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The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall, and the Battle for the Supreme Court

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  242 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
Following the bitterly contested election between Adams and Jefferson in 1800, the United States teetered on the brink of a second revolution. When Adams sought to prolong his policies in defiance of the electorate by packing the courts, it became evident that the new Constitution was limited in its powers. Change was in order and John Marshall stepped up to the challenge. ...more
Unknown Binding, 281 pages
Published May 14th 2014 by Not Avail (first published February 10th 2009)
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Mar 16, 2010 Mahlon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone with an interest in the Supreme Court or U. S. History.
Recommended to Mahlon by: Amazon
Shelves: read-2010
The authors of The Great Decision contend that the written decision of Marbury v. Madison is almost as important as The Declaration of Independence and Constitution when it comes to solidifying our country's ideals, and they make a compelling case as to why. Many Americans may remember that Marbury established the principal of judicial review, which meant that the Supreme Court can declare an act of Congress or the Executive branch unconstitutional. Some may also recall that it was the appointme ...more
Nov 02, 2013 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at the importance of the Marbury v. Madison decision by the Supreme Court in 1803. In the Marbury decision, John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice, carved out a position of power for the then rather feeble Supreme Court by claiming the power of judicial review for that body which helped to define the boundaries between the three branches of government. In setting the background for the decision, the authors give a general history of the early Supreme Court, the attempt by Joh ...more
Feb 05, 2010 Terry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book and thought the authors were skillful in making an otherwise dry topic interesting and compelling. There are some flaws in the book, however, which caused me to rate it with only three stars.

On the plus side, the authors did a lot of primary research from the leading political papers at that time, which helps the reader keep a pulse on the rivalry and political infighting of the time. The polarizing politics of our modern era almost pale in comparison to the early 19th century.
Jun 28, 2012 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, borrowed
This was an interesting book about how the Supreme Court arrived at its current position with the powers and limitations we take for granted. It's always fascinating to read about the political inbreeding of those first few decades of our country - a few dozen men (only men) just rotated through all of the leadership roles.

This was particularly enlightening to read during the week SCOTUS announced its ruling on Citizens United, and is about to give their decision on "Obamacare".
Jean Poulos
The 1800 elections unveiled a schism in the body politic for the first time in U.S. history. The battle of the two party systems begins with this election. In the final days of John Adam’s presidency, he tried to appoint as many Federalist as possible to position established in legislation passed by the outgoing Federalist majority Congress. He had recently appointed John Marshall as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court when John Jay refused to take the job again. A handful of commissions for just ...more
Chris Aylott
Aug 16, 2009 Chris Aylott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like most Americans, I had never heard of Marbury v. Madison, and would have been baffled to see the Supreme Court's opinion in the National Archives next to treasures like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But this book does an outstanding job of explaining what Marbury v. Madison is, why it mattered, and just how fragile American democracy was at the beginning of the 19th century.

What I didn't know is that the Supreme Court started as by far the weakest of the three branches, with no pe
Nov 20, 2009 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a junkie, twice over - SCOTUS AND Colonial/US History. So I was expecting good, and very happy to have found EXCELLENT! in this book.

The "Great Decision" was the Supreme Court's decision in Marbury vs. Madison which single-handedly established the Court as a co-equal branch of the federal government and established a strong tradition of the court being non-partisan / beyond politics. Without the interesting and devotedly patriotic high intellect of John Marshall, who knows how America would
Patrick Sprunger
The animosity dividing American political opinion dates all the way back to the beginning of the republic. Today Washington and Jefferson nestle side by side on Mount Rushmore, in the change collected on the bedside table, and in the popular mythologies of our public schooling and political pundits. But the two men - more significantly, the political parties they represented - were as diametrically opposed as today's Republicans and Democrats. It's hard to imagine anyone saying the sorts of thin ...more
Sep 18, 2013 Bruce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us-history, politics
The Great Decision is about the case of Marbury v. Madison which is usually viewed as the foundation of the Supreme Court's ability to declare a law unconstitutional. It is interesting that the reason Marbury brought the case was because Chief Justice John Marshall did not do his job properly as the Whigs (Federalists) stacked the court system during the several month lame duck session after Jefferson and the 19th Century 'Republicans' were elected. The decision itself essentially said the court ...more
Jul 31, 2013 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fine, engaging history of Marbury v Madison. What's often lost in First Year Con Law courses is the background behind John Adams' appointment of the "Midnight Judges," the hyper-partisan political realities between Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists, and the fact that the Congress had, in the Judiciary act of 1801, completely canceled the Court's 1802 term.

This book does a lovely job of giving the surrounding history that led up to Marbury's last minute appointment, the bu
Every law student reads Marbury v. Madison in constitutional law class, but rarely do most classes (or students) go in depth into the history surrounding the case. The author is not exaggerating when he makes the case that this decision had a profound impact on the development of the political institutions of this country.

Mr. Sloan does a good job of providing color and drama to enliven what could be a dull topic. Even lawyers familiar with the opinion may learn quite a bit.

