Learn the Marbury V Madison (1803) Case in Our Free Essay Sample

Published: 2017-10-10
Learn the Marbury V Madison (1803) Case in Our Free Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Politics History Law James Madison
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 900 words
8 min read


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The Marbury V Madison case has got a historical background based on politics that happened after a presidential election in 1800. The then President John Adams who belonged to the Federal Party was going for a reelection against a Republican candidate Thomas Jefferson which ended up to him losing the election. In addition to that, The Republican won more seats in the congress thus taking charge of the congress over the Federalists. However, President Adams and his party remained in office for quite a while before the new office took charge thus the point when he strategized on how to implant Federal judges who would oppose any policies derived by the new office led by President elect Jefferson (Naden & Blue, 2005).

During this time, Adams convinced the Congress who allowed for laws that would favor them. The Judiciary Act of 1801 was then born hence allowing Adams the powers to appoint several new judges who are aligned to the Federals. In their bid to fill the Judiciary with federal judges, they believed that their judges will not support any policy proposed by the newly elected administration of the Republicans. Adams successfully appointed judges, about 39 in number but when it came to the time of administering official appointment documents to the commissions, his secretary of state failed to do so. He failed to administer the letters to 3 of the commissions with on the individuals to receive the appointment of a commission was William Marbury.

They left office without the letters being administered. When President Jefferson joined office, he realized on the intensions of the former president hence he order his secretary of state to reject all the appointments. He did this since he realized that there were 3 positions of commissions that had not been delivered due to the failure by the former Secretary of State. The Secretary of State who had just joined office was James Madison and he implemented an order from the President to deny the 3 commissions their appointment (Schotten, 2004). As a result, Marbury was not happy hence went to the Supreme Court to engage Madison in a legal duel in order to be appointed officially as had been instructed by the former President. This happened since the Judiciary Act of 1789 had bestowed the Supreme Court with the powers to hear and make judgments in such cases.

Court’s decision

After the hearing of the case, the Supreme Court led by Justice Marshall made a very controversial ruling where they stated that it was unconstitutional for Madison to prevent Marbury form taking charge of new office (Kelley, 2004). They however stated they had no powers to force President Jefferson and the Secretary Of State Madison to allow Marbury take his new office. According to Justice Marshall, the court had no authority to issue writs of mandamus. Chief Justice Marshall further added that section 13 of the Judiciary Act 1789 although gave the Supreme Court the powers to issue such ruling. That act was unconstitutional to them, not in line with the constitution hence was declared invalid.

Even though Marbury was never allowed to take office, this particular case ended up being very important in the Judiciary system as it was preserved as a precedent. In later cases, several judges have referred to its ruling as a precedence to the current cases. It has served as an example to other cases that are heard by judges in different level of courts. In this particular case, it was established that in any case there are two different provisions within the law that contradict each other, then the court have the right and powers to settle on that provision that is right and consistent with the constitution. Justice Marshall made the decision that Madison was wrong to reject Marbury move to join office by saying that the constitution gives the Supreme Court powers to do an overhaul judicial review (Naden & Blue, 2005). By that essence, the court was free to review the actions of the President and the congress as well. However, if at all the Supreme discovered that a certain provision law was constitutional then it could make a ruling by overruling the law. He finalized by saying that the constitution remains the land’s “supreme law” which must be abided by with the Supreme Court being the sole custodian to the constitution.


From the case, it can be concluded that such controversial cases are always very critical and they require sober hearing that can lead to fair rulings. Such cases require to be given utmost attention and consideration. If a case gets a sober hearing, then in future it will act as a precedent as other judges will be referring to it in their rulings. Justice Marshall was very consistent in the ruling by sticking to the constitution. Despite making a ruling that it was unconstitutional for President Jefferson and Secretary of State Madison to deny Marbury the chance to take office, he stated that the court had no powers within the constitution to force the President to officially appoint Marbury as the act that gave the court the powers to do so was unconstitutional.

Works cited.

Naden, C. & Blue, R. (2005). Marbury v. Madison. Tarrytown, NY: Benchmark Books.

Kelley, S. (2004). Marbury versus Madison: Documents and Commentary. Government Information Quarterly, 21(2), 241-242.

Schotten, P. (2004). Marbury v. Madison , Rightly Understood. Perspectives On Political Science, 33(3), 134-141.

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