Kathleen FitzgeraldAmerica—Take Home FinalProfessor St. John, Fall 2006
History 1639: The Expanding United States, 1803-1917 Take Home Final Exam
(1)“They occupy a territory to which we assert a title independent of their will,which must take effect in point of possession when their right of possessionceases. Meanwhile they are in a state of pupilage. Their relation to theUnited States resembles that of a ward to his guardian.”(Cherokee Nation vs. State of Georgia, 1831)
This quote originates in the 1831 response Supreme Court Chief Justice Marshall offeredto the Cherokee Nation after the Cherokees accused Georgia of unconstitutionallylegislating for Indian removal despite the fact that Cherokee Nation, as an independent,“foreign state,” was not liable to U.S. state laws. Penned the year following the IndianRemoval Act of 1830, Marshall’s quote reflects what even moderate Americans of thetime (in contrast to the far more radical responses offered by Johnson and Baldwin in thesame document) believed about the United States’s right to territorial expansion as wellas its paternalistic role toward subordinate cohorts like Native Americans and slaves.
Marshall’s paradoxical claims that (1) the U.S. Constitution demarcated Indians as beingseparate from the protected “foreign nation” category, thereby leaving states to deal withIndians however they desired and (2) that U.S. subgroups like the Indians (andsimultaneously, the slaves) needed to be told what to do by their “American parent” because they were like mildly ignorant pupils in life set the stage for both the Trail of Tears in 1838 and the claims by Southerners (less than three decades later) that it was theright of civilized and paternalistic states to control their relationships with (and rights to)slaves.
(2)“Self-interest makes the employer and free laborer enemies. The one prefersto pay low wages, the other needs high wages. War, constant war, is theresult, in which the operative perishes, but is not vanquished; he is hydra-headed, and when he dies two take his place. But numbers diminish hisstrength. The competition among laborers to get employment begets anintestine war, more destructive than the war from above. There is but oneremedy for this evil, so inherent in free society, and that is, to identify theinterests of the weak and the strong, the poor and the rich.”(George Fitzhugh’s “Slavery Justified,” 1854)
This quote comes from the latter part of George Fitzhugh’s intellectual treatise infavor of slavery titled, “Slavery Justified.” Written less than a decade before the CivilWar, the quote encapsulates Fitzhugh’s economic argument that an entirely free societyleads the innately less intelligent (presumably the slaves during the ante-bellum period)into a system that naturally destroys their well-being and livelihood by pitting each
This reflected a definite shift in ideas of U.S. empowerment when contrasted to the letter PresidentThomas Jefferson sent to Meriwether Lewis in 1803 in which he advised Lewis to treat Indian chiefs likeforeign dignitaries by inviting them to the U.S. capital.