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John Marshall (1755-1835), perhaps best known for consolidating the authority of the Supreme Court, was arguably the most important judicial figure in American history. John Marshall and the Heroic Age of the Supreme Court is a biography designed to explain how Marshall's ideas about law and the Constitution developed over time-how they were related to his personal life an John Marshall (1755-1835), perhaps best known for consolidating the authority of the Supreme Court, was arguably the most important judicial figure in American history. John Marshall and the Heroic Age of the Supreme Court is a biography designed to explain how Marshall's ideas about law and the Constitution developed over time-how they were related to his personal life and to the major historical developments of the age. This book, with its unifying theme being the Marshall-Thomas Jefferson rivalry, combines narrative biography with constitutional historiography.


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John Marshall (1755-1835), perhaps best known for consolidating the authority of the Supreme Court, was arguably the most important judicial figure in American history. John Marshall and the Heroic Age of the Supreme Court is a biography designed to explain how Marshall's ideas about law and the Constitution developed over time-how they were related to his personal life an John Marshall (1755-1835), perhaps best known for consolidating the authority of the Supreme Court, was arguably the most important judicial figure in American history. John Marshall and the Heroic Age of the Supreme Court is a biography designed to explain how Marshall's ideas about law and the Constitution developed over time-how they were related to his personal life and to the major historical developments of the age. This book, with its unifying theme being the Marshall-Thomas Jefferson rivalry, combines narrative biography with constitutional historiography.

30 review for John Marshall and the Heroic Age of the Supreme Court

  1. 4 out of 5

    robin friedman

    Chief Justice Marshall's Judicial Nationalism John Marshall, our nation's fourth Chief Justice, served from 1801 until 1835. He was appointed by President John Adams in one of the last and most significant acts of his administration. Professor Kent Newmyer has written a comprehensive account of the great Chief Justice's career. The account is admirably researched and documented, drawing extensively on a new edition of Marshall's papers. It includes careful analyses of Marshall's leading opinions. Chief Justice Marshall's Judicial Nationalism John Marshall, our nation's fourth Chief Justice, served from 1801 until 1835. He was appointed by President John Adams in one of the last and most significant acts of his administration. Professor Kent Newmyer has written a comprehensive account of the great Chief Justice's career. The account is admirably researched and documented, drawing extensively on a new edition of Marshall's papers. It includes careful analyses of Marshall's leading opinions. Most importantly, Professor Newmyer gives a thoughtful discussion of Justice Marshall's place on the Court and on the importance of his vision of the United States for our history. The book includes good discussions of Marshall's role in the Revolutionary War, as a successful lawyer in Virginia, and as a landowner and extensive land speculator. But most of the book consists of a discussion of Marshall's career on the Court, his opinions, and the manner in which he shaped the Court as an institution. While Newmyer admires his subject greatly, I found this a very balanced account. He allows that Justice Marshall did not always meet his own stated goals of separating law from politics and notes how Marshall's activities as a land speculator seemed to play a critical role in several of his leading opinions. The discussion begins with Marbury v Madison and its role in the doctrine of judicial review. It continues with a thorough discussion of Marshall's role in the treason trial of Aaron Burr, through a discussion of the great opinions construing the Commerce Clause and Contracts Clause of the Constitution, through the Cherokee Nation opinions that Marshall wrote near the end of his tenure which established the foundation of American Indian Law. (Professor Newmyer considers this decision Justice Marshall's proudest moment.) The book considers Marshall's attitudes towards and opinions dealing with slavery. There is also a discussion of a series of polemical articles Justice Marshall exchanged with critics following the decision in McCollough v Maryland. Marshall's critics feared that he was giving too expansive a power to the National Government as opposed to the States. In fact, at the end of his career, Justice Marshall feared his life work had been overtaken by events with the rise of the democracy, a strong state rights movement, and the Presidency of Andrew Jackson. Professor Newmyer sees Justice Marshall as a Burkean conservative in a new world. Marshall interpreted the Constitution broadly, yet flexibility to allow the development of individual, and national commerce and enterprise. Yet he was devoted to institutions and strongly inclined to accept the world as he found it rather than make it over in accordance with abstract principles (as he accused the supporters of the French Revolution of doing.) Newmyer writes: "Marshall spoke as a Burkean conservative, or as much of one as American circumstances allowed. He was repelled by reductionist abstractions as well as abstract idealisms, even when it was couched, as was much of southern constitutionalism in terms of a mythical past. He worked from the 'given', accepted the world as it was, relished 'the disorder of experience" to borrow a phrase from Charles Rosen." (p.351) Justice Marshall was not an original thinker, but he took the text of the Constitution, together with the Federalist, and molded it and the Court's interpretive role in a way that is with us today. He remains America's great Chief Justice. There is much for the interested reader to learn and to think through in Professor Newmyer's fine study of Justice Marshall. Robin Friedman

