John Marshall

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John Marshall John Marshall Signature.svg

John Marshall (born September 24, 1755 in Germantown , now Midland , Fauquier County , Colony of Virginia , †  July 6, 1835 in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania ) was an American politician and one of the most important lawyers in the country.

He was Secretary of State , Founder of Constitutional Law and Presiding Judge at the Supreme Court of the United States ("US Supreme Court").


In the first years of the American Revolution he defeated the 3rd Virginia Continental Regiment on July 30, 1776 and carried out several militarily important missions with success, so that he was promoted to captain . After the war he became a lawyer and represented his state in the newly formed Federalist Party . Then George Washington and John Adams offered him several posts, including as envoy to France , as justice and war minister and as a federal judge. Marshall preferred to stay in Virginia , however.

John Marshall

Despite his refusals, in 1797 he assumed the leadership of a three-person commission to negotiate with France. After the French negotiators asked for a personal bribe in return for returning to the negotiating table ( XYZ affair ), Marshall responded for himself and his colleagues with a brilliant speech denying this blackmail and invoking the honor and dignity of the new country . Then the then US President John Adams offered him a position on the Supreme Court, but Marshall sought a seat in the US Congress , which he achieved in 1799. On June 6, 1800 he took the office of Secretary of State to succeed Timothy Pickering , for whom he was sworn in on June 13 of the same year. He held this office until the end of the presidency of John Adams in 1801. On January 20, 1801 Marshall moved to the office of Chief Justice at the Supreme Court. His successor in the office of Secretary of State was James Madison . Initially, this move was seen primarily as an attempt by the Conservatives to counterbalance Thomas Jefferson's presidency .

During his time as Chief Justice he unfolded his most significant political impact and completely reorganized the Supreme Court and the judiciary, regardless of the material interests of society or individual magnates. It was only through its precedent judgments (in particular Marbury v. Madison (1803)) that the Supreme Court, whose function was only vaguely described in the constitution, received its important position in the US state order. In addition, Marshall enforced the 'elastic' and non-literal understanding of the US Constitution for the following story. John Marshall served as Chief Justice for nearly 35 years and has seen five different US presidents. This made him the longest-serving holder of that office in US history. In 1804 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences .

Named after him were u. a. the Marshall University in Huntington , West Virginia , the John Marshall Law School in Chicago , Illinois , the submarine USS John Marshall (SSBN-611) and numerous high schools . His home in Richmond, Virginia , the John Marshall House , was granted National Historic Landmark status in December 1960 and was later entered on the National Register of Historic Places, and has since been one of 121 such historic sites in Virginia.


John Marshall House , Richmond

Some fundamental decisions go back to John Marshall's time in the US Supreme Court, which still apply today or have an impact to this day.


  • Harlow Giles Unger: John Marshall: The Chief Justice Who Saved the Nation. Da Capo Press, Boston 2016, ISBN 978-0-306-82456-2 .
  • Paul Weizer: John Marshall. In: Edward S. Mihalkanin (Ed.): American Statesmen: Secretaries of State from John Jay to Colin Powell . Greenwood Publishing 2004, ISBN 978-0-313-30828-4 , pp. 364-367.
  • Robert K. Faulkner: The Jurisprudence of John Marshall. Princeton University Press, Princeton 1968, ISBN 978-0-691-09212-6 .

Web links

Commons : John Marshall  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: John Marshall  - Sources and full texts (English)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ John Marshall | chief justice of United States . In: Encyclopedia Britannica . ( [accessed July 5, 2018]).
  2. ^ Marshall, John, House on the National Register of Historic Places , accessed March 21, 2020.
    Listing of National Historic Landmarks by State: Virginia. National Park Service , accessed March 21, 2020.