John Marshall, 4th Chief Justice of US Supreme Court

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John Marshall, 4th Chief Justice of US Supreme Court

Birthplace: Germantown, Fauquier County, Virginia, British Colonies of North America
Death: July 06, 1835 (79)
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
Place of Burial: Richmond, VA, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Col. Thomas Marshall and Mary Randolph Marshall
Husband of Mary Willis Marshall
Father of Hon. Thomas C. Marshall; Dr Jaquelin Ambler Marshall; Jane Ferguson; Mary Ann Harvie; John James Marshall, Jr and 4 others
Brother of Samuel Marshall, Sr.; Elizabeth Colston; Mary Ann Marshall; Capt. Thomas Marshall; Judith D. Brooke and 12 others

Occupation: Chief Justice, Supreme Court, 4th Chief Justice of the US (1801-1835); 4th US Sect. of State (1800-1801); Rep. from Virginia (1799-1800); Capt. in the Continental Army (1780-1781); Lieut. in Culpepper Minutemen & 11th Virginia Continental Reg. (1775-1778)
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About John Marshall, 4th Chief Justice of US Supreme Court

John Marshall (September 24, 1755 – July 6, 1835) was an American jurist and statesman who shaped American constitutional law and made the Supreme Court a center of power. Marshall was Chief Justice of the United States, serving from January 31, 1801, until his death in 1835. He served in the United States House of Representatives from March 4, 1799, to June 7, 1800, and was Secretary of State under President John Adams from June 6, 1800, to March 4, 1801. Marshall was from the Commonwealth of Virginia and a leader of the Federalist Party.

The longest serving Chief Justice in Supreme Court history, Marshall dominated the Court for over three decades (a term outliving his own Federalist Party) and played a significant role in the development of the American legal system. Most notably, he established that the courts are entitled to exercise judicial review, the power to strike down laws that violate the Constitution. Thus, Marshall has been credited with cementing the position of the American judiciary as an independent and influential branch of government. Furthermore, the Marshall Court made several important decisions relating to federalism, shaping the balance of power between the federal government and the states during the early years of the republic. In particular, he repeatedly confirmed the supremacy of federal law over state law and supported an expansive reading of the enumerated powers.

John Marshall was born in a log cabin near Germantown, a rural community on the Virginia frontier, in what is now Fauquier County near Midland, Virginia, on September 24, 1755, to Thomas Marshall and Mary Randolph Keith. The oldest of fifteen, John had eight sisters and six brothers. Also, several cousins were raised with the family. From a young age, he was noted for his good humor and black eyes, which were "strong and penetrating, beaming with intelligence and good nature".[2]

Thomas Marshall was employed by Lord Fairfax. Known as "the Proprietor", Fairfax provided Thomas Marshall with a substantial income as his lordship’s agent in Fauquier County. Marshall’s task was to survey the tract, assist in finding people to settle and collect the modest rents.

In the early 1760s, the Marshall family left Germantown and moved some thirty miles to Leeds Manor (so named by Lord Fairfax) on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge. On the banks of Goose Creek, Thomas Marshall built a simple wooden cabin there, much like the one abandoned in Germantown with two rooms on the first floor and a two-room loft above. Thomas Marshall was not yet well estblished, so he leased it from Colonel Richard Henry Lee. The Marshalls called their new home "the Hollow", and the ten years they resided there were John Marshall's formative years. In 1773, the Marshall family moved once again. Thomas Marshall, by then a man of more substantial means, purchased a 1,700-acre estate adjacent to North Cobbler Mountain, approximately ten miles northwest of the Hollow. The new farm was located adjacent to the main stage road (now U.S. 17) between Salem (the modern day village of Marshall, Virginia) and Delaplane. When John was seventeen, Thomas Marshall built "Oak Hill" there, a seven-room frame home with four rooms on the first floor and three above. Although modest in comparison to the estates of Washington, Madison, and Jefferson,[3] it was a substantial home for the period. John Marshall became the owner of Oak Hill in 1785 when his father moved to Kentucky. Although John Marshall lived his later life in Richmond and Washington, he kept his Fauquier County property, making improvements and using it as a retreat until his death.

