Why the Supreme Court Is Relevant | Marbury v. Madison
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Why the Supreme Court Is Relevant | Marbury v. Madison


Mr. Beat presents Supreme Court Briefs The District of Columbia
March 2, 1801 President John Adams just has a couple days left in office, but he’s been pretty busy making last-minute appointments for his Federalist friends to important positions. It’s basically a mad rush to get them in before the new President, his arch enemy Thomas Jefferson, takes over. He nominates 23 justices of the peace, basically judges in lower courts, in Washington county. One of those nominated was a dude named William Marbury. Like Adams, Marbury was a Federalist who talked a lot of trash about Jefferson when he ran against Adams before the election of 1800. Even though Adams nominated Marbury and the other 22 folks, and even though the Senate approved their nomination on March 3, and even though later that day Adams signed the commissions, which were basically the final orders so they could get to work, several of them didn’t get the job. Wait…what? Why? Well John Marshall, the acting Secretary of State for President Adams, did not deliver those commissions on time. Hey, speaking of Lil’ John, my friend Jack Rackam (Jack: Why hello!) made a video about him over on his channel. Be sure to check out his video when you’re done watching this one. Ok, back to the story…
At noon the next day, March 4, Thomas Jefferson officially took over as President. He instructed his Secretary of State, James Madison to only deliver those commissions to some of the nominees. You know, the ones he liked. One of the people who never got his commission was William Marbury. Yeah Jefferson didn’t like him. Marbury was like “that’s messed up man, I was promised that job.” He wanted to force Madison to deliver that commission, so he petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case and the Court actually said “sure, let’s do this.” They heard arguments on February 11, 1803. Oh, guess what? By this time, John Marshall was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Wait a second, isn’t that a conflict of interest? Shouldn’t Marshall recuse himself from making a decision for the c—nahhhh 4 of the 6 justices on the Court discussed three big questions for this case. Number one: Should Marbury and the other Justice of the Peace nominees get the jobs they were promised? Number two: Can they even sue in court to get their jobs? Number three: Hold up, does the Supreme Court even have the authority to say they COULD have their jobs? The Court announced their decision on February 24, 1803. All four sided with Marbury. They thought Marbury deserved that position and thought yeah, he should be able to sue to get it. However, hold up…Madison kind of won, too, because the law that enabled Marbury to sue to begin with, The Judiciary Act of 1789, was actually unconstitutional because it gave the Supreme Court more power than the Constitution allowed. Wait, so the Supreme Court decided to weaken their own power? Huh? Well, not exactly. You see, John Marshall knew what he was doing. He pretty much did this. He had the long term in mind, baby. While the Court gave up power by declaring the Judiciary Act unconstitutional, they also gave the Court a far greater power. The power of judicial review, meaning they could call out laws if they went against the Constitution. So if the Court could declare the Judiciary Act unconstitutional, they could declare ANY law Congress passed unconstitutional, you see? Lil’ John and the rest of the Court had made the Supreme Court kind of a big deal. Dare I say. DARE I SAY. This was the most important Supreme Court case in American history. I’ll see you for the next Supreme Court case, jury! First of all, if you were wondering about that weird gif that seemed a bit out of place…that was sent to me by Dr. Ed of the YouTube channel Ed on EdTech. A bunch of Edutubers decided for the holidays we’re gonna do a gif exchange Get it? Gif exchange? Ed sent me that one. I sent one to Peter from the channel Stacks and Facts. and it’s a really fun one. You should go check it out. I’m really excited to see how Peter used it in his video. Now, about Marbury v. Madison. I made a video about this in the summer of 2012…that’s 6 and a half years ago. This is the first video I just straight up re-made, and I plan on remaking my old video about Plessy v. Ferguson as well. If you want to go back and watch my old videos, fair warning…they are even worse than my newest videos. So, do you agree with me that Marbury v. Madison was the most important case in American history? Let me know below. And finally, this video is a collaboration with one of my favorite YouTubers, Jack Rackam. Jack is one of my favorite YouTubers. He’s extremely underrated. Very funny, kind of a genius actually He has just released a video about John Marshall and how HE is pretty freaking important in American history. Thank you so much for watching. Happy holidays to you.

65 Comments

  • Michael Pisciarino

    0:08 Last minute appointments by John Adams
    1:42 Marbury did not receive his commission
    2:16 Theee Questions
    4:00 Gif exchange
    4:33 Redoing videos

  • Your Lord and Savior

    Nice concise video. Yes, it is the most important court opinion in history because it affects the checks and balances. The legislature (Congress) actually creates law and is considered the far most powerful branch of government. The judiciary can not make law, and is far more limited to simply interpret what the law is. However this court opinion empowered the judiciary with the ability to now delete law passed by Congress by using the Constitution. Ultimately, this opinion now enables the court to use the constitution as a sledgehammer to destroy laws. The constitution, of course, is a document which is all about limiting the government and telling the government what it CANNOT do to the people. Therefore, the use of the constitution is often an anti-government tactic; that is, litigants use the constitution to destroy or nullify laws passed by the legislature.

