The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

XV. Publicists and Orators, 1800–1850

§ 7. Marbury vs. Madison

To select his opinions for separate comment, or to choose those most noteworthy, is not an easy task. Probably Marbury vs. Madison is the most famous, because in that decision the Supreme Court exercised, for the first time, the power to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional. The principle on which Marshall gave the decision had been stated several times before, for the state courts had announced it when declaring statutes void and, among others, Hamilton had clearly set forth the doctrine in The Federalist. Moreover, modern scholars are not altogether content with the method of approach which Marshall followed in reaching his conclusion that a court had the right to declare a law void. Withal, however, the case is of signal importance and there would be considerable difficulty in presenting the power of the court with more simplicity and cogency.