Two white men, Samuel Worcester and Elihu Butler, were sentenced to four years in prison in 1831 while within the Cherokee Nation of New Echota in Georgia, just across the Tennessee and Georgia state lines. The two white men were protesting the state of Georgia's seizure of Cherokee land located in Northeast Georgia, up until 1829. The Cherokee Nation in Georgia was considered a Sovereign Nation. However, in 1829, gold was discovered in Dahlonega, Georgia and much of the Cherokee people's land and homes were seized and Cherokee Sovereignty was abolished. Worcester and Butler, two educated white men who became friends with the Cherokee people, became a huge thorn in the side of Georgia's government with their protest concerning the state of Georgia's injustice to the Cherokee people.
Georgia lawmakers then passed a law that required any and all white men, who were living on the Cherokee land, to obtain a State of Georgia ID card. By passing this law, the lawmakers of Georgia thought the new law would stop Worcester and Butler from stirring the Cherokee People up with their protest. Worcester and Butler refused to apply for a card and the state of Georgia convicted the two men of a high misdemeanor.
Worcester and Butler, who were well respected missionaries, appealed the conviction and sentence of four years. The two men appealed to the United States Supreme Court. In 1831, Chief Justice John Marshall declared that Georgia did not have the constitutional right to pass any state law concerning the Cherokee. The state was not allowed to take the Cherokee land and was ordered to turn the missionaries loose. The state of Georgia refused the Supreme Court's ruling and the two missionaries spent sixteen months doing hard labor on a Georgia chain gang. They were released in time to take part in the "Trail of Tears".
The state of Georgia repealed it's Cherokee Law in 1979, however, it was in the early 1990's before the state admitted that the taking of the Cherokee land was wrong. Samuel Worcester and Elihu Butler were pardoned by the state of Georgia 160 plus years later.