Review of “Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and The Future of American Power” by Robert D. Kaplan

Robert Kaplan’s Monsoon borrows a format from his earlier popular and very influential book Balkan Ghosts: part history, part travelogue, part geography lesson, and part political analysis. Here he broadens his scope from a European peninsula to the Indian Ocean littoral. His overall theme is that the United States no longer has the power to be the world’s only hegemon, and so it must adapt to sharing power in this theater with China and India. Moreover, the Indian Ocean littoral is the locus of some of the most unstable regimes in the world, and thus is likely to be a place where radical changes in the political status quo will occur.

While the geography of the Indian Ocean determines the scope of the book, that area’s characteristic wind patterns (the monsoons) unify its history from early medieval times to the advent of steam power. Because the winds blow like clockwork from southwest to northeast part of the year and then reverse themselves in April and October, Arab traders were able to sail to India and farther east to Indonesia with the wind at their backs, and then return home, also with favorable winds. Likewise, from the east, Chinese traders were able to sail to India and East Africa, and then return home with favorable winds.

The spread of Islam is another principal theme of the book. Kaplan avers that in places where Islam spread by conquest (its usual modus operandi)—in Persia and Northwest India (modern Pakistan)—it retained its intolerant, close-minded character. Where it expanded through trade and voluntary conversion—Indonesia—it absorbed many of the local religious beliefs and practices, and became much more tolerant and open-minded. In India, where Islam’s spread by conquest was stopped by Hindu civilization, the history of the country is still suffused with the confrontation of Muslim and Hindu belief systems. [Britain played a significant role in exacerbating this tension during the time of the Raj so that it could maintain its colonial position as a broker of the peace.]

The Spread of Islam

The coming of the Portuguese with Vasco da Gama in the late 16th century disrupted trading patterns that had prevailed for over 500 years in the area. The Dutch and British followed soon thereafter, and Europeans dominated the area until World War II.

Kaplan’s narrative takes us on a chapter-by-chapter tour of Oman, Baluchistan and Sindh (Pakistan), Gujarat (western India), Delhi (central India), Kolkata (eastern India), Bangladesh, Burma, and Indonesia. He maintains, in brief, that Oman is prosperous, but not remotely democratic. India is a thriving democracy. Pakistan and Bangladesh are atrociously-ruled basket cases. Burma is a mixture of rival ethnicities ruled by an oppressive dictatorship. Indonesia practices a remarkably tolerant form of Islam, and is fairly democratic. Kaplan’s descriptions of these countries is much more detailed and nuanced than my thumb nail sketches, so you will have to read the book for a full appreciation of his careful and detailed analysis.

Hovering over the entire area is the rapidly growing power of China, which seeks to expand its navy to protect its vital interests in oil from Arabia. At present, China, India, and the United States all have significant naval presences in the Indian Ocean. The three have been able to cooperate in such matters as suppressing piracy. However, as U.S. power wanes and Chinese and Indian power wax, the situation must be handled deftly and carefully by all involved to avoid confrontation and possible military conflict.

China’s military spending as of 2016

Evaluation: Monsoon is a lucid analysis of the complexity of the issues presented in this potentially troublesome portion of the globe that accounts for a third of the world’s population. Kaplan contends that just as Europe defined the geopolitics of the 20th Century, the Indian Ocean will define the 21st. For those interested in global power relationships, this book is essential. A helpful glossary as well as a number of maps are included.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Random House, 2010

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November 18, 1963: John Coltrane Records “Alabama” in Reaction to the Horrific Church Bombings in the South

John Coltrane, born in North Carolina in 1926, was one of the most important musicians of the 20th century. His saxophone playing revolutionized jazz music and his influence can still be heard today not only in jazz but in the music of rock and hi-hop artists.

In the October 2003 issue of “Socialist Review,” a tribute to John Coltrane movingly recounts the background that inspired Coltrane to write “Alabama”:

Coltrane never described himself as a political activist–he was a musician first and foremost. He was also a deeply religious person. But it was his deep-seated humanity that drew him towards the civil rights movement. In 1964 Coltrane played eight benefit concerts in support of King. He also recorded a number of tracks inspired by the struggle–‘Reverend King’, ‘Backs against the Wall’ and his album Cosmic Music was dedicated to King. Events in Birmingham would also move him to write ‘Alabama’.

