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John Marshall's landmark 1823 decision in Johnson v. M'Intosh gave the European sovereigns who "discovered" North America rights to the land, converting Native Americans in one stroke into mere tenants. In 1991, while investigating the historical origins of this highly controversial decision, Lindsay Robertson made a startling find in the basement of a Pennsylvania furniture-maker--the complete corporate records of the Illinois and Wabash Land Companies, the plaintiffs in the case.
Drawing on these records, Conquest by Law provides, for the first time, a complete and troubling account of collusion, detailing how a spurious claim gave rise to a doctrine--intended to be of limited application--which led to the massive displacement of Native Americans and the creation of a law that governs indigenous people to this day.