William Marbury (November 7, 1762 – March 13, 1835) was a highly successful American
businessman and one of the " Midnight Judges
" appointed by United States President
John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father who served as the second president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. Before his presidency, he was a leader of ...
the day before he left office. He was the plaintiff in the landmark
A supreme court is the highest court within the hierarchy of courts in most legal jurisdictions. Other descriptions for such courts include court of last resort, apex court, and high (or final) court of appeal. Broadly speaking, the decisions o ...
case '' Marbury v. Madison
Marbury, son of William and Martha (Marlowe) Marbury, was born November 7, 1762 in Piscataway, Maryland
. He spent most of his early life in Maryland around his home.
Marbury became a Georgetown
businessman and member of the
The Federalist Party was a conservative political party which was the first political party in the United States. As such, under Alexander Hamilton, it dominated the national government from 1789 to 1801.
Defeated by the Jeffersonian Republ ...
. In an effort to prevent the incoming party from dismantling his Federalist Party-dominated government, Adams issued 42 judicial appointments, including Marbury's as
Justice of the Peace
A justice of the peace (JP) is a judicial officer of a lower or ''puisne'' court, elected or appointed by means of a commission ( letters patent) to keep the peace. In past centuries the term commissioner of the peace was often used with the sam ...
District of Columbia
, image_skyline =
, image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, United States Capitol, Logan Circle (Washington, D.C.), Logan Circle, Jefferson Memoria ...
, on March 3, 1801, the day before he turned his government over to incoming President
Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. He was previously the natio ...
. Marbury had actively campaigned for Adams (and against Jefferson) in the presidential election of 1800. Jefferson refused to honor Adams' appointments on the grounds that Adams' paperwork had not been delivered to the proper offices before the change of administration had taken place. Marbury then sued Jefferson's secretary of state
James Madison Jr. (March 16, 1751June 28, 1836) was an American statesman, diplomat, and Founding Father. He served as the fourth president of the United States from 1809 to 1817. Madison is hailed as the "Father of the Constitution" for hi ...
, in the Supreme Court, asking it issue a
writ of mandamus
(; ) is a judicial remedy in the form of an order from a court to any government, subordinate court, corporation, or public authority, to do (or forbear from doing) some specific act which that body is obliged under law to do (or refrain fro ...
to force the Jefferson administration to honor Adams' appointments.
Marbury's suit led to the Supreme Court case '' Marbury v Madison
'', which utilized the power of Judicial review
in its decision. Supreme Court Chief Justice
John Marshall (September 24, 1755July 6, 1835) was an American politician and lawyer who served as the fourth Chief Justice of the United States from 1801 until his death in 1835. He remains the longest-serving chief justice and fourth-longes ...
didn't offer Marbury a legal remedy
. Marshall's two-pronged decision averred that while the Court did not have the authority to issue the writ Marbury had requested, it did have the authority to review the constitutionality of actions of the federal executive and legislative branches of government, including those of the Adams and Jefferson administrations.
Marbury never held a judicial office but had a successful career as a banker.
Marbury died on March 13, 1835. He was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery
, image_skyline =
, image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, United States Capitol, Logan Circle, Jefferson Memorial, White House, Adams Morgan, ...
Marbury's former home in Georgetown is now known as " Forrest-Marbury House
" and serves as the Ukrainian Embassy to the
The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major unincorporated territorie ...
. Chief Justice
Warren Earl Burger (September 17, 1907 – June 25, 1995) was an American attorney and jurist who served as the 15th chief justice of the United States from 1969 to 1986. Born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Burger graduated from the St. Paul Colleg ...
placed portraits of William Marbury and James Madison in the small dining room of the Supreme Court, and designated the room "the John Marshall room".
Descendants include William L. Marbury, Jr.
(1901–1988) of Baltimore, Maryland.
* '' Marbury v. Madison
* William L. Marbury, Jr.
People from Prince George's County, Maryland
People from Georgetown (Washington, D.C.)
19th-century American lawyers
Burials at Oak Hill Cemetery (Washington, D.C.)