On the Sunday morning of 15 September 1963 a dozen sticks of dynamite were planted by white racists in the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. At 10.45 a.m. the bomb went off, killing four young black girls aged between 11 and 14.

Coltrane wrote the song ‘Alabama’ in response to the bombing. He patterned his saxophone playing on Martin Luther King’s funeral speech. Midway through the song, mirroring the point where King transforms his mourning into a statement of renewed determination for the struggle against racism, Elvin Jones’s drumming rises from a whisper to a pounding rage. He wanted this crescendo to signify the rising of the civil rights movement.”

John Coltrane, known and beloved by his fans as simply Trane, died in 1967 at age 40 from liver cancer.

Thanks to youtube, however, you can still hear him perform the song he recorded on this date in history. The video below shows the John Coltrane Quartet playing “Alabama.”

November 16, 1907 – Oklahoma Joins the Union as the 46th State

Most of the land that is now Oklahoma was acquired by the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. In the 1830s, the U.S. used the land to relocate Indian tribes, and the Indian Territory was formed from the land set aside by the Indian Intercourse Act.

Indian Territory or Indian Country (red) as set by the Nonintercourse Act of 1834, which also dovetailed with other measures to relocate Indian populations westward.

In the Choctaw language, okla means “people;” homma or humma means “red.” The English word Indian is “Okla Homma” in Choctaw. According to a history of Oklahoma, the name for this area was actually suggested in 1866 by a Choctaw, Reverend Allen Wright, in his proposal for a federal territory comprising all the Indian nations and tribes within its present borders. (Wright was Principal Chief of the Choctaw from 1866 to 1870. He became a Presbyterian minister after graduating from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, being the first Native American student from Indian Territory to earn this degree. After graduation he returned to the Choctaw Nation.)

Reverend Allen Wright

Reverend Allen Wright

The Indian people were never officially organized however, and the U.S. Government wouldn’t have recognized them as a state at any rate. But the name “Oklahoma” became popularly known, and was chosen for the name of the territory in 1890 and later the state.

Oklahoma is also known informally by its nickname, The Sooner State, in reference to the non-Native settlers who staked their claims on the choicest pieces of land before the official opening date and the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which opened the door for white settlement in America’s Indian Territory.

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On September 17, 1907 the people of the Indian and Oklahoma Territories voted favorably on statehood. The vote was certified and delivered to the President Theodore Roosevelt and on November 16, 1907, Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation 780 admitting Oklahoma as the forty-sixth state. In his annual message on December 3, 1907—just a few weeks later — President Roosevelt announced to Congress, “Oklahoma has become a state, standing on full equity with her elder sisters, and her future is assured by her great natural resources.” He also noted, “The duty of the National Government to guard the personal and property rights of the Indians within her borders remains of course unchanged.” [“Of course.”]

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Oklahoma’s residents are known as Oklahomans, or informally as “Okies”, and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City. Oklahoma initially prospered as an agricultural state, but the drought years of the 1930s made the state part of the so-called “Dust Bowl.” During the Depression, poor tenant farmers were forced to travel west seeking better opportunities. Later, oil production brought a major economic boom. One such Oklahoma company that benefitted was The Kerr-McGee Corporation. Founded in 1929, it was an American energy company involved in oil exploration, production of crude oil, natural gas, perchlorate and uranium mining and milling in various countries. (In 2006, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation acquired Kerr-McGee and all operations were moved from their base in Oklahoma.)

Kerr-McGee became notorious after publicity about an incident involving the death of Karen Silkwood in 1974. Silkwood was a chemical technician at Kerr-McGee and labor union activist who raised questions about corporate practices related to the health and safety of workers in Kerr-McGee’s nuclear facility. In the summer of 1974, she testified to the Atomic Energy Commission about her concerns. That November, she was found to have plutonium contamination on her person and in her home. In that same month, while driving to meet with a journalist from “The New York Times,” she died in a car crash under suspicious circumstances.

