Jackson’s decision to force Native Americans out of Georgia was wrong. I do not believe it is wrong because of the way the Native Americans were treated, but because of the potentially dangerous precedent Jackson could have started. By ignoring the Supreme Court, President Jackson brought to the forefront one of the main problems in the Supreme Court’s power structure, the fact that they did not have the military power necessary to enforce their decisions. Jackson’s actions were a case where the Executive boldly trumpeted its superiority over judicial branch, which influenced future Presidents in their relationship with the Supreme Court. It is lucky that the Supreme Court is able enforce its decisions today, even if they do not have the authority to use military enforcement for their rulings. 


  1. EXCELLENT point - which President Eisenhower definitely understood when the Court argued desegregation had to happen more quickly than it was.

  2. I agree....and I think that Jackson may have the singular distinction of being the only president to preside over what essentially amounted to geonicide.

  3. "I do not believe it is wrong because of the way the Native Americans were treated"

    Really people died, their land was stolen, and their rights ignored. It was wrong for how the Native Americans...much more so than ignoring the precedent of the Supreme Court

  4. "I do not believe it is wrong because of the way the Native Americans were treated"

    Really people died, their land was stolen, and their rights ignored. It was wrong for how the Native Americans...much more so than ignoring the precedent of the Supreme Court

  5. It was a different time. Jackson fought against the Indians and no doubt suffered losses. Nonetheless, the basis for our government is the rule of law and not whomever has the most military power.

  6. It's a crime to disobey the orders of a Court, and he could have been impeached. The threat of impeachment is what prevents this from continuing to occur.

    1. Not true at all. POTUS and SCOTUS are co-equal branches and it is not clear if one must be responsive to the proclamations of the other.

  7. The Court has no authority to order the executive around. All they are allowed to do is not enforce a law that is passed, and only then if they believe it is contrary to the Constitution.

  8. It actually is clear. The Courts areimpowered to interprut the constitution and the president vows to uphold the constitution.

  9. . . . . If or when "Betto" or other progressive Demoncrat tries to confiscate any single AR 15 or AK 47 this will be against the law and will result in an armed overthrow that will very quickly halt any policy of confiscation before the second AR 15 or AK 47 is confiscated.
    . . . . It also won't be long till the next abortion doctor is executed by a citizen in NY or CA. This will be in violation of the rule of law as well. The murderer will then die as a martyr. Some will call the doctor the martyr and the rest of the nation will call the citizen the martyr who traded his life for Fetal humanity.
    . . . . The indigenous people being removed from their land was not honorable but their culture had already been destroyed by biological (germ) warfare. There was not enough indigenous people left for their culture to survive but it was dishonorable to kill or relocate the indigenous people to start with. Preserving portions of the native culture was the only possibility already when Georgia and King Andrew I relocated and killed natives along the Trail of Tears.
    . . . It was not honorable for Cain kill Able and was not honorable for Hitler to kill Jews. It seems humans are consistently dishonorable and disagree on honor v dishonor.
    . . . . If only there was a rule book or short list of rules humanity would accept like a Bible or Ten Commandments.

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  11. The problem with your entire theory is that it is historically completely inaccurate. the writer very clearly knows almost noting about the case commented on.

    The Supreme Court case —Worcester v. Georgia— did not implicate Federal removal of Indians at all, but rather struck down a Georgia law. It did not invalidate the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and no one knowledgeable of the case would assert that it did.

    The quote attributed to Jackson is apocryphal and known to be so by virtually anyone conversant in the history of the case or the events surrounding Indian removal. In the first place, there is no record of him having said so. In the second -lace it would have been a absurd statement since there was no enforcement order made by the Court, nor anything at all the directed or restricted the Federal government. The decision related to a Georgia law that restricted who could be present in Indian lands, ad the court simply found that the state had no power to regulate Indian affairs, that being the sole purview of the Federal government.

    The decision in Worcester re-affirmed Federal sovereignty in those areas in which the Constitution specifically delegated authority to the Federal government. It was a restrain on state powers. Since Andrew Jackson was a Federal official, it was not something that impacted him.

    Phony history does not need to be repeated endlessly. Study is the antidote.