100 Americans Making Constitutional History: A Biographical History presents 100 profiles of the key people behind some of the most important U.S. Supreme Court cases. Edited by Melvin I. Urofsky, a respected constitutional historian, each 2,000-word profile delves into the social and political context behind landmark Court decisions. For example, while a case like Brown v. Board of Education is about an important idea—the equal protection of the law—at its heart it is the story of a little girl, Linda Brown, who wanted to go to a decent school near her home. The outcome is accessible and objective “stories” about the individuals—heroes and scoundrels—who fought their way to constitutional history.

William Marbury

William Marbury

Futile Quest

“It is … the Province … of the Judicial Department to Say what the Law is”

Marbury v. Madison

5 U.S. (1 Cr.) 137 (1803)

In the months after the Federalists lost the election of 1800, but before Thomas Jefferson took over the White House, the Federalist Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1801 and the Organic Act for the District of Columbia. The laws created a number of judicial offices, which the lame-duck president, John Adams, proceeded to fill with members of his own party. He also appointed some forty-two justices of the peace for the new capital city and, after the Senate confirmed these appointments, Adams signed the official commissions and Secretary of State John Marshall, who had just been named chief ...

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