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This Day In Founding Fathers History – 20 March

Justice John MarshallOn this day in 1816, the Supreme Court affirmed its right to review state court decisions. “In Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, the U.S. Supreme Court declares that its appellate power over federal legal issues extends to cases in state courts, a notion that the Court states is supported by the ‘letter and spirit of the Constitution.’ The decision was handed down after the Virginia Court of Appeals defied a U.S. Supreme Court order in a case dealing with the impact of a federal treaty on a property dispute, giving the high court the opportunity to rule on the constitutionality of its review powers.” 1

Great Boston FireIn 1760 on this day, the Great Fire of Boston destroyed approximately 350 buildings. “Beginning in a tavern near the central market, the wind-whipped blaze spread quickly. The flames consumed shops and homes along King and Congress Streets and continued down to the wharves, where ten ships were left in ashes. Faced with staggering losses, Boston sought aid from the King and Parliament. While other colonies took up charitable collections for the city, the British government refused to help.” 2

George Caleb BinghamOne notable birthday on this day in 1811, that of George Caleb Bingham. “Bingham is renowned today as one of the classic artists of the American West. Bingham’s paintings from 1845-55—the decade of his best work—generally relate to life and commerce along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and to the American scene involving the people of Missouri in and around St. Louis, Columbia, Jefferson City, Arrow Rock, Boonville, and Kansas City. His genre paintings—narratives of everyday life—depicted and immortalized the common man: fur traders and riverboatmen and settlers in scenes of frontier life (which he knew from both tradition and first hand observations); and scenes of the young nation’s democratic process: political campaigning and elections (which he knew from his deep involvement with the Whig party, with Missouri state politics and national politics, and as a seeker and achiever of political office).” 3


1 “March 20 – Today in Legal History,”—toda.html
2 “Boston Burns, March 20, 1760,” Mass Moments,
3 “George Caleb Bingham: Artist of Missouri and the American Frontier,”



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