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Luther v. Borden

Significance, Insurrection In Providence, Which Was The Rightful Government?, Political Vs. Natural Rights


Martin Luther


Luther M. Borden

Appellant's Claim

Luther M. Borden, acting under the martial law that had been declared by the state of Rhode Island, had invaded and searched Martin Luther's home. Martin Luther claimed that the government, under which Borden had acted, was not the legitimate government of Rhode Island. Therefore, Borden was guilty of trespass.

Chief Lawyers for Appellant

Benjamin F. Hallett; Nathan Clifford, U.S. Attorney General

Chief Lawyers for Appellee

John Whipple, Daniel Webster

Justices for the Court

Robert Cooper Grier, John McLean, Samuel Nelson, Roger Brooke Taney (writing for the Court), James Moore Wayne

Justices Dissenting

Levi Woodbury (John Catron, Peter Vivian Daniel, and John McKinley did not participate)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

3 January 1849


That the Court did not have the power to decide that a state government was not legitimate.

Related Cases

  • Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803).
  • Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, 1 Wheat. 316 (1819).
  • Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheat. 264 (1821).
  • Foster v. Neilson, 2 Pet. 253 (1829).
  • United States v. Texas, 143 U.S. 621 (1892).


Bradley, David and Shelley Fisher Fishkin, eds. The Encyclopedia of Civil Rights in America Armonk, NY: Sharpe, 1998.


Knappman, Edward W., ed. Great American Trials. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink Press, 1994.

Further Readings

  • Johnson, John W., ed. Historic U.S. Court Cases, 1690-1990: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992.
  • Rosenblum, Victor G., and A. Didrick Castberg. Cases in Constitutional Law, Political Roles of the Supreme Court. Homewood, IL: The Dorsey Press, 1973.
  • Swisher, Carl B. The History of the Supreme Court of the United States: The Taney Period, 1836-64, Vol. 5. New York: Macmillan, 1974.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882