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The Supreme Court in the Early Republic

The Chief Justiceships of John Jay and Oliver Ellsworth

William R. Casto

Publication Year: 2012

William R. Casto sheds a new light on America’s federal judiciary and the changing legal landscape with his detailed examination of the Supreme Court’s formative years. In a study that spans the period from the Court’s tentative beginnings through the appointment of its third chief justice, Casto reveals a judicial body quite different in orientation and philosophy from the current Supreme Court and one with a legacy of enduring significance for the U.S. legal system.rimes, the drafting of the Judiciary Act of 1789, and the adoption of judicial review.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Series: Chief Justiceships of the United States Supreme Court


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-x

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Editor's Preface

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pp. xi-xiv

The volumes in this series are intended to provide readers with a convenient scholarly introduction to the work and achievements of the Supreme Court of the United States for the period of one or more chief justiceships. An effort will be made to examine the Court's personnel and administration and to summarize its contribution in constitutional law, international law, and private law. ...

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xvi

When Herb Johnson asked me if I would be interested in writing a book-length monograph on the early Supreme Court as part of a series on the Court's history, I was delighted. I had been studying the early Court for a number of years and had a special interest in Oliver Ellsworth, ...

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pp. xvii-xviii

Short Titles and Abbreviations

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pp. xix-xxvi

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pp. 1-3

This book is an introduction to the Supreme Court's creation and roughly its first decade of operation, up to 1801, when John Marshall became its fourth Chief Justice. The book is intended for general readers—both lawyers and nonlawyers—with a scholarly interest in the subject. ...

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1. Creating the Court

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pp. 4-26

There was a fundamental ambivalence among the delegates who converged upon Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to consider a new constitutional order for their loosely confederated states. Almost all of them wanted to create a more powerful general government. ...

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2. The Judiciary Act of 1789

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pp. 27-53

By the spring of 1789, the Constitution had been ratified, and the new federal government was ready to commence its operations. In early April, the Senate began its legislative work by designating a Grand Committee consisting of a senator from each state to draft a bill for organizing the federal judiciary. ...

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3. Selecting the Justices and Initial Operations

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pp. 54-70

On the same day that Ellsworth's judiciary proposals were finally enacted, President Washington nominated a slate of six individuals to serve as the nation's first Supreme Court. He selected John Jay of New York for the leading post of Chief Justice. In addition, Washington nominated five associate Justices: ...

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4. A National Security Court

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pp. 71-125

The Founders envisioned the federal courts as national security courts, and the Supreme Court's first decade is largely a story of the Justices' grappling with important issues affecting the nation's security. They devoted significant time to criminal prosecutions against Americans whom they understood to challenge federal authority directly.1 ...

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5. National Security and Federal Criminal Law

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pp. 126-172

In the Senate debates on the proposed Judiciary Act, Senator Oliver Ellsworth had warned that federal courts were necessary to assure the unswerving enforcement of criminal law against individuals who would mount ''Attacks on the General Government that will go to the Very Vitals of it."1 ...

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6. Nonjudicial Activities

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pp. 173-183

Throughout the 1790s, the Justices engaged in a wide range of nonjudicial activities, and many of the most significant incidents related to national security. The diplomatic missions of Chief Justices Jay and Ellsworth to Great Britain and France are obvious examples.1 ...

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7. The Constitution and State Sovereignty

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pp. 184-212

Perhaps the most difficult and important task in implementing the new Constitution was to work out the appropriate relationship between the federal and state governments. Under the Constitution, each government was sovereign within its respective sphere. ...

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8. The Court and the Constitution

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pp. 213-246

In the late twentieth century, the Supreme Court's most prominent function is to construe and give effect to the Constitution's limits to government activities, but this role was not as significant in the Court's first decade. Though the Justices occasionally resorted to constitutional interpretation, their primary objective was to bolster and consolidate the new federal government. ...

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9. An Assessment

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pp. 247-254

Society in the late twentieth century—particularly political society—is usually viewed primarily in terms of conflicts of values and interests. From this viewpoint, the Supreme Court's greatness resides in its ability to resolve conflicts and impose its judgments upon others—particularly upon other governmental units. ...

Table of Cases

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pp. 255-258


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pp. 259-267

E-ISBN-13: 9781611171693
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611171471

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Chief Justiceships of the United States Supreme Court