• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court held that the courts could not stop the president from enforcing a law that was allegedly unconstitutional.

President Andrew Johnson, pictured here, vehemently opposed the Reconstruction Act and regarded Mississippi’s motion against him as a threat to presidential power.

(Library of Congress)

Congress enacted the ReconstructionReconstruction Act in 1867 over the veto of President Andrew Johnson. The act gave president-appointed military commanders power over the ten former Confederate states and required the states to make new constitutions giving former slaves the right to vote. Mississippi challenged the act’s constitutionality and tried to stop its enforcement. In Marbury v. Madison[case]Marbury v. Madison[Marbury v. Madison] (1803), the Supreme Court had commanded executive officials to do their duty. However, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase,Chase, Salmon P.;Mississippi v. Johnson[Mississippi v. Johnson] writing for a unanimous Court, argued that Marbury covered only ministerial acts and the Court could not stop a president from carrying into effect an unconstitutional act. Once the president had acted, Chase noted, his actions were subject to legal challenges in the courts.Presidential powers;Mississippi v. Johnson[Mississippi v. Johnson]

Judicial powers

Marbury v. Madison

Presidential powers

Separation of powers

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