John Marshall

John Marshall

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John Marshall, the son of Jeremiah Marshall, a linen draper from Leeds, and Mary Cowper, was born in Rawdon in 1765. Jeremiah had been a Baptist but by the time John was born he had become a Unitarian and attended the same chapel as Joseph Priestley.

Mary's first two sons died in infancy, and when John fell seriously ill when he was five years old, it was decided that it would be safer if he went to live with an aunt, Sarah Booth, in the village of Rawdon. After being educated at the local school until the age of eleven, John attended Hipperholme School in Halifax.

John joined the family business when he was seventeen. Five years later, Jeremiah Marshall died from a stroke and John became the controlling partner in the company. He also inherited a new house, warehouse and £7,500 in cash.

A few months before his father died, Marshall heard that two men in Darlington, John Kendrew, a glass-grinder, and Thomas Porthouse, a watchmaker, had registered a patent for a new flax-spinning machine. Marshall visited the men and purchased from them the right to make copies of their invention.

After obtaining two partners, Samuel Fenton, a Unitarian draper, and Ralph Dearlove, a linen merchant, Marshall leased Scotland Mill near Leeds. Early in 1788, Marshall, Fenton and Company, began spinning flax yarns. At first the machines did not perform well. Breakages frequently occurred and the yarn came out lumpy and hairy.

Although Marshall had little technical experience, he spent the next two years trying to improve its performance. He made little progress until he recruited a talented engineer, Matthew Murray, to help him. By 1790 the two men had created an efficient flax-spinning machine that produced good quality yarn.

In 1790 Marshall terminated his lease at Scotland Mill and paid William Nayor £600 for an acre of freehold land at Water Lane in Holbeck. Just outside Leeds, the site had distinct advantages over Scotland Mill. Transport problems were solved by the Aire Navigation and the Liverpool Canal. Recruiting labour was also made easier as Holbeck and Leeds had a population of over 36,000 people.

By the time Marshall had built Temple Mill, installed a 20 horse-power Boulton & Watt steam-engine, twenty-eight handlooms, fourteen spinning frames and fourteen carding engines, Marshall, Fenton and Company had an overdraft of £3,783. However, trade was good and by 1793 the 200 workers at the mill were annually producing 85 tons of cloth for sale.

Despite the increasing trade, the heavy investment in machinery had prevented any profits being made. Samuel Fenton and Ralph Dearlove, unconvinced that the venture would ever be profitable, left the partnership. Marshall talked to merchant friends who attended Mill Hill Unitarian Chapel, and managed to persuade two brothers, Benjamin and Thomas Benyon, to invest money in the venture.

Between 1793 and 1800 Marshall's business grew rapidly. Marshall and his partners purchased a new mill at Castle Foregate on which they spent £17,000 in buildings and equipment. Marshall did not find it easy working with the Benyon brothers and in 1804 he had enough capital to buy them out.

Employees at Temple Mill and Castle Foregate worked a 72 hour week. Two-fifths of the people employed by Marshall were young women aged between thirteen and twenty and about one fifth were under thirteen. Marshall treated his workers better than most factory owners. Overseers were forbidden to use corporal punishment to control the workers. Marshall also installed fans and attempted to regulate the temperature of the mill.

Between 1803 and 1815 both Temple Mill (£238,000) and Castle Foregate (£82,000) made healthy profits. By 1820 Marshall was worth over £400,000. Leaving his sons to run the business, Marshall began to take an interest in social problems. He believed that the only way "to promote the improvement of the rising generation was through education". In 1822 he persuaded the owners of several other firms in Holbeck to join him in establishing a school in the area.

During the day children were taught to read and write. Girls also learnt to sew and boys did a course in accounting. Evening classes were held for the older children who worked during the day in the mills. The charge was 3d. a week, or 2d. if they brought their own candle. The teaching methods used at the school were based on those popularized by Joseph Lancaster. Under this system one master taught a select group of older pupils, the monitors, and these in turn taught the rest.

In May 1825, John Marshall began sending children from his mills to day school. At first he selected thirty children aged between eleven and twelve, who he believed would most benefit from schooling. Soon the number had increased to sixty and fifty more of the older children were educated free every Monday evening. Overseers were instructed to send only those who were "well-behaved and wanted to go".

Marshall was also involved in the founding of a Mechanics' Institute and an Literary and Philosophical Society in Leeds. In 1826 he also began a campaign to establish a university in the town. Marshall gave money to the Leeds Library and with Peter Garforth and a small group of Unitarians, helped to re-establish the Leeds Mercury under the editorship of Edward Baines.

In 1826 Marshall decided he wanted to become an MP. He agreed to pay £4,500 for the rotten borough of Rye, but when this deal fell through, he purchased Petersfield for 5000 guineas. Soon after entering the House of Commons in 1827 Marshall became seriously ill. Marshall failed to recover his health and in 1830 decided to leave Parliament and retired to his home in the Lake District.

John Marshall died in 1845.

My attention was accidentally turned to spinning of flax by machinery, it being a thing much wished for by the linen manufacturers. The immense profits which had been made by cotton spinning had attracted general attention to mechanical improvements and it might be hoped that flax spinning, if practicable, would be equally advantageous. It would be a new business, where there would be few competitors, and was much wanted for the linen manufacture of this country.

To a person wishing to be conversant in flax spinning the investigation of Marshall's works could not fail to be useful and interesting. These works are the most extensive and the best regulated of the kind in Britain, and their eminence has been entirely brought forward by the exertions of a single person: John Marshall who has entirely raised himself from a humble individual to possess an income of not less than a hundred thousand pounds per annum.

By skillful, faithful and altogether human conduct in his (John Marshall) flax and linen manufactory at Leeds had made a large fortune and as a man worth having known, evidently a great deal of human worth and wisdom lying funded in him.

The hands had very particular printed instructions set before them which are as particularly attended to. So strict are the instructions that if an overseer of a room be found talking to any person in the mill during working hours he is dismissed immediately. Everyone, manager, overseers, mechanics, oilers, spreaders, spinners and reelers, have their particular duty pointed out to them, and if they transgress, they are instantly turned off as unfit for their situation.

My chief motive for having a seat in the House of Commons is a wish to see the mechanism by which the affairs of the men who take the lead in public life, and the principles on which they act. I also desired it as being creditable to my family and an introduction to good society.

Another parliament would have been too much to look forward to. He is wise to withdraw from this very arduous office which he has so honourably and usefully held. I fancy Mr. Marshall the gladdest of the glad on returning to his beautiful home among the mountains, free to stay in the quiet retirement that you all love so much.

