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U.S. Marshals Service

History

Recognition of the Need for Federal Marshals (cont)

taxes, the minister's dues, the king's or proprietor's quitrents, and fees owed the governor, secretary, or clerk of the court. He got 10 percent of all he took in." In Virginia, from 1619, when the colony was founded, until about 1634, local sheriffs were actually called provost-marshal or marshal.

They were paid assigned fees in pounds of tobacco for such duties as collecting fines, taking inventory of a deceased person's estate, and apprehending and transporting all felons to Jamestown. Similarly, as soon as the colony of Georgia was founded in 1733, the office of provost marshal was established and lasted until as late as 1773.

Thus. at the local level, the office of law enforcer - sheriff - was well established by 1789. Although it is not clear why the Senate selected the name "Marshal" instead of "federal sheriff" or some other derivative, it seems plausible that the authors of the bill intended to avoid confusion in names between federal and local law enforcers. The use of the term 'Marshal" in relation to law enforcement had a long history in England, but it was not widely used in the American colonies.  Yet, despite the Senate's apparent effort to avoid confusion, references to 'federal sheriffs' were made during the Whiskey
Rebellion of 1794.

The second explanation for the lack of debate about the duties of Marshals pertains to the subordinate role of marshals in the legal system then being devised. By concentrating their efforts on restricting the power and authority of the courts, judges, and federal laws, the Anti-Federalists were also limiting the powers of the Marshals. The Marshals were empowered only to enforce court decisions and federal laws. If either or both of these were strictly defined. then the enforcement power of the Marshal would also be limited. Thus, the Anti-Federalists did not need to concern themselves too much with the powers of the Marshals, since those powers derived from the authority of the courts and the federal laws.

One proposed change of direct interest to Marshals was suggested by the Federalists. Several Senators, including Ellsworth, made an unsuccessful attempt to have the service of process made in the name of the president, rather than in the name of the United States. "Here is another absurdity," Richard Henry he wrote about the proposal, "In England, they say the King can do no wrong. But here the President may be impeached.. . . But where consolidation [of power] is the plan, the state's authority must be kept out of view as much as possible, and the head of the empire shown as much as may be. These things demonstrate the vigilance necessary to guard against encroachments."  Lee feared that efforts to make the change would be successful in the future, and he advised his fellow Anti-Federalists to be ever cautious of attempts, however subtle, to extend the power of the federal government. He correctly understood that the debate over the limits of the national government, the rights of the state, and the freedom of individual Americans would continue. That debate, which had such a profound impact on the final form of the Judiciary Act of 1789, has lasted in various forms up to the present day. One hears in contemporary politics the distant echo of the voices of America's Founding Fathers as they tried to superimpose a national government on 13 separate state governments. The inability to reconcile the requirements of federal power with the rights of the states and the liberties of individual citizens has shaped the history of the United States and the role that U.S. Marshals and Deputies have played in it.

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