Marbury v. Madison: Document A Brutus, No. 15 (1788)

Do you use document-based questions in your classroom?

This summer the Bill of Rights Institute is blogging a document-based question on the Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison (1803). Each weekly post will feature an excerpted document related to the case, along with some questions to guide your thinking on it. Each document should be used to address the question: “Argue whether or not the Supreme Court should have the power to overturn unconstitutional federal laws.”

Brutus, No. 15, 1788

[The] supreme court under this constitution would be exalted above all other power in the government, and subject to no controul. …I question whether the world ever saw, in any period of it, a court of justice invested with such immense powers, and yet placed in a situation so little responsible…

Judges under this constitution will controul legislature, for the supreme court are authorised in the last resort, to determine what is the extent of the powers of the Congress; they are to give the constitution an explanation, and there is no power above them to set aside their judgment. The framers of this constitution appear to have followed that of the British, in rendering the judges independent, by granting them their offices during good behaviour, without following the constitution of England, in instituting a tribunal which their errors may be corrected; and without advertising to this, that the judicial under this system have a power which is above the legislative, and which indeed transcends any power before given to a judicial by any free government under heaven…

If, therefore, the legislature pass any laws, inconsistent with the sense of judges put upon the constitution, they will declare it void; and therefore in this respect their power is superior to that of the legislature.

>What is Brutus’s argument against ratification of the Constitution and the proposed court system?

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Check back each week to see the next document and how it might change your thinking on this important question that affects all public school teachers and students in the U.S.! If you are enjoying this DBQ – be sure to check out our curriculum Supreme Court DBQs: Exploring the Cases the Changed History.

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9 Responses to “Marbury v. Madison: Document A, Brutus, No. 15 (1788)”

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