Marbury Vs. Madison

"On February 11th, 1803 it came before the supreme court of the United States, that William Murbury entered into a lawsuit against James Madison, over a writ of mandamus for a commission appointed to William Marbury."(Madison v Marbury(5U.S)137(1803), 1) William Marbury was commission as a justice of the peace by former president John Adams. However when president Adams’ administration had ended and Thomas Jefferson’s had begun, Marbury’s commission was not acknowledged by the new administration.(Madison v. Marbury,1) Henceforth the law suit was entered against Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of State, James Madison, to force him to delivery the commission to William Marbury. Representing the court in this case was Supreme Court justice, John Marshall.(Madison v. Marbury supreme Ct.,1) Through immense review of this case several questions arose. The first issue to be resolved was the question of whether or not Mr. Marbury had the right to receive the commission. The answer to this question is yes, if the commission has been signed by the president and if the seal of the United States is affixed to it by the secretary of state. However this issue is not resolved within it’s self, but instead leads another question. If it is Mr. Marbury’s right to this commission, do any solutions exist to fulfill his right? The answer to this question is yes, a writ of mandamus issued to the Secretary of State, James Madison. Yet again another question arises from this solution. Can the Supreme Court issue a writ or mandamus to the Secretary of State? The answer to this question according to the federal law is yes, due to and act passed by congress in 1789. But this law became in question by Supreme Court justice John Marshall, because of the Constitution validity of it consequences. According to the Constitution the congress hasn’t the power to pass an act which is in conflict according to an executive decision. Which means that in order to force the Secretary of State to deliver the commission would be unconstitutional and that any act passed by congress which contradicts the constitution is void. Thus in this case the adjudication passed by John Marshall supersedes the federal law. As a result William Marbury did not receive the commission, and the case is settled.(Marbury v Madison (1803) Background Explanation, 1) Though the precedents set by this case seem questionable, it’s outcome was weighed to be reasonable due to the possible consequences of an alternative outcome. Supposing that the lawsuit was granted to Mr. Marbury and that a writ of mandamus was entered against Mr. Madison there would have been several more political conflicts to arise. One of these conflicts would have pertained to the judicial power over the executive office, which was at the time filled by Thomas Jefferson, whom was a popular president, and who’s signature laid largest on the Declaration of Independence.(Marbury v Madison(5 U.S)137(1803),5)




Title Page

Work Cited
Return to the Supreme Court Case Projects Page.