Meryl Streep as Karen Silkwood

Meryl Streep as Karen Silkwood

Her mysterious death received extensive coverage and was the subject of a successful lawsuit against Kerr-McGee brought by Silkwood’s family. (Kerr-McGee settled with the estate out of court for $1.38 million, while not admitting liability.) Probably more significantly, “Silkwood,” a 1983 movie starring both Meryl Streep and Cher that was nominated for a number of awards, brought national attention to the case. (Cher won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress).

Oklahoma is part of a geographical region characterized by conservative political views and Evangelical Christianity known as the “Bible Belt.” According to the Pew Research Center, 47% of Christians in Oklahoma identify as “Evangelical Protestant.” Tulsa, the state’s second largest city, is home to Oral Roberts University, which promises “a thorough education in the context of a vibrant Christ-centered community.”

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Oklahoma is also known as the new home of the Seattle SuperSonics basketball team, which relocated to Oklahoma City and began play as the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2008–2009 basketball season.

Oklahoma has another significant distinction. According to statistical compilations, people in Oklahoma google pizza with “stuffed crust” more than any other state.

The first Oklahoma State Flag adopted in 1911 was modeled after the red, white and blue of the Stars and Stripes, but only flew until 1925, when it fell into disfavor because it was associated with Communism.

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In 1924, a contest was announced to create a new design for the flag, and the winning design was officially adopted by the State Legislature on April 2, 1925. The 1925 flag prominently displays an Osage warrior’s shield made from buffalo hide and decorated with seven eagle feathers hanging from the lower edge. The shield is centered on a field of blue borrowed from the blue flag that Choctaw soldiers carried during the Civil War. The shield is decorated with six white crosses (stars) representing high ideals. Superimposed over the shield are symbols of peace and unity from the cultures of the Native American and European-American settlers in the territory; the calumet or ceremonial peace pipe and the olive branch.

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The flag was revised in 1941, when the state name was added.

In 1988, the design was again revisited to make sure different manufacturers followed the same standards. These can be found in Oklahoma Statutes, Title 25, §25-91.

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Review of “The Girls of Atomic City” by Denise Kiernan

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In 1943 the U.S. Government began a massive recruiting program to gather workers for top-secret facilities in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. There, uranium would be enriched to fuel the atom bomb being developed in New Mexico.

Project organizers determined that the ideal workers would be young high school girls, especially those from rural backgrounds, because “they did what they were told” and “they weren’t overly curious.” More educated or urban workers might be more prone to ask questions. And this project was top-secret; so much so that the workers were not allowed to know what they were doing or why they were doing it. Those who expressed curiosity were escorted out of the workplace and never returned. Only when the announcement was made that the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima did the inhabitants of Oak Ridge understand what their jobs had entailed.

A billboard posted in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on December 31, 1943

A billboard posted in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on December 31, 1943

Oak Ridge did not exist as a city before 1942. Nevertheless, there were people living in the area. But the U.S. Government adjudged the site to be desirable, and proceeded to take possession of the land. Appproximately 3,000 people were evicted from the more than 59,000 acres appropriated by the Government, most without much notice and with only partial compensation. Workers were moved in by the trainloads, housed in temporary buildings quickly erected in the mud.

Temporary Housing (Hutments) fill the formerly empty valleys of Oak Ridge in 1945

Temporary Housing (Hutments) fill the formerly empty valleys of Oak Ridge in 1945

Black workers who were employed for lesser positions, such as janitorial work, had to live in a separate area in “hutments.” (Lieutenant Colonel Crenshaw, head of facilities, maintained that blacks didn’t want nice houses; they felt more comfortable in huts.) Furthermore, unlike in the white areas, married couples were not permitted to live together; the men and women had to live in different areas separated by barbed wire. Blacks were also kept separate in other ways; even when it was determined that worker morale necessitated community facilities like dance halls, movie theaters, and a swimming pool, these were for whites only. (Occasionally “race films” were shown at the rec hall near the black area, for which blacks were charged 35 cents, although the white theaters, featuring first-run films, only charged a nickel.)

