Fletcher v. Peck


On March 16, 1810, Chief Justice John Marshall, writing for a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court, delivered the Court’s decision in Fletcher v. Peck. Fletcher v. Peck was a landmark case for at least three reasons. One was that it strengthened the commerce clause of article I, section 10, of the U.S. Constitution (“No State shall . . . pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts”). The second was that it was the first time the Supreme Court held a state law unconstitutional. The third was that it suggested that Indian tribes did not hold valid title to their lands; rather, title was vested in the states.

The facts of Fletcher v. Peck are these: After the American Revolution, Georgia claimed lands to its west, the so-called Yazoo lands (named after an Indian tribe) that would eventually become the states of Alabama and Mississippi. But in 1795 all but one member of the Georgia legislature was bribed to sell off about thirty million...

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Statue of John Marshall at John Marshall Park in Washington, D.C. (Library of Congress)

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