September 15

Worcester v. Georgia

September 15, 1831 - North Georgia

The beginnings of the infamous Cherokee Trail of Tears could well be traced to a Lawrenceville courtroom. 

During the 1820s, Governor George Gilmer made Cherokee removal a top priority. But in 1827, the Cherokee Nation established a government and declared themselves sovereign. 

In response, furious Georgia leaders abolished Cherokee government, and annexed Cherokee land.  Meanwhile, two missionaries working with the Cherokees were providing legal and political advice to the tribe.  The missionaries, Samuel Worcester and Elizur Butler, were accused of violating a newly passed Georgia law that prohibited whites from living with the Cherokee. 

On this day in a Lawrenceville courtroom they were tried, convicted and sentenced to hard labor.  On appeal to the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Marshall struck down Georgia's laws and ruled the Cherokees a separate, sovereign nation.

The decision outraged President Andrew Jackson and only strengthened Georgia's resolve to seize Cherokee land and led directly to forced removal in 1838. The dark path to the Trail of Tears began on September 15, 1831, Today in Georgia history.