Essay, Research Paper
In the beginning years of the United States Constitution, the Supreme Court was a struggling institution due to the lack of effectiveness of the Chief Justices and was not highly regarded by the executive and legislative branches of the government. The third Chief Justice in only twelve years, John Marshall put an end to the Supreme Court’s lack of influence after his appointment by President John Adams in 1801. John Marshall was the most influential Chief Justice of the Supreme Court because he was the first to make it a just and effective establishment that was equal to the two other branches of government by his court rulings and policies.
Through his first case, Marbury v. Madison, Marshall formed a foothold for the Supreme Court through his administration of judicial review. In this case, Marbury had not received his judicial commission after President Adams was elected. Former President Thomas Jefferson had instructed his Secretary of State, James Madison not to pay Marbury. Marbury then sued to recover his commission through the Judiciary Act of 1789, but failed. He tried once again and Marshall ruled that the Supreme Court had the final say on constitutionality. This was significant because it declared the Supreme Court as the end of the line on any court cases and that once a ruling was made, that would be the end of it.
In Fletcher v. Peck, Marshall made the first ruling declaring a state legislative act as unconstitutional. This was a step towards states’ rights versus the federal government. The importance of this is that nine years later states’ rights would again come up. Through bribery, the Georgia legislature granted 35 million acres to private speculators. Through its next legislature, it cancelled the transaction due to public objection. The Supreme Court ruled that the grant was a contract and that it could not be overruled or impaired. This case ruled in favor of all property right holders against popular pressures and clarified the meanings of grants and contracts for future rulings.
Marshall’s next case was one of the most important during his term, as it has remained lucid ever since. McColloch v. Maryland was the first case in which a state attempted to assert authority over the federal government. In 1819, the state of Maryland attempted to abolish a branch of the Bank of the United States by imposing taxes on its notes. The final ruling declared that the bank was constitutional by invoking the Hamilton Doctrine of Implied Powers. In ruling this, the power given to the federal government was made distinct and in doing so, the power of the Supreme Court was clarified as well. The consequence of McColloch v. Maryland would continue to last and kept states at bay at challenging the federal government.
Five years later, a case with a similar ruling came about. In the case Gibbons v. Ogden, the state of New York attempted to grant a monopoly on water commerce between New York and New Jersey to a private company. However, Marshall pointed out that the Constitution stated that only Congress could control interstate commerce. This established that federal contracts were superior to state contracts and once again, avowed that the federal government was above the states.
Some of the most significant ideas that John Marshall introduced were that of the system of checks and balances and the single-opinion. The system of checks and balances was helpful to the Supreme Court because it allowed all branches of government to check on each other to make sure they were carrying out their job correctly. This was one of the final enhancements towards making the Supreme Court equal to the legislative and executive branches and gained credibility among them. The single-opinion was more significant exclusively to the Supreme Court in that Marshall stated that there should be a majority opinion of the court because they stand as one.