Celebrating the Great Chief JusticeSo, 212 years ago this day, the 4th (and in my humble opinion greatest) Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court received his commission. This man was the longest serving Chief Justice, participating in over 1,000 decisions, and personally writing 519 opinions. He also presided over Landmark decisions such as, Marbury v. Madison, Gibbons v. Ogden, and McCullough v. Maryland. His name? John Marshall.
|John Marshall patriot and devoted Christian,|
reinforced the principle of judicial review.
John Marshall, the eldest of 15, was born in 1755 to gentleman farmer, Thomas Marshall, and his wife, Mary Isham Keith. In 1776, both Thomas and John joined the American war effort. John's father was given the rank of colonel and commanded of one of the Virginia regiments, and John became a lieutenant of the Culpepper Minutemen, seeing action at Iron Hill and Brandywine Creek. John was even with the army during the dreaded winter at Valley Forge. Where he was promoted to the rank of captain, and was appointed as Deputy Judge Advocate after demonstrating his ability to analyze legal cases. When the War for Independence was over, Washington himself, who had grown found of Marshall because of Marshall's cheery and reflective nature, urged Marshall to go into politics. In fact, when Washington became president, he offered Marshall the position of United States Attorney for Virginia. Which Marshall declined.
Marshall was a marvelous attorney, and at the age of twenty five was winning nearly all his cases. When it came to debate, Justice Joseph Story once said that he, "Made it a rule in argument never to admit any proposition asserted by Marshall, however plain and unquestionable it might seem to be, for if the premises were once admitted,the conclusion, however apparently remote, flowed on with an irresistible certainty." In 1782, Marshall won a seat in the House of Delegates, and again in 1789. In 1795, Washington again made a proposition to Marshall, this time offering the coveted position of United States Attorney General. Marshall again denied. However, in 1799, Marshall consented, and ran for congress, winning easily.
A year later, President John Adams appointed him as Secretary of State. Which he served the nation until the election of 1800. When the growing majority of Democratic-Republicans voted Adams out of office, and replaced him with Marshall's distant cousin, Thomas Jefferson. However, Marshall's career in politics was only just beginning, when Adams realized that a completely Democratic-Republic government would destroy all that the Federalists had worked so hard to build. Adams pleaded with Marshall asking him to take the position of Chief Justice, Marshall, a staunch Federalist himself, accepted. On January 31, 1801, he received his commission.
To go on about Marshall victories as Chief Justice would be a tedious effort, and would result in a much longer post then the one I've already written! One more thing you should know about Marshall, besides that he defended the Constitution as the highest law in the nation, established judicial review, and made sure that we were a nation governed by laws not men, was that he was a devote follower of Christ. Though we have no quotes from him concerning his faith. There is a story found in the Winchester Republican, that reveals this man's devotion for his Master.
Apparently, upon arriving at the McGuire Hotel, Marshall, disheveled after the ride, went into the tavern where unbeknownst to him a group of young men had gathered and were discussing the merits of Christianity. Marshall, sitting close by, listened intently. When, finally one of the men turned to him and asked, "Well my old gentlemen, what think you of these matters?" ( So, disheveled was Marshall that no one would guess that he was the Chief Justice.) According to the Republican, "Marshall responded with a 'most eloquent and unanswerable appeal.' He talked for an hour, answering 'every argument urged against' the teachings of Jesus. 'In the whole lecture, there was so much simplicity and energy, pathos and sublimity, that not another word was uttered.' The listeners wondered who the old man could be. Some thought him a preacher, and great was their surprise when they learned afterwards that he was the Chief Justice of the United States."
America needs men like John Marshall, men who will stand for liberty, men who are virtuous, and are, "always prepared to make a defense for the hope that lies within them" (see 1 Peter 3:15). Let us raise the next generation to be like this.