Marshall's early education was superintended by his father who gave him an early taste for history and poetry. Thomas Marshall's employer, Lord Fairfax, allowed access to his home at Greenway Court, which was an exceptional center of learning and culture. Marshall took advantage of the resources at Greenway Court and borrowed freely from the extensive collection of classical and contemporary literature. There were no schools in the region at the time, so home schooling was pursued. Although books were a rarity for most in the territory, Thomas Marshall's library was exceptional. His collection of literature, some of which was borrowed from Lord Fairfax, was relatively substantial and included works by Livy, Horace, Pope, Dryden, Milton, and Shakespeare. All of the Marshall children were accomplished, literate, and self-educated under their parents' supervision. At the age of twelve John had transcribed Alexander Pope's An Essay on Man and some of his Moral Essays.

There being no formal school in Fauqueir County at the time, John was sent, at age fourteen, about one hundred miles from home to the academy of Reverend Archibald Campbell in Washington parish. Among his classmates was James Monroe. John remained at the academy one year, after which he was brought home. Afterwards, Thomas Marshall arranged with Edinbugh for a minister to be sent who could double as a teacher for the local children. The Reverend James Thomson, a recently ordained deacon from Glasgow, Scotland, resided with the Marshall family and tutored the children in Latin in return for his room and board. When Thomson left at the end of the year, John had begun reading and transcribing Horace and Livy.

The Marshalls had long before decided that John was to be a lawyer. William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England had been published in America and Thomas Marshall bought a copy for his own use and for John to read and study. After John returned home from Campbell's academy he continued his studies with no other aid than his Dictionary. John's father superintended the English part of his education. Marshall wrote of his father, "... and 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".

Marshall served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and was friends with George Washington. He served first as a Lieutenant in the Culpeper Minute Men from 1775 to 1776, then as a Lieutenant in the Eleventh Virginia Continental Regiment from 1776 to 1780.[4] During his time in the army, he enjoyed running races with the other soldiers and was nicknamed "Silverheels" for the white heels his mother had sewn into his stockings.[5] After his time in the Army, he read law under the famous Chancellor George Wythe in Williamsburg, Virginia at the College of William and Mary,[6] was elected to Phi Beta Kappa[7] and was admitted to the Bar in 1780.[4] He was in private practice in Fauquier County, Virginia[4] before entering politics.

State political career

In 1782, Marshall won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, in which he served until 1789 and again from 1795 to 1796. The Virginia General Assembly elected him to serve on the Council of State later in the same year. In 1785, Marshall took up the additional office of Recorder of the Richmond City Hustings Court.[8]

In 1788, Marshall was selected as a delegate to the Virginia convention responsible for ratifying or rejecting the United States Constitution, which had been proposed by the Philadelphia Convention a year earlier. Together with James Madison and Edmund Randolph, Marshall led the fight for ratification. He was especially active in defense of Article III, which provides for the Federal judiciary.[9] His most prominent opponent at the ratification convention was Anti-Federalist leader Patrick Henry. Ultimately, the convention approved the Constitution by a vote of 89-79. Marshall identified with the new Federalist Party (which supported a strong national government and commercial interests), rather than Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party (which advocated states' rights and idealized the yeoman farmer and the French Revolution).

Biography of Washington

Marshall greatly admired George Washington, and wrote a highly influential biography. Between 1805 and 1807, he published a five-volume biography; his Life of Washington was based on records and papers provided him by the president's family. The first volume was reissued in 1824 separately as A History of the American Colonies. The work reflected Marshall's Federalist principles. His revised and condensed two-volume Life of Washington was published in 1832.[10] Vol 1. Vol 2. Historians have often praised its accuracy and well-reasoned judgments, while noting his frequent paraphrases of published sources such as William Gordon's 1801 history of the Revolution and the British Annual Register.[11] 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."[12] Cary & Lea did publish the abridgment, but only in 1838, three years after Marshall died.

Chief Justice

In 1801, during the last weeks of his term as president, Adams appointed several federal judges (the "Midnight Judges"), including Marshall as Chief Justice of the United States on January 20, 1801. One week later, the Senate confirmed his nomination unanimously, and Marshall received his commission on February 4.

