The Political Supreme Court: Justices, Partisanship, & Power, 1830-1900

Project: Research project

Project Details


Research and writing leading to a book on the U.S. Supreme Court's evolving relationship to the political system across the nineteenth century. Today most Americans believe the Supreme Court should remain outside of partisan politics. But in the 1830s, when partisanship became central to American life, justices were deeply enmeshed in the political system. These men conducted judicial work while actively politicking outside their chambers—building partisan coalitions, campaigning on behalf of state and federal officials, even running for political office themselves. This project investigates why the Supreme Court's relationship to politics changed from these early years. It argues that by the end of the century, as partisan politics grew more complex and geographically dispersed, justices were increasingly unable to exert political influence from their positions on the Court. To bolster their power, justices instead began to describe themselves in apolitical ways and to advocate for a stronger judiciary; they no longer sought to influence national politics through partisan activity, but by judicial decision-making itself.
Effective start/end date7/1/22 → 6/30/23


  • National Endowment for the Humanities: $60,000.00


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