A Little History on Andrew Jackson and the Supreme Court (for Mike Huckabee)

Mike Huckabee invoked Andrew Jackson in encouraging the President to not comply with federal court orders striking the Muslim travel ban, saying “Hoping @POTUS tells Hawaii judge what Andrew Jackson told overreaching court-“I’ll ignore it and let the court enforce their order.”, invoking the aftermath of Worcester v. Georgia, in which the Supreme Court held that Georgia could not prosecute a white man (Worcester) for setting foot in Cherokee Indian country without its permission.

Like the President, Mr. Huckabee should look into history to see not only how offensive that statement is to both Indian people and to the integrity of United States, but how President Jackson ultimately and completely capitulated to the Supreme Court.

Here is Justice Breyer’s retelling of the incident:

But then North Carolina . . . said, “We will not give the United States customs duties that we owe them because we prefer to keep them. Andrew Jackson woke up to the problem and he ended up saying to the governor of Georgia, You must release Worcester.” They had a negotiation and Worcester was let out of jail.

Stephen G. Breyer, Reflections of a Junior Justice, 54 Drake L. Rev. 7, 9 (2005). In short, once President Jackson realized that South Carolina heard his comment about the Supreme Court enforcing their own orders and were ready to stop paying federal tariffs, he contacted Georgia Governor Lumpkin privately and asked him to release Worcester. He also got Congress to pass a “Force Act,” authorizing him to use the military against South Carolina to enforce those federal tariffs. He effectively capitulated to the Supreme Court in order to save the Union, leaving that mess for future Presidents.

And, finally, here is Chief Justice Marshall’s private mockery of Andrew Jackson after the President had capitulated:

Imitating the Quaker who said the dog he wished to destroy was mad, they said Andrew Jackson had become a Federalist, even an ultra-Federalist. To have said he was ready to break down and trample on every other department of the government would not have injured him, but to say that he was a Federalist–a convert to the opinions of Washington, was a mortal blow under which he is yet staggering.

David Loth, Chief Justice: John Marshall and the Growth of the Republic 368 (1949) (quoting a letter from Chief Justice Marshall to Justice Story). The Chief Justice was near death when he wrote this letter, and months earlier had believed that President Jackson’s refusal to enforce the Court’s order in Worcester was going to be the end of the Court, and perhaps the Constitution, and perhaps the Union. This letter expressed his relief that the Worcester order would be enforced, and his mockery of President Jackson for seemingly turning on his states’ rights ideology.