Rutgers v. Waddington

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Rutgers v. Waddington was a case held in the New York City Mayor's Court in 1784. The case set a precedent for the concept of judicial review .[1]


Following the Revolutionary War, New York's legislature enacted a series of laws that stripped Tories of their property and privilege. One such law passed by the legislature in 1783 was the Trespass Act. It gave patriots the legal right to sue anyone who had occupied, damaged or destroyed homes they had left behind British lines during the war.[2] This law served the foundation for the case.

Rutgers v. Waddington[edit]

Rutgers v. Waddington was presented on June 29, 1784, before chief justice James Duane and four additional aldermen. The plaintiff, Elizabeth Rutgers, owned a large brewery and alehouse that she was forced to abandon during the British occupation of New York City. Under the then recently enacted Trespass Act, Rutgers demanded rent in the sum of £8,000[2] from Joshua Waddington, who had been running the brewery since it was abandoned.

The defense's case was litigated by Alexander Hamilton, who posited that the Trespass Act violated the 1783 peace treaty ratified earlier by Congress. Hamilton decided that this case would be a good test of ruling the legality of the Trespass Act.[2]


Duane handed down a split verdict that entitled Rutgers to rent only from the time before the British occupation;[2] and the two parties agreed to the amount of £800.[2] Pecuniary issues aside, more importantly this case set a precedent for Congress's legal authority over the states. To this effect, Chief Justice James Duane wrote in his ruling that "no state in this union can alter or abridge, in a single point, the federal articles or the treaty."[1]


  1. ^ a b, RUTGERS v. WADDINGTON (New York Mayor's Court, 1784)
  2. ^ a b c d e Chernow, Ron, Alexander Hamilton, pp. 198–201, ISBN 0143034758

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