John Marshall

I research, teach, and supervise graduate students in the fields of Early Modern British and Early Modern British Imperial History Early Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History and the History of Political Thought. I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Cambridge University, UK, where I have also been a Junior Research Fellow, a By-Fellow, and an Overseas Fellow and a Master’s degree and PhD from Johns Hopkins. I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. I am the Leonard and Helen R.Stulman Professor of History, and Director of the interdisciplinary program in Political and Moral Thought. I have written two books, co-edited a third, and am at work on several more books. Reviewers called my John Locke: Religion, Resistance, and Responsibility (Cambridge University Press, 1994) ‘essential reading’, ‘an impressive achievement and a major contribution to the understanding of Locke’s moral and religious thought’, an ‘important work in the history of social, political, and philosophical thought’, and ‘at once textually acute and theoretically grand…a superb and detailed study’. Reviewers declared that my John Locke, Toleration and Early Enlightenment Culture: Religious Intolerance and Arguments for Religious Toleration in Early Modern and ‘Early Enlightenment’ Europe (Cambridge 2006) was ‘an outstanding contribution to the history of religious toleration’, a ‘magisterial tome’, an ‘immense contribution’, a ‘tour de force’, and ‘A powerful piece of scholarship – brilliantly conceived, breath-taking in scope, and rich in historical insight…surely destined to become a classic’. I co-edited Heresy, Literature and Politics in Early Modern English Culture (Cambridge 2006) with the literary scholar David Loewenstein. This is an interdisciplinary set of essays by historians and literary scholars which examines the changing conceptions, character, and condemnations of heresy in sixteenth and seventeenth century England. I am now researching and have been presenting many papers recently in the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and Spain about the political, religious, social, cultural, economic, gender, and intellectual history of London c1640-1700 Islam and Toleration the thought of George Keith in international contexts and the history of Early Modern and Enlightenment political and religious thought.

I work with and welcome applications from graduate students on all topics and in all sub-fields of early modern British history and early modern British imperial history on early modern European cultural and intellectual history and on the history of political thought. My students have undertaken PhDs on topics and periods such as: the impact of the Swiss Reformation in English Reformation thought to 1558 the Ideology, Experience of, and Resistance to English Colonization of Ireland in the Seventeenth Century Melancholy and Moral and Religious Thought from the Sixteenth to Eighteenth centuries Female Alliances in Early Modern England and the Early Modern British imperial world Atheism and Anti-Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment Gender, Tyranny and Republicanism from the early seventeenth century to the English Revolution Propaganda and the International Reputation in England, Ireland, Spain and Italy of Queen Mary I The Reformation, Sexuality and Gender Religious Toleration in the English Revolution and in International Contexts and Women, Gender and Speech in the English Revolution.

History of the Court – Timeline of the Justices – John Marshall, 1801-1835

JOHN MARSHALL was born on September 24, 1755, in Germantown, Virginia. Following service in the Revolutionary War, he attended a course of law lectures conducted by George Wythe at the College of William and Mary and continued the private study of law until his admission to practice in 1780. Marshall was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782, 1787, and 1795. In 1797, he accepted appointment as one of three envoys sent on a diplomatic mission to France. Although offered appointment to the United States Supreme Court in 1798, Marshall preferred to remain in private practice. Marshall was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1799, and in 1800 was appointed Secretary of State by President John Adams. The following year, President Adams nominated Marshall Chief Justice of the United States, and the Senate confirmed the appointment on January 27, 1801. Notwithstanding his appointment as Chief Justice, Marshall continued to serve as Secretary of State throughout President Adams’ term and, at President Thomas Jefferson’s request, he remained in that office briefly following Jefferson’s inauguration. Marshall served as Chief Justice for 34 years, the longest tenure of any Chief Justice. During his tenure, he helped establish the Supreme Court as the final authority on the meaning of the Constitution. Marshall died on July 6, 1835, at the age of seventy-nine.

John Marshall is a direct descendant of Magna Carta Surities John FitzRobert and Hugh le Bigod. He has royal roots with a direct descent from King Edward I which gives him kinship to much of the royal family including King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, and Catherine Middleton. He has a number of former U.S. Presidents as kin including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Harrison, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, William H. Taft, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, and Herbert Hoover.

John Marshall has a number of celebrities in his family tree, the most notable of which is his 4th great-granddaughter singer and songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter. Others include actress Olivia de Havilland, author Tennessee Williams, actor Randolph Scott, radio and TV host Dick Clark, filmmaker Guy Ritchie, actor Humphrey Bogart, actress Kyra Sedgwick, actor Steve McQueen, and many others. A few of his notable historical kin include, but is not limited to, General Robert E. Lee, evolutionist Charles Darwin, polar explorer Admiral Richard Byrd, explorer Meriwether Lewis, abolitionist John Brown, General George S. Patton, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and astronaut Alan Shepard.


John Marshall was born on September 24, 1755 in a log cabin in Germantown, [2] a rural community on the Virginia frontier, near present-day Midland, Fauquier County. In the mid-1760s, the Marshalls moved west to the present-day site of Markham, Virginia. [3] His parents were Thomas Marshall and Mary Randolph Keith, the granddaughter of politician Thomas Randolph of Tuckahoe and a second cousin of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. Despite her ancestry, Mary was shunned by the Randolph family because her mother, Mary Isham Randolph, had eloped with a man believed beneath her station in life. After his death, Mary Isham Randolph married James Keith, a Scottish minister. Thomas Marshall was employed in Fauquier County as a surveyor and land agent by Lord Fairfax, which provided him with a substantial income. [4] Nonetheless, John Marshall grew up in a two-room log cabin, which he shared with his parents and several siblings Marshall was the oldest of fifteen siblings. [3] One of his younger brothers, James Markham Marshall, would briefly serve as a federal judge.

Marshall was also a first cousin of U.S. Senator (Ky) Humphrey Marshall. [5] [a]

From a young age, Marshall was noted for his good humor and black eyes, which were "strong and penetrating, beaming with intelligence and good nature". [9] With the exception of one year of formal schooling, during which time he befriended future president James Monroe, Marshall did not receive a formal education. Encouraged by his parents, the young Marshall read widely, reading works such as William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England and Alexander Pope's An Essay on Man. [10] He was also tutored by the Reverend James Thomson, a recently ordained deacon from Glasgow, Scotland, who resided with the Marshall family in return for his room and board. [11] Marshall was especially influenced by his father, of whom he wrote, "to his care I am indebted for anything valuable which I may have acquired in my youth. He was my only intelligent companion and was both a watchful parent and an affectionate friend." [12] Thomas Marshall prospered in his work as a surveyor, and in the 1770s he purchased an estate known as Oak Hill. [13]

After the 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord, Thomas and John Marshall volunteered for service in the 3rd Virginia Regiment. [14] In 1776, Marshall became a lieutenant in the Eleventh Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army. [15] During the American Revolutionary War, he served in several battles, including the Battle of Brandywine, and endured the winter at Valley Forge. After he was furloughed in 1780, Marshall began attending the College of William and Mary. [16] Marshall read law under the famous Chancellor George Wythe at the College of William and Mary, and he was admitted to the state bar in 1780. [17] After briefly rejoining the Continental Army, Marshall won election to the Virginia House of Delegates in early 1782. [18]

