The Legal Ideology of Removal
The Southern Judiciary and the Sovereignty of Native American Nations

Tim Alan Garrison

New insights into the formative period of Indian policy in the United States


"In recalling our attention to these overlooked decisions and the ideology they emerged from, Garrison has given us an indispensable work of American history."
Alabama Review

"Tim Garrison has produced a clear and powerful assessment of southern Indians' legal strategy and the self-interested response of courts in the southern states prior to Removal."
—Malinda M. Maynor, North Carolina Historical Review

"Tim Alan Garrison has carefully researched the relatively unexploited and fertile ground of the legal ideology of the southern antebellum state judiciary and its impact on Indian nations and American law. . . . This is a well-crafted study of a fascinating topic that has generally escaped historical scrutiny."
Florida Historical Quarterly

"Garrison has already earned his place in Native American history with this fascinating and scholarly volume."
—William L. Anderson, Journal of East Tennessee History

"Tim Alan Garrison's book will turn heads and immediately impact the way historians, Native scholars, and lawyers look at important legal concepts and precedents. I cannot remember a better conceived and better written monograph."
—John R. Wunder, author of "Retained by the People": A History of American Indians and the Bill of Rights

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This study is the first to show how state courts enabled the mass expulsion of Native Americans from their southern homelands in the 1830s. Our understanding of that infamous period, argues Tim Alan Garrison, is too often molded around the towering personalities of the Indian removal debate, including President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee leader John Ross, and United States Supreme Court Justice John Marshall. This common view minimizes the impact on Indian sovereignty of some little-known legal cases at the state level.

Because the federal government upheld Native American self-dominion, southerners bent on expropriating Indian land sought a legal toehold through state supreme court decisions. As Garrison discusses Georgia v. Tassels (1830), Caldwell v. Alabama (1831), Tennessee v. Forman (1835), and other cases, he shows how proremoval partisans exploited regional sympathies. By casting removal as a states' rights, rather than a moral, issue, they won the wide support of a land-hungry southern populace. The disastrous consequences to Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles are still unfolding.

Important in its own right, jurisprudence on Indian matters in the antebellum South also complements the legal corpus on slavery. Readers will gain a broader perspective on the racial views of the southern legal elite, and on the logical inconsistencies of southern law and politics in the conceptual period of the anti-Indian and proslavery ideologies.

Southern Legal Studies

Page count: 336 pp.
Trim size: 6.125 x 9.25


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Tim Alan Garrison is a professor of history at Portland State University.