Justin Schoen

1. In what ways did John Marshall define this nation? (p.1)

2. In which ways did the Marshall Court "establish the ground rules of America by making the will of the people supreme, not the states?" (p.1)

3. In which ways did Marshall "transform the Constitution from a compact among the States into a charter of national life?" (p.1)

4. Did Marshall create a political role for the Supreme Court?

5. Why was the Supreme Court so weak before Marshall? Why could it not obtain the type of power associated with the modern court before Marshall?

6. How did Marshall's Federalist political affiliations effect his rulings? Was his "nationalism" truly greater than his political agenda? How was he able to stay impartial considering his political background and political ideals? Were his political ideals and his "nationalism" linked? How? Is their any indication otherwise?

7. In which ways does Marshall's Federalism influence his ideas on "national authority"? (p. 299)

8. In which ways was Marshall able to avoid the partisan politics involving the Marbury v. Madison case and turn it into a watershed moment? Is this an example of his political agenda?

9. How has the Marshall Court influenced later Supreme Courts?

10. What did Marshall mean when he said " The very essence of civil liberty consists of the right of every individual to claim the protection of the law whenever he receives an injury"? (p. 320)

11. On what grounds did Marshall place judicial review?

12. What did Marshall mean by "It is emphatically the provence and the duty of the judicial department to say what the law is? (p. 323) Are there political implications to this?

13. How would the court decide to resolve "two laws that conflict?" (p. 323)

14.How did Marshall define the Constitution? How does he come to the conclusion that it is  the supreme law of the land?

15. How did Marbury v. Madison reflect the will of the people and a check against legislative action?

16. Why did Marshall take a broad approach to interpreting the Constitution?

17. Why was the acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase so clearly constitutional for Marshall while it was unclear to others, including Jefferson?

18.Why does Smith feel that Marshall lacked the "necessary clarity" (p. 357) in Bollman and Stewart? What were the consequences of this decision? Does
Marshall's decision have anything to do with his aversion of the Alien and Sedition clause?

19. In which ways did the Supreme Court override the authority of the Executive and Legislative branches? How was Marshall able to accomplish this?

20. How did the Supreme Court ensure the economic stability of the U.S.? How did the Marshall Court mirror the Lockean notions of private ownership of
land? What were the consequences? How did rulings on monopolies effect this nation?

21. How did Marshall "stitch together the common fabric of the country?" (p. 430)


Josh Banks

1. Why did Marshall believe that the courts had the power to interpret the Constitution when the English and prevailing American opinion was the opposite?

2. On what basis does he justify this?

3. What was the prevailing theory behind the idea of Jefferson and Jackson that the courts should not have this power?

4. Smith claims that Marshall was a conservative.  Given the facts that he opposed slavery, was for a strong central government and shunned aristocracy, is this true.  He had a penchant for personal freedoms and was involved in so much progression and change, how is this conservative?

5. Smith deftly describes the complicated relationship between Jefferson and Marshall.  How did their personal conflicts contribute to the courts application of the Constitution and the direction of the Court and the country?

6. How did Marshall's handling of Talbot v Seaman (1801) lay the foundation of the direction of his court?

7. What was the significance of Wilson v. Mason (1801)?

8. How do we interpret Alexander Hamilton and others' call to consult the Supreme Court over constitutionality over the repeal  of the Judiciary Act when the high courts' authority to do so is questioned itself.  How is this dynamic inherent in Federalist vs Republican politics?

9.  Why were the Republicans so against a powerful Supreme Court.  Why did they see it as threatening to the presidency?

10.  Why was it so inconceivable that an independent body could determine the validity of law.  How would individuals seek remedy for violations?

11. Given Marshall's involvement as Secretary of State, why didn't he recuse himself from Marbury v Madison (1803)?

12. If the Republicans stand for liberty how could they deny the chance for justice.  Why would they fight an individual's seeking a grievance against their constitutional rights?

13. How could Marshall decide Marbury has a right to his commission as a justice but at the same time deciding Madison doesn't have to show proof of such a right?

14. It has often been said, Marbury v Madison is THE landmark decision. In a nutshell what is it significance?

15. What were the constitutional questions surrounding the Louisiana Purchase and how did Marshall answer them?

16. How does Jefferson justify his behavior with the purchase as he allegedly oversteps his authority in the same way he accuses the Court of doing.  Or does he not even acknowledge this hypocrisy?

