The Marshall Court (1801–35)
CourtSpeak: Fletcher v. Peck Land Deal Case (1810)
Chief Justice John Marshall (majority): “When, then, a law is in its nature a contract, when absolute rights have vested under that contract, a repeal of the law cannot devest those rights; and the act of annulling them, if legitimate, is rendered so by a power applicable to the case of every individual in the community….
“Since, then, in fact, a grant is a contract executed, the obligation of which still continues, and since the Constitution uses the general term ‘contract’ without distinguishing between those which are executory and those which are executed, it must be construed to comprehend the latter as well as the former. A law annulling conveyances between individuals, and declaring that the grantors should stand seised of their former estates, notwithstanding those grants, would be as repugnant to the Constitution as a law discharging the vendors of property from the obligation of executing their contracts by conveyances. It would be strange if a contract to convey was secured by the Constitution, while an absolute conveyance remained unprotected.”