Jefferson’s Cousin

There are probably more judicial biographies of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall than of all the rest of the Supreme Court justices combined, so why another one?  R. Kent Newmyer, historian and law professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, undertook to write a work that would not mirror the standard hagiographical account.  Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., once said, “If American law were to be represented by a single figure, skeptic and worshipper alike would agree . . . that the figure could be one alone, and that one, John Marshall.”  Holmes is universally regarded as the only authentic sage ever to sit on the high-court bench, so his opinion commands great authority.  Indeed, Marshall is generally given credit for the American institution of judicial review, the practice whereby the Court tests laws to see if they are in accordance with the Constitution and nullifies them if they are not.  In the great cases of McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) and Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), Marshall laid the groundwork for the expansive interpretation of the Commerce Clause, which has allowed the federal government to intrude into virtually every aspect of American life.  In Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819), Marshall prevented the state of New Hampshire from altering the charter of Dartmouth College, and, in the process, immunized existing corporations...

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