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Martin v. Mott, the War of 1812, militia, constitutional law, executive powers


In August of 1814, a New York farmer named Jacob E. Mott refused to rendezvous with the militia pursuant to the orders of Governor Daniel D. Tompkins as commanded by President James Madison. In 1818, Mott was court martialed and fined ninety-six dollars. One year later, Mott brought an action in replevin in the New York state courts to recover chattel taken from him by a deputy marshal in lieu of the ninety-six dollars. Both the New York trial and appellate courts sided with Mott. In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Joseph Story, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed and held the marshal’s avowry sufficient. Justice Story’s opinion reiterated the authority of the federal executive, and began a line of cases that culminated in our modern approach to unilateral executive emergency powers.


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