The Judiciary Act of 1789 and Marbury
I just returned from Mount Vernon, where I found several items of interest for my Bushrod Washington research. (More on that next week). One nifty item that I picked up in the gift shop is a replica of George Washington’s copy of Acts Passed At A First Congress of the United States of America 1789, which was printed that year in New York and contains all of the statutes enacted by Congress in its first session. The President wrote in the margins of the Constitution that was reproduced in the volume, and the printers inserted various annotations to the statutes. (One thing I learned was that the State Department was originally called the Department of Foreign Affairs. Then Congress changed the name, probably because various domestic record keeping tasks were assigned to the Department.)
The most important annotation in this edition is in the Judiciary Act of 1789. In the portion of Section 13 of that Act the refers to writs of mandamus, the printers inserted a note that says “Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction.” This is, of course, the provision that the Supreme Court held unconstitutional in Marbury v. Madison because they said it enlarged the Court’s original jurisdiction. People have long pointed out that this statutory interpretation was bogus, but here is another piece of evidence for that criticism.