Providence: John Carter, 1787.
First edition. iv, 60 pp. 1 vols. 8vo. A Landmark of the Principle of Judicial Review. Contemporary wrappers, spine with some loss. Alden 1105; Evans 20825. Sabin 98638; Kress B1355; JCB (3) I:3167. Item #257225
In 1786, the Rhode Island legislature had passed laws requiring the acceptance of Rhode Island paper currency as legal tender without discount and providing that violators should be tried without jury. Varnum, as counsel for Weeden, was a member of the Continental Congress, and argued that the legislature could not abolish the right to a jury trial, and that the courts had the right to set aside the law. Rhode Island’s original charter did not mention trial by jury although an act of the Assembly had in 1663 specifically affirmed the right. Varnum contended that Americans had the rights common to all Englishmen, and the law was overturned.
Varnum’s arguments were published shortly before the Constitutional Convention, and were cited by Madison seventeen years later in Marbury v. Madison.
The first well-documented American case of an act of the legislature being overturned by the judiciary.
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