Upon joining the House of Delegates, Marshall aligned himself with members of the conservative Tidewater establishment such as James Monroe and Richard Henry Lee. With the backing of his influential father-in-law, Marshall was elected to the Council of State, becoming the youngest individual up to that point to serve on the council. [19] In 1785, Marshall took up the additional office of Recorder of the Richmond City Hustings Court. [20] Meanwhile, Marshall sought to build up his own legal practice, a difficult proposition during a time of economic recession. In 1786, he purchased the law practice of his cousin, Edmund Randolph, after the latter was elected Governor of Virginia. Marshall gained a reputation as a talented attorney practicing in the state capital of Richmond, and he took on a wide array of cases. He represented the heirs of Lord Fairfax in Hite v. Fairfax (1786), an important case involving a large tract of land in the Northern Neck of Virginia. [21]

Under the Articles of Confederation, the United States during the 1780s was a confederation of sovereign states with a weak national government that had little or no effective power to impose tariffs, regulate interstate commerce, or enforce laws. [22] Influenced by Shays' Rebellion and the powerlessness of the Congress of the Confederation, Marshall came to believe in the necessity of a new governing structure that would replace the powerless national government established by the Articles of Confederation. [23] He strongly favored ratification of the new constitution proposed by the Philadelphia Convention, as it provided for a much stronger federal government. Marshall was elected to the 1788 Virginia Ratifying Convention, where he worked with James Madison to convince other delegates to ratify the new constitution. [24] After a long debate, proponents of ratification emerged victorious, as the convention voted 89 to 79 to ratify the constitution. [25]

After the United States ratified the Constitution, newly-elected President George Washington nominated Marshall as the United States Attorney for Virginia. Though the nomination was confirmed by the Senate, Marshall declined the position, instead choosing to focus on his own law practice. [26] In the early 1790s, the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party emerged as the country was polarized by issues such as the French Revolutionary Wars and the power of the presidency and the federal government. Marshall aligned with the Federalists, and at Alexander Hamilton's request, he organized a Federalist movement in Virginia to counter the influence of Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans. Like most other Federalists, Marshall favored neutrality in foreign affairs, high tariffs, a strong executive, and a standing military. [27] In 1795, Washington asked Marshall to accept appointment as the United States Attorney General, but Marshall again declined the offer. He did, however, serve in a variety of roles for the state of Virginia during the 1790s, at one point acting as the state's interim Attorney General. [28]

In 1796, Marshall appeared before the Supreme Court of the United States in Ware v. Hylton, a case involving the validity of a Virginia law that provided for the confiscation of debts owed to British subjects. Marshall argued that the law was a legitimate exercise of the state's power, but the Supreme Court ruled against him, holding that the Treaty of Paris in combination with the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution required the collection, rather than confiscation, of such debts. [29] According to biographer Henry Flanders, Marshall's argument in Ware v. Hylton "elicited great admiration at the time of its delivery, and enlarged the circle of his reputation" despite his defeat in the case. [30]

Diplomat Edit

Vice President John Adams, a member of the Federalist Party, defeated Jefferson in the 1796 presidential election and sought to continue Washington's policy of neutrality in the French Revolutionary Wars. After Adams took office, France refused to meet with American envoys and began attacking American ships. [31] In 1797, Marshall accepted appointment to a three-member commission to France that also included Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Elbridge Gerry. [32] The three envoys arrived in France in October 1797, but were granted only a fifteen-minute meeting with French Foreign Minister Talleyrand. After that meeting, the diplomats were met by three of Talleyrand's agents who refused to conduct diplomatic negotiations unless the United States paid enormous bribes to Talleyrand and to the Republic of France. [33] The Americans refused to negotiate on such terms, and Marshall and Pinckney eventually decided to return to the United States. [34] Marshall left France in April 1798 and arrived in the United States two months later, receiving a warm welcome by Federalist members of Congress. [35]

During his time in France, Marshall and the other commissioners had sent secret correspondence to Adams and Secretary of State Timothy Pickering. In April 1798, Congress passed a resolution demanding that the administration reveal the contents of the correspondence. A public outcry ensued when the Adams administration revealed that Talleyrand's agents had demanded bribes the incident became known as the XYZ Affair. [36] In July 1798, shortly after Marshall's return, Congress imposed an embargo in France, marking the start of an undeclared naval war known as the Quasi-War. [37] Marshall supported most of the measures Congress adopted in the struggle against France, but he disapproved of the Alien and Sedition Acts, four separate laws designed to suppress dissent during the Quasi-War. Marshall published a letter to a local newspaper stating his belief that the laws would likely "create, unnecessarily, discontents and jealousies at a time when our very existence as a nation may depend on our union." [38]

Congressman and Secretary of State Edit

After his return from France, Marshall wanted to resume his private practice of law, but in September 1798 former President Washington convinced him to challenge incumbent Democratic-Republican Congressman John Clopton of Virginia's 13th congressional district. [39] Although the Richmond area district favored the Democratic-Republican Party, Marshall won the race, in part due to his conduct during the XYZ Affair and in part due to the support of Patrick Henry. [40] During the campaign, Marshall declined appointment as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and President Adams instead appointed Marshall's friend, Bushrod Washington. [41] After winning the election, Marshall was sworn into office when the 6th Congress convened in December 1799. He quickly emerged as a leader of the moderate faction of Federalists in Congress. [42] His most notable speech in Congress was related to the case of Thomas Nash (alias Jonathan Robbins), whom the government had extradited to Great Britain on charges of murder. Marshall defended the government's actions, arguing that nothing in the Constitution prevents the United States from extraditing one of its citizens. [40] His speech helped defeat a motion to censure President Adams for the extradition. [43]

In May 1800, President Adams nominated Marshall as Secretary of War, but the president quickly withdrew that nomination and instead nominated Marshall as Secretary of State. Marshall was confirmed by the Senate on May 13 and took office on June 6, 1800. [44] Marshall's appointment as Secretary of State was preceded by a split between Adams and Hamilton, the latter of whom led a faction of Federalists who favored declaring war on France. Adams fired Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, a Hamilton supporter, after Pickering tried to undermine peace negotiations with France. [45] Adams directed Marshall to bring an end to the Quasi-War and settle ongoing disputes with Britain, Spain, and the Barbary States. The position of Secretary of State also held a wide array of domestic responsibilities, including the deliverance of commissions of federal appointments and supervision of the construction of Washington, D.C. [46] In October 1800, the United States and France agreed to the Convention of 1800, which ended the Quasi-War and reestablished commercial relations with France. [47]

Nomination as Chief Justice Edit

With the Federalists divided between Hamilton and Adams, the Democratic-Republicans emerged victorious in the presidential election of 1800. [48] However, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr both received 73 electoral votes, throwing the election to the Federalist-controlled House of Representatives. [b] Hamilton asked Marshall to support Jefferson, but Marshall declined to support either candidate. [49]

In the contingent election held to decide whether Jefferson or Burr would become president, each state delegation had a single vote. Under this rule, it turned out that neither party had a majority because some states had split delegations. Over the course of seven days, February 11–17, 1801, the House cast a total of 35 ballots, with Jefferson receiving the votes of eight state delegations each time, one short of the necessary majority of nine. On February 17, on the 36th ballot, Jefferson was elected as president. Burr became vice president. [50] Had the deadlock lasted a couple weeks longer (through March 4 or beyond), Marshall, as Secretary of State, would have become acting president until a choice was made. [51]

