1821.003: Report of Committee on Answer to Complaint in Cohens v. Virginia.

Published: 1821

Full Title: Report and resolutions concerning the citation of the Commonwealth, to answer a complaint before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Author: Virginia. General Assembly.

Place Issued: Richmond

Issuing Press: Thomas Ritchie

Description: 24 pgs.; 22 cm. (8vo).


Title is a landmark in the debate over the Supreme Court's power as the final arbiter of law in the United States, in this case its authority to review state supreme court cases as decided in Cohens v. Virginia (19 U.S. 264) on March 3, 1821. Here, the Cohen brothers had violated Virginia law by selling tickets to a federally-authorized lottery in the state without permission of the General Assembly; Virginia's Supreme Court of Appeals used case as an opportunity to declare themselves the final arbiter in Virginia of conflicts between the state and federal law in wake of McCullouch v. Maryland (1819); the Cohens appealed to U.S. Supreme Court, so instigating this report, which was the basis for the state's counter-argument before the Court on February 13, 1821. The Marshall Court turned the tables on the state by reasserting their authority over Virginia's courts, while finding that the Cohens had violated state law. Thomas Ritchie, the public printer, was ordered on January 9, 1821, to print 250 copies of this report for the use of the Assembly; while Ritchie held an interest in the press office of Daniel Trueheart & Samuel Cary at this time, he also regularly subcontracted public work to that of Samuel Shepherd & William Pollard; the absence of evidence for which press he assigned this item, so making him the only person who can be identified with this title. Swem recorded item twice, once from the order to print (9201) and again from a copy in the Library of Congress (9278); entry number reported here corresponds to the printed item.

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