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The Papers of John Marshall Digital Edition

  • Charles F. Hobson, Editor

John Marshall was the longest-serving chief justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, with a tenure lasting more than three decades. He was also arguably the most influential. Under his leadership the court defined itself in ways that persist to this day.

Available for the first time online, Marshall’s papers present a story that touches on most of the major events of the nation’s founding, following Marshall from his days as a soldier in the Continental Army under General Washington to his role in the ratification of the Constitution to his experiences as John Adams’s secretary of state. Nominated for chief justice of the Supreme Court by Adams--who called it "the proudest act of my life"--Marshall brought a decidedly Federalist philosophy to the many landmark cases tried in his court (including Marbury v. Madison, in which he famously clashed with President Thomas Jefferson). He joined a court that was distinctly weaker than the other branches of government--at a time, moreover, when the authority of the Constitution had yet to be tested. Under Marshall’s direction, the judicial branch achieved an equality with the legislative and executive branches that still endures, and the constitutionality of a law was firmly established as the deciding factor in all cases brought before the court.

This digital edition of Marshall’s papers includes the complete contents of the renowned print edition and presents them in a fully searchable online environment. As part of Rotunda’s American Founding Era collection, it is interoperable with the digital editions of other prominent Founders’ papers, including those of the first four presidents. For students and scholars of law and history, this is the most powerful and accessible way to study the legacy of the "Great Chief Justice."

Marshall is a pivotal figure in not just the constitutional and legal but also the diplomatic and political history of the early Republic. The scholarship on The Papers of John Marshall is first-rate, and presenting its contents in an accessible, searchable format will be a major boon to all scholars working on this period.

R. B. Bernstein, City College of New York and New York Law School, author of Thomas Jefferson

As one of the most influential individuals ever to serve as chief justice of the Supreme Court, Marshall left a judiciary legacy that continues to make its mark today....The primary materials found in this collection will assist many students studying this era and appeal to all scholars of constitutional law or American history. The candid personal letters are fascinating. They also offer a firsthand account of American society in its early years as a new nation.

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