Congress or the Supreme Court: Which Shall Rule America?

By Egbert Ray Nichols | Go to book overview

DECISIVE BATTLES OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW*

MARBURY v. MADISON

The case of Marbury v. Madison, perhaps the most important in the judicial history of this country or any other, involved so small a matter as the right to the office of the justice of the Peace for the District of Columbia. Marbury had been appointed by President Adams for a term of five years, an office not revocable at the will of the President. The appointment was duly confirmed, the commission signed and attested with the great seal of the United States by Marshall, who was then Secretary of State, but for some reason, probably carelessness, had not been delivered when Jefferson became President.

Jefferson, conceiving that a commission, like a deed, took effect at the time of its delivery, revoked the appointment and gave it to another. At the December term, 1801, Charles Lee, Attorney General of the United States under Adams, appeared before the court at its first sitting in the City of Washington and the first session at which Marshall presided as Chief Justice, and asked for a rule to James Madison, Jefferson's Secretary of State, to show cause why a writ of mandamus should not issue to him, commanding to deliver this commission to Marbury. Lee made a brief statement to the court

____________________
*
By F. Dumont Smith, of the Hutchinson (Kans.) bar. Quoted from the American Bar Association journal, Feb., 1923.

-79-

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