People: Early Republic
After the duel Burr went south to New Orleans. At the time, the Spanish were conspiring for control of the Mississippi valley. Burr allegedly made plans with James Wilkinson, the governor of the Louisiana Territory, to support a rebellion. He was arrested and charged with treason – he was accused of attempting to establish an independent republic in the Southwest. Chief Justice John Marshall presided over his Virginia trial. Burr was acquitted in the first application of the Constitution’s provisions for the crime of treason.
Tocqueville criticized individualism and believed that associations among people would lead to the greatest happiness for society. He emphasized responsibilities of citizenship and the value of compromise. Further, he analyzed the American attempt to foster equality among citizens through the promotion of liberty, while contrasting that approach to more socialistic systems that attempt to foster equality through government control.
Throughout the 1790s he worked as a writer and printer, publishing pamphlets and a weekly newspaper, the Fair Haven Gazette. Lyon was particularly critical of the Federalists in Congress, President John Adams, and the Alien and Seditions Acts, which Lyon believed violated freedom of speech and press protected by the First Amendment. In his newspaper, he published letters from people criticizing President John Adams, and he himself wrote that President Adams was “foolish” and “selfish” and “in a continual grasp for power” for signing this law. Lyon became the first person charged under the Alien and Sedition Acts.
At his trial, Lyon argued that the law was unconstitutional. The court disagreed and Lyon was fined and sentenced to four months in jail. While serving his sentence, he was reelected to Congress in a landslide. Public opinion turned against John Adams and the Congress responsible for the Alien and Sedition Acts. Many were turned out of office, and the new Congress allowed the Alien and Sedition Acts to expire in 1801.
Marshall’s most important decision was Marbury v. Madison (1803) which established the doctrine of judicial review. He also decided Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819), which clarified the Contracts Clause; McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), which examined implied powers of Congress under Article I, section 8 and affirmed the supremacy of the Constitution over state law; and Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) which affirmed that Congress had control of interstate waterways under the Commerce Clause. He also presided over the treason trial of Aaron Burr.
Marshall’s interpretations of the Constitution, including his understanding of federalism, proved definitive and laid the groundwork for much of current constitutional theory and a strong national government.