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U.S. Marshals Service


Recognition of the Need for Federal Marshals

The Authors of the Judiciary Act of 1789

The history of the federal court system began on April 7, 1789, the second day; of business for the first Senate. On that day, the members appointed a Special Judiciary Committee to formulate a judiciary act for the United States. Each of the 10 states then represented in the Senate (New York had not held its elections for Senators and Rhode Island and North Carolina had yet to ratify the Constitution) was given one seat on the Special Committee. Of the 10 members, half had been delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. This impressive roster of Senators included Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, who had coined the name "Government of the United States." and William Paterson of New Jersey, who was the author of the famous "New Jersey Plan" in the Constitutional Convention. A few of the other members were Caleb Strong of Massachusetts, one of the leading Federalists of the day; William Maclay of Pennsylvania, a crotchety independent plagued by rheumatic knees, but alive with a strong protective feeling toward the rights of individual citizens; and Richard Henry Lee, who had introduced the resolution declaring American independence in the second Continental Congress on July 2, 1776.

The actual work of writing the judiciary bill fell primarily to Ellsworth and Paterson. with some assistance from Strong. 'because sections of the original bill are in the handwriting of the authors, we know for certain that Paterson penned the first nine sections, which dealt primarily with the mechanics of the judicial system, such as the number of federal districts, the establishment of district and circuit courts, the office of court clerks, and the time for the opening session of the courts. Ellsworth wrote sections 10 through 23, which were the heart of the bill since they covered the scope of authority of the courts, the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the right to issue writs, the various methods of appeal, and the type of writs of error. These sections were the most controversial and the most heavily amended by the Senate. The remaining 20-odd sections of the original bill, including the two sections on Marshals and Deputies, are not in any identifiable handwriting, which indicates that they were recorded by one of the clerks of the Senate.

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