After the election, Adams and the lame duck Congress passed what came to be known as the Midnight Judges Act. This legislation made sweeping changes to the federal judiciary, including a reduction in Supreme Court justices from six to five (upon the next vacancy in the court) so as to deny Jefferson an appointment until two vacancies occurred. [52]

In late 1800, Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth resigned due to poor health. Adams nominated former Chief Justice John Jay to once again lead the Supreme Court, but Jay rejected the appointment, partly due to his frustration at the relative lack of power possessed by the judicial branch of the federal government. [53] Jay's letter of rejection arrived on January 20, 1801, less than two months before Jefferson would take office. [54] Upon learning of Jay's rejection, Marshall suggested that Adams elevate Associate Justice William Paterson to chief justice, but Adams rejected the suggestion, instead saying to Marshall, "I believe I must nominate you." [55]

The Senate at first delayed confirming Marshall, as many senators hoped that Adams would choose a different individual to serve as chief justice. According to New Jersey Senator Jonathan Dayton, the Senate finally relented "lest another not so qualified, and more disgusting to the bench, should be substituted, and because it appeared that this gentleman [Marshall] was not privy to his own nomination". [56] Marshall was confirmed by the Senate on January 27, 1801, and took office on February 4. At the request of the president, he continued to serve as Secretary of State until Adams' term expired on March 4. [57] Consequently, Marshall was charged with delivering judicial commissions to the individuals who had been appointed to the positions created by the Midnight Judges Act. [58] Adams would later state that "my gift of John Marshall to the people of the United States was the proudest act of my life." [59]

The Marshall Court convened for the first time on February 2, 1801, in the Supreme Court Chamber of the Capitol Building. The Court at that time consisted of Chief Justice Marshall and Associate Justices William Cushing, William Paterson, Samuel Chase, Bushrod Washington, and Alfred Moore, each of whom had been appointed by President Washington or President Adams. [60] Prior to 1801, the Supreme Court had been seen as a relatively insignificant institution. Most legal disputes were resolved in state, rather than federal courts. The Court had issued just 63 decisions in its first decades, few of which had made a significant impact, and it had never struck down a federal or state law. [61] During Marshall's 34-year tenure as Chief Justice, the Supreme Court would emerge as an important force in the federal government for the first time, and Marshall himself played a major role in shaping the nation's understanding of constitutional law. The Marshall Court would issue more than 1000 decisions, about half of which were written by Marshall himself. [62] Marshall's leadership of the Supreme Court ensured that the federal government would exercise relatively strong powers, despite the political domination of the Democratic-Republicans after 1800. [63]

Personality, principles, and leadership Edit

Soon after becoming chief justice, Marshall changed the manner in which the Supreme Court announced its decisions. Previously, each Justice would author a separate opinion (known as a seriatim opinion) as was done in the Virginia Supreme Court of his day and is still done today in the United Kingdom and Australia. Under Marshall, however, the Supreme Court adopted the practice of handing down a single majority opinion of the Court, allowing it to present a clear rule. [64] The Court met in Washington only two months a year, from the first Monday in February through the second or third week in March. Six months of the year the justices were doing circuit duty in the various states. When the Court was in session in Washington, the justices boarded together in the same rooming house, avoided outside socializing, and discussed each case intently among themselves. Decisions were quickly made, usually in a matter of days. The justices did not have clerks, so they listened closely to the oral arguments, and decided among themselves what the decision should be. [65]

Marshall's opinions were workmanlike and not especially eloquent or subtle. His influence on learned men of the law came from the charismatic force of his personality and his ability to seize upon the key elements of a case and make highly persuasive arguments. [66] [67] [68] As Oliver Wolcott observed when both he and Marshall served in the Adams administration, Marshall had the knack of "putting his own ideas into the minds of others, unconsciously to them". [69] By 1811, Justices appointed by a Democratic-Republican president had a 5-to-2 majority on the Court, but Marshall retained ideological and personal leadership of the Court. [70] Marshall regularly curbed his own viewpoints, preferring to arrive at decisions by consensus. [71] Only once did he find himself on the losing side in a constitutional case. In that case—Ogden v. Saunders in 1827—Marshall set forth his general principles of constitutional interpretation: [72]

To say that the intention of the instrument must prevail that this intention must be collected from its words that its words are to be understood in that sense in which they are generally used by those for whom the instrument was intended that its provisions are neither to be restricted into insignificance, nor extended to objects not comprehended in them, nor contemplated by its framers—is to repeat what has been already said more at large, and is all that can be necessary. [72]

While Marshall was attentive when listening to oral arguments and often persuaded other justices to adopt his interpretation of the law, he was not widely read in the law, and seldom cited precedents. After the Court came to a decision, he would usually write it up himself. Often he asked Justice Joseph Story, a renowned legal scholar, to do the chores of locating the precedents, saying, "There, Story that is the law of this case now go and find the authorities." [73]

Jefferson administration Edit

Marbury v. Madison Edit

In his role as Secretary of State in the Adams administration, Marshall had failed to deliver commissions to 42 federal justices of the peace before the end of Adams's term. After coming to power, the Jefferson administration refused to deliver about half of these outstanding commissions, effectively preventing those individuals from receiving their appointments even though the Senate had confirmed their nominations. Though the position of justice of the peace was a relatively powerless and low-paying office, one individual whose commission was not delivered, William Marbury, decided to mount a legal challenge against the Jefferson administration. Seeking to have his judicial commission delivered, Marbury filed suit against the sitting Secretary of State, James Madison. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Marbury v. Madison in its 1803 term. Meanwhile, the Democratic-Republicans passed the Judiciary Act of 1802, which effectively repealed the Midnight Judges Act and canceled the Supreme Court's 1802 term. [74] [c] They also began impeachment proceedings against federal judge John Pickering, a prominent Federalist in response, Federalist members of Congress accused the Democratic-Republicans of trying to infringe on the independence of the federal judiciary. [76]

In early February 1803, the Supreme Court held a four-day trial for the case of Marbury v. Madison, though the defendant, James Madison, refused to appear. [77] On February 24, the Supreme Court announced its decision, which biographer Joel Richard Paul describes as "the single most significant constitutional decision issued by any court in American history." The Court held that Madison was legally bound to deliver Marbury's commission, and that Marbury had the right to sue Madison. Yet the Court also held that it could not order Madison to deliver the commission because the Judiciary Act of 1789 had unconstitutionally expanded the Court's original jurisdiction to include writs of mandamus, a type of court order that commands a government official to perform an act they are legally required to perform. Because that portion of the Judiciary Act of 1789 was unconstitutional, the Court held that it did not have original jurisdiction over the case even while simultaneously holding that Madison had violated the law. [78]

