Constitutional Places: Independence Hall and the home of the Supreme Court from 1791-1800

October 31st, 2012

Last week following my presentation at Drexel, I took a trip with my family to Independence Hall. Here are some photos of the place where our Republic began.

Independence Hall

This is the location of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

Independence Hall

The Park Ranger said that they do not know where the furniture was actually arranged, so they took some liberties (pun intended!). Most of the furniture is either original, or from the time period.

It looks so much bigger in this the picture.

 The Supreme Court Chamber (1791-1800)

Next door to Independence Hall is the old City Hall, which served as the home of the  Supreme Court of the Unite States from 1791-1800.

Old City Hall, which served as the site of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1791-1800

The plaque outside reads: “In this building met the first Supreme Court of the United States at 1789-1800. Presided over by Chief Justices John Jay, John Rutledge, Oliver Elsworth.” 1791 you ask? Wasn’t the Judiciary Act signed in 1789?

The Supreme Court assembled for the first time under the leadership of Chief Justice Jay on February 1, 1790 in the Merchants Exchange Building in New York City (then the Capital of the United States). The next day, Justices Cushing and Blair were sworn in as Associate Justices. Justice Rutledge took the oath on February 15, 1790 and Justice Iredell took the oath on May 12, 1790. However there was no business to transact that year, so they did not decide any cases.

The first case argued before the Court was West v. Barnes, which occurred on August 2, 1791 in Philadelphia. Want to talk about a quick turnaround? The case was decided the next day on August 3, 1791! I guess they wanted to get started.

Dallas only offered an abbreviated summary of the opinion:

On the first day of the term, Bradford presented to the court, a writ, purporting to be a writ of error, issued out of the office of the clerk of the circuit court for Rhode Island district, directed to that court, and commanding a return of the judgment and proceedings rendered by them in this cause: And thereupon he moved for a rule, that the defendant rejoin to the errors assigned in this cause.Barnes, one of the defendants, (a counsellor of the court) objected to the validity of the writ, that it had issued out of the wrong office: and, after argument,THE COURT were unanimously of opinion, That writs of error to remove causes to this court from inferior courts, can regularly issue only from the clerk’s office of the court.Motion refused.

And this is the chamber such as Chisholm v. Georgia (argued 2/5/93, decided 2/19/93), Ware v. Hylton (argued 2/6/96, decided 3/7/96), and Calder v. Bull (argued 2/8/98, decided 8/8/98) were argued.

The chamber of the Supreme Court.

It is amazing to be in this same room.