Martin v. Mott, 12 Wheaton (25 U.S.) 19; 6 L. Ed. 537 (1827)

Martin v. Mott, 12 Wheaton (25 U.S.) 19; 6 L. Ed. 537 (1827)

Facts—In August 1814, the governor of the state of New York, in compliance with a request from the president of the United States, ordered certain companies of militia to assemble in the city of New York for the purpose of entering the service of the United States. The president acted in accordance with a federal statute empowering him to call the militia wherever there shall be danger of invasion. Mott, a private in one of the companies called, refused to comply with the order of the governor. In 1818 a court-martial fined him ninety-six dollars, and when he refused to pay, he was sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment. Martin, a deputy U.S. marshal, seized certain goods of Mott, which Mott sought to recover by action of replevin, designed for such occasions.

Question—Can the president, under the law, call forth the militia of the states when no invasion has taken place?


ReasonsJ. Story (7–0). One of the best means to repel invasion is to pro- vide the necessary forces before the enemy has reached the soil. Who shall judge whether a state of emergency has arisen, if not the president? If any officer or inferior soldier were permitted to decide for himself, where would the case end? The power invested in the president for the faithful execution of his responsibility constitutes him the best judge of the facts. “Whenever a statute gives a discretionary power to any person, to be exercised by him, upon his own opinion of certain facts, it is a sound rule of construction, that the statute constitutes him the sole and exclusive judge of the existence of those facts. It is no answer, that such a power may be abused, for there is no power which is not susceptible of abuse.”

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