A collection of essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay supporting the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.
In 1787 the Framers of the Constitution
James Madison, along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, authored The Federalist, an important document in the development of the Supreme Court.
One of the most influential and well-known essays, No. 78, is Hamilton’s defense of judicial review. Here, Hamilton argues that judicial review does not invalidate the supremacy of the will of the people as expressed through their legislators but is a necessity for the principle of separation of powers. He points out that “the executive not only dispenses the honors but holds the sword of the community. The legislature not only commands the purse but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary…can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.” Hamilton also argues for permanent tenure for judges as long as they exhibit good behavior.
No. 79 is relatively brief and primarily addresses the need for adequate pay for judges.
“No man [should] be a judge in his own cause, or in any cause in respect to which he has the least interest or bias,” Hamilton asserts in No. 80. He continues this argument in No. 81, when he disputes the argument advanced by certain opponents of establishing a supreme court that the British Parliament reviews its own laws; as Hamilton points out, the House of Lords must reconstitute itself as a special court, rather than acting as a legislative body. No. 81 also reiterates Hamilton’s assertion that the need for one supreme court cannot be disputed, referring back to No. 22, in which it was argued that having one supreme court in each state would be unworkable for cases involving the whole country. He also argues that while the Supreme Court will have appellate jurisdiction in cases of both law and fact, it still will be subject to any exceptions and regulations prescribed by Congress, and that the Court will have only two areas of original jurisdiction.
No. 82 discusses the relationship between the state courts and the Supreme Court. Here Hamilton refers back to No. 32, in which the relationship between state and federal governments in matters of taxation is discussed. In No. 82, it is also noted that the legislature will decide if the authority of the lower federal courts will be original or appellate or both.
Bailyn, Bernard, ed. The Debate on the Constitution: Federalist and Antifederalist Speeches, Articles, and Letters During the Struggle over Ratification. New York: The Library of America, 1993. Cox, Archibald. The Court and the Constitution. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987. Hamilton, Alexander, James Madison, and John Jay. The Federalist Papers. New York: Penguin Books, 1961. Smith, Page. The Constitution: A Documentary and Narrative History. New York: William Morrow, 1978. Wills, Garry. Explaining America: The Federalist. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1981.
Reversals of Court decisions by amendment
Reversals of Court decisions by Congress