Marbury v. Madison was the first case in which the Supreme Court struck down a federal law as unconstitutional and it is most significant for its role in establishing the Supreme Court's power of judicial review, or the power to invalidate laws as unconstitutional. As Marshall put it, "it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is." [79] By asserting the power of judicial review in a holding that did not require the Jefferson administration to take action, the Court upheld its own powers without coming into direct conflict with a hostile executive branch that likely would not have complied with a court order. [80] Historians mostly agree that the framers of the Constitution did plan for the Supreme Court to have some sort of judicial review, but Marshall made their goals operational. [81] Though many Democratic-Republicans expected a constitutional crisis to arise after the Supreme Court asserted its power of judicial review, the Court upheld the repeal of the Midnight Judges Act in the 1803 case of Stuart v. Laird. [82] [d]

Impeachment of Samuel Chase Edit

In 1804, the House of Representatives impeached Associate Justice Samuel Chase, alleging that he had shown political bias in his judicial conduct. Many Democratic-Republicans saw the impeachment as a way to intimidate federal judges, many of whom were members of the Federalist Party. [83] As a witness in the Senate's impeachment trial, Marshall defended Chase's actions. [84] In March 1805, the Senate voted to acquit Chase, as several Democratic-Republican senators joined with their Federalist colleagues in refusing to remove Chase. [85] The acquittal helped further establish the independence of the federal judiciary. [86] [85] Relations between the Supreme Court and the executive branch improved after 1805, and several proposals to alter the Supreme Court or strip it of jurisdiction were defeated in Congress. [87]

Burr conspiracy trial Edit

Vice President Aaron Burr was not renominated by his party in the 1804 presidential election and his term as vice president ended in 1805. After leaving office, Burr traveled to the western United States, where he may have entertained plans to establish an independent republic from Mexican or American territories. [88] In 1807, Burr was arrested and charged for treason, and Marshall presided over the subsequent trial. Marshall required Jefferson to turn over his correspondence with General James Wilkinson Jefferson decided to release the documents, but argued that he was not compelled to do so under the doctrine of executive privilege. [89] During the trial, Marshall ruled that much of the evidence that the government had amassed against Burr was inadmissible biographer Joel Richard Paul states that Marshall effectively "directed the jury to acquit Burr." After Burr was acquitted, Democratic-Republicans, including President Jefferson, attacked Marshall for his role in the trial. [90]

Fletcher v. Peck Edit

In 1795, the state of Georgia had sold much of its western lands to a speculative land company, which then resold much of that land to other speculators, termed "New Yazooists." After a public outcry over the sale, which was achieved through bribery, Georgia rescinded the sale and offered to refund the original purchase price to the New Yazooists. Many of the New Yazooists had paid far more than the original purchase price, and they rejected Georgia's revocation of the sale. Jefferson tried to arrange a compromise by having the federal government purchase the land from Georgia and compensate the New Yazooists, but Congressman John Randolph defeated the compensation bill. The issue remained unresolved, and a case involving the land finally reached the Supreme Court through the 1810 case of Fletcher v. Peck. [91] In March 1810, the Court handed down its unanimous holding, which voided Georgia's repeal of the purchase on the basis of the Constitution's Contract Clause. The Court's ruling held that the original sale of land constituted a contract with the purchasers, and the Contract Clause prohibits states from "impairing the obligations of contracts." [92] Fletcher v. Peck was the first case in which the Supreme Court ruled a state law unconstitutional, though in 1796 the Court had voided a state law as conflicting with the combination of the Constitution together with a treaty. [93]

McCulloch v. Maryland Edit

In 1816, Congress established the Second Bank of the United States ("national bank") in order to regulate the country's money supply and provide loans to the federal government and businesses. The state of Maryland imposed a tax on the national bank, but James McCulloch, the manager of the national bank's branch in Baltimore, refused to pay the tax. After he was convicted by Maryland's court system, McCulloch appealed to the Supreme Court, and the Court heard the case of McCulloch v. Maryland in 1819. In that case, the state of Maryland challenged the constitutionality of the national bank and asserted that it had the right to tax the national bank. [94] Writing for the Court, Marshall held that Congress had the power to charter the national bank. [95] He laid down the basic theory of implied powers under a written Constitution intended, as he said "to endure for ages to come, and, consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs . " Marshall envisaged a federal government which, although governed by timeless principles, possessed the powers "on which the welfare of a nation essentially depends." [96] "Let the end be legitimate," Marshall wrote, "let it be within the scope of the Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited but consist with the letter and the spirit of the Constitution, are constitutional. [97]

The Court also held that Maryland could not tax the national bank, asserting that the power to tax is equivalent to "the power to destroy." The Court's decision in McCulloch was, according to John Richard Paul, "probably the most controversial decision" handed down by the Marshall Court. Southerners, including Virginia judge Spencer Roane, attacked the decision as an overreach of federal power. [98] In a subsequent case, Osborn v. Bank of the United States, the Court ordered a state official to return seized funds to the national bank. The Osborn case established that the Eleventh Amendment does not grant state officials sovereign immunity when they resist a federal court order. [99]

Cohens v. Virginia Edit

Congress established a lottery in the District of Columbia in 1812, and in 1820 two individuals were convicted in Virginia for violating a state law that prohibited selling out-of-state lottery tickets. The defendants, Philip and Mendes Cohen, appealed to the Supreme Court. The Court's subsequent decision in the 1821 case of Cohens v. Virginia established that the Supreme Court could hear appeals from state courts in criminal lawsuits. [e] The Court held that, because Virginia had brought the suit against the defendants, the Eleventh Amendment did not prohibit the case from appearing in federal court. [100]

Gibbons v. Ogden Edit

In 1808, Robert R. Livingston and Robert Fulton secured a monopoly from the state of New York for the navigation of steamboats in state waters. Fulton granted a license to Aaron Ogden and Thomas Gibbons to operate steamboats in New York, but the partnership between Ogden and Gibbons collapsed. Gibbons continued to operate steamboats in New York after receiving a federal license to operate steamboats in the waters of any state. In response, Ogden won a judgment in state court that ordered Gibbons to cease operations in the state. Gibbons appealed to the Supreme Court, which heard the case of Gibbons v. Ogden in 1824. Representing Gibbons, Congressman Daniel Webster and Attorney General William Wirt (acting in a non-governmental capacity) argued that Congress had the exclusive power to regulate commerce, while Ogden's attorneys contended that the Constitution did not prohibit states from restricting navigation. [101]

Writing for the Court, Marshall held that navigation constituted a form of commerce and thus could be regulated by Congress. Because New York's monopoly conflicted with a properly-issued federal license, the Court struck down the monopoly. However, Marshall did not adopt Webster's argument that Congress had the sole power to regulate commerce. [102] Newspapers in both the Northern states and the Southern states hailed the decision as a blow against monopolies and the restraint of trade. [103]

Jackson administration Edit

Marshall personally opposed the presidential candidacy of Andrew Jackson, whom the Chief Justice saw as a dangerous demagogue, and he caused a minor incident during the 1828 presidential campaign when he criticized Jackson's attacks on President John Quincy Adams. [104] After the death of Associate Justice Washington in 1829, Marshall was the last remaining original member of the Marshall Court, and his influence declined as new justices joined the Court. [105] After Jackson took office in 1829, he clashed with the Supreme Court, especially with regards to his administration's policy of Indian removal. [106]

