Federalist or Friends of Adams: The Marshall Court and Party Politics
At the end of his first year in office, President Thomas Jefferson complained bitterly to a political supporter that “the Federalists have retired into the judiciary as a stronghold.” “There,” he feared, “the remains of federalism are to be preserved . . . and from that battery all the works of republicanism are to be beaten down and erased.” 1 Subsequent Democratic-Republican political efforts to oust the Federalists from this high ground by impeaching hostile justices, appointing friendlier justices, and publicly pressuring the Marshall Court apparently failed. “After twenty years' confirmation of the federated system by the voice of the nation, declared through the medium of elections,” Jefferson bemoaned in 1819, “the judiciary on every occasion [is] still driving us into consolidation.” 2 The sage of Monticello in his last years repeatedly warned his correspondents that “those who formerly usurped the name of federalists” were “almost to a man . . . in possession of [the judicial] branch of the government.” 3
1 Jefferson to John Dickinson, December 19, 1801, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Andrew A. Lipscomb (Washington, D.C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1903), 10:302. See Jefferson to Joel Barlow, March 14, 1801, Writings of Jefferson, 10:223. Jefferson's chief lieutenant in the Senate, William Branch Giles, had six months earlier informed his commander that “[t]he Revolution [Republican success in 1800] is incomplete so long as that strong fortress [the Judiciary] is in possession of the enemy.” Giles to Jefferson, June 1, 1801, quoted in Albert J. Beveridge, The Life of John Marshall (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1919), 3:22. See James Monroe to Thomas Jefferson, March 3, 1801, The Writings of James Monroe, ed. Stanislaus Murray Hamilton (New York: HMS Press, 1969), 3:263–64; Charles Warren, The Supreme Court in United States History (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1947), 1:192–94.
2 Jefferson to Judge Spencer Roane, September 6, 1819, Writings of Jefferson, 15:212. See Jefferson to James Bowdoin, April 2, 1807, Writings of Jefferson, 11:186; Jefferson to Caesar Rodney, September 25, 1810, Writings of Jefferson, 12:245; Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, September 27, 1810, Writings of Jefferson, 12:425; Jefferson to James Madison, October 15, 1810, The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison 1776–1826, ed. James Morton Smith (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1995) 3:1646–47.
3 Jefferson to Robert Garnett, February 14, 1824, Writings of Jefferson, 16:14. See Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, August 2, 1823, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Paul Leicester Ford (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1905), 12:299–300; Jefferson to Samuel Smith, August 2, 1823, Works of Jefferson, 12:301; Jefferson to William Johnson, March 4, 1823, Works of Jefferson, 12:279; Jefferson to Henry Dearborn, October 31, 1822, Works of Jefferson, 12:264–65. Other Old Republicans voiced similar concerns. See “Somers,” “Examination of the Opinion of the Supreme Court in the case of Cohens vs. the State of Virginia,” Richmond Enquirer, May 15, 1821; Spencer Roane, “‘Hampden’ Essays,” John Marshall's Defense of McCulloch v. Maryland, ed. Gerald Gunther (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1969), 151. See also, Henry J. Abraham, Justices and Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 87; George Lee Haskins and Herbert A. Johnson, Foundations of Power: John Marshall, 1801–1815 (New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1981), 312–13; G. Edward White, The Marshall Court and Cultural Change 1815–1835 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 774–77.