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John Marshall: Definer of a Nation by Jean…
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John Marshall: Definer of a Nation (1996)

by Jean Edward Smith

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- My first book by JES and it was outstanding…so good I will definitely purchase and read his other biographies on Grant and FDR
- John Marshall life was remarkable. (1) Soldier of the Revolution…served under Washington at Valley Forge, battle of Brandywine, Germantown and Yorktown. When the British invaded Virginia served under Gen Von Stueben. (2) Delegate during the Virginia ratification of the Constitution. The battle with Patrick Henry (who led the opponents of the constitution) was a great read in this book. (3)1 of 3 delegates to France during the “XYZ” affair. (4)While briefly in politics, Congressman and Secretary of State for President Adams, was highly influential and exhibited remarkable leadership/political skills. (5)Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court for 34 years. Dominated the court and established the court as an independent/powerful branch of government.
- Enjoyed JES research into Marshall’s family ancestors. The history/events of Marshall grandmother, Mary Randolph Keith, is tragic/heartbreaking story. While Jefferson and Marshall were cousins, Mary Randolph Keith and her family was disowned by the powerful Virginia Randolph family and Jefferson side of the family flourished.
- Huge political difference between Jefferson and Marshall is highlighted in this book in a fair and balanced manner. Jefferson was angry that even after a slew of Jefferson/Madison Republican Supreme Court appointments Marshall continued to dominate and speak for the court. Jefferson was not for an independent Supreme Court and did not support judicial review…the power to strike down laws that were unconstitutional
- My favorite chapter was “Mission to Paris (XYZ) Affair”. The French and specifically Foreign Minister Talleyrand were unbelievably arrogant demanding a bribe and loan as a condition to negotiate with the American delegation. When the negotiations broke down Jefferson blamed the American delegation and demanded release of all documents in support of the negotiations. Adams played pro-French to a fault Jefferson like a violin…Adams agreed to Jefferson’s request for released of the documents that resulted (in Jefferson’s horror) in a firestorm of anti-French sentiments and quasi-war with the French. Also of note from this chapter was the inexcusable behavior of Elbridge Gerry (one of the 3 US delegates). Upon returning from Paris the American backlash against him was tremendous and I believe well deserved
- Marshall was most historically famous by his effective leadership in transforming the US Supreme Court. Before Marshall the US Supreme court lacked respect. Specifically, (1) No one of significance would take the job as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court (2)Court would frequently not have a quorum of justices available to render a decision (3)Justices of the Court were very political and active with political parties. (4)Court rulings were not based on Federal Law or the Constitution
- Marshall was not only brilliant, he was also a modest and decent individual…his only real enemy was Jefferson. Marshall was friends with both Madison and Monroe (both of which were mentored by Jefferson)
- After reading 19 books on the Revolutionary War Effort…I would rank Marshall’s impact behind only Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson and Franklin. I would argue that Marshall impact as a Founding Father of the Revolutionary War Era is greater than President Adams, Madison and Monroe. In terms of greatness (not impact) I would rank Marshall behind Washington, Hamilton and Franklin and ahead of Jefferson. After the revolutionary war individuals such as Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson and the two political parties (Republicans and Federalists) all had different views of the power of the new Federal government and the form of government, however, it was Marshall that defined the nation and the rules of the government (just like the title of the book title implies). ( )
1 vote CritEER | Aug 30, 2007 |
An excellent overview of Marshall's life and works. ( )
  JBD1 | Jan 10, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 080505510X, Paperback)

It's taken for granted today that the Supreme Court has final say on how the Constitution is interpreted, but this principle--hotly debated in the republic's early years -- was established by John Marshall (1755-1835), the fourth Chief Justice. Historian Smith's definitive biography, detailed and lucid, is a model of scholarly writing for the general public. The author claims our admiration for the justice and sparks affection for the man: warm, gregarious, fond of drink, a Federalist with the common touch, a seasoned political infighter who remained on good terms with his opponents.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:51 -0400)

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