Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress, 1789-1791 | Next Page
Creation of the Judiciary
Senate Draft of the Judiciary Bill, Page 1
Page 1, Senate Draft of the Judiciary Bill [S-1]
(Courtesy of the National Archives)

Page 20, Senate Draft of the Judiciary Bill
Page 20

 page 27, Senate Draft of the Judiciary Bill



The federal judiciary today retains essentially the same structure created by this act in 1789. The Senate assumed responsibility for drawing up the legislation necessary to enable the Supreme Court and other federal courts to function. On June 12, 1789 a committee, made up of a senator from each state, reported the Judiciary Bill. While all of the committee members participated in the bill's creation, Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, William Paterson of New Jersey, and Caleb Strong of Massachusetts were the most influential. These three men served as a drafting subcommittee, the first such committee in the federal Congress.

These pages illustrate how the subcommittee divided up the responsibility for drafting the bill. The first page shows the first two of ten sections which set up the judicial structure and were drafted by Paterson.

Page 20 of the manuscript illustrates sections 10-24, which relate to jurisdiction and were authored by Ellsworth. This page is particularly interesting as the words following the asterisk in the margin were omitted when the bill was printed (see below). The error went undetected and the words did not appear in the final act. Also evident is the extensive water damage which occurred during the many years that the manuscript lay in an attic of the Capitol at Washington.
Except for the section in the hand of Strong, shown here on page 27, the remaining sections of the bill, which focused on procedure, were written by a Senate clerk. Strong presumably was the author of these sections.

On July 17 the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 14 to 6. The minority consisted of the two Antifederalists from Virginia and their allies, who believed Congress was giving too much power to the executive and judicial branches.

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