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

March 3, 1791
Congress puts the Constitution’s principles into practice

The Federal Judiciary Act

The first session of Congress has ended. For two years, members of the House and Senate have been locked in debate, working to pass laws that will uphold this new republic.

They’ve already determined how to pay for the new government, proposed 12 new amendments to the Constitution, set up the executive departments and organized the federal judiciary system.

The Constitution provides few details about the new judicial branch. It specifies a Supreme Court, but leaves it up to Congress to “ordain and establish” the “inferior” federal courts. Congress does this with the Judiciary Act of 1789.

It’s an impressive feat for men who’ve left home for months on end and earn just $6 a day.

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