The Marshall Court

Describe the ways in which chief Justice John Marshall’s ruling established precedents for national supremacy over
states, redefined the roles of the Court and provided a constitutional foundation for the economic growth of the US
Marbury v. Madison (1803)
William Mabury (Federalist) received a midnight
Prior to Marbury vs. Madison, the Supreme court had
appointment from John Adams as he left office.
been the weakest of the three branches. By setting a
precedent for Judicial review, the court established its
TJ, a D-R, instructed his Sect of State, James Madison
role as the final arbiter of the meaning of the
not to deliver the commission
Constitution. They could determine the constitutionality
of Presidential or Congressional actions and its position
Marbury asked for a Writ of Mandamus directing
of equality with the other branches
Madison to deliver the appointment.
Judiciary Act of 1789 gave supreme court the power to
issue writ, it was unconstitutional because it gave the SC
original jurisdiction. Court rules portion of Judiciary Act
Fletcher vs. Peck (1810)
The Fletcher case arose out of the Yazoo land fraud,
which came to light after bribed members of the Georgia
legislature voted in January 1795 to sell for a bargainbasement price the vast frontier that comprises most of
modern-day Alabama and Mississippi. A 1796 rescinding
act, adopted by a newly installed and more upright
Georgia legislature, took away ownership of the land
from prior buyers, including supposedly innocent thirdparty purchasers who had bought parcels of the tract
from the original grantees. This resulted in a challenge to
the constitutionality of the 1796 act.
Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the Rescinding
Act had been an unconstitutional violation of the right of
contract. Finally, in 1814, Congress resolved the issue,
providing $5 million from the proceeds of land sales in
the Mississippi Territory to be shared by the claimants.
In Chief Justice John Marshall's opinion in the Fletcher
case, the Court sustained the constitutional challenge to
Georgia's rescinding act, thus establishing an important
precedent: that the Supreme Court has the power to
declare state laws unconstitutional. (The Court's earlier
and more famous decision in Marbury v. Madison had
recognized the Court's ability to strike down acts of the
U.S. Congress, without specifically considering the
Court's power to invalidate laws enacted by states.)
Robert Fletcher, a resident of New Hampshire, had
bought his Yazoo tract from John Peck, a resident of
Massachusetts, who traced his title back to the state of
Georgia through supposedly innocent purchasers. In
connection with the land transfer, Peck promised
Fletcher that the title had not been constitutionally
impaired by the 1796 rescinding legislation. When that
proved not to be the case, Fletcher sued Peck. The case
thus entailed Peck's arguing to the U.S. Supreme Court
that the 1796 act was unconstitutional, so that no breach
of his promise to Fletcher had occurred.
Martin v. Hunter's Lessee (1816)
Lord Fairfax held land in Virginia. He was a Loyalist and assert ultimate Supreme Court authority over state courts
fled to England during the Revolution. He died in 1781
in matters of federal law.
and left the land to his nephew, Denny Martin, who was
a British subject. The following year, the Virginia
The Court rejected the claim that Virginia and the
legislature voided the original land grant and transferred
national government were equal sovereigns. Reasoning
the land back to Virginia. Virginia granted a portion of
from the Constitution, Justice Story affirmed the Court's
this land to David Hunter. The Jay Treaty seemed to
power to override state courts to secure a uniform system
make clear that Lord Fairfax was entitled to the property. of law and to fulfill the mandate of the Supremacy
The Supreme Court declared that Fairfax was so entitled, Clause.
but the Virginia courts, where the suit arose, refused to
follow the Supreme Court's decision.
McCulloch vs. Maryland (1819)
The BUS was established in 1791. Republicans argued
The decision sanctioned the Federal government’s use of
the bank was unconstitutional because the “elastic
the implied powers (use of the e clause), established the
clause” was used to create it.
supremacy of the national government over the states,
and paved the way for expansion of federal power
After the BUS was re-chartered in 1816 several states (
(Congress, not the states has the power to make changes)
including Maryland) put restrictions and taxes on the
BUS within their states, When the cashier refused to pay
the tax Maryland sued. The court ruled that only the
federal government had the power to do what was
“necessary and proper” to carry out their powers.
Dartmouth College vs. Woodward (1819)
Dartmouth College was chartered in 1769 as a private
The decision upheld the sanctity of contracts and of
school. When members of its board sought to have the
private property. The decision as important in assuring
state legislature convert the school to a state university,
economic development and encouraging investment in
Federalist members of the school’s board of trustees
new corporations. In addition, it set a precedent for the
argued that the charter was a contract and the federal
Supreme Court’s overturning of state laws ( through
constitution forbade states from voiding the obligations
Fletcher v. Peck 1810, the court ruled a Georgia law
of contracts.
Federalists sued William Woodward (new trustee) and
asked Daniel Webster to appeal their case. The court
ruled that the state had no right to impair or invalidate the
contract that made DC private.
Gibbons vs. Ogden (1824)
The case of Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), decided 35 years
after the ratification of the Constitution, was a key
turning point for the expansion of federal power to
address national problems.
The power to regulate interstate commerce (trade) rests
solely with the federal government, thus impeding the
states from impeding trade.
The Commerce Clause Article 1 Section 8 states that
Congress has the power "[t]o regulate Commerce with
foreign Nations, and among the several States. . . ." The
hope was that giving Congress such a power would help
to unify commerce policies thereby making market
exchanges more efficient and less costly.
States Rights supporters wanted to overturn protected
monopolies (controlled by the rich)and encourage
competition and the accumulation of wealth by more
New York granted Robert Fulton a long term monopoly
Of steam navigation on the waters between NY and NJ.
Aaron Ogden held a Fulton-Livingston license to operate
steamboats under this monopoly.
Previously Gibbons had obtained a congressional
permit to operate a steamboat line in the same waters.
Gibbons sued Ogden, as a licensee under Fulton’s
steamboat company, had a monopoly of the waterways
between NY and NJ. The Supreme Court ruled the
monopoly granted to Ogden by NY was unconstitutional.
Many wanted the court to rule in favor of the
congressional authority to encourage support of public
works projects (roads, bridges, and canals) That would
contribute to the development of business and industry.
The Court ruled in favor of Gibbons and some state’s
rights activists feared the national government could now
strike down the slave trade.
Gibbons v. Ogden remains a strong instrument for
federal government regulation within and among states
1808- NY state grants Robert Livingston and Robert Fulton, or their heirs as thirty year monopoly to operate
steamboats on the waterways of the state and on contiguous coastal waters
1815- Livingston and Fulton are dead, and the inheritors of the company controlled their potential and actual rivals,
such as Aaron Ogden and Thomas Gibbons by selling them rights to them to operate steamboats in NY/NJ
Ogden and Gibbons become partners and acquire a license to be the sole steamboat transporter.
1818- Gibbons- Ogden partnership is ended and they become bitter rivals. Ogden begins losing passengers and
profits to Gibbons (and Vanderbuilt)
1819 – Ogden charged that Gibbons was unlawfully operating an unlicensed steamboat and successfully sued him to
1820 – NYS grants a permanent injunction against Gibbons. Gibbons (defended by Daniel Webster) appeals to the
Supreme Court. Gibbons claims he has a right to navigate waters because of the 1793 Coasting Act, superseding
state law and the commerce clause gave on Congress power to regulate interstate commerce.
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