By May, 1945, employment at Oak Ridge peaked at 82,000, up from the original estimate that 13,000 would be needed. The average age of workers was 27, and so romance was as big of an activity as the work itself.

Calutron operators at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Calutron operators at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee

The author got interested in the story of Oak Ridge during wartime after coming across documentary photos from that era. She decided to pursue it, and ended up meeting a number of women whose stories she alternates in this book. She strove to represent women from different work experiences, races and cultures, and included the remembrances of a a secretary, a chemist, a leak inspector, a nurse, a janitor, and so on. The results are fascinating. You will learn about why these women participated and what it was like to work on something when you had no idea what your job was about! The book includes “then and now” pictures of three of the women, along with a number of other pictures documenting the Oak Ridge experience, and maps to help you visualize the scale of the project. Occasional short chapters are included to explain the scientific nature of what was going on, but these can be omitted if you don’t want to tackle that part.

The author doesn’t just end the story when the first atomic bomb is detonated. She records how the women felt about it, and then goes on to let us know what happened to the women after the war. Some of them stayed on at Oak Ridge, where work on electromagnetic separation of uranium continues today.

Shift change in 1966, a fitting companion photo to the one used on the cover, which shows a shift change during the wartime era.

Shift change in 1966, a fitting companion photo to the one used on the cover, which shows a shift change in 1945.

Evaluation: I love books about the “human aspects” of the Manhattan Project (the code name for the American effort started in 1942 to develop an atom bomb), and especially about the living conditions and ingenuity of all those people, whether in New Mexico or Tennessee or elsewhere, who had to create cities and services literally out of nothing. There are a lot of names and places to keep track of in this book – the author includes very helpful lists of people and things at the front of the book, to which I referred quite frequently. How would this translate to an audio book? I’m not sure. But the written version is full of interesting details, and will especially appeal to those, like me, who love reading about this era in our history.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster, 2013

November 12, 1940 – Churchill’s Tribute to Neville Chamberlain

On this day in history, Winston Churchill spoke to the British House of Commons on the occasion of the death of Neville Chamberlain.

Neville Chamberlain in 1921

Neville Chamberlain in 1921

Chamberlain, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940, is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the “Munich Agreement” in September, 1938. The Munich Agreement was a settlement conceding Nazi Germany’s annexation of portions of Czechoslovakia along the country’s borders (“The Sudetenland”). Chamberlain believed that this action and acceptance of it by Great Britain would mark the end of Hitler’s aggressive activity.

Chamberlain arrives in Munich, September 1938

Chamberlain arrives in Munich, September 1938

In 1940, no longer having the backing of his party, Chamberlain resigned, and Winston Churchill took his place.

Churchill defended Chamberlain in his eulogy, declaring:

It is not given to human beings, happily for them, for otherwise life would be intolerable, to foresee or to predict to any large extent the unfolding course of events. In one phase men seem to have been right, in another they seem to have been wrong. Then again, a few years later, when the perspective of time has lengthened, all stands in a different setting. There is a new proportion. There is another scale of values.”

He said further, paying tribute to Chamberlain’s devotion to ensuring peace if he could:

It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man. But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart-the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour. Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.

But it is also a help to our country and to our whole Empire, and to our decent faithful way of living that, however long the struggle may last, or however dark may be the clouds which overhang our path, no future generation of English-speaking folks-for that is the tribunal to which we appeal-will doubt that, even at a great cost to ourselves in technical preparation, we were guiltless of the bloodshed, terror and misery which have engulfed so many lands and peoples, and yet seek new victims still.”

You can read all of his remarks here.

Winston Churchill at his seat in the Cabinet Room at No 10 Downing Street, London

Winston Churchill at his seat in the Cabinet Room at No 10 Downing Street, London

Review of “Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956” by Anne Applebaum

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.”

Winston Churchill, March 5, 1946 at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri

Winston Churchill's delivering his Iron Curtain speech in 1946

Winston Churchill delivering the 1946 speech in which he coined the phrase iron curtain.