The three previous chief justices (John Jay, John Rutledge, and Oliver Ellsworth) had left little permanent mark beyond setting up the forms of office. The Supreme Court, like the state supreme courts, was a minor organ of government. In his 34-year tenure, Marshall made it a third co-equal branch, which it remains today. With his associate justices, especially Joseph Story, William Johnson, and Bushrod Washington, Marshall's Court defined the constitutional standards of the new nation. The great work of the Marshall Court was done in a handful of great cases, especially Marbury v. Madison, McCulloch v. Maryland, Cohens v. Virginia and Gibbons v. Ogden.

His influential rulings reshaped American government, revealing the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of the Constitution—a document with respect to which the Court has the power to overrule the Congress, the president, the states, and all lower courts. He fought to protect the rights of individuals and corporations against intrusive state governments. Marshall, along with Daniel Webster (who argued some of the cases), was the leading Federalist of the day, pursuing Federalist approaches to build a stronger federal government over the opposition of Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans, who wanted stronger state governments. Marshall's most important rulings include Cohens v. Virginia, Fletcher v. Peck, Gibbons v. Ogden, Marbury v. Madison, McCulloch v. Maryland, Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, and Worcester v. Georgia.

Some of his decisions were unpopular; Andrew Jackson went so far as to completely ignore the ruling of Worcester v. Georgia, for example. Nevertheless, Marshall set a great precedent in American politics by being able to balance out the branches of government, and the states and the federal power, providing the rule of law that still prevails.

One of Marshall's most lasting contributions to the Supreme Court was in how opinions are delivered. Before Marshall, opinions were delivered seriatim, meaning each justice delivered a separate opinion. That model is still used by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. However, Marshall convinced his colleagues to adopt a single opinion for the court, allowing it to present a clear rule.[13] During his 34 years as Chief Justice he judged over 1,100 cases; he wrote the majority opinion in 519.[14] Marshall was in the dissenting minority only eight times throughout his tenure at the court because of his control over the associate justices. As one observer at the time noted, Marshall had the knack of "putting his own ideas into the minds of others, unconsciously to them".[15]

Marshall had charm, humor, a quick intelligence, and the ability to bring men together. Above all, he had patriotism, sincerity and presence that commanded attention. His opinions were workmanlike, not eloquent in style or subtle; and his learning in the law was not deep.[citation needed] What distinguished him was the force of his intellect, steadfast purpose, and a confident vision of the future greatness he wanted his nation to achieve; these qualities are seen in his historic decisions and gave him the sobriquet, The Great Chief Justice.

Marbury v. Madison

Marbury v. Madison, decided in 1803, ruled for the government (that is, Madison), by deciding a minor law passed by Congress was unconstitutional. Ironically what was unconstitutional was Congress' granting a certain power to the Supreme Court itself. The case allowed Marshall to proclaim the doctrine of judicial review, which reserves to the Supreme Court final authority to judge whether or not actions of the president or of the Congress are within the powers granted to them by the Constitution. The Constitution itself is the supreme law, and when the Court believes that a specific law or action is in violation of it, the Court must uphold the Constitution and set aside that other law or action.

The Constitution does not explicitly give judicial review to the Court, and Jefferson was very angry with Marshall's position, for he wanted the president to decide whether his acts were constitutional or not. Historians mostly agree that the Founding Fathers Constitution did plan for the Supreme Court to have some sort of judicial review; what Marshall did was make operational their goals. Judicial review was not new and Marshall himself mentioned it in the Virginia ratifying convention of 1788. Marshall's opinion expressed and fixed in the American tradition and legal system a more basic theory—government under law. That is, judicial review means a government in which no person (not even the president) and no institution (not even Congress), nor even a majority of voters, may freely work their will in violation of the written Constitution. Marshall himself never declared another act of Congress or of a president unconstitutional.

McCulloch v. Maryland

McCulloch v. Maryland, (1819) was Marshall's greatest single judicial performance. While it was consistent with Marbury v. Madison, it cuts the other way and prevents states from passing laws that violate the national Constitution. The heart of this opinion is the famous statement, "We must never forget that it is a constitution we are expounding." Marshall laid down the basic theory of implied powers under a written Constitution; a written, but a living, 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 plenary powers "on which the welfare of a nation essentially depends." It would be free in its choice of means, not tied to a literal interpretation of the Constitution, and open to change and growth.

