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Martin Kelly

Marbury v. Madison

By February 24, 2014

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On February 24, 1803, the Supreme Court made a historic decision with the court case Marbury v. Madison. The case involved many of the key players in the early republic including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and of course Chief Justice John Marshall. Some today question whether the precedent of judicial review that was established with Marshall's decision was truly revolutionary or beyond the realm of the framers' intent. Nonetheless, Marbury v. Madison did firmly establish this precedent which has had major repercussions to this day.


April 22, 2009 at 8:13 pm
(1) Cheri says:

Fun Fact: Thomas Jefferson and Chief Justice Marshall were cousins and didn’t like each other at all. Wonder how much that influenced Marshall’s decision to grab a little power.

April 13, 2010 at 10:24 am
(2) Sandi says:

Not only that, but guess who Adam’s secretary of state was? John Marshall. He failed to deliver those appointments before he left office. When Madison refused to deliver them, Marbury sued and Marshall gave his famous decision. This was a case of conflict of interest and Jefferson and Madison knew it. They refused to follow the Supreme Courts decision on the basis that one branch cannot tell another what to do.

“The Constitution . . . meant that its coordinate branches should be checks on each other. But the opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.”
—Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, 1804. ME 11:51

At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping, by little and little, the foundations of the constitution, and working its change by construction, before any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life, if secured against all liability to account.
- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Monsieur A. Coray, Oct 31, 1823

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