Life under Nazi overlords during World War II was horrific for the peoples of Eastern Europe, but it didn’t improve all that much once the Red Army arrived, ostensibly as “liberators.” Anne Applebaum’s Iron Curtain is an account (in great and graphic detail) of how the Soviets imposed their will on Eastern Europe, particularly in Poland, East Germany, and Hungary.

Applebaum is fluent in Polish and Hungarian, and so she has been able to utilize sources inaccessible to most western historians. The result is a much more comprehensive narrative of the imposition of Soviet style communism on what became the Eastern Bloc than has hitherto been available to the general reader in the West. And what a sad tale of woe it is!

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Stalin was not about to allow unfriendly states to exist on his western border. Accordingly, the Soviet government began planning how to control the small countries of Eastern Europe once it became apparent that the Red Army would sweep into Germany. Negotiations with the western allies (the U.S. and Britain) for a post-war settlement at the Teheran, Yalta, and Potsdam conferences proved to be just window dressing, as the Soviets did pretty much what they wanted in areas controlled by their armed forces, irrespective of the agreements arrived at the conferences.

Pockets of armed resistance to Soviet rule continued for several years after the war against Germany had ended in 1945. Ukrainians fought Poles for control of disputed territory before new national boundaries were finalized under Russian supervision. The Polish “Home Army,” an anti-communist group that had formed while the Nazis were still in power, resisted the Soviet-imposed government on into the early 1950s before they were finally suppressed.

Mass deportations were effected immediately after the German surrender as Stalin sought to change the boundaries of Europe by relocating Poland several hundred miles to the west. This was “ethnic cleansing” writ large. Millions of people were put on trains and transported out of their native countries. Germans living in what had been East Prussia were sent west to a shrunken Germany while their former homeland became part of Poland. Whole groups of Poles and Ukrainians were in essence “swapped” – Poles living in the Soviet Union were shipped west, and Ukrainians in Poland were sent east.

Stalin loves the little children....

Stalin loves the little children….

As the Red Army poured into Eastern Europe, it was accompanied by the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) and a cadre of Moscow-trained communist nationals of each conquered country. The tightening of the Soviet grip was gradual, except in Germany. The Soviets even allowed relatively fair elections to take place in Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1946 and 1947. The communists expected to win since they viewed themselves to be liberators of those countries. They were stunned to find out that they were very unpopular, garnering only small minorities of the votes. How then did the Soviets impose “totalitarianism” on the societies they conquered? Applebaum puts forth a number of explanations.

Most saliently, there were life-threatening repercussions to disobedience. The NKVD maintained control of the security apparatus and established Gestapo-like secret police institutions in all the occupied countries. They then employed intimidation, beatings, transportation to the Gulag, and executions of anti-communists to impose Stalin’s will on the general populace of all the eastern European countries except Yugoslavia, which, although communist, had not been “liberated” by the Red Army.

In addition, the Soviets immediately took control over the radio broadcasting capacity of each country. (They believed strongly in the power of propaganda and at that time, radio was the most powerful broadcast medium.) They took advantage of the natural tendency of people to defer to authority. Also, like the Nazis and early Soviet communists, the East European communists organized the youth into propaganda-driven organizations with putative goals of social or intellectual or physical achievement. And finally, after years of the war and depredations of World War II, East Europeans just wanted to return to normalcy, even if the new “normal” wasn’t very good.

East German propaganda poster

East German propaganda poster

Two other important considerations kept the otherwise not-very-workable system going. On the one hand, elites had many special privileges not available to the masses to keep them happy and in line. They therefore had a vested interest in maintaining the system. On the other hand, the hoi polloi had a number of well-established ways to get around the strictures and hardships of the Communist regimes. Even if you couldn’t find anything in the notoriously empty grocery stores, it wasn’t impossible to get what you wanted “na leva” (literally, “on the left” – i.e., outside of normal channels.) Furthermore, while you couldn’t get access to anything interesting to read in regular book shops, “samizdat,” or censored publications reproduced by hand and passed from reader to reader, still allowed those who could work the system to get information from the world on the other side of the curtain.

