CATINDIG, Marie Evangeline N.I-O
Marbury vs Madison
case occurred during an era when the United States was still refining the balance of power between the three branches of government, and trying to adjust to differences between Englishlaws and traditions followed in Colonial America and the new mandates established by the Constitutionof the United States. There was considerable political tension and disagreement between parties that haddifferent visions and strategies for how the government should be run.Prior to 1800, Federalist ideologies dominated government. Federalists like the first twoPresidents, George Washington and John Adams, favoured a stronger central government and rule by theelite. The anti-Federalists, which morphed into the Democratic-Republican party, had an opposite intent,favouring a less patriarchal government and placing more emphasis on the Bill of Rights and statesovereignty. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were early leaders of the anti-Federalist, Democratic-Republican party. Presidential elections were somewhat different in the 18th century than they are today.At that time, the President and Vice-President were separately elected offices, both filled by men who hadcontended for the Presidency. The candidate who received the greatest number of votes became President,while the candidate with the second greatest number of votes became Vice-President. This lead tosituations where the President and Vice-President represented separate parties that were politically hostileto each other.John Adams, a Federalist, won the Presidential election in 1796. Thomas Jefferson, aDemocratic-Republic, won the Vice-Presidency. The Federalists controlled both the executive andlegislative branches at that time. By the next election, in 1800, Federalist policies had angered enough people that Adams lost the election badly. Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, both Democratic-Republicans, received an equal number of electoral votes, so the final decision as to who would assumewhich role fell to the House of Representatives. Jefferson, championed by a popular Alexander Hamilton,won the Presidency. With both Presidential and Vice-Presidential offices filled by Democratic-Republicans, as well as the majority of seats in both the House and Senate, the new administration portended a radical shift in the government's ideology.Before the new administration could take office, however, the Sixth Congress passed two piecesof legislation in early 1801 that expanded the federal court system. The first, The Judiciary Act of 1801,which passed February 13, 1801, reduced the size of the Supreme Court from 6 members to 5, byattrition, to impede Jefferson's ability to change the composition of the Court (which was entirelyFederalist at that time). It also relieved the Justices of their "circuit riding" responsibilities, reorganizingthe lower courts into six circuits, and creating positions for 16 new judges. The second piece of legislation, the Organic Act of 1801 which passed on February 27, 1801, is more directly relevant tothe
Marbury v. Madison
case. The dispute revolved around justice of the peace appointments awardedunder the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801, in which Congress formally incorporated landedceded to the federal government by Virginia and Maryland into the District of Columbia, dividing theterritory into two "cities": Alexandria, which operated under Virginia law; and Georgetown, whichoperated under Maryland law. This created a number of lower-level judicial including "...such number of discreet persons to be justices of the peace, as the President of the United States shall from time to timethink expedient."The out-going President, John Adams, in a desperate attempt to bolster Federalist influence,quickly appointed 42 members of his own party to the justice of the peace positions, and 16 Federalist judges to head the Circuit courts created by the new Judiciary Act of 1801 (passed on February 13, 1801).