In this book a legal expert discusses the battles over the judiciary between Chief Justice John Marshall and President Thomas Jefferson during the Jefferson Presidency. The focus is on the treason trial of Aaron Burr and the story interweaves conflicts over the Judiciary Acts, Marbury v. Madison, and impeachment.
Why did Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall become such great antagonists? In the dramas between these men, President Jefferson is seen in far different light than usual. John Marshall was interested in doing whatever it would take to make the United States successful; he believed in an ordered society. Jefferson, more a philosopher and a romantic, was interested in ideas rather than order. But research reveals that, despite Jefferson's reputation as a champion of civil liberties, he jumped to publicly proclaim Burr's guilt -- before he was even arrested, much less indicted and tried. Jefferson was intimately involved in trial strategy, writing numerous letters to the lead prosecutor. Chief Justice John Marshall responded decisively to Jefferson's efforts to influence, if not dictate to, the Judicial Branch.
In fact, Chief Justice John Marshall, usually presented as a champion of property rights and commerce, ensured that the rule of law prevailed despite enormous pressures, throughout the criminal trial.
Letters between Jefferson and Prosecutor George Hay, and excerpts from the trial transcript and court opinions, support the author's thesis.
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About the Author
Ronald C. Zellar combines a career as an attorney with a love of history to analyze the treason trial of Aaron Burr and other legal confrontations that took place early in the evolution of the three branches of the United States Government. Zellar earned his JD at Wayne State University, was admitted to the Michigan Bar in 1972, and practiced law for his entire career, most of it in government law as a prosecuting attorney and Assistant Attorney General in Michigan and Kentucky.