John Marshall: The Chief Justice Who Saved the Nation

John Marshall: The Chief Justice Who Saved the Nation

4.0 1
by Harlow Giles Unger
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions


A soul-stirring biography of John Marshall, the young republic's great chief justice, who led the Supreme Court to power and brought law and order to the nation  See more details below

Overview


A soul-stirring biography of John Marshall, the young republic's great chief justice, who led the Supreme Court to power and brought law and order to the nation

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
07/28/2014
One of the most illustrious members of the Founding generation, John Marshall attended Virginia’s ratifying convention, served in the state legislature and Congress, was a diplomat and Secretary of State, and ultimately became the nation’s most influential Chief Justice. He was also among the best-liked men of his time. But what Unger (Mr. President), a biographer of John Quincy Adams, Noah Webster, and George Washington among others, delivers is more hagiography than biography. To boot, he takes sides in the political conflicts of the early nation. Unger has it in especially for Marshall’s second cousin Thomas Jefferson. Among the “enemies of the federal government” of which he became president, Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, “abandoned the Revolution,” built an “incongruously pretentious home,” had a “mean-spirited gossip” of a daughter, may have made near “treasonous” decisions as governor, wielded “all but dictatorial powers” as president, “unleashed his political attack dogs,” and “nurtured political divisions and chaos.” While its facts are straight, the book’s interpretation is extreme and offers nothing revelatory. Moreover, it lacks the authority of recent studies of Marshall by R. Kent Newmyer and Jean Edward Smith. Maps & illus. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

Kirkus Reviews, 8/1/14
“A cradle-to-grave biography of the U.S. Supreme Court’s longest-serving chief justice…Unger chooses to present all aspects of Marshall's life, including his military heroism and his extraordinary devotion to a chronically ill wife and their children…It is well-researched, and the author is skilled at portraying the characters and viewpoints of Marshall’s political friends and foes. Thomas Jefferson comes across as a stubborn, politically motivated and sometimes hypocritical man, and Unger employs the Marshall-Jefferson enmity effectively, adding tension to the narrative. A vigorous account of an influential American life.

New York Post, 7/17/14
“Read. Be proud of our country.”

Booklist, 9/15/14
“Unger offers a comprehensive account of Marshall’s life and career that provides interesting insights into his personal qualities and political sympathies…But Unger is at his best covering the history-altering judicial activities of the court under Marshall, especially as the court clashed with the executive power of the Jefferson and Jackson administration…A well-done tribute to the man who made the judiciary a truly coequal branch of the national government.”

American History, December 2014
“A rousing, eye-opening life and times of one of the most underappreciated figures in American history…As an account of the courtroom dramas in which Marshall was involved, the foreign and domestic intrigues, the clashes of temperamental geniuses, Unger’s book is unsurpassed.”

Roanoke Times, 9/28/14
“Unger is a masterful storyteller. As he unfolds Marshall’s personal life, his career at law and his service as chief justice, Unger also provides a concise tale of the birth of the United States as a unified country under the Constitution. This biography serves the dual purpose of explaining Marshall’s critical role in saving the nation from chaos while giving a concise account of the social and political forces at play during the nation’s salad days…In telling the story of Marshall, Unger provides keen insight into the very foundation of the United States of America and an excellent introduction to the United States Constitution and the Supreme Court, especially for those who want to know the story without having to read volumes of case law and sometimes arcane exegetical texts.”

Library Journal, 10/1/14
“Unger is very familiar with the founding fathers…His research is heavy on primary sources…Those interested in the founding fathers will appreciate this scholarly, accessible title.”

What Would the Founders Think?, 9/30/14
“Harlow Giles Unger follows John Marshall from his birth in 1755 to his death in 1835, but he does more than that. He shines a bright light on the men we call Founders…Unger’s biography is also a fascinating history of the turbulent times in which Marshall lived…This is an extensively researched biography of a man who is too little remembered today. It’s become a cliché to say that a book reads like a novel, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Unger is a superb writer.”

New York Journal of Books, 9/30/14
“Highly readable…Unger's rigorously researched book offers a window into the everyday life of 18th and 19th century North America…Unger's biography of John Marshall reveals how he saved the nation, but also democracy's fragility.”

Bookviews, November 2014
“One man who played an extraordinary role in defending the Constitution is finally given his rightful honors in Harlow Giles Unger’s book…A book that will give you a very different view of the men we hold in such great honor…A great book.”

InfoDad, 10/23/14
“Fascinating…A treat for scholars interested in early American history and an eye-opener for non-historians seeking insight into the unusual balance of powers within which the U.S. government functions.”

Taft Bulletin, Fall 2014
“Reveals how Virginia-born John Marshall emerged from the Revolutionary War’s bloodiest battlefields as a hero to become one of the nation’s most important Founding Fathers.”

SLUG Magazine, December 2014
“Whether you’re an avid consumer of American history or someone with a more casual opinion towards the stories that built our country, Unger’s book is surprisingly accessible…A great read for those who like their historical nonfiction presented with all the warts, cuts and bruises that are sometimes overlooked.”

San Francisco Book Review, 12/11/14
“An intense history of the struggles of our early government…It is written well, moves fast and is very informative.”

Choice, March 2015
“Unger is an excellent writer…This book…will prove to be informative, readable, and enjoyable…Belongs in the collections of all academic and public libraries.”

Lincoln Journal Star (NE), 3/1/15
“This new biography of Marshall tells us who he was and how he rose from the proverbial log cabin in Virginia to a leadership role that permits the author to call him ‘The Chief Justice Who Saved the Nation.’”