Cohens v. Virginia

Cohens v. Virginia (1821) displayed Marshall's nationalism as he enforced the supremacy of federal law over conflicting state law and overturned the Virginia supreme court. The decision means the federal judiciary can act directly on private parties and state officials, and has the power to declare and impose on the states the Constitution and federal laws.

Gibbons v. Ogden

Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) overturned a monopoly granted by the New York state legislature to certain steamships operating between New York and New Jersey. In empowering Congress to regulate interstate commerce, the Constitution automatically deprived the states of the power to obstruct interstate commerce in order to serve their own interests. The long-term impact was ending many state-granted monopolies and promoting free enterprise.

Other work, later life, legacy

Marshall loved his home, built in 1790, in Richmond, Virginia,[16] and spent as much time there as possible in quiet contentment.[17][18] While in Richmond he attended St. John's Church in Church Hill until 1814 when he led the movement to hire Robert Mills as architect of Monumental Church, which commemorated the death of 72 Virginians. The Marshall family occupied pew No. 23 at Monumental Church and entertained the Marquis de Lafayette there during his visit to Richmond in 1824. For approximately three months each year, however, he would be away in Washington for the Court's annual term; he would also be away for several weeks to serve on the circuit court in Raleigh, North Carolina.

In 1823, he became first president of the Richmond branch of the American Colonization Society, which was dedicated to resettling freed American slaves in Liberia, on the West coast of Africa. In 1828, he presided over a convention to promote internal improvements in Virginia.

In 1829, he was a delegate to the state constitutional convention, 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. Marshall mainly spoke at this convention to promote the necessity of an independent judiciary.

On December 25, 1831, Mary, his beloved wife of some 49 years, died. Most who knew Marshall agreed that after Mary's death, he was never quite the same.

On returning from Washington in the spring of 1835, he suffered severe contusions resulting from an accident to the stage coach in which he was riding.[6] His health, which had not been good for several years, now rapidly declined, and in June he journeyed to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for medical attendance. There he died on July 6, at the age of 79, having served as Chief Justice for over 34 years. He also was the last surviving member of John Adams's Cabinet and the second to last surviving Founding Father, the last being James Madison.

Two days before his death, he enjoined his friends to place only a plain slab over his and his wife's graves, and he wrote the simple inscription himself. His body, which was taken to Richmond, lies in Shockoe Hill Cemetery in a well kept grave.[19]


Son of Thomas and Mary Marshall

was born September 24, 1755

Intermarried with Mary Willis Ambler

the 3rd of January 1783

Departed this life

the 6th day of July 1835.[20]

[edit] Monuments and memorials

Marshall Memorial (1883, William Wetmore Story) in John Marshall Park, Washington, D.C.

John Marshall was honored on a Postal Issue of 1894Marshall's home in Richmond, Virginia, has been preserved by APVA Preservation Virginia. It is considered to be an important landmark and museum, essential to an understanding of the Chief Justice's life and work.[18] The United States Bar Association commissioned sculptor William Wetmore Story to execute the statue of Marshall that now stands inside the Supreme Court on the ground floor.[6][21] Another casting of the statue is located at Constitution Ave. and 4th Street in Washington D.C. and a third on the grounds of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Story's father Joseph Story had served as an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court with Marshall. The statue was originally dedicated in 1884.[21]

An engraved portrait of Marshall appears on U.S. paper money on the series 1890 and 1891 treasury notes. These rare notes are in great demand by note collectors today. Also, in 1914, an engraved portrait of Marshall was used as the central vignette on series 1914 $500 federal reserve notes. These notes are also quite scarce. Example of both notes are available for viewing on the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco website.[22][23]

On September 24, 1955, the United States Postal Service issued the 40¢ Liberty Issue postage stamp honoring Marshall with a 40 cent stamp.

