the Need for
Pictured to the
left is the official portrait of Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court Oliver Ellsworth and his wife Abigail.
Ellsworth was the principle author of the judiciary Act of 1789, the
charter for the federal judiciary system and the Marshals Service.
Senate Bill Number
One of the First Session of the First Congress became, after lengthy and
heated debate, the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789.
The Act provided a charter for the federal judicial system by specifying
the jurisdiction and powers of the district and circuit courts, and the
qualifications and authority of federal judges, district attorneys,
court clerks, U.S. Marshals, and Deputy Marshals. Invited by Article
111, Section 1, of the
newly ratified Constitution to "ordain and establish" a court structure
for the new national government, the first Senate moved quickly to the
its labors were immediately embroiled in a bitter contest between the
Federalists, who wanted a strong federal government, and the Anti-
Federalists, who jealously guarded the rights of the states.
The result was a typically
American compromise. The Federalists stymied an Anti-Federalist motion
to limit the district courts' jurisdiction to admiralty and maritime
cases only. The Anti-Federalists succeeded in limiting the appellate
review of federal courts to issues of law, excluding questions of fact.
The final form of the Act satisfied neither side, for most of the
participants recognized it as a clumsy, inefficient system. As soon as
the Act passed, the Congress directed the Attorney General to report on
ways to improve it. Yet, the judicial system's very clumsiness and
inefficiency has served it well in successfully achieving its
contradictory purposes of exerting federal authority while protecting
the rights of the states and the freedoms of individual citizens. In
governing ourselves, we Americans have never had an easy time
determining how much or how little government we wanted. Our system of
federal courts accurately reflects this fundamental indecisiveness.
From this perspective, we can better
understand the difficult tasks that generations of Marshals and Deputies
have confronted as they tried to enforce the law upon a people who,
while recognizing the necessity for law, have never been comfortable
with any encroachment on their personal liberties:
This article briefly describes the origins of the office of Marshal
in the Judiciary Act of 1789. The theme explored here runs consistently
throughout the history of the Marshals Service. For 195 years, Marshals
and Deputies have performed the duties originally assigned them by the
Judiciary Act of 1789. Their history is also the story of a nation's
unending attempt to balance the need for law and order against the
demand for individual freedom and the rights of the states.