Orientation and Getting Started
The Creation of the Constitution
The Road to Philadelphia
Slavery and the Constitution
The Presidency
The Federal Judiciary
Some Other Important Details
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Madison and the Federal Veto

Federalism in Practice and Fletcher v. Peck

Over time, Madison seems to have changed his mind about the supposed imperative of the federal veto and the supposed insufficiency of enumerating the prohibitions on state powers. The Constitution had successfully quashed the menace of paper money in the states. And the first time that the Supreme Court exercised its authority to strike down a state law, it was done to uphold the integrity of contracts. In Fletcher v. Peck (1810), the Court determined that the one of Georgia’s laws had run afoul of Section 10 when it violated the obligations of contracts; that law was therefore declared null and void. By 1833 he seems to have been completely won over by the efficacy of the Constitution as it was finally adopted:

It seems to be forgotten, that the abuses committed within the individual States previous to the present Constitution, by interested or misguided majorities, were among the prominent causes of [the Constitution’s] adoption, and particularly led to the provision contained in it which prohibits paper emissions and the violations of contracts, and which gives an appellate supremacy to the judicial department of the U.S.

In other words, the constitutional “patch” of state prohibitions, combined with the power of judicial review, was sufficient to mend the “hole” of improper state laws. Section 10, when enforced by the appellate supremacy of the federal judiciary, had prevented all the state abuses that Madison had previously named as examples of injustice: “Paper money, instalments of debts, occlusion of Courts, making property a legal tender.” And this remedy had the advantage of creating fewer inroads into the states’ sovereignty over their own laws.