First US Marshall Killed in Line of Duty

Today in History , January 11, 1794:

Robert Forsythe, veteran of the Revolutionary War, had been appointed by George Washington as the first US Marshal for the state of Georgia.

On this date in 1794, Forsythe was serving civil papers when he became the first US Marshal to be killed in the line of duty.

The person he was attempting to serve, a former Methodist minister, fired on him through a door when Forsythe knocked, killing him instantly.

Former Major Forsythe, now Marshal Forsythe, was the third law enforcement officer killed in the fledgeling United States.

His son would go on to be Governor of Georgia and then US Minister to Spain, where he would negotiate the ceding of Florida to the US.

Bill Tilghman

Today in History, November 1, 1924:

– This should make you Oklahoma proud. Law enforcement proud. THIS is what its all about: On this day, William Tilghman is murdered by a corrupt prohibition agent who resented Tilghman’s refusal to ignore local bootlegging operations. Tilghman, one of the famous marshals who brought law and order to the Wild West, was 71 years old.

Known to both friends and enemies as “Uncle Billy,” Tilghman was one of the most honest and effective lawmen of his day. Born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in 1854, Tilghman moved west when he was only 16 years old. Once there, he flirted with a life of crime after falling in with a crowd of disreputable young men who stole horses from Indians. After several narrow escapes with angry Indians, Tilghman decided that rustling was too dangerous and settled in Dodge City, Kansas, where he briefly served as a deputy marshal before opening a saloon. He was arrested twice for alleged train robbery and rustling, but the charges did not stick.

Despite this shaky start, Tilghman gradually built a reputation as an honest and respectable young man in Dodge City. He became the deputy sheriff of Ford County, Kansas, and later, the marshal of Dodge City. Tilghman was one of the first men into the territory when Oklahoma opened to settlement in 1889, and he became a deputy U.S. marshal for the region in 1891. In the late 19th century, lawlessness still plagued Oklahoma, and Tilghman helped restore order by capturing some of the most notorious bandits of the day.

Over the years, Tilghman earned a well-deserved reputation for treating even the worst criminals fairly and protecting the rights of the unjustly accused. Any man in Tilghman’s custody knew he was safe from angry vigilante mobs, because Tilghman had little tolerance for those who took the law into their own hands. In 1898, a wild mob lynched two young Indians who were falsely accused of raping and murdering a white woman. Tilghman arrested and secured prison terms for eight of the mob leaders and captured the real rapist-murderer.

In 1924, after serving a term as an Oklahoma state legislator, making a movie about his frontier days, and serving as the police chief of Oklahoma City, Tilghman might well have been expected to quietly retire. However, the old lawman was unable to hang up his gun, and he accepted a job as city marshal in Cromwell, Oklahoma. Tilghman was shot and killed while trying to arrest a drunken Prohibition agent.

The Supreme Court Obtains Its Power

Today in History, February 24: 1803:

Marbury vs. Madison.

The Supreme Court establishes the principle of Judicial Review. In a case fraught with typical American skullduggery, the US Supreme Court gains it’s power.

In the election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson had defeated the one term John Adams. In the time before the end of his term, Adams appointed as many judges and justice of the peace as he could, even working with his fellow party members to increase the number of judges.

This resulted in the infamous “midnight judges” that were appointed at the last minute. Adams’ Secretary of State, John Marshall, wasn’t able to deliver all of the commissions to the judges and justices of the peace in time before Adams’ term ended, but figured the new Secretary of State, James Madison, would do so.

He did not. Realizing they’d been snookered, Jefferson and Madison’s party did not deliver the new commissions. One of the Justices of the Peace, William Marbury, sued. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court…whose Chief Justice now was…John Marshall.

Marshall made a decision that was a master stroke. The Court decided that the commissions should have been delivered…but at the same time decided that the court could not enforce the decision because Marbury did not have standing to file suit.

While this initially seemed to emasculate the Court…in the end the decision established that the Court could render Congressional acts Unconstitutional if it chose to do so.

Marshall was looking down the road, not at only the immediate issue.

There are dozens of examples of why appointments to the Court are important.