DOCKET NO.: None
DECIDED BY: Taney Court (1846-1851)
ARGUED: Jan 24, 1848 / Jan 21, 1848 / Jan 25, 1848 / Jan 26, 1848 / Jan 27, 1848 / Jan 28, 1848
DECIDED: Jan 03, 1849
Facts of the case
In 1841, Rhode Island was still operating under an archaic system of government established by a royal charter of 1663. The charter strictly limited suffrage and made no provision for amendment. Dissident groups, protesting the charter, held a popular convention to draft a new constitution and to elect a governor. The old charter government declared martial law and put down the rebellion, although no federal troops were sent. One of the insurgents, Martin Luther, brought suit claiming the old government was not “a republican form of government” and all its acts were thereby invalid.
Did the Court have the constitutional authority to declare which group constituted the official government of Rhode Island?