Determine the significance of the
changing role of the Supreme Court in American society from 1800 to 1825.
The changing role of the Supreme Court from 1800 to 1825 was very significant to American society. The court cases of this time period established some of the most fundamental principles of American law. These principles were the system of judicial review, binding contracts, and the ideas of intrastate, and interstate commerce.
The doctrine of judicial review was established in the Marbury v. Madison case of 1803. This meant that the Supreme Court could review and overrule decisions of the legislative and executive branches. This would include actions by Congress and the President of the United States. In effect, this gave the judicial branch, specifically the Supreme Court, greater power over other areas of the government. "The Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction in all cases affecting ambassadors...and those in which a state shall be a party. In all other cases, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction." (A). The case of Marbury v. Madison (1803), also declared the Judiciary Act of 1789 unconstitutional. The Judiciary Act of 1789 had given the Supreme Court greater power and jurisdiction, by calling for more circuit courts, judges, attorneys, federal marshals, and attorneys. Chief Justice Marshall stated that this Act was unconstitutional because it gave the Supreme Court more power than was allowed in the Constitution. Therefore, William Marbury could not be given his commission as a judge.
The principle of binding contracts was established in at least two landmark court cases. This idea stated that a state could not invalidate a contract for a private corporation. The cases of Fletcher v. Peck (1810) and Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819) exemplified this principle. The case of Fletcher v. Peck was a landmark case because it was the first time the Supreme Court had declared a state law unconstitutional. The ruling in this case was that "the state legislatures can pass no ex post facto law. An ex post facto law is one which renders an act punishable in a manner in which it was not punishable when it was committed."(C). Dartmouth College v. Woodward involved Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, which had recently been changed from a private college to a state-run college. Chief Justice Marshall declared this unconstitutional because a private contract could not be dismissed by the state. "This is a contract...which cannot be impaired without violating the Constitution of the United States." (F). The states lost more of their rights when the Congress was allowed to regulate interstate commerce. Intrastate commerce meant that each state could control commerce in their respective states. These principles were part of the ruling of Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) which said that "Congress had the power to regulate commerce...among several states."(H). The state of New York had granted a monopoly to Robert Fulton's steamboats, but Chief Justice Marshall declared that this was unconstitutional because it conflicted with a charter authorized by Congress. Therefore, the state of New York could not challenge the charter that was given by Congress.
The precept of "the power to tax is the power to destroy" meant that a state could not tax a National Bank in fear that it may be destroyed. This principle was established when the state of Maryland had tried to collect taxes from the Second Bank of the United States. In the case of McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), Chief Justice Marshall stated that the federal government had the implied power to create the bank. Marshall had used a loose interpretation of the Constitution to make this ruling. "The government of the United States...and its laws...form the supreme law of the land."(E). Therefore, federal laws were supreme over state laws.
In conclusion, the rulings of the Supreme Court had a significant impact on American society, from 1800 to 1825. The Court mostly ruled in favor of the federal government, not the state governments. As a result, the states lost many of their rights, especially the right to challenge an action of the federal government, such as the creation of a National Bank. These Supreme Court cases and the opposition to states' rights laid the foundation for the South's dissension from the North during the Civil War.
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