John Marshall: The Man Who Made the Supreme Court

John Marshall: The Man Who Made the Supreme Court

by Richard Brookhiser


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The life of John Marshall, Founding Father and America's premier chief justice.

In 1801, a genial and brilliant Revolutionary War veteran and politician became the fourth chief justice of the United States. He would hold the post for 34 years (still a record), expounding the Constitution he loved. Before he joined the Supreme Court, it was the weakling of the federal government, lacking in dignity and clout. After he died, it could never be ignored again. Through three decades of dramatic cases involving businessmen, scoundrels, Native Americans, and slaves, Marshall defended the federal government against unruly states, established the Supreme Court's right to rebuke Congress or the president, and unleashed the power of American commerce. For better and for worse, he made the Supreme Court a pillar of American life.

In John Marshall, award-winning biographer Richard Brookhiser vividly chronicles America's greatest judge and the world he made.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465096220
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 11/13/2018
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 102,332
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Richard Brookhiser is a senior editor of National Review and the author of more than a dozen books books, including Give Me Liberty: A History of America's Exceptional Ideal, John Marshall: The Man Who Made the Supreme Court, Founder's Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln; Alexander Hamilton; American; and Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington. He lives in New York City.

Table of Contents

A Note on Spelling and Usage ix

Introduction John Marshall George Washington 1

Section I Early Life

Chapter 1 Soldier 11

Chapter 2 Lawyer 27

Chapter 3 Local Politician 41

Chapter 4 Diplomat, Congressman, Secretary of State 59

Section II Beleaguered Chief Justice

Chapter 5 The Case of the Missing Commission 77

Chapter 6 Impeachment 97

Chapter 7 Treason 107

Chapter 8 Corruption and Contracts 123

Section III Magisterial Chief Justice

Chapter 9 A Small College 137

Chapter 10 Bankers and Embezzlers 155

Chapter 11 Jewish Lottery Runners 169

Chapter 12 Steamboats and Commerce 181

Section IV Chief Justice: The Waning Years

Chapter 13 Slavers 195

Chapter 14 Bankrupts 211

Chapter 15 Cherokees 223

Chapter 16 Missionaries 237

Chapter 17 Bill of Rights 249

Legacy: Marshall, Jefferson, Lincoln 261

Acknowledgments 279

Notes 281

Bibliography 303

Index 309

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John Marshall: The Man Who Made the Supreme Court 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
David-The-Reviewer More than 1 year ago
John Marshall is one of the most consequential figures in the history of the United States, yet too little is known about him. In John Marshall : The Man Who Made The Supreme Court, journalist and author Richard Brookhiser seeks to help us know more about this man. In life Marshall was an unimposing character. Early in the book Brookhiser relates a story about Marshall at home in Richmond. He was dressed like any other rustic. A newcomer to town asked him to carry a turkey home from the market, not realizing until afterwards that he had used the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as a delivery man. Marshall was a man of humor. Brookhiser shares another anecdote in the book. The Justices would board in the same house when the Court was in session and they ate together. They established a custom that they could only have wine if it was raining. “Marshall would ask ‘Brother Story’ [Justice Joseph Story] to look out the window and say what the weather was. If Story reported that the sun was shining, Marshall would answer, ‘our jurisdiction extends over so large a territory…that it must be raining somewhere.’” These anecdotes help to remind us that Marshall was an approachable and affable man. That did not make him weak. In his Introduction Brookhiser points out that “When Marshall died in 1835, he and the Court he led had rebuked two presidents, Congress, and a dozen states and laid down principles of law and politics that still apply.” That, of course, is why we know Marshall. He was the man who turned the Supreme Court into a powerful part of the United States government. Before Marshall the Supreme Court had little influence on the nation. After Marshall the influence was powerful. The book is well written and easily approachable by the general reader. Brookhiser is a journalist by training and profession so he does not get into the weeds of trying to explain all of the minutiae behind the laws. Instead he focuses on the political implications of Marshall’s rulings. This is important because when Marshall established the idea of judicial oversight he inserted the Court into the politics of the new nation. Marshall was well aware that he was helping to guide the nation forward. He was a Revolutionary War veteran who had served on Washington’s staff. As a young member of the Virginia Ratifying Convention he fought hard alongside James Madison for the ratification of the Constitution. He was a successful attorney in private practice before moving into the government. He served under John Adams as Secretary of State before he became the third Chief Justice. Brookhiser takes us through his early years without succumbing that siren call of the historian: the rabbit trail. So many writers feel a need to set up a history by giving huge back stories or going off into minute detail about some side issue. Brookhiser deftly gives us what we need to understand the subject and keeps moving. This is an excellent book and does justice to the subject. It also delivers the reader a well written, informative, and enjoyable experience.