On This Day In History February 24

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 24 is the 55th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 310 days remaining until the end of the year (311 in leap years).

On this day in 1803, the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Marshall, decides the landmark case of William Marbury versus James Madison, Secretary of State of the United States and confirms the legal principle of judicial review–the ability of the Supreme Court to limit Congressional power by declaring legislation unconstitutional–in the new nation.

Marbury v. Madison is a landmark case in United States law and in the history of law worldwide. It formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States under Article III of the Constitution. It was also the first time in the world that a court invalidated a law by declaring it “unconstitutional.”

This case resulted from a petition to the Supreme Court by William Marbury, who had been appointed by President John Adams as Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia but whose commission was not subsequently delivered. Marbury petitioned the Supreme Court to force Secretary of State James Madison to deliver the documents, but the court, with John Marshall as Chief Justice, denied Marbury’s petition, holding that the part of the statute upon which he based his claim, the Judiciary Act of 1789, was unconstitutional.

Marbury v. Madison was the first time the Supreme Court declared something “unconstitutional,” and established the concept of judicial review in the U.S. (the idea that courts may oversee and nullify the actions of another branch of government). The landmark decision helped define the “checks and balances” of the American form of government.

The Issue

There are three ways a case can be heard in the Supreme Court: (1) filing directly in the Supreme Court; (2) filing in a lower federal court, such as a district court, and appealing all the way up to the Supreme Court; (3) filing in a state court, appealing all the way up through the state’s highest courts, and then appealing to the Supreme Court on an issue of federal law. The first is an exercise of the Court’s original jurisdiction; the second and third are exercises of the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction.

Because Marbury filed his petition for the writ of mandamus directly in the Supreme Court, the Court needed to be able to exercise original jurisdiction over the case in order to have the power to hear it.

Marbury’s argument is that in the Judiciary Act of 1789, Congress granted the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over petitions for writs of mandamus. This raises several issues that the Supreme Court had to address:

  • Does Article III of the Constitution create a “floor” for original jurisdiction, which Congress can add to, or does it create an exhaustive list that Congress can’t modify at all?
  • If Article III’s original jurisdiction is an exhaustive list, but Congress tries to modify it anyway, who wins that conflict, Congress or the Constitution?
  • And, more importantly, who is supposed to decide who wins?
  • In its answer to this last question, the Supreme Court formalizes the notion of judicial review. In short, the constitutional issue on which Marbury v. Madison was decided was whether Congress could expand the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

     303 – Diocletian, Roman Emperor, publishes his edict that begins the persecution of Christians in his portion of the Empire.

    1303 – Battle of Roslin, of the First War of Scottish Independence.

    1387 – King Charles III of Naples and Hungary is assassinated at Buda.

    1538 – Treaty of Nagyvarad between Ferdinand I and John Zapolya.

    1582 – Pope Gregory XIII announces the Gregorian calendar.

    1607 – L’Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi, one of the first works recognized as an opera, receives its premiere performance.

    1711 – The London premiere of Rinaldo by George Frideric Handel, the first Italian opera written for the London stage.

    1803 – In Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court of the United States establishes the principle of judicial review.

    1809 – London’s Drury Lane Theatre burns to the ground, leaving owner Richard Brinsley Sheridan destitute.

    1822 – The 1st Swaminarayan temple in the world, Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Ahmedabad, is inaugurated.

    1826 – The signing of the Treaty of Yandaboo marks the end of the First Burmese War.

    1831 – The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, the first removal treaty in accordance with the Indian Removal Act, is proclaimed. The Choctaws in Mississippi cede land east of the river in exchange for payment and land in the West.

    1848 – King Louis-Philippe of France abdicates the throne.

    1863 – Arizona is organized as a United States territory.

    1868 – Andrew Johnson becomes the first President of the United States to be impeached by the United States House of Representatives. He is later acquitted in the Senate.

    1875 – The SS Gothenburg hits the Great Barrier Reef and sinks off the Australian east coast, killing approximately 100, including a number of high profile civil servants and dignitaries.

    1881 – China and Russia sign the Sino-Russian Ili Treaty.

    1895 – Revolution breaks out in Baire, a town near Santiago de Cuba, beginning the second war for Cuban independence, that ends with the Spanish-American War in 1898.

    1917 – World War I: The U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom is given the Zimmermann Telegram, in which Germany pledges to ensure the return of New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona to Mexico if Mexico declares war on the United States.

    1918 – Estonian Declaration of Independence.

    1920 – The Nazi Party is founded.

    1942 – Battle of Los Angeles: a UFO flying over wartime Los Angeles causes a blackout order at 2:25 a.m. and attracts a barrage of anti-aircraft fire, ultimately killing 3 civilians.

    1944 – Merrill’s Marauders: The Marauders begin their 1,000 mile journey through Japanese occupied Burma.

    1945 – Egyptian Premier Ahmed Maher Pasha is killed in Parliament after reading a decree.

    1968 – Vietnam War: The Tet Offensive is halted; South Vietnam recaptures Hue.

    1976 – Cuba: national Constitution is proclaimed.

    1980 – The United States Olympic Hockey team completes their Miracle on Ice by defeating Finland 4-2 to win the gold medal.

    1981 – An earthquake registering 6.7 on the Richter scale hits Athens, killing 16 people and destroying buildings in several towns west of the city.

    1983 – A special commission of the U.S. Congress releases a report that condemns the practice of Japanese internment during World War II.

    1989 – Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini offers a USD $3 million bounty for the death of The Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie.

    1989 – United Airlines Flight 811, bound for New Zealand from Honolulu, Hawaii, rips open during flight, sucking 9 passengers out of the business-class section.

    1996 – The last occurrence of February 24 as a leap day in the European Union and for the Roman Catholic Church.

    1999 – The State of Arizona executes Karl LaGrand, a German national convicted of murder during a botched bank robbery, in spite of Germany’s legal action to attempt to save him.

    2006 – Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declares Proclamation 1017 placing the country in a state of emergency in attempt to subdue a possible military coup.

    2007 – Japan launches its fourth spy satellite, stepping up its ability to monitor potential threats such as North Korea.

    2008 – Fidel Castro retires as the President of Cuba after nearly fifty years.

    2011 – Final Launch of Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103).

    2013 – Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria is elected and enthroned as a Patriarch of Bulgaria and all Bulgarians.

    Holidays and observances

       * Christian Feast Day:

             o Matthias

             o Modest (Bishop of Trier)

             o Sergius of Cappadocia

             o February 24 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

       * Dragobete (Romania)

       * Flag Day (Mexico)

       * Independence Day, celebrates the independence of Estonia from Russian Empire in 1918; the Soviet period is considered illegal annexation.

       * National Artist Day (Thailand)

       * Regifugium (Ancient Rome)


    1. Eastern Orthodox, I have always been bemused by the fact that the (so-called) “finding of the head of John the Baptist” (also called John the Forerunner) is a commemoration (or “feast day”).  

      Today is the commemoration of the first and second finding of his head, and May 25 is the commemoration of the third finding of his head.

      Man, I’m telling you, that guy’s head sure got around.

      And for pity’s sake, don’t tell my relatives I just said this.  Most of them take this stuff very seriously.      😉

    Comments have been disabled.