  • Patrick Spoon

    This was a highly appropriate "all-star" type video for December's YouTube glut of "whaaaaaaat, this is awesome!" posting. I'm usually able to remember the details of McCullough v. Maryland (which would be in the top three structural decisions the Court has made as well), but this case always gives me the fuzzy memories. "It was about appointments and… umm…"

  • ripred42

    A lot of history content on YouTube ends up being pretty poorly researched and reductionist (ie copying the Wikipedia page). Thanks for making content that is both educational and entertaining.

  • John Henderson

    The reason why Marbury v Madison is the most important Supreme Court case ever was because before it, the Court wasn’t taken seriously. But Marbury gave the Supreme Court the power of judicial review and made the Court a third coequal branch of government.

  • d1s7w236s9g0a8bv

    Was the Supreme Court not given the power of judicial review when it was established?

    Article 3 Sec 2 – "The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;…"

    Specifying that "the laws of the United States" are under judicial power implies judicial review of laws that congress passes, right? Why did it take Marbury v. Madison to confirm that the Judiciary has this power even though it's already specified in the Constitution? Something I've always wondered, thanks for another great video.

  • eric veneto

    Reading old threads on a message board I'm on, reminded that Brown from Brown v Topeka died fairly recently. IMO, that was the most important case of the 20th century.

  • tellthemborissentyou

    You forgot to include what happened to these dudes so I will finish it off for you. Marbury never became a Justice of the Peace so he followed his other love- basketball. He did well and spent a few years in the NBA playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves. James Madison, who incidentally was named after the avenue in New York where he was found, never amounted to much. He did go on to invent a kooky dance and a cycling event where you can slingshot your team mate by holding hands. He later became an angry old man who was disappointed they wrote a musical about his former friend Hamilton instead of him.

  • LuminaryPrism75

    Ah I love Marbury v Madison! One of the simplest and most important Court Cases to study.

    And one I’m very appreciative of- gotta love the Supreme Court!

  • Mathieu Leader

    its amazing that the whole Kavanaugh debacle could have been a replay of the Marbury instance and Trump could get a hatrick when it comes to the appointment in regards to Ginsberg

  • ChewiLover53

    Do Murray v. Curlett!
    I remember studying this case in Constitutional Law, truly an important case for what we know in the present as separation of powers…

  • Norman M. Stewart

    As of 12-30-18, I am currently listening to the oral arguments from Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (2002).

    It's kind of awkward hearing the justices talk about the films Traffic, Lolita and Titanic (considering that I've seen all of them), when discussing obscenity. Is it just me?

  • Aaron Bradley

    Absolutely positively it's the most important decision in Supreme Court history. Without that they would have basically very limited power instead of being the supreme law of the land. I like how you included Darth Vader too because little John was kind of manipulating things like Emperor Palpatine. Cool

  • Shannon Lynn

    I thought John Marshall was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and James Madison was the Secretary of State for Jefferson (not Adams)? (1:06)

  • dugroz

    Wait!!! — Your video is incomplete!!!
    What happened to Marbury? On one hand, the court said he should get his commission, but on the other hand, the court said the law that allowed him to sue in court was unconstitutional to begin with?!?!? — So, what was the practical impact?

  • bobbi mke

    "Why the Supreme Court Is Relevant" ==> 'Cause SCOTUS said "We're the Decider! What We Say, GOES!"

    So it was written, so it's alwayd been done.

  • Ezra Borg

    Just handed in an essay on Maltese constitutional law. Amazingly, our European Maltese constitution is supreme because of this ruling.

  • Shirtless

    Marbury v. Madison did not invent the power of judicial review. In Hylton v. United States, 3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 171 (1796), the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of an excise tax on carriages. I submit that it is as much an exercise of judicial review to hold an act constitutional as it is to declare one unconstitutional. Of course, declaring an act unconstitutional attracts more attention. 🙂

  • Shirtless

    Jefferson and his supporters were fearful that the Supreme Court would order Jefferson to deliver the commission to Marbury. Jefferson took office on March 4, 1801. His supporters in Congress canceled the Supreme Court’s 1802 Term, and it was not able to decide the case until 1803.

    As you point out, Marshall resolved the matter in a very clever way. First, he gave Jefferson a long-winded lecture declaring that Marbury was entitled to the commission, but then decided that the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction to issue the writ of mandamus. Thus, he asserted the right and power of the Court to declare Acts of Congress unconstitutional, an idea that the Jeffersonians despised, but did it in a way that they could not complain about. The Court would not declare another federal statute unconstitutional until the Dred Scott decision in 1857.

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