Unfortunately for M
Joe Gawlik
Jan 25, 2014 Joe Gawlik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well written and structured. Nice details regarding all the players in the early days of Government. Adams lame duck appointments of Federalists in judiciary positions really PO'd Jefferson. Interesting observations on Adams, Marshall, Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson and many other important men of the times. The incestuousness of our Government at that time was also enlightening. Crux of the book was the Marshall opinion on Marbury v Madison (and Jefferson,) which turns out to be one of the m ...more
May 21, 2011 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: law
The history of Marbury v. Madison and the power of constitutional review by the judicial branch comes to life like a Shakespearean play. Marshall and Jefferson are cousins who despise each other, Marshall (as Chief Justice) oversees a case in which HE (as the then-Secretary of State) played a critical role. It seems fitting then that the court's decision both strengthened and weakened the court at the same time, that Marbury/Federalists and Madison/Jefferson/Republicans both won and lost. And th ...more
Matt Carton
Jul 15, 2015 Matt Carton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is what I do doing summer break - I read books about early America in one day. What a thoughtful, insightful work. I never knew the particulars about Marbury v. Madison case. Sloan and McKean discuss all the legalese in perfect layman English. And it was great to read about John Marshall. Talk about the perfect man at the perfect time!
Sep 05, 2015 Leo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book illustrating a landmark case decided by John Marshall's Supreme Court. It was by this case, Marbury v. Madison, the SCt's judicial power was strengthened and the idea of separation of powers was translated into the operation of modern democracy. Great detail, and fascinating story-telling.
Rusty Tobin
Jan 03, 2015 Rusty Tobin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very readable history of the Marbury vs. Madison case. Provides excellent context anddetailed explanation of the constitutional issues as well as portraits of Jefferson, Marshal and other political figures of the time period.
Jul 27, 2011 Adrienne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Its easy to feel that today's extreme partisanship is new, but the story of Marbury vs Madison dispels that. This book is the story of John Adams making scores of midnight appointments, negative campaigning that led up to a contested Presidential race, and ultimately the creation of the Supreme Court.

Aside from it being important history and a good story, this book was fun to read because you get to see the founding fathers still arguing about how the Constitution should be implemented 20 some
Nov 06, 2012 Chandler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An interesting, albeit short, discussion of the seminal Supreme Court case Marbury vs. Madison. I remember reading the short brief of this case in law school, but I never got a chance to learn the backstory of the historical figures involved, which this book does do a excellent job of laying out for us. Recommended reading for US or Constitutional history lovers, also this is short enough and informative enough to be used as assigned reading for a high school US History class.
May 14, 2015 Tyler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at the case, and the men who decided it, which forever cemented the importance of judicial review in American jurisprudence. An entertaining portrayal of the early United States in a time of great political strife, and the complex legal questions which made the Supreme Court a co-equal branch of the federal government. Thomas Jefferson can suck it! Let's put John Marshall on the $20!
A concise recital of events and arguments surrounding the decision but I felt not enough time was spent on its ramifications through the years. The book feels short, like a long magazine article and 28 pages are simply the text of Chief Justice Marshall's decision which is actually written in a style that obscures its importance and works against the clarity of the rest of the book.
Barbara Marshall
A really interesting discussion of the early relationship between the Executive and Judicial branches of government. There is good analysis of the interplay of politics and legal reasoning that led to the first important Supreme Court decision, establishing for all time the principle of judicial review. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the history of the Supreme Court.
Aug 31, 2013 Ju rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
347.7312 Very interesting to read how "small town" this country was back then (20 years after the revolution). I also enjoyed the backstory on a case I have heard about throughout my career. It's cool how the
Idea of judicial review is reaching other countries. I admit I skipped paragraphs; didn't think it was well-wriitten in some parts.
Aug 05, 2011 Joeybjab05 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You want to know how the United States' judiciary became the third part of the balanced powers of Government, then you should read this book. This account describes in detail the case of Marbury v. Madison, the acitivies that led to it, the reasons for it, the case itself, and the outcome with its effect on the History of the American governance.
Dec 01, 2012 George rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is really boooorrrrriiinng. It purports to tell the story of Marbury v Madison, one of the first US Supreme Court decisions.

But, it illuminated political activities during the early period of US history, in long, excruciating detail. As such, not much interest for me, despite an interest in colonial and early US history.
Ken Rossignol
Aug 13, 2013 Ken Rossignol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This audiobook was about five hours long and filled in the many blanks of the history of this important time, so much of which guided the Supreme Court into being a real and actual third branch and balancing element to American government. Well done and enjoyable for two hundred year old history.
Nov 07, 2009 Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A historian who can write. This treatment of the pivotal Supreme Court decision that set the precedent for judicial review is well-organized, relatively succinct, and informative. I feel like I have a better understanding of the case I have known about since junior high.
Mar 10, 2009 Jack rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history, law
Fairly quick read - I had mostly forgotten the details of this case from AP US History so it was a nice little overview of the historical context and players. Also nice that the book has the decision in full as an appendix :)
Personal antipathy between Marshall and Jefferson. Sup. Ct. not likely to overturn Alien and Sedition acts because before Judiciary Act, the judges rode circuit and so would have been reviewing their own decisions.
Jan 06, 2013 Molly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
This is an interesting book about what may have been the Supreme Court's most important decision, in that it paved the way for an independent judiciary with the ability to review laws passed by congress.
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