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    First and foremost, this should not be your first biography of John Marshall. Had I not just listened to an excellent Without Precedent, by Joel Richard Paul, I think I would have been lost quite a bit of the time. Newmyer assumes a passing knowledge of both Marshall and the law, and it wouldn’t hurt to know a handful of Supreme Court cases either. That being said, Newmyer offers a fascinating analysis of Marshall’s decisions, situating them vis a vis intellectual, juridical and historical conte First and foremost, this should not be your first biography of John Marshall. Had I not just listened to an excellent Without Precedent, by Joel Richard Paul, I think I would have been lost quite a bit of the time. Newmyer assumes a passing knowledge of both Marshall and the law, and it wouldn’t hurt to know a handful of Supreme Court cases either. That being said, Newmyer offers a fascinating analysis of Marshall’s decisions, situating them vis a vis intellectual, juridical and historical context, looking back to their sources and legal traditions and forward to their effects, ramifications and influences. He deftly teases apart Marshall’s legacy, maintaining its complexity while unwinding its strands into accessible, coherent themes and arguments. Marshall’s tenure as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court stretched over six presidents: John Adams, who appointed him; Jefferson, who hated him; Madison and Monroe, who respected him while disagreeing with him; John Quincy Adams, who defended him; and Andrew Jackson, who opposed him as much as possible. Newmyer explores how Marshall’s jurisprudence adjusted to the changing politics of the age, while illuminating the consistent threads that connect all his decisions. Well worth reading to fill out and expand your knowledge of John Marshall, antebellum American history, constitutional law and the Supreme Court.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ed Barton

    Readable Biography of the Chief John Marshall set the foundation for American jurisprudence and constitutional interpretation in the formative days of the Republic. Largely underappreciated in today's world, the student of American history, jurisprudence or politics needs to read and appreciate this book and understand the man that is John Marshall. A great and easy read that covers the man as well as his influence on the law.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Donald Scarinci

    This is an "academic" history, not a particularly readable one. It draws conclusions and makes summaries. It points to things that will occur in the future and shows how the the Chief Justice's past will influence his future. There are many other books about John Marshall that are informative and readable. Pass on this one.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    This is a detailed, intellectual biography that does an excellent job at looking at Marshall's legal mind and it's influence. That said, it was a slog to get through such a dry text.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jim Bowen

    I don't know if you've ever been asked to read a biography in a university class, where the autobiography-cum-biography focuses on a particular issue that a teacher or lecturer wants to highlight, This book is one of those books. It genuinely isn't a bad book, but it feels like it presupposes a certain amount of knowledge of the law, which it doesn't really make any effort to explain. You learn to make educated guesses, as the book progresses, but I still rather suspect that I was missing things I don't know if you've ever been asked to read a biography in a university class, where the autobiography-cum-biography focuses on a particular issue that a teacher or lecturer wants to highlight, This book is one of those books. It genuinely isn't a bad book, but it feels like it presupposes a certain amount of knowledge of the law, which it doesn't really make any effort to explain. You learn to make educated guesses, as the book progresses, but I still rather suspect that I was missing things as the story was told. The only other book of a Chief Justice that I've read is the Jim Newton biography of Earl Warren, which was an lot more readable, because it focuses on the entirety of Waren's life, which made it more accessible I think. I was told a pretty dire joke one when someone asks for directions, and gets told that "Well if I were going there, I wouldn't start from here." The same could be said about this book. If you want a book about John Marshall, I wouldn't start from here.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sharron

    John Marshall is a remarkable and fascinating man. Unfortunately this book fails to do justice to his extraordinary life. While admittedly I learned a great deal about Marshall as a jurist, I feel that I learned considerably less about him as a person. I wanted a one volume biography akin to those done by Walter Isaacson or Joseph Ellis. Instead I got a relatively dry constitutional law history. But for the fact that I have a strong interest in this period of American history, coupled with the f John Marshall is a remarkable and fascinating man. Unfortunately this book fails to do justice to his extraordinary life. While admittedly I learned a great deal about Marshall as a jurist, I feel that I learned considerably less about him as a person. I wanted a one volume biography akin to those done by Walter Isaacson or Joseph Ellis. Instead I got a relatively dry constitutional law history. But for the fact that I have a strong interest in this period of American history, coupled with the fact that I worked at the Supreme Court for ten years, I would have put this book down after the first chapter. Though I'm not sorry I finished it, I do regret that it was for the most part dull reading despite the fact that Marshall was himself as charismatic and pivotal a player in our early history as Hamilton or Franklin. He deserves a biography that showcases that.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lewis

  9. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Davis

  10. 4 out of 5

    Luke

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brett Champion

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alice

  13. 5 out of 5

    Scott McCleskey

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Nelson

  15. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Cronin

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dan Hamilton

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jake Auchincloss

  18. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Hayes

  19. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Perry

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bill Carlson

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jerry

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jaime Preusche

  23. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  24. 5 out of 5

    Albert Gidari

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jeannie

  26. 5 out of 5

    Molly Caldwell-Polak

  27. 5 out of 5

    Scott Frazier

  28. 5 out of 5

    David Hook

  29. 4 out of 5

    Harold

  30. 4 out of 5

    Eric Atkisson

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