In the 1823 case of Johnson v. M'Intosh, the Marshall Court had established the supremacy of the federal government in dealing with Native American tribes. [107] In the late 1820s, the state of Georgia stepped up efforts to assert its control over the Cherokee within state borders, with the ultimate goal of removing the Cherokee from the state. After Georgia passed a law that voided Cherokee laws and denied several rights to the Native Americans, former Attorney General William Wirt sought an injunction to prevent Georgia from exercising sovereignty over the Cherokee. The Supreme Court heard the resulting case of Cherokee Nation v. Georgia in 1831. [108] Writing for the Court, Marshall held that Native American tribes constituted "domestic dependent nations," a new legal status, but he dismissed the case on the basis of standing. [109]

At roughly the same time that the Supreme Court issued its decision in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, a group of white missionaries living with the Cherokee were arrested by the state of Georgia. The State did so on the basis of an 1830 state law that prohibited white men from living on Native American land without a state license. Among those arrested was Samuel Worcester, who, after being convicted of violating the state law, challenged the constitutionality of the law in federal court. The arrest of the missionaries became a key issue in the 1832 presidential election, and one of the presidential candidates, William Wirt, served as the attorney for the missionaries. [110] On March 3, 1832, Marshall delivered the opinion of the Court in the case of Worcester v. Georgia. The Court's holding overturned the conviction and the state law, holding that the state of Georgia had improperly exercised control over the Cherokee. [111] It is often reported that in response to the Worcester decision President Andrew Jackson declared "John Marshall has made his decision now let him enforce it!" More reputable sources recognize this as a false quotation. [112] Regardless, Jackson refused to enforce the decision, and Georgia refused to release the missionaries. The situation was finally resolved when the Jackson administration privately convinced Governor Wilson Lumpkin to pardon the missionaries. [113]

Other key cases Edit

Marshall established the Charming Betsy principle, a rule of statutory interpretation, in the 1804 case of Murray v. The Charming Betsy. The Charming Betsy principle holds that "an act of Congress ought never to be construed to violate the law of nations if any other possible construction remains." [114] In Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, the Supreme Court held that it had the power to hear appeals from state supreme courts when a federal issue was involved. Marshall recused himself from the case because it stemmed from a dispute over Lord Fairfax's former lands, which Marshall had a financial interest in. [115] In Dartmouth College v. Woodward, the Court held that the protections of the Contract Clause apply to private corporations. [116] In Ogden v. Saunders, Marshall dissented in part and "assented" in part, and the Court upheld a state law that allowed individuals to file bankruptcy. In his separate opinion, Marshall argued that the state bankruptcy law violated the Contract Clause. [117] In Barron v. Baltimore, the Court held that the Bill of Rights was intended to apply only to the federal government, and not to the states. [118] The courts have since incorporated most of the Bill of Rights with respect to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified decades after Marshall's death.

After his appointment to the Supreme Court, Marshall began working on a biography of George Washington. He did so at the request of his close friend, Associate Justice Bushrod Washington, who had inherited the papers of his uncle. Marshall's The Life of George Washington, the first biography about a U.S. president ever published, spanned five volumes and just under one thousand pages. The first two volumes, published in 1803, were poorly-received and seen by many as an attack on the Democratic-Republican Party. [119] Nonetheless, historians have often praised the accuracy and well-reasoned judgments of Marshall's biography, while noting his frequent paraphrases of published sources such as William Gordon's 1801 history of the Revolution and the British Annual Register. [120] After completing the revision to his biography of Washington, Marshall prepared an abridgment. In 1833 he wrote, "I have at length completed an abridgment of the Life of Washington for the use of schools. I have endeavored to compress it as much as possible. . After striking out every thing which in my judgment could be properly excluded the volume will contain at least 400 pages." [121] The Abridgment was not published until 1838, three years after Marshall died. [122]

In 1828, Marshall presided over a convention to promote internal improvements in Virginia. The following year, Marshall was a delegate to the state constitutional convention of 1829–30, where he was again joined by fellow American statesman and loyal Virginians, James Madison and James Monroe, although all were quite old by that time (Madison was 78, Monroe 71, and Marshall 74). Although proposals to reduce the power of the Tidewater region's slave-owning aristocrats compared to growing western population proved controversial, [123] Marshall mainly spoke to promote the necessity of an independent judiciary. [ citation needed ]

In 1831, the 76-year-old chief justice traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he underwent an operation to remove bladder stones. That December, his wife Polly died in Richmond. [124] In early 1835, Marshall again traveled to Philadelphia for medical treatment, where he died on July 6 at the age of 79, having served as Chief Justice for over 34 years. [125] The Liberty Bell was rung following his death—a widespread story claims that this was when the bell cracked, never to be rung again. [126]

His body was returned to Richmond and buried next to Polly's in Shockoe Hill Cemetery. [127] The inscription on his tombstone, engraved exactly as he had wished, reads as follows:

Marshall was among the last remaining Founding Fathers (a group poetically called the "Last of the Romans"), [128] and was also the last surviving Cabinet member from the John Adams administration. In December 1835, President Andrew Jackson nominated Roger Taney to fill the vacancy for chief justice. [129]

Marshall believed that slavery was an "evil", and opposed the slave trade. However, he owned slaves for most of his life and had reservations about large-scale emancipation, in part because he feared that a large number of free blacks might rise up in revolution. Marshall instead favored sending free blacks to Africa, and founded the Virginia chapter of the American Colonization Society to further that goal. [130] During the 1790s, Marshall was involved in a few cases in which he represented slaves pro bono, often trying to win the freedom of mixed-race individuals. In one such case, he represented Robert Pleasants in a case to emancipate about four hundred slaves Marshall won the case in the Virginia High Court of Chancery, but that court's holding was later reversed by the Virginia High Court of Appeals. [131]

In 1825, as Chief Justice, Marshall wrote an opinion in the case of the captured slave ship Antelope, in which he acknowledged that slavery was against natural law, but upheld the continued enslavement of approximately one-third of the ship's cargo (although the remainder were to be sent to Liberia). [132] In his last will and testament, Marshall gave his elderly manservant the choice either of freedom and travel to Liberia, or continued enslavement under his choice of Marshall's children. [133]

Biographer John Richard Paul writes that Marshall owned between seven and sixteen household slaves at various points in his adult life. [134] Research by historian Paul Finkelman, however, reveals that Marshall may have owned hundreds of slaves, and engaged in the buying and selling of slaves throughout his life. Finkelman suggests that Marshall's substantial slave holdings may have influenced him to render judicial decisions in favor of slave owners. [135] [136] [137]

Marshall met Mary "Polly" Ambler, the youngest daughter of state treasurer Jaquelin Ambler, during the Revolutionary War, and soon began courting her. [138] Marshall married Mary (1767–1831) on January 3, 1783, in the home of her cousin, John Ambler. They had 10 children six of whom survived to adulthood. [124] [139] Between the births of son Jaquelin Ambler in 1787 and daughter Mary in 1795, Polly Marshall suffered two miscarriages and lost two infants, which affected her health during the rest of her life. [140] The Marshalls had six children who survived until adulthood: Thomas (who would eventually serve in the Virginia House of Delegates), Jaquelin, Mary, James, and Edward. [141]

