John Marshall: Opinion in Marbury v. Madison(1803)
Explanation and Analysis of the Document
Marshall's opinion for the Court opens with a brief recital of the legal history of the case. During its previous term, the Court had handed down a ruling requiring Secretary of State James Madison to “show cause” or offer evidence as to why the Court should not issue a writ of mandamus compelling him to deliver the commission making William Marbury a justice of the peace for the District of Columbia. Because Madison had failed to produce such evidence, Marbury made a motion for the Court to issue a writ forcing Madison's hand. Because of what Marshall calls “the peculiar delicacy” and “novelty” of the facts surrounding Marbury's case as well as the “real difficulty” of the legal issues they present, the Court is obliged to consider the following issues: Does Marbury have a right to the commission he demands to receive? If Marbury is entitled to his commission, and if his right to receive it has been violated, do the laws of the...
Marbury v. Madison (National Archives and Records Administration)View Full Size