Marbury v. Madison: The Court's Foundation

Marbury v. Madison: The Court's Foundation

Marbury v. Madison: The Court's Foundation

Marbury v. Madison: The Court's Foundation

Excerpt

History Records a Good Deal of what people did but not so much of what they said. A spirited conversation that would have been interesting to hear was the one between Judge William Marbury and newly appointed Secretary of State James Madison back in 1801. Thomas Jefferson had just become the third president of the United States. On the day before Jefferson's inauguration, departing president John Adams had appointed Marbury as a justice of the peace. Marbury's commission was supposed to have been delivered by John Marshall, who served as secretary of state before Madison. Marshall never delivered the commission. Marbury wanted to know where it was.

Madison suggested that Marbury take up the matter with the State Department assistant, clerk Jacob Wagner. What he neglected to add was that once President Jefferson discovered Marbury had not received the commission, he ordered Madison not to deliver it. To Marbury, the matter was suddenly getting very complicated. The judge most likely left Madison's office in an extremely agitated mood.

Thus began perhaps the most important case in the history of the United States Supreme Court. Reaching far beyond the question of Marbury's commission, the Court's decision in this matter established the judiciary as the arbiter and defender of the U.S. Constitution.

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