Marshall loved his Richmond home, built in 1790, [142] and spent as much time there as possible in quiet contentment. [143] [144] After his father's death in 1803, Marshall inherited the Oak Hill estate, where he and his family also spent time. [145] For approximately three months each year, Marshall lived in Washington during the Court's annual term, boarding with Justice Story during his final years at the Ringgold-Carroll House. Marshall also left Virginia for several weeks each year to serve on the circuit court in Raleigh, North Carolina. From 1810–1813, he also maintained the D. S. Tavern property in Albemarle County, Virginia. [146]

Marshall was not religious, and although his grandfather was a priest, never formally joined a church. He did not believe Jesus was a divine being, [147] and in some of his opinions referred to a deist "Creator of all things." He was an active Freemason and served as Grand Master of Masons in Virginia in 1794–1795 of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Virginia. [148]

While in Richmond, Marshall attended St. John's Church on Church Hill until 1814 when he led the movement to hire Robert Mills as architect of Monumental Church, which was near his home and rebuilt to commemorate 72 people who died in a theater fire. The Marshall family occupied Monumental Church's pew No. 23 and entertained the Marquis de Lafayette there during his visit to Richmond in 1824. [ citation needed ]

History Overview

John Marshall High School is located in North Richmond, Virginia, in the beautiful historic Ginter Park section of the city. It serves a diverse population of about 950 students who benefit from high quality educational and cultural experiences. These experiences help John Marshall students become productive citizens with unlimited capacities to meet the challenges of the future and compete in a global society.

John Marshall High School, a comprehensive high school within the Richmond Public School System, utilizes an innovative and challenging curriculum. Core subjects required by the school division, with accompanying curriculum, are combined with specialized subjects to create unique programs of study. Although each program has its special emphasis, ample opportunities are provided for students to receive quality instruction by selecting subjects from other programs of study.

All programs offered at John Marshall are designed to address the needs of a diverse group of students. The individual needs of its students are met though the flexible design of the curriculum and a commitment to the philosophy that every student can learn.

John Marshall High School: Fully Accredited by the Virginia Department of Education.


The John Marshall Center for Constitutional History & Civics, founded in 1987 and located at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, preserves and honors John Marshall’s judicial legacy by engaging and educating the public about the rule of law under the Constitution, bringing civics, scholarship, and conversation to our classrooms and communities.

We invite you to join us at the Center! Read our digital brochure for a quick overview of our civics education program, Justice in the Classroom, our new civics series, PopCiv, our impact, and ways to get involved.

John Marshall (historian)

John Marshall is a British historian. He was the Chairman of the Department of History [1] at Johns Hopkins University, and is now Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Professor of History at the same institution.

He was awarded BA (1st Class Hons.) and an MA at Churchill College, Cambridge, as well as an MA and PhD from The Johns Hopkins University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. [2]

Marshall has written two books on the English philosopher and political theorist John Locke. Edward G. Andrew of the University of Toronto wrote that Marshall's John Locke: Resistance, Religion and Responsibility was "the most careful and comprehensive treatment of Locke's political theology I have read". [3] Julian H. Franklin of Columbia University said that "the elaborate and extended account of Locke's positions on ecclesiology and theology is essentially the first complete study of Locke's thought in that domain and is unrivaled in the literature". [4] Perez Zagorin claimed that Marshall's John Locke, Toleration and Early Enlightenment Culture "is not only an outstanding contribution to the history of religious toleration, but also offers the most comprehensive treatment of the subject in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the early years of the Enlightenment, that now exists. a fine work of scholarship". [5] Tim Harris wrote that the "book is surely destined to become a classic". [6]

1. John Marshall was born in 1755

John Marshall was born in Germantown, Virginia on September 24, 1755. He was born into humble beginnings and spent his early years living in a log cabin. His father came into some money when Marshall was in his teens and the family were then able to move onto a much larger estate. John was the eldest of his parent’s 14 children.

Due to their location, John was not able to attend school and he received most of his early education from his father. He also received some tutoring from a local priest during his teenage years.

2. Marshall was in the military during the American Revolutionary War

The American Revolutionary War started in 1755. An interesting fact about John Marshall is that he was 20 years old at this time and he joined up with the Culpeper Minute Men as a Lieutenant. He would go on to join the Continental Army where he fought in several important battles.

It was during this war that John Marshall would first become inspired by George Washington. Marshall’s father was close friends with Washington and this led to Marshall feeling particularly inspired by Washington’s leadership and strength of personality.

3. He wrote a biography about George Washington

John Marshall was greatly inspired by George Washington and so when he was asked to write a biography of him, he was more than happy to do so. The book, entitled The Life of George Washington, had its first two volumes released in 1803 and it was the first biography to be written about a US President.

A lot of people were quick to criticise the book at the time, with many stating it was incredibly critical of the Republican Party. Since then, however, it has been largely praised and many historians and scholars see it as one of the most accurate books about the life of Washington.

4. John Marshall married once and had ten children

John Marshall met Mary “Polly” Ambler during the American Revolutionary War and the two would soon start dating afterwards. They got married in 1783 and would go on to have 10 children together.

While they lived a mostly happy life together, there was some heartache along the way. Polly suffered from two miscarriages and two of the couple’s children died as infants. Only six of their ten children would survive into adulthood.

5. He was the fourth Cheif Justice of the United States

John Marshall is most famous for his time as Chief Justice of the United States. He was first appointed as Chief Justice by John Adams in 1801. An interesting fact about John Marshall is that his tenure as Chief Justice is one of the most influential in the history of the United States and he is widely regarded as one of the important people to ever take the role.

He would serve as Chief Justice for 34 years until his death in 1831.

6. Marshall oversaw the Madbury vs Madison ruling

John Marshall oversaw many significant changes during his time as Chief Justice. One of his most significant contributions came when he oversaw the Madbury vs Madison ruling.

The case is often viewed as one of the most important in the history of America as it was the first time that the Supreme Court ruled a law made by congress as unconstitutional. This effectively made the Supreme Court the third branch of the American Government, making them work as a way of checking the laws that were ruled by congress.

7. John Marshall had a successful early political career

Before he became the Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall had been successful in the world of American politics as well. After becoming a lawyer in 1780, Marshall was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782.

An interesting John Marshall fact is that he made quite an impression during this period and was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1789. It was here that caught the attention of John Adams and he would only serve in the office for a year before being given the role of Chief Justice.

8. He had a complicated relationship with slavery

John Marshall openly declared that slavery was evil and would regularly defend slaves in court for no financial reward. He also once allowed a third of a slave slip to go free and return to Africa.

Despite this, Marshall himself owned slaves and while it is said that he treated them very well, it is also argued that by owning slaves and taking part in the buying and selling of slaves, that he was actively supporting the slave trade and all of the connotations and issues that came attached with it.

9. Marshall has had many monuments and memorials dedicated to him

John Marshall is one of the most important people in the history of the American justice system and as such, there are various monuments and memorials dedicated to him all over America.