Most of Applebaum’s book, however, is not about why the takeover happened, but rather what it was like, and what the nature was of the system the Communists sought to impose in East Germany, Poland, and Hungary.

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After she describes the process of the takeovers, Applebaum details the careers of several “mini-Stalins,” who were put in charge of various governments by the Soviets. All of them were nationals of the countries they came to rule, but had been communists before the war, and received rigorous training in Stalinist statecraft in the Soviet Union. She also gives an account of ordinary life in the communist countries, bleak from consumer goods shortages, dreary propaganda-laden “entertainment,” and virtually complete lack of political choice.

Applebaum ends the history in 1956 with the Polish and Hungarian uprisings, although that was far from the end of the Iron Curtain. But there was in fact a sea change then. Stalin had died in 1953, and the Kremlin was trying to stabilize its satellites. Presumably, she will continue the saga with another volume.

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Evaluation: Applebaum’s prose is readable and her historical research is very thorough. To some extent, the book drags on because the story is so depressing. But for anyone who wonders how people could live so long under the adverse conditions of communist-ruled Eastern Europe, this book provides a very complete explanation.

The author is what we might label a “neo-con” on the political spectrum. She currently directs political studies at the Legatum Institute, and before that worked for the American Enterprise Institute. She is also married to a fierce anti-communist Polish politician. While I could see how her background may have colored her presentation, I could not quarrel with the facts she presented.

I listened to the audio version. The narrator, Cassandra Campbell, seemed quite competent, particularly in her fluent pronunciation of foreign words and names. Nevertheless, the unrelenting progression of depressing events caused the listening experience to be a downer. Moreover, some readers less familiar with the time and geography under consideration might miss the maps, photos, and footnotes that accompany the written book.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Random House Audio on 21 compact discs (unabridged), 2012

November 8, 1772 – Birthdate of William Wirt, Influential U.S. Attorney General

William Wirt was born on this day in history in Bladensburg, Maryland. He later moved to Virginia and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1792.

In 1807, President Thomas Jefferson asked him to be the prosecutor in Aaron Burr’s trial for treason. His principal speech was four hours in length, and garnered him a great deal of praise.

In 1816 he was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and in 1817 President James Monroe named him the ninth Attorney General of the United States, a position he held for 12 years, through the administration of John Quincy Adams, until 1829. He has the record for the longest tenure in history of any U.S. attorney general.

William Wirt, 9th United States Attorney General in office November 13, 1817 – March 4, 1829

William Wirt, 9th United States Attorney General in office
November 13, 1817 – March 4, 1829

In March 1831, Wirt appeared before the Supreme Court on behalf of the Cherokee Nation, in the case known as Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (30 U.S. 1). The state of Georgia had been doing everything it could to get the Cherokees to leave, short of causing them to die (that would come later in the decade). The Cherokees wanted to plead their cause with the Supreme Court, but needed to come up with a way to get there, since no one thought Georgians would allow a test case through the state courts. Wirt came up with the idea of claiming that the Cherokees were a foreign nation, which would qualify for the Court’s original jurisdiction.

In a brief Wirt filed with the Court, he argued that Georgia’s laws regarding the Cherokees were “repugnant to the constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States.” “This ancient people,” he contended – “a nation far more ancient than ourselves . . . present themselves to you as a separate, sovereign state. They complain that a state of this union has invaded their rights of person and of property, by a species of legislative warfare, in violation of the treaties, the constitution, and the laws of the United States.”

While Justice John Marshall openly expressed sympathy for the Cherokee’s plight, he ruled against them, refuting the idea that the Cherokees constituted a foreign nation. But Wirt went back to Marshall in 1832 to argue Worcester v. Georgia (31 U.S. 515), also a case questioning the constitutionality of the laws of Georgia, but with a much more acceptable underlying premise. This time Wirt won his case, but the Cherokees lost the war, when both Georgia and the United States refused to support the decision.

Wirt went on to run for President in 1832, a nominee of the Anti-Masonic party. In the subsequent election, Wirt carried Vermont with seven electoral votes, becoming the first candidate of an organized third party to carry a state.

Wirt practiced law until his death in 1834.