Friday, December 26, 2008

Samuel Worcester and Andrew Jackson

Every time I use a US $20 bill, I have to shake my head in amazement that we still have Andrew Jackson on our currency. The more I hear about this man, the more I despise him. Every time I hear someone call our current president the worst ever I just think of the Trail of Tears and how Jackson was responsible for marching families at gun point from Florida to Oklahoma. Bush is pretty disgusting but lets have some perspective. We've had far worse.

I learned today of a Vermonter that had a run in with Jackson. Samuel Worcester was a missionary from Peacham. He moved south to preach the word of god to the Cherokee. Like many whites of his time, he made friends and became close to many of the "savages" that populated Tennessee, Georgia and northern Florida. Worcester defied a lot of the laws of the times that governed relationships with the natives. For example, Georgia has had a law in the 1830's that a white person couldn't live on Cherokee territory without taking an oath of obedience to the state of Georgia. When Worcester refused to take the oath he and several others were chained, beaten and force marched 35 miles to the county jail. He was convicted of four years hard labor. Worcester challenged his arrest and the case went to the Supreme Court (Worcester vs. Georgia). He won (Georgia refused to show up). Like Bush, Jackson didn't seem to care how the Supreme Court interpreted the US Constitution and followed his own demons. He refused to enforce the law. When presidents are popular they seem to be able to get away with the crimes that only royalty could gotten away with in the past. Worcester and one other were to remain in jail and continue their hard labor until the governorship of Georgia changed a while later. They were set free with some stipulations. Worcester moved to Oklahoma awaiting the influx of Cherokee immigration that was to follow.

It should be notes that the private citizens at the time in Tennessee, Georgia and northern Florida had little problems with the Cherokee. They lived peacefully with them; they shared in commerce, in civic pursuits and even in worship. It is the federal government under the mantra of progress that forced them off their land. Rich industrialists and the railroad had a huge influence on the federal government. The more I learn of history, the more I realize that little has changed.

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