Question on a supposed Supreme court ruling

Another one of those facebook thingies…
The item below refers to a Supreme court ruling in 1823…Would anyone happen to know if this is correct and what it was in connection with?
If true - it sounds like it might have been in connection with the “trail of tears”…

Thanks for any input…


There is a distinct lack of information in that, specifically, there is no case name, no judge names, nothing to identify it except for a year.

Honestly, I could see that being included in a judge’s opinion (that is written up after a case), but I highly doubt it was part of an official ruling.

Hi James!

I recall learning about this in my undergraduate studies. In 1823, there was a Supreme Court ruling that determined that a tribe’s “right to occupancy” was overridden by a U.S. Citizen’s “right to discovery”. The Right of Discovery is an old old old “doctrine” from 1095 (crusades!) that essentially allowed Christians to discover–or claim–land from Non-Christian territories. The 1823 Supreme Court ruling that sited the Right to Discovery was in response to a period of “voluntary” Native migration and the numbers of people moving was simply not high enough to satisfy the US Government. The ruling “allowed” (quotes intentional…) natives to remain on their land, but it prohibited them from holding the title to the land that had been “discovered”. No title, and they then become squatters when the land is owned by someone new.

Several of the Nations were attempting to work with the government at the time in order to retain some of their land, but bit by bit more was taken away from them.

There is of course much more to the story, but this is what I was able to recall from my studies. I did a quick search to pull up some references for you, but I will confess that I did not read them through terribly thoroughly!

A cursory search found this reference which indicates this is true.

Huh, I stand corrected. Alright then… The more you know >_>

Thanks Ophelia,
The timing struck me as interesting as this would have been roughly around the time of the “trail of tears”…


The case is Johnson v. M’Intosh (pronounced MacIntosh).

Jurisprudence surrounding the Indian tribes and sovereignty has a long and convoluted history, primarily shaped by the “Marshall trilogy” of which Johnson v M’Intosh was the first of the three case.

However, “because they weren’t Christians” is not the reasoning of the Supreme Court ruling.

This is just another example of how the supreme court is never wrong and that our checks and balances have been flawlessly calibrated from the start.

The case, however, had nothing to do with the Trail of Tears. The removal of the Indians in the SE were a result of US treaty law, and the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

Cherokee Nation v Georgia is the second of the three Marshall trilogy cases and rejected the Cherokee Nation’s position it had standing to bring suit.

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