Conquest by Law

Conquest by Law : How the Discovery of America Dispossessed Indigenous Peoples of Their Lands

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In 1823, Chief Justice John Marshall handed down a Supreme Court decision of monumental importance in defining the rights of indigenous peoples throughout the English-speaking world. At the heart of the decision for Johnson v. M'Intosh was a "discovery doctrine" that gave rights of ownership to the European sovereigns who "discovered" the land and converted the indigenous owners into tenants. Though its meaning and intention has been fiercely disputed, more than 175 years later, this doctrine remains the law of the land. In 1991, while investigating the discovery doctrine's historical origins Lindsay Robertson made a startling find; in the basement of a Pennsylvania furniture-maker, he discovered a trunk with the complete corporate records of the Illinois and Wabash Land Companies, the plaintiffs in Johnson v. M'Intosh. Conquest by Law provides, for the first time, the complete and troubling account of the European "discovery" of the Americas. This is a gripping tale of political collusion, detailing how a spurious claim gave rise to a doctrine--intended to be of limited application--which itself gave rise to a massive displacement of persons and the creation of a law that governs indigenous people and their lands to this day.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text | 264 pages
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • New ed.
  • 1423733738
  • 9781423733737

Review quote

"Robertson's painstaking research jumps off the pages of this excellent book that preserves the truth of the "discovery doctrine."--The Oklahoman"A meticulously researched analysis of the political rivalries and personal greed surrounding a landmark Supreme Court decision that set the stage for the judicial conquest of Native America.... Robertson's study is based on rediscovered historical records that clearly reveal how greed for land and power instigated the Trail of Tears and similar tragedies."--Booklist"At last a comprehensive examination of the circumstances surrounding Johnson v. M'Intosh, a Supreme Court decision used and abused by generations of lawyers and judges. Robertson brings the case into the historical world from which it has been missing for 180 years."--Vine Deloria, Jr., Professor Emeritus of History, University of Colorado, Boulder"Conquest by Law is an important contribution to the study of the extension of European ideas and governance to other parts of the world, and the work sheds considerable light on indigenous land policies in the United States."--Law and Politics Book Review"Lindsay Robertson's Conquest by Law opens exciting new vistas on American politics and law in the republic's formative years. Robertson brilliantly reconstructs the history of Johnson v. M'Intosh, the foundational case in federal Indian law in which Chief Justice John Marshall set forth the "discovery" doctrine, showing how this failed feigned case led to tragic, unintended consequences for Indian peoples in the U.S. and beyond. Deeply researched and lucidly argued, Conquest by Law is a remarkable contribution both to the literature of American history and to our national self-understanding."--Peter Onuf, author of Jefferson's Empire"Lindsay Robertson's outstanding book pulls off the frail cover of the articulated court reasoning in Johnson v. M'Intosh to expose the often ugly reality that the case was orchestrated to satisfy t
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About Lindsay Gordon Robertson

Lindsay G. Robertson is Orpha & Maurice Merrill Professor of Law, History & Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. A frequent commentator on indigenous legal affairs, Robertson has served as Faculty Director of the Center for the Study of American Indian Law & Policy since 1998. He teaches courses on Federal Indian Law and Constitutional Law.
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