February 27: The Legacy of John Marshall

marshall.jpg (50294 bytes) John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1801-1835)

Last time, we discussed the vital importance of the issue of federalism (that is, the balance of power between the national and state governments) in the early period of the Constitution. I didn't get to the debates over foreign affairs powers; click here for a summary of what you need to know. For Tuesday, the focus is on John Marshall.



Nelson, Marbury v. Madison   [BOTH from sourcebook]

Irons, People's History of the Supreme Court

Irons's approach to Marshall is a revisionist one, so you should remember that as you read. In contrast to historians who have praised Marshall for increasing the strength of the Supreme Court in two eras--the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian periods--or intense partisan battles, Irons faults Marshall for intervening too frequently to assist business interests against the will of the "people."


First of all, since this class represents our first encounter with Supreme Court cases this term, you might want to start with this brief primer on how historians--as opposed to lawyers--read and analyze Court opinions.

Marbury v. Madison (1803)

Dartmouth College Case (1819)

return to course schedule