Samuel Worcester

What are we to gain by further prosecution of this case? Our personal liberty? There is much more prospect of gaining it by yielding than by perseverance. And if not, is it not worthy of account in comparison with the interests of our country? Freedom from the stigma of being pardoned criminals? That also is a consideration of personal feeling not to be balanced against the public good. The arresting of the hand of oppression? It is already decided that such a course cannot arrest it...firmness degenerates into obstinacy if ti continues when the prospect of doing good ceases; and the reputation of doing right is dearly purchased by doing wrong.

(1798 - 1859)

Baptist missionary to the Cherokee


         A young Baptist missionary and postmaster in the Cherokee town of New Echota,  Worcester and eight other missionaries were arrested by the state of Georgia for violating state laws that sought to disenfranchise Cherokee tribal sovereignty.  When the governor offered the nine missionaries clemency, seven accepted and were set free. Worcester and one other, Dr. Elizur Butler, refused, opting instead to take the path through the legal system.  Former Attorney General Wirt argued their case, and Chief Justice John Marshall wrote a decisive opinion in favor of Worcester. Click here for more on this remarkable American. This case, which reaffirmed the sanctity of native government sovereignty, forms the backbone of federal Indian law and is probably cited in more Indian Country decisions than any other single case.