Adams, Jefferson, and the Courts
The Alien and Sedition Acts • The Kentucky and Virginia
Resolutions • The Election of 1800 • The Judiciary Act of
1801 • John Marshall and the Midnight Judges • Jefferson
Takes Office • Repeal of the Judiciary Act • Marbury v.
Madison • The Louisiana Purchase • Republican Attacks
on the Judiciary: The First Cases • The Impeachment of Jus-
tice Chase • Defining Treason • The Burr Trial • Presiden-
tial Privilege • For Further Reading
AKEY TEST OF the viability of the new nation would be whether it could peacefully transfer power from one faction to another. The growth of parties, along with the exaggerated political rhetoric common to the late eighteenth century, misled some foreign observers to conclude that the United States was tottering on the edge of chaos. They failed to appreciate that beneath the abusive campaign slogans, both Federalists and Republicans shared the basic tenets of the republican ideology. Problems did exist, however, because of differing views on the particulars of government, as well as from the tensions that were inevitable whenever a minority controls a key branch of the government. Adams and the Alien and Sedition Acts, Jefferson and his attack on the judiciary, and John Marshall and his development of the independent, powerful role of the Court all involved questions of power as well as of constitutional thought. Debates on who will govern and how they will govern dominated political discourse at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries.
The rising strength of the Republicans had almost swept Jefferson into the presidency in 1796, but in the end John Adams won the office with 71 electoral votes, and Jefferson became vice president with 68. Adams stood philosophically between Jefferson and Hamilton, favoring a strong central government, while jealously protective of individual rights. He shared neither Hamilton's attachment to aristocracy nor Jefferson's