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6 - The Marshall Court, the Indian Nations, and the Democratic Ascendancy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 January 2019

Gerald Leonard
Affiliation:
Boston University
Saul Cornell
Affiliation:
Fordham University, New York
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Summary

The great Marshall Court cases from 1815 to 1832 struggled to maintain a Constitution of centralized power and legalism. The Court defended federal power to make national economic policy (for example, McCulloch v. Maryland), defended common law contract and property rights against state bankruptcy laws, and defended a measure of constitutional independence for Indian nations against the aggressions of the white democracy (the Cherokee Cases). The story of Indian status under the Constitution especially reveals the weakness of the Court’s claim to be the final word on the meaning of the Constitution, as against the rising movement for a democratic, states’-rights reading of the Constitution. The climactic defeat of the Marshall Court occurred in 1832 when the Court tried to defend the residue of rights claimed by the Cherokee Nation against the aggressions of Georgia’s people and government. In the teeth of a holding of the Supreme Court, President Andrew Jackson and the State of Georgia made clear that the Constitution and the laws would mean what the (white, male) people, not the Court, said they meant, not only with respect to Indian removal but also across the policy spectrum.
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Chapter
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The Partisan Republic
Democracy, Exclusion, and the Fall of the Founders' Constitution, 1780s–1830s
, pp. 178 - 209
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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