The Great Chief Justice: John Marshall

Essay by littletutuHigh School, 11th gradeA+, February 2004

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Also known as the Babe Ruth of the Supreme Court, John Marshall will now and forever have a lasting legacy. Born on September 24, 1755 in Germantown, Virginia, Marshall was the first of fifteen children. As member of the 3d Virginia Regiment, he participated in the Revolutionary War. Following his military service in 1780, he attended the College of William and Mary where George Wythe conducted lectures. He continued the private study of law until admitted to practice that same year.

A Federalist at heart, he not only served in Virginia's House of Delegates, but he also participated in the state ratifying convention, where he even gave a speech obviously in favor of replacing the Articles of Confederation for the Constitution. Along with Elbridge Gerry and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, he had the honor of being sent on a diplomatic mission to France (also known as the XYZ Affair). Due to various reasons, he declined service as attorney general for Washington, positions on the Supreme Court, as well as the position of secretary of war under John Adams.

Surprisingly he successfully ran for a seat in the House of Representatives in 1799. In 1800 however, he accepted the position of Secretary of State which Adams had offered him.

That same year, Oliver Ellsworth resigned as Chief Justice. Adams had turned to John Jay, but unfortunately, Jay declined. Most promoted William Patterson. In the end, Adams opted for Marshall. The appointment was confirmed on January 27, 1801, commissioned on January 31, and he was finally sworn in on February 4. As head of the Judicial Branch and president of the Supreme Court, the "Chief Justice" position would not be so easy to handle. For a short time, Marshall would serve as both Secretary of State and Chief Justice, or at least until...