Since 1803 there has been discussion over the
powers of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Those who favor judicial review of legislative acts
regard the Justices of the Supreme Court as the
guardians of the Constitution; those who oppose it
speak of " judicial usurpation of executive and legislative powers."
When Sir Henry Maine stated, " The success of
this experiment (judicial review) has blinded men
to its novelty. There is no precedent for it, either
in the ancient or in the modern world, "he accredited
the founders of American constitutionalism with too
much originality. Certainly none other than the American nation can be held responsible for its success
or failure in the United States, yet it is of contemporary interest to understand the contributions
which other countries, and in particular, Great Britain
have made to this doctrine.
Whenever judicial review has been attacked, the
supporters of the theory have claimed that its foundation is deeply rooted in the past.
For example, in the records of the New York State
Ear Association Reports for 1915 one reads:
The American Revolution was a lawyers'
revolution to enforce the principle
laid down in Lord Coke's, Lord Hobart's
and Lord Holt's decisions that acts
of Parliament against common right or
in violation of the natural liberties
of Englishmen were void,
It is submitted that when such astounding statements are made by a committee of lawyers of the New
York Bar, the evidence to support such statements should
investigated and evaluated. When and where did Lord
Coke, Lord Hobart, and Lord Holt lay down such a principle?
Chief Justice Marshall stated that the written
constitution was the fundamental law of the land. Is
there British authority for this statement? What is
the British background of the doctrine of judicial
The writer realizes that the British people are
beginning to tire of the tendency upon the part of Americans to justify their customs and institutions on the
ground that the customs and institutions originated in
Great Britain. Recently newspapers reported that the
new American Ambassador was well liked because he did
not look for his ancestors' tombstones the day after he
arrived at Southampton.