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United States Statutes at Large/Volume 3/14th Congress/2nd Session/Chapter 92

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March 3, 1817.
Chap. XCII.—An Act to provide for the punishment of crimes and offences comitted within the Indian boundaries.[1]

Indians or other persons committing offences in Indian towns, &c. which, if committed within the sole jurisdiction of the United States, would be punished with death, or other punishment, to suffer in like manner.Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That if any Indian, or other person or persons, shall within the United States, and within any town, district, or territory, belonging to any nation or nations, tribe or tribes, of Indians, commit any crime, offence, or misdemeanor, which, if committed in any place or district of country under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States , would, by the laws of the United States, be punished with death, or any other punishment, every such offender, on being thereof convicted, shall suffer the like punishment as is provided by the laws of the United States for the like offences, if committed within any place or district of country under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States.

Superior territorial, and circuit, and other courts authorized to try offences against this act.Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the superior courts in each of the territorial districts, and the circuit courts and other courts of the United States, in which any offender against this act shall be first apprehended or brought for trial, shall have, and are hereby invested with, full power and authority to hear, try, and punish, all crimes, offences, and misdemeanors, against this act; such courts proceeding therein in the same manner as if such crimes, offences, and misdemeanors, had been committed within the bounds of their respective districts: Provided, That nothing in this act shall be so construed as to affect any treaty now in force between the United States and any Indian nation, or to extend to any offence committed by one Indian against another, within any Indian boundary.The President, and the governors of territories, invested with the same powers for the punishment of offences against this act as by the sections of the act referred to.

Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That the President of the United States, and the governor of each of the territorial districts, where any offender against this act shall be apprehended or brought for trial, shall have, and exercise, the same powers, for the punishment of offences against this act, as they can severally have and exercise by virtue of the fourteenth and fifteenth sections of an act, entitled “An act to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes, and to preserve peace on the frontiers,” passed thirtieth March, one thousand eight hundred and two, for the punishment of offences therein described.March 30, 1802, ch. 13, sec. 14, 15.

Approved, March 3, 1817.


  1. Congress have power to regulate commerce among the Indian tribes, which affords a wide scope of legislation. Under a similar power as regards foreign relations, congress have passed non intercourse acts, acts laying embargoes, and other acts which are admitted to be constitutional. United States v. Baily, 1 McLean’s C. C. R. 234.

    Congress have a right to select the means which have a direct relation to the object, in the regulation of commerce with the Indians. Such are the provisions of the act of 1802. Ibid.

    But Congress cannot under this investure of power exercise a general jurisdiction of an Indian territory within a state. In a territory of the United States, in which Congress possesses legislative power, there can be no objection to the exercise of the power. Ibid.

    Congress cannot punish for an offence, within the Indian territory, in a state, which has no relation to the Indians, and which cannot affect their commerce. Ibid.

    The act of March 3, 1817, ch. 92, which assumes to exercise a general jurisdiction over Indian countries, within a state, is unconstitutional and of no effect. Ibid.

    The crime of murder, charged against a white man for killing another white man in the Cherokee country, within the State of Tennessee, cannot be punished in the courts of the United States. Ibid.