His home in Richmond, Virginia, has been preserved and is now considered as a museum and a monument to him. He has also been represented on US treasury notes at various points during the past, an interesting John Marshall fact.

There are communities named after Marshall in West Virginia, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan. He also has a bronze statue of him wearing his judicial robes in the American Supreme Court Building.

10. John Marshall died in 1831

In 1831, six months after the death of his beloved wife, Polly, John Marshall passed away on July 6th. He was 76 years old and at the time of his death had been Cheif Justice for 34 years. He had died from complications from surgery that he had to remove some bladder stones.

Marshall’s death was largely mourned across America and the Liberty Bell was rang out when he died. One tale has it that this was the last time the bell was ever rung as it broke soon afterwards.


John Marshall’s constant fight for justice has seen him earn his place among the most influential Americans of all time.

Thanks to the changes he made, the American democracy and court system has continued to flourish until this day.

I hope that this article on John Marshall facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Historical People Facts Page!

IV. John Marshall, Slavery, and the Shaping of American Law

Marshall became Chief Justice before slavery emerged as a central issue—eventually becoming the central issue—of American politics. During Marshall’s lifetime slavery virtually disappeared in the North. In 1800, just before Marshall went on the Court, there were more than 37,000 slaves in the North. By 1840 (just a few years after Marshall’s death) only about 1,100 slaves remained in the North. Meanwhile, Congress prohibited Americans from any personal or financial involvement in the African slave trade in the decade before Marshall went on the Court, and completely banned the trade on January 1, 1808. By the 1820s Congress had declared the trade to be piracy, punishable death. But, while slavery died out in the North, it thrived in the South. There were eight southern slave states and about 900,000 slaves in the U.S. when Marshall came on the Court and about 2,250,000 slaves and twelve slave states when he died. 39 See Arthur Zilversmit, The First Emancipation (University of Chicago 1967) and Paul Finkelman, An Imperfect Union: Slavery, Federalism, and Comity (University of North Carolina 1981).

The first great political debate over slavery, centering around Missouri statehood, took place in 1819–21, after Marshall been on the court almost two decades. That debate ended in a “compromise” and slavery mostly receded from the national stage for nearly a decade.

In 1816 political leaders and philanthropists formed the American Colonization Society (ACS) to remove free blacks to Africa, to what eventually became Liberia. Some ACS leaders opposed slavery and believed that helping free blacks move to Africa would encourage private manumissions. Others were active slave owners who saw Liberia as a place where the United States could rid itself of free blacks. From its founding until the Civil War the ACS sent about 13,000 blacks to Liberia—almost all of them recently manumitted slaves.

A life member of the ACS and president of its Richmond branch, Marshall supported colonization with his time, prestige, and lobbying efforts. But he never considered manumitting his own slaves and resettling them in Liberia. His colleague Justice Bushrod Washington was the national president of the ACS from its founding until his death in 1829. During this period Justice Washington sold many of his own slaves but sent none to Liberia.

Marshall’s leadership in the ACS was not inspired by any personal discomfort with slavery. Rather, it stemmed from his hostility to free blacks and his fear of slave rebellions. He argued the entire nation “could be strengthened” by the “removal of our colored population.” He believed the “danger” from free blacks “can scarcely be estimated.” 40 Marshall to Ralph R. Gurley [Secretary of the ACS], Dec. 14, [1831], 12 Papers of Marshall 131–32. The ACS was safe, comfortable, and conservative, led by Federalists and future Whigs, like Marshall, Bushrod Washington, and Henry Clay. It never challenged slavery on moral or political grounds, and was at most mildly antislavery, because some masters manumitted their slaves to send them to Liberia.

Black and white opponents of slavery denounced the ACS as racist and pro-slavery. In 1829 the black activist David Walker attacked colonization and called for black revolution in his Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World. In January 1831 William Lloyd Garrison began publishing The Liberator, attacking colonization and signaling the beginning of a new abolitionist movement, which demanded immediate steps by Americans to end slavery. That summer, in Southampton County, Virginia the slave Nat Turner led the bloodiest slave rebellion in US history, leaving at least fifty-five whites and at least two hundred blacks dead.

Marshall watched these events with horror but never questioned the propriety of slavery. After the Turner Rebellion, he never suggested that Virginia should take gradual steps to end slavery or ameliorate bondage by giving slaves some legal protections, such as recognition of their marriages. Rather, he petitioned the Virginia legislature for funds to support colonization, because of the “urgent expedience of getting rid in some way, of the free coloured population of the Union.” Marshall declared that free blacks in Virginia were worthless, ignorant, and lazy and that in Richmond half the free blacks were “criminals.” Marshall suggested that the presence of free blacks led to the Turner Rebellion, “the awful scenes in Southampton,” a claim consistent with his hostility to free blacks, but completely inconsistent with the cause of the Turner Rebellion or what people in Virginia knew of the participants. 41 J[ohn] Marshall, Chairman, “Memorial: To the General Assembly of Virginia,” December 13, 1831, 12 Papers of Marshall 127, 128, 130. There were very few free blacks in Southampton County, and there was no evidence that any participated in the Turner Rebellion.

Using the same term as his cousin Jefferson, Marshall argued free blacks were “pests” who should be removed from the state. 42 Id. On Jefferson and free blacks, see Finkelman, Slavery and the Founders 270. Marshall told the Marquis de Lafayette that African colonization was the “only secure asylum” that would be “beneficial for them and safe for us.” 43 Marshall to the Marquis de Lafayette, May 2, 1827, 11 Papers of Marshall 11–12. Marshall’s most aggressive racism and hostility to free blacks never appeared on the pages of U.S. Reports or in a book like Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, but these views influenced his jurisprudence in profound and tragic ways.

The Marshall Court heard about fifty cases involving slavery. This number excludes cases where slavery was mentioned but not important to the case, such as Fairfax’s Devisee v. Hunter’s Lessee and cases like Gibbons v. Ogden and Cohens v. Virginia, where the importance of slavery was stressed in oral arguments or in the opinions of the court, even though the case had nothing to do with slavery.

On the bench Marshall always supported slavery, even when statutes and precedent were on the side of freedom. He also adjusted his jurisprudence when slavery cases were before him. For example, in embargo cases Marshall was famous for his flexible approach to admiralty, and declined to apply “technical niceties” of common law procedure to maritime cases. But in cases involving the illegal African slave trade, Marshall rigidly applied technical niceties, protecting slave traders from suffering for their illegal and immoral commerce. 44 Finkelman, Supreme Injustice, Ch. 3. Similarly, Marshall used natural law arguments to defend property rights, to protect the inviolability of contracts, and to condemn bankruptcy laws. 45 For extensive discussion of his use of natural law, see Johnson, Chief Justiceship of Marshall 95, and White, Marshall Court and Cultural Change 674. But, in The Antelope, Marshall emphatically rejected the legitimacy of using natural law to liberate Africans illegal brought to the United States in violation of American law.

This jurisprudence reflected Marshall’s investment in slaves that was probably unmatched by any other member of the Supreme Court. It dovetailed with his lifetime commitment to slavery and his virulent hostility to the very presence of free blacks in the United States.

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