Kirkus Reviews
2014-07-16
A cradle-to-grave biography of the U.S. Supreme Court's longest-serving chief justice. Independent scholar Unger (John Quincy Adams, 2012, etc.) treats the influential John Marshall (1755-1835) as a hero. He was a distinguished officer and an effective state leader in Virginia before studying law and being appointed to the Supreme Court at the beginning of the 19th century. Marshall would serve as chief justice for 35 years (a record tenure), establish the legitimacy of the Supreme Court and write decisions that solidified the primacy of the federal government over often resentful state governments. During Marshall's tenure on the court, the justices handed down nearly 1,200 rulings; Marshall served as the lead writer for more than 500 of those. His opinion in Marbury v. Madison (1803) set a precedent, never enumerated in the U.S. Constitution, that the Supreme Court possessed the power to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional. Since the court employed no police force, concern arose that its unpopular rulings would be ignored or would at least be unenforceable. Through his authoritative demeanor and easy way with his colleagues and others, Marshall exuded credibility, which in turn encouraged U.S. presidents to send federal troops if needed to enforce rulings. Unger chooses to present all aspects of Marshall's life, including his military heroism and his extraordinary devotion to a chronically ill wife and their children. As a result, Marshall's Supreme Court appointment does not occur until halfway through the biography. Though the narrative sometimes veers toward hagiography, it is well-researched, and the author is skilled at portraying the characters and viewpoints of Marshall's political friends and foes. Thomas Jefferson comes across as a stubborn, politically motivated and sometimes hypocritical man, and Unger employs the Marshall-Jefferson enmity effectively, adding tension to the narrative. A vigorous account of an influential American life.
Library Journal
10/01/2014
In the "Federalist Papers," Alexander Hamilton called the courts "the least dangerous" branch of the proposed central government. John Marshall (1755–1835), chief justice of the Supreme Court from 1801 until his death, made the judiciary a coequal branch of government that could stand up to Congress and the president. Marshall was a strong leader on the court, pressing for unanimous decisions and few dissenting or concurring opinions and presiding over the landmark Marbury v. Madison decision. The chief justice asserted the right of the courts to declare laws unconstitutional—something British courts could not do—and repeatedly upheld broad powers for the federal government. Unger (The Last Founding Father) is very familiar with the founding fathers, having written about George Washington, Patrick Henry, James Monroe, and John Hancock. His research is heavy on primary sources. The author knows the period a little too well though, because he at times lapses into a history of the era rather than a life of Marshall. The subtitle is a bit misleading since the majority of the book is about Marshall before the Supreme Court. VERDICT Those interested in the founding fathers will appreciate this scholarly, accessible title. Legal-minded readers will want more.—Michael O. Eshleman, Bloomington, IN

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780306822209
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
09/30/2014
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
365,184
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author


Harlow Giles Unger is a former distinguished visiting fellow at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. A highly acclaimed historian, he is author of more than twenty books, including nine biographies of the Founding Fathers and four histories of the early republic. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

John Marshall: The Chief Justice Who Saved the Nation 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the book because I knew very little about John Marshall.    John Marshall was the longest serving ever Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and he was the one that made the  Supreme Court what it is today-the third branch of the US Government separate and equal to the Legislative and Executive.    It is an easy biography to read.  Some early reviews complained that the book had a simplistic and one sided view of John Marshall.  While as can be seen later in this review there may be some truth to this compliant I still found the book very informative since I did not  know much about John Marshall. John Marshall was a friend of George Washington and fought in the Revolution.    He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, a Congressman and Secretary of State under John Adams.   He was a lawyer by training and often was a practicing lawyer.   Politically, he was a committed Federalist (believer in a strong Federal Government as opposed to state rights). The early years of John Marshall aren’t that interesting.   He seems to have been a respectable sort of person  and not much happens.  When the book starts getting into the XYZ affair when Marshall was Secretary of State, the book gets livelier.    Marshall and some other Americans go to negotiate a treaty in France and the French diplomats demand a bribe from the  American representatives which the Americans refuse to give.    Marshall becomes a hero to some Americans because he refused to bribe the French. In 1800, Jefferson who was a Republican defeated John Adams a Federalist for the office of President.   The Republicans also gained control of Congress.   John Adams was afraid that Jefferson would become dictator since Congress was controlled by Jefferson’s party.   So before Adams left the presidency, he packed the Federal courts with Federalist Judges.   John Marshall was put on the Supreme Court as part of Adams packing the court with Federalists Judges. Jefferson was furious about the packing of the Supreme Court and tried to have some of the judges removed.    All the current arguments against an activist Supreme Court were made by Thomas Jefferson. However, John Marshall and the Supreme Court survived Thomas Jefferson’s attempts to weaken it.   In fact John Marshall’s Supreme Court made a ruling against Thomas Jefferson in stating that he had to provide certain letters to a legal hearing.   Andrew Jackson was the first president to use the military to enforce Supreme Court decisions. The book reviews many of the early Supreme Court cases which I found interesting.   On the positive side, both John Marshall and the Supreme Court defended the rights of citizens from what might be seen as government overreach.    It also upheld citizens’ rights for due process.   More debatable the Supreme Court tended to uphold Federal Laws over state laws. In dealing with the bad boy of the American Revolution, Aaron Burr, I think the book justifies some of the criticism of being one sided.     The book denies that Aaron Burr ever wanted to make himself King of the Midwest but many historians would disagree with that historical interpretation of Burr. However, if one wants a lighter look at the history of the Supreme Court, of John Marshall: The Supreme Court's Chief  Justice Who Transformed the Young Republic is an informative and readable book.