History Lived Here

By: Kim Eisler

To celebrate publication of their new book on the 1803 Supreme Court decision Marbury v. Madison—which established the principle of judicial review for the nation’s court system—Washington lawyer Cliff Sloan and biographer David McKean booked a party at the Ukrainian Embassy in Georgetown.

The site at 3350 M Street was chosen for more than its pierogis. In 1800, William Marbury, the plaintiff in the lawsuit and one of the protagonists in Sloan and McKean’s The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall and the Battle for the Supreme Court, bought the house—where George Washington verifiably dined on March 29, 1791—for $5,850. It remained in the Marbury family for nearly 100 years before passing to other owners and eventually being sold to the Ukrainian government in 1992.

Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post, stated what many potential readers were thinking: “I studied this case in school some 70 years ago. Until now, I never knew what the hell it was about.”

This article first appeared in the April 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.

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