Judicial Review: Federalist 78, Alexander Hamilton

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In Federalist 78, Alexander Hamilton argued that the Judicial Branch is the “least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution" and that it is “beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power” since it has “neither force nor will, but merely judgment.” [*] While it is true that Hamilton wrote the Federalist Papers as propaganda to garner support for the Constitution by convincing New Yorkers that it would not take away their rights and liberties, it is also true that Article III of the Constitution was deliberately vague about the powers of the Judicial Branch to allow future generations to decide what exactly those powers should be. In the 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Marshall, established the Court’s power of judicial review. However, as Jill Lepore, Harvard professor of American History, argued, “This was such an astonishing thing to do that the Court didn’t declare another federal law unconstitutional for fifty-four years” after declaring the Judicial Act of 1789 unconstitutional in Marbury v. Madison. [*Jill Lepore] Alexander Hamilton was incorrect in his assertion that the Judicial Branch is the least dangerous to political rights and the weakest of the three government branches because judicial review has made the Supreme Court more powerful than he had anticipated. From 1803 to today, the controversial practice of judicial activism in the Supreme Court has grown—as exemplified by the differing decisions in Minor v. Happersett and United States v. Virginia—which, in effect, has increased the power of the Supreme Court to boundaries beyond those that Alexander Hamilton stated in Federalist 78.
In Federalist 78, written in 1787 to serve as propaganda t...

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...ice it when the said sources contain no clear information regarding the topic at hand. In situations like these, the Supreme Court is essentially free to do whatever it wishes, and often exercises judicial activism. Thus, there is a disconnect that exists between the theoretical practice of judicial review, which is reasonable and justifiable, and the actual practice of judicial review that is often used in the Supreme Court, which may potentially allow the Judiciary to surpass the powers granted to it in the Constitution and as stated by Hamilton in Federalist 78. There are two main sides to the debate about how Justices should approach judicial review: the strict constructionists, who advocate for strict adherence to the text of the Constitution when deciding a case, and the loose constructionists, who advocate for more freedom for the judges when deciding a case.

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