Having grown from a Reformed Church academy, Marshall College, named upon the death of Chief Justice John Marshall, officially opened in 1836 with a well-established reputation. After a merger with Franklin College in 1853, the school was renamed Franklin and Marshall College. The college went on to become one of the nation's foremost liberal arts colleges.

Four law schools and one University today bear his name: The Marshall-Wythe School of Law (now William and Mary Law School at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia; The Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in Cleveland, Ohio; John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, Georgia; and, The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois. The University that bears his name is Marshall University in Huntington West Virginia. Marshall County, Illinois, Marshall County, Indiana, Marshall County, Kentucky and Marshall County, West Virginia are also named in his honor. A number of high schools around the nation have also been named for him.

John Marshall's birthplace in Fauquier County is a park, the John Marshall Birthplace Park, and a marker can be seen on Route 28 noting this place and event.

The village of Marshall, Virginia is named after John Marshall.

Marshall, Michigan was named by town founders Sidney and George Ketchum in honor of the Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall from Virginia—whom they greatly admired. Occurring five years before Marshall's death, it was the first of dozens of communities and counties named for him.[24] Marshalltown, Iowa was allegedly named for the Michigan city, but adopted its current name because there was already a Marshall, Iowa[25]

John Marshall was an active Freemason and served as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Virginia.[26]

Prominent family connections

Humphrey Marshall (1760 – July 3, 1841), a United States Senator from Kentucky, was the first cousin and brother-in-law of the chief justice.

Thomas Francis Marshall (June 7, 1801 – September 22, 1864) a lawyer who was elected U.S. Representative from Kentucky, was a nephew of the chief justice.

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) primary author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and President of the United States, was a distant cousin of Marshall on his mother's side.

George Marshall (December 31, 1880 – October 16, 1959) was an American military leader, General of the U.S. Army, Chief of Staff of the Army, Secretary of State, the third Secretary of Defense, and the author of the Marshall Plan, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was a distant relative of the chief justice.

Birth: Sep. 24, 1755 Germantown Fauquier County Virginia, USA Death: Jul. 6, 1835 Philadelphia Philadelphia County Pennsylvania, USA

US Supreme Court Justice. He fought in the American Revolution as a young officer under George Washington; served briefly in Congress in 1799; was Secretary of State under President John Adams 1800-1801; became Chief Justice of the United States in 1801, a position he held until his death. He died in Philadelphia where he was undergoing medical treatment. His decision in the case of Marbury vs. Madison became the foundation of judicial power in America. He is now universally known as the Great Chief Justice.

Family links:

 Thomas Marshall (1730 - 1802)
 Mary Randolph Keith Marshall (1737 - 1809)
 Mary Willis Ambler Marshall (1766 - 1831)
 Thomas Marshall (1781 - 1835)*
 Jaquelin Ambler Marshall (1787 - 1852)*
 Mary Marshall Harvie (1795 - 1841)*
 John James Marshall (1798 - 1833)*
 James Keith Marshall (1800 - 1862)*
 Edward Carrington Marshall (1805 - 1882)*
 John Curtis Marshall (1755 - 1835)
 Elizabeth Marshall Colston (1756 - 1842)*
 Mary Ann Marshall Marshall (1757 - 1824)*
 Thomas Marshall (1761 - 1830)*
 James Markham Marshall (1764 - 1848)*
 Charles Marshall (1767 - 1805)*
 William Marshall (1767 - 1815)*
 Alexander Keith Marshall (1770 - 1825)*
 Louis Marshall (1772 - 1866)*
 Charlotte Ashmore Marshall Duke (1777 - 1817)*
  • Calculated relationship

Burial: Shockoe Hill Cemetery Richmond Richmond City Virginia, USA

Maintained by: Find A Grave Record added: Jan 01, 2001 Find A Grave Memorial# 674

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John Marshall, 4th Chief Justice of US Supreme Court's Timeline

September 24, 1755
Germantown, Fauquier County, Virginia, British Colonies of North America
July 24, 1784
Richmond, Virginia, United States
Richmond, VA
December 3, 1787
Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA
Andersonville, Sumter, GA, United States
September 17, 1795
Richmond, VA, United States
January 15, 1798
Of, Fauquier, CO, VA
February 13, 1800
Of, Fauquier, CO, VA