An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

In 1793, the Supreme Court decided its first major constitutional controversy. Chisholm v. Georgia considered whether a state could be sued in federal court by a citizen of another state. The facts of this case arose before the Constitution was even ratified.

During the Revolutionary War, the Executive Council of Georgia authorized the purchase of clothing from Robert Farquhar, a South Carolina merchant. After receiving the supplies, Georgia did not deliver the payments as promised. Soon, Farquhar died. In 1793, the executor of his estate, Alexander Chisholm, filed suit against Georgia in the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction. At the time, the Supreme Court convened in Old City Hall in Philadelphia.

This suit raised an important question of first principles: Could an individual like Chisholm sue a state like Georgia?

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