Marbury v. Madison

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  • In 1801, Democratic- Republican, Thomas Jefferson was elected President of the United States, and the US Congress switched from a majority of Federalists to a majority of Democratic-Republicans.
  • It all began when I, John Adams, was sitting at my desk, frantically writing letters to strong Federalist men that I wanted in the Supreme Court the night before Jefferson's inauguration.
  • I left the letters on my desk to be delivered, but the job never got done because Jefferson and his Secretary of State, James Madison, refused to complete the task.
  • A man named William Marbury, who was supposed to be appointed as one of the judges according to Adams' letters, demanded that the Supreme Court force Jefferson and Madison to complete their tasks.
  • As a Federalist, the Chief Justice, John Marshall, was stumped as to which approach he should take on this case... Regardless of his decision, he wanted to make sure the Supreme Court still had ultimate power.
  • Marbury had argued that Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 gave the Supreme Court this power.
  • However, Marshall also announced that a section of the Judiciary Act was unconstitutional-giving rights to the Supreme Court that weren't in the Constitution.
  • Finally in 1803, Marshall announced that Marbury had the right to his commission and he scolded Madison for not acknowledging it.
  • So, this outcome favored the Democratic-Republicans. But it also did something for the Supreme Court that was never listed in the Constitution...
  • It gave the Supreme Court the power of judicial review and the power to declare laws unconstitutional based on the Constitution. This helped to check and balance the government, and in the end of the case, everyone was happy with the outcome.
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