National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1791-1824: We forge a nation where the people rule

March 2, 1824
Marshall has turned the High Court into a force to be reckoned with

“It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.”
—John Marshall
Marbury v. Madison

Today’s ruling on the New York steamboat case deals yet another blow to supporters of states’ rights. Chief Justice John Marshall says the federal government has broad power to regulate interstate commerce.

Case by case, Marshall and his colleagues have been building this Supreme Court’s legacy. The national government is more powerful. The law protects contracts and property rights, promoting American prosperity. Most of all, the Court is strong and independent, and asserts its right to pass legal judgment on what’s constitutional.

In 1801, when Marshall took over the Court, it was the weakest branch of government. No more. This friendly, unpretentious and patient man has proved to be a masterful Chief Justice. In his 23 years on the bench, there has seldom been a dissent.

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