Saturday, October 30, 2010

Really Depressing Documentary

It's about the Trail of Tears.  I assigned it to my students, and it is worth watching.  To PBS's credit, they did a very good job of presenting the complexity of why this happened, and why one unrepresentative group of Cherokees signed the treaty that ceded the Cherokee lands.  Was it a bad decision on their part?  Would trying to fight have been a better decision?  Almost certainly not--and President Jackson's famous words, "The Supreme Court has made their decision.  Let them enforce it" are a reminder that the whole system of a rule of law only works as long as those responsible for enforcing the laws obey them.

1 comment:

gus3 said...

Actually, the "let them enforce it" edict is a good reminder about the tri-cameral nature of criminal law: a criminal conviction requires the consent of all three branches, legislative, executive, and judicial.

The legislative branch must pass a law specifying a criminal act (e.g. the speed limit).

The executive branch must consent to enforce that law (the highway patrol, the sheriff, or the city police write a speeding ticket).

And then the judicial branch must confirm that the accused broke the law for no good reason (the cop wrote a ticket, and the judge confirmed that the defendant's mother-in-law in the car, wasn't on the way to the hospital for chest pains, no matter what the defendant claimed).

When it works, it works well, indeed.