12 Wheat. (25 U.S.) 19 (1827), argued 17 Jan. 1827, decided 2 Feb. 1827 by vote of 7 to 0; Story for the Court.
During the War of 1812, President James Madison ordered some of the states to call out their militias because of the imminent danger of a British invasion. The president acted pursuant to the Enforcement Act of 1795, which Congress had enacted soon after the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania in 1795. In compliance with the president's order, Governor Daniel Tompkins of New York ordered certain militia companies to assemble in New York City. Jacob Mott, a private in one of those companies, refused to obey the order. A court martial subsequently imposed a fine of ninety-six dollars for disobedience, which Mott refused to pay. Martin, the United States marshal, seized Mott's goods, whereupon Mott filed a civil suit to recover his property. The New York state courts gave judgment to Mott, and Martin appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a landmark decision that defined the scope of the president's military power, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the decisions of the states courts. Justice Joseph Story declared that since the president had acted pursuant to a valid exercise of Congress's power under Article I, section 8 (to call out the militia and to regulate its service), the president, as commander in chief, had the sole authority to determine whether the exigency that necessitated his use of statutory authority actually existed. Martin v. Mott was a major precedent supporting President Abraham Lincoln's decision to act decisively in the early days of the Civil War. The case gave substantive authority to the president as the commander in chief and was the earliest decision in a long line of cases broadly defining the executive power.