The New International Encyclopædia/Marshall, John
MARSHALL, John (1755-1835). The most famous of American jurists, for thirty-four years Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He was born September 24, 1755, in Fauquier County, Va.; studied under a private tutor; then attended an academy in Westmoreland County, and studied law until the outbreak of the Revolution, when he entered the army as a volunteer. He soon rose to the rank of first lieutenant, and by 1777 was a captain. His first fight was near Norfolk; he afterwards served in the New Jersey campaign, was at Valley Forge during the memorable winter of 1777-78, and participated in the battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth, and in the capture of Stony Point. During most of 1780, while without a command, he attended the law lectures delivered by the famous Chancellor George Wythe at William and Mary College. The following year he was admitted to the bar of Fauquier County, where he practiced for two years. In 1782 he was elected to a seat in the Virginia Legislature and soon became a member of the Executive Council. In the meantime he had removed to Richmond. In 1784 he was again elected to represent Fauquier County in the Legislature. In 1787 he was chosen to represent Henrico, the county in which he had lately taken up his residence, and in the following year was a delegate to the State convention which was called to ratify the Federal Constitution. The distinction of securing the adoption of the Constitution by Virginia belongs to Marshall and Madison perhaps more than to any others. Marshall's refutations of Patrick Henry's arguments against adoption were particularly effective. In the meantime his law practice was rapidly increasing, and he declined a reëlection to the Legislature in 1792 in order to devote his whole time to his growing practice, but in 1795 he was again persuaded to stand for reëlection and was successful. It was about this time that Marshall appeared before the Supreme Court in the famous case of Ware vs. Hilton, in which the validity of the Virginia Sequestration Act was involved, and his able argument added greatly to his growing reputation. He declined to accept the post of Attorney-General or the French mission tendered him by President Washington, but finally consented to go to Paris in 1797 with Gen. C. Pinckney and Elbridge Gerry to induce the Directory to remove the restrictions which it had laid on American commerce. Although the negotiations proved fruitless, Marshall's conduct seems to have been more satisfactory to the Government than that of either of his colleagues. In 1795 he declined to accept a seat on the bench of the United States Supreme Court as the successor of James Wilson, but in the same year at the solicitation of Washington became a candidate for Congress and was elected, although his constituency was decidedly Anti-Federalist in politics. In Congress he supported the Administration in particular and Federalist measures generally, although he voted for the repeal of the notorious Alien and Sedition Acts. His most notable effort in Congress was a speech in support of the conduct of the President in surrendering Jonathan Robbins, the murderer of a man on a British frigate, who had escaped to the United States and had been delivered up to the British Government by the President. Marshall showed conclusively that the surrender of Robbins was clearly within the President's constitutional power. In May, 1800, he was asked by President Adams to take the office of Secretary of War, but declined. However, he was induced to accept the position of Secretary of State, which he held for a short time. On January 31, 1801, he was commissioned Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The accession of Marshall to the bench of the United States Supreme Court as Chief Justice marks a turning point in his life and an epoch in the legal and constitutional history of the United States. For thirty-four years he dominated the court by his great learning and masterful power of analysis and clearness of statement. Perhaps no judge ever excelled him in the capacity to hold a legal proposition before the eyes of others in such various forms and colors. He resolved every argument by the most subtle analysis into its ultimate principles, and then applied them to the decision of the case in question. His service on the bench, which continued until his death, was effective and conspicuous not only in securing for the court the recognition and profound respect for which hitherto there had been no especial occasion, but also in so expounding the Constitution as to make clear for the first time the nature of the National Government and to forecast the lines along which, in actual development as well as in judicial interpretation, the nation was to proceed. In the period of Marshall's predominance the court upheld the Federalist theories, as in the national bank case of McCulloch vs. Maryland, and gave a clear definition of the relations of the State and National governments. On the subject of the constitutional prohibition against the impairment of contracts, noteworthy opinions were presented, culminating in the famous Dartmouth College Case, the exact accuracy of which has more recently been questioned. Particularly in the field of constitutional law the work of Marshall forms the greatest contribution to American jurisprudence made by any judge, and his interpretations of the Constitution have long been recognized as an important and permanent feature of American public law. He died on July 6, 1835, in his eightieth year, at Philadelphia, whither he had gone for medical treatment. Aside from his judicial labors Marshall, at the request of Bushrod Washington, a nephew of George Washington, wrote a Life of George Washington (5 vols., 1804-07; 2d ed., 2 vols., 1832). Consult: Magruder, John Marshall (Boston, 1885), in the “American Statesman Series;” Thayer, John Marshall (Boston, 1901), one of the “Beacon Biographies;” and a chapter, “Constitutional Development in the United States, as influenced by Chief Justice Marshall,” in Cooley, Constitutional History of the United States (New York, 1889).