Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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CLAYTON, Augustine Smith, jurist, born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, 27 November, 1783; died in Athens, Georgia, 21 June, 1839. Soon after his birth his parents removed to Georgia, and he was graduated at the University of Georgia in 1804. He was admitted to the bar, was elected to the state legislature, and in 1810 appointed to compile the statutes of Georgia from 1800. In 1819 he was elected judge of the superior court of the western circuit, an office which he retained until 1825, and again from 1828 till 1831. During his last term those difficulties began between the state of Georgia and the Cherokee Indians which ultimately resulted in the expatriation of the latter. In 1829 the legislature brought the territory occupied by the Cherokee nation within the jurisdiction of the laws of Georgia. This action of the state authorities was sustained by Judge Clayton, though eventually the United States Supreme Court decided against its legality, and ruled that the Cherokee nation was sovereign and not subject to the state laws that had been imposed upon it. Judge Clayton, however, was not in per-feet accord with the legislature on the question of Indian rights, as he held that they were entitled to dig gold on lands to which their stipulated title had not been extinguished, and for thus opposing the policy of the state he was removed from his judicial office. In 1831 he was elected to congress, where he took a leading part in debates on the tariff and the United States bank, both of which he opposed. He served two terms in congress, and after his retirement in 1835 held no public office excepting the trusteeship of the University of Georgia. He was a presidential elector in 1829. His attitude toward Christianity for many years was one of doubt, but at the time of his death he was a member of the Methodist Episcopal church. He was reputed to be the author of the political pamphlet called "Crockett's Life of Van Buren."
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