Skip to main content

Gelpcké v. Dubuque


GELPCKÉ V. DUBUQUE, 6 Wallace 50 (1864). Prior to its decision in Gelpcké v. Dubuque, the Supreme Court of the United States stated that it would defer to the most recent state court decision when interpreting that state's constitution. In this case the city of Dubuque issued and later defaulted on bonds to finance the construction of a railroad. The city argued that it was not required to pay back the bonds because in 1862 the Iowa Supreme Court found the 1847 law authorizing the bonds unconstitutional under the state constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court, hearing this case because Gelpcké was not a citizen of Iowa, determined that Dubuque must repay Gelpcké because the Iowa court's ruling did not impair the obligations made by the city under the law before it was found unconstitutional. In his majority opinion Justice Noah H. Swayne stated that the Court would not necessarily be bound by a state court's interpretation of that state's constitution. Preserving state court precedent was not important enough to justify "imolat[ing] truth, justice, and the law." In his dissent Justice Samuel F. Miller argued that the Court should show greater respect for the autonomy of state courts.


Fairman, Charles. Mr. Justice Miller and the Supreme Court, 1862– 1890. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1939.

———. Reconstruction and Reunion, 1864–88. Volumes 6–7 of History of the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: Macmillan, 1987–1988.

Rehnquist, William H. The Supreme Court. New York: Knopf, 2001.

Akiba J.Covitz

Esa LianneSferra

Meredith L.Stewart

See alsoJudicial Review .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Gelpcké v. Dubuque." Dictionary of American History. . 22 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Gelpcké v. Dubuque." Dictionary of American History. . (February 22, 2019).

"Gelpcké v. Dubuque." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved February 22, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.