The Taney Court (1836–64)


In what decision did the Taney Court address the meaning of “due process of law”?

The Taney Court first addressed the meaning of due process in Murray’s Lessee v. Hoboken Land & Improvement Co. (1856). In the unanimous decision, the Court reasoned that the federal government could issue distress warrants, an administrative, nonjudicial procedure, to recover monies embezzled by Samuel Swartwout, a New York customs official appointed by President Andrew Jackson.

In the Court’s opinion, Justice Benjamin Curtis wrote that the government’s process did not violate due process. “The words, ‘due process of law,’ were undoubtedly intended to convey the same meaning as the words, ‘by the law of the land,’ in Magna Carta,” Curtis wrote.


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