It is often alleged that President Andrew Jackson responded to the Marshall Court’s 1832 opinion in Worcester v. Georgia by the quip that “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!”

However, from an earnest study of the circumstances involved it becomes clear that Jackson never uttered such words, nor did he have any reason to.

1) The opinion in question simply reversed a Georgia court’s decision concerning state-level Indian removal. It had no bearing on federal-level Indian removal policy, nor did it invalidate the Indian Removal Act of 1830. In a way, it actually empowered Jackson by securing a federal monopoly on jurisdiction over all Indian Affairs.

2) The quote is apocryphal, does not exist in any of Jackson’s known writings or recorded musings, and the president’s most famous biographers, including Robert Remini, have denied that he ever used such a phrase.

3) There was no judicial mandate that Jackson was to enforce. The Marshall Court stopped short of calling forth federal marshals to carry out the opinion, which had been the standard practice at the time.

4) Georgia quickly complied with the opinion, putting up no resistance and freeing Samuel Worcester in a matter of months – so enforcement was entirely inconsequential.

Dave Benner

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