Early Happy Fourth–Thomas Jefferson on Judicial Supremacy

In 1807, President Thomas Jefferson was “commanded” by Supreme Court Justice–and his cousin–John Marshall to appear at the trial of Aaron Burr, who was charged with treason (Marshall was the presiding judge at the trial). Jefferson said, thanks but no thanks, and replied to Marshall thusly, essentially saying “make me.”

As to our personal attendance at Richmond, I am persuaded the court is sensible that paramount duties to the nation at large control the obligation of compliance with its summons in this case, as it would should we receive a similar one to attend the trials of Blennerhassett and others in the Mississippi territory, those instituted at St Louis and other places on the western waters, or at any place other than the seat of government. To comply with such calls would leave the nation without an executive branch, whose agency nevertheless is understood to be so constantly necessary that it is the sole branch which the constitution requires to be always in function. It could not, then, intend that it should be withdrawn from its station by any co-ordinate authority.

Jefferson’s Letters

Note the use of the words “co-ordinate authority,” which is the polite Jeffersonian way of saying, “you’re not the boss of me.” Jefferson held that, in line with the Constitution, that all branches of government are co-equal, and that no un-elected official, or any other kind, was going to be allowed to issue kingly orders down from on high. Jefferson thought that it should take two out of the three branches of government, to over-rule the third. For what it’s worth, after Jefferson refused to be Marshall’s errand boy, Marshall found Burr to be not guilty.

After his retirement, Jefferson was not so polite about judicial kings-in-the making. From one of his private letters, he explained:

At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office.

Jefferson’s Letters

No one can say we weren’t warned.

Author: southernfusionfood

Writer, Woodworker, and Happy Eater

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

OffGuardian

because facts really should be sacred

Ruth Blogs Here

Or not, depending on my mood

A Haven for Book Lovers

I am just a girl who loves reading and talking about books

what sandra thinks

because I've got to tell someone.

LadiesWhoLunchReviews,etc

a little lunch, a little wine, a LOT of talking!

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

This, That, and the Other

Stories, Prompts, and Musings

talltalesfromchiconia

Tales of quilting, gardening and cooking from the Kingdom of Chiconia

Cyranny's Cove

Refuge of an assumed danophile...

Exiled Rebels

Serving BL since 2017

this is... The Neighborhood

the Story within the Story

Beauty lies within yourself

The only impossible journey in life is you never begin!! ~Tanvir Kaur

Southern Fusion Cooking

Country Living in the Southern Appalachians, USA--A little of this, a lot of that

Discover WordPress

A daily selection of the best content published on WordPress, collected for you by humans who love to read.

The Atavist Magazine

Country Living in the Southern Appalachians, USA--A little of this, a lot of that

Longreads

The best longform stories on the web

%d bloggers like this: