On This Day
1803 – In Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court of the United States establishes the principle of judicial review.
Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803), was a U.S. Supreme Court case that established the principle of judicial review in the United States, meaning that American courts have the power to strike down laws, statutes, and some government actions that contravene the U.S. Constitution. Decided in 1803, Marbury remains the single most important decision in American constitutional law. The Court’s landmark decision established that the U.S. Constitution is actual “law”, not just a statement of political principles and ideals, and helped define the boundary between the constitutionally separate executive and judicial branches of the American form of government.
The case ultimately originated from the political and ideological rivalry between outgoing U.S. President John Adams, who espoused the pro-business and pro-national-government ideals of Alexander Hamilton and the Federalist Party, and incoming President Thomas Jefferson, who led the Democratic-Republican Party and favored agriculture and decentralization. Adams had lost the U.S. presidential election of 1800 to Jefferson, and in March 1801, just two days before his term as president ended, Adams appointed several dozen Federalist Party supporters to new circuit judge and justice of the peace positions in an attempt to frustrate Jefferson and his supporters in the Democratic-Republican Party. The U.S. Senate quickly confirmed Adams’s appointments, but upon Jefferson’s inauguration two days later, a few of the new judges’ commissions still had not been delivered. Jefferson believed the commissions were void because they had not been delivered in time, and instructed his new Secretary of State, James Madison, not to deliver them. One of the men whose commissions had not been delivered in time was William Marbury, a Maryland businessman who had been a strong supporter of Adams and the Federalists. In late 1801, after Madison had repeatedly refused to deliver his commission, Marbury filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court asking the Court to issue a writ of mandamus forcing Madison to deliver his commission.
In an opinion written by Chief Justice John Marshall, the Court held firstly that Madison’s refusal to deliver Marbury’s commission was illegal, and secondly that it was normally proper for a court in such situations to order the government official in question to deliver the commission. However, in Marbury’s case, the Court did not order Madison to comply. Examining the law Congress had passed that gave the Supreme Court jurisdiction over types of cases like Marbury’s, Marshall found that it had expanded the definition of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction beyond what was originally set down in the U.S. Constitution. Marshall then struck down the law, announcing that American courts have the power to invalidate laws that they find to violate the Constitution. Because this meant the Court had no jurisdiction over the case, it could not issue the writ that Marbury had requested.
Born On This Day
1604 – Arcangela Tarabotti, born Elena Tarabotti, Venetian nun and feminist (d. 1652)
Arcangela Tarabotti (24 February 1604 – 28 February 1652) was a Venetian nun and Early Modern Italian writer. Tarabotti wrote texts and corresponded with cultural and political figures for most of her adult life, centering on the issues of forced enclosure, and what she saw as other symptoms and systems of patriarchy and misogyny in her works and discussions. Tarabotti wrote at least seven works, though only five were published during her lifetime. Because of the politics of Tarabotti’s works, many scholars consider her “a protofeminist writer as well as an early political theorist.” 
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