That the people have an original right to establish, for their future government, such principles, as, in their opinion, shall most conduce to their own happiness, is the basis on which the whole American fabric has been erected…
This original and supreme will organizes the government, and assigns to different departments their respective powers. It may either stop here, or establish certain limits not to be transcended by those departments.
The government of the United States is of the latter description. The powers of the legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken, or forgotten, the constitution is written. To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing, if these limits may, at any time, be passed by those intended to be restrained?
Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison, 1803.