Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Although the work of the Supreme Court during the first few years was not great if measured in the number of cases handled, it would be a mistake to conclude that the six men who sat on the Bench during this formative period made no significant contribution to the development of American constitutional law. The Justices had few if any precedents to use as guides, and therefore their judicial work, limited though it was in volume, must be considered as stamped with the significance which attaches to all pioneer activity. Moreover, most of this work was done while on circuit duty in the different districts, and therefore from Vermont to Georgia the Supreme Court Justices were emissaries of good will for the new Constitution and the recently established general government. In every charge to a jury and in every opinion written they had an opportunity to clarify ambiguous clauses in the Constitution, to dispel popular suspicion and to mold public thought relative to the great experiment with Federalism. Most of these opinions and charges to the juries have never been officially recorded, but a canvass of contemporary newspapers reveals that they were widely reported and generally accorded popular support and enthusiasm.