The Marshall Court

The Marshall
Chapter 8
John Marshall and Judicial Nationalism
• Marshall was the most important chief justice in
U.S. history (1801-1835)
• Significantly strengthened the Supreme Court
• His decisions greatly increased power of the
federal gov’t over states
– Strengthened the union and helped create a
stable, nationally uniform environment for
– Checked power of the popularly elected state
John Marshall and Judicial Nationalism
• Examined cases from a Federalist philosophy
and created legal precedents to support his
Hamiltonian views
– Jeffersonian attempts to balance the Court with
Republicans failed
– Republicans came to accept the Federalist ideal
of strong central government
• Held a liberal view of elastic clause
– The Congress shall have Power - To make all Laws
which shall be necessary and proper for carrying
into Execution the foregoing Powers.
Yazoo Land Frauds
• 35 million acres; $.015 per acre
• Georgia legislature bribed for
the sale, and then voted out of
• New Legislature declared sale
(contract) invalid
• Peck received land during first
sale in 1795 and sold to Fletcher
before contract abrogated.
• Fletcher wanted his $ back
Fletcher v. Peck (1810)
• Significance: Court ruled the
Constitution forbids state from
"impairing contracts"
– One of earliest examples of Court
asserting its right to invalidate
state laws
– Court stated the legislative grant
was a contract (albeit fraudulently
Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819)
• Issue: New Hampshire had changed a
charter granted to the college by King
George III in 1769. Republicans sought
to remove "private" aspect of school &
make a state institution
– Dartmouth appealed; defended by Daniel
Webster, an alumnus
• Ruling: Charter was a contract; states
could not invalidate it according to
• Significance:
– Safeguarded business from domination
by the states
– Set precedent giving corporations the
ability to escape gov’t control
Daniel Webster
Cohens v. Virginia (1821)
• Issue: Virginia courts convicted
Cohens for selling D.C. lottery tickets
in VA where it was illegal.
– State supreme court upheld the
– Marshall upheld the state court, BUT…
• Significance: Marshall asserted right
of Supreme Court to review
decisions of the state supreme
constitutional questions.
– Significant blow to states' rights.
McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)
• Issue: Maryland tried to destroy Baltimore
branch of the BUS by taxing its notes (bills)
• Significance: Marshall declared US bank
constitutional by invoking Hamilton's
doctrine of implied powers - “necessary and
– "Loose construction" given major boost.
– Argued the Constitution derived from the
consent of the people and thus permitted the
gov't to act for their benefit.
• Denied Maryland the right to tax the bank:
"..that the power to tax involves the power
to destroy" and "that a power to create
implies the power to preserve."
Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)
• Issue: NY tried to grant a monopoly of
river commerce between NY & NJ to a private
company (owned by Ogden). Gibbons had
congressional approval to conduct business on
the same waters.
• Court ruled interstate streams were to
regulated by Congress, not individual states.
• Significance: Marshall ruled
Constitution conferred on Congress
alone the right to control interstate commerce.
Johnson v. McIntosh (1823)
• Issue: Johnson purchased land from the
Piankeshaw tribe in 1773. That same land was
sold to McIntosh in 1818 by the federal gov’t.
– Who’s title to the land was more valid?
– What rights did tribes have?
• Significance: Marshall stated that only the federal gov’t
could take, sell or give land to the Natives.
• Tribes were dependent on the Federal gov’t: as children
to their parents
– The Court acknowledged that this practice treated Native
Americans "as an inferior race of people, without the
privileges of citizens, and under the perpetual protection and
pupilage of the government."
Worcester v Georgia (1832)
• Issue: Georgia law in 1831 required all whites
travelling to Cherokee land to obtain a license from the
– GA trying to pressure Cherokee to leave land.
– Missionary Samuel Worcester refused
– Sentenced to four years imprisonment
• Did the state have the right to pass laws affecting the
• Significance: Marshall ruled that since the Cherokee
were under federal jurisdiction, GA had no power to
pass law affecting the Cherokee
– Again, Natives tribes viewed as “wards of the state”