John Marshall is considered to be one of America’s greatest citizens. As the longest serving chief justice of the Supreme Court in American history, he helped reform the judicial and legal system in America. This paper will look into Marshall’s life and his importance in American history.
Life and times of John Marshall
John Marshall was born in September 24th 1755, to planter Thomas Marshall and his wife Mary, Isham, Keith Marshall in Germantown, Virginia (Beveridge 21). He was of English descent. The oldest child, in a family of Fifteen, excluding the parents, John always knew that he had to make something out of himself in his life and his siblings were looking up to him. Little is told about Marshall’s early life and early education although it is said that he received little formal education during his earl years. As the American revolutionary war began in 1775, Marshall joined the joined the Culpeper Minutemen and was appointed as Lieutenant. In 1779, having studied law, he returned to Virginia and soon became a leading lawyer.
He practiced law as a private practitioner and soon decided to venture into politics three years later. He contested and won a seat in the Virginia House of delegates, which he served for seven years till 1789. Before that, in 1788, he had been 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 the preceding year. He later regained his seat in the Virginia delegates in 1795. This came soon after he had declined to take a position as the Attorney General of the United States. In 1796 he declined yet another position; that of Finance Minister. This run was not yet over as in 1798, he declined a Supreme Court appointment recommending one Bushrod Washington.
On May 7th 1799, Marshall seemed to have turned over a new leaf as far as political career was concerned. He was nominated secretary of war by President Adams, confirmed by the senate and later took office in 1800. His major achievement as secretary of state was negotiating the convention of 1800 which saw the Quasi-war with France and brought peace to the new nation.
1801 saw the rejuvenation of Marshall’s prowess in legal affairs. He took up what is considered to be the most important career in his life (Johnson 120). He was appointed Chief Justice and after being confirmed by the senate, he took the office on February 4th. As chief justice of the Supreme Court, Marshall is credited for single handedly cementing the position of the judiciary as an independent and influential branch of government (Joseph 185). He is the longest serving chief justice in the Supreme Court having served from 1801 to 1835 (34 years). He made the Supreme Court a centre of power and a force to reckon with in the American government. He is remembered for having shaped America’s constitutional law to what it is today (Newmyer 134).
Marshall admired George Washington and he wrote a biography on him between the years 1805 and 1807. On the biography, he documented Washington’s life based on information given to him by his family.
He was married to Mary Willis Ambler. Later in 1835, while still serving as the chief justice, Marshall passed away aged 79 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
His legacy continues to date.