1209. (1-19-2011) Whenever a particular statute contravenes the constitution it will be the duty of the judicial tribunals to adhere to the latter, and disregard the former.
- Alexander Hamilton – Federalist No. LXXVIII, 1788
1211. (1-19-2011) The Government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men. It will certainly cease to deserve this high appellation if the laws furnish no remedy for the violation of a vested legal right….The question, whether an Act, repugnant to the constitution can become the law of the land, is a question deeply interesting to the United States, but, happily, not of an intricacy proportioned to its interests. It seems only necessary to recognize certain principles supposed to have been long and well established, to decide it….The powers of the legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken or forgotten, the constitution is written. To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing, if these limits may, at any time, be passed by those intended to be restrained? The distinction between a government with limited and unlimited powers is abolished if those limits do not confine the persons on whom they are imposed and if Acts prohibited and Acts allowed are of equal obligation….It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases must of necessity expound and interpret that rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each.
- Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch), 137 (1803)