17. What principles did Fletcher v Peck (1809) uphold?

18. What should we infer from Marshall's obsession with unanimity on the court?

19. What was the constitutional crisis surrounding the Martin v Hunters Lessee (1815) case?

20.  It is obvious a main point of McCullough v Maryland (1919) reinforced federal authority over the states, the hallmark of the Marshall court.  But, why was the tax unconstitutional.  In his decision, in an admirable amount of forethought, he argues against the states' ability to tax the mail, patent rights or other government institutions.  The bank however, was a private institution operated solely out of government hands.  What was his rationale.  And also what does that say about the precedent it left.  Today, states can levy their own sales taxes, gasoline taxes, or even taxes on your phone bill.

21. What was the political fallout over McCullough and what was the precedent it set for the looming fight over states rights?

22. Compare and contrast the decisions of McCullough and Cohens v Virginia (1821)  How could two seemingly similar cases have such different outcomes?


Allan Levy

“John Marshall: Definer of a Nation”, Study Questions

1)     In 1782, the Virginia House of Delegates attempted to pass a recruiting bill to supply troops for the Continental Army. John Marshall opposed this bill. How did Marshall’s past experience as a junior officer under George Washington affect his decision to oppose the bill?

2)     What were the major issues surrounding the formation of the National Bank, as argued by the federalist Hamilton and the anti-federalist Jefferson?

3)     Explain the concept of the doctrine of “implied powers”. Would Jefferson and the anti-federalists have supported this doctrine? Why?

4)     How did the debate of a narrow or broad interpretation of the Constitution lead to the development of the first political powers?

5)     According to the author, what was the reason for Talleyrand’s delaying tactics prior to negotiations with Marshall, Pinckney, and Gerry? Were these tactics unusual for the age?

6)     During the “X, Y, Z Affair”, how did Talleyrand attempt to split the American negotiators’ unity?

7)     What was Marshall’s correct understanding of France’s political situation that led him to reject Talleyrand’s threats?

8)     How did the “Compact Theory” of union underlying the “Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798” differ from the Federalists theory of Union?

9)     How was the “Compact Theory” later used by Southern secessionists before the Civil War?

10)  How did Marshall help define the role of the Judiciary, while defending the actions of President Adams, who was accused of usurping Judicial authority, in the Thomas Nash Affair?

11)  In the Supreme Court case of “Talbot v. Seeman”, the Supreme Court, under Marshall, labeled their decision “The Opinion of the Court”. This was the first time this term was used. What advantage did Marshall hope to acquire using a single “Opinion of the Court” in order to present the Court’s decision? 

12)  Why was Marshall concerned about President Jefferson’s continued insistence to pursue a charge of treason against Aaron Burr, the former Vice President? 

13)  Why was Marshall’s Court able to issue a writ of habeas corpus in the treason case of Mr. Bollman and Mr. Swartwout, but was not able to issue a writ of mandamus in the case of “Marbury v. Madison”?

14)  In what way can it be said that John Marshall’s Court helped to define our nation?


Karia Solano

These are my study questions for McCulloch v. Maryland.


What are the two principles established in this ruling?

How were these principles used to prevent Maryland from taxing the second bank of United States?

Considering all of this weeks reading do think this ruling is "typical" of the court of Chief Justice John Marshall?

What impact do you think these the two principles established in this ruling public perception and role of the modern United States Supreme Court? 


Sandy Hale

Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Nation v. the State of Georgia, 1831 was the pivotal case in deciding how NOT to define Native American tribes. The bill brought by the Cherokee Nation basically alleged that the state of Georgia was eliminating their political society and taking lands that had been given to them by United States treaties after the state enacted laws abolishing the Indian nation. The Supreme Court had to decide whether the case could constitutionally be tried. The basis of the case was the decision whether to define the Cherokee Nation as a “foreign state in the sense of the constitution.” If so defined the Cherokee Nation had the right to sue the state of Georgia for seizing Cherokee lands and abolishing their laws.

Marshall states that the court is sympathetic to their plight and flatters the Cherokee Nation by referring to them as “powerful, and truly independent,” but goes on to mention how their numbers and lands had been receding “beneath our superior policy.” After the requisite acknowledgment of Indian sagaciousness Marshall goes on to describe the extent of judicial power given by the constitution in such a matter. The supreme court does have jurisdiction in all cases involving the state.
The main question, however, is whether constitutionally the Cherokee Nation can be considered a foreign state. The counsel argued that it indeed must be since the United States government has treated them as such while making treaties. The court agreed that the Cherokee Nation was indeed recognized by the U.S. government as a state. The court, however, did not agree that the Cherokee Nation could be defined as a foreign nation and as such did not have the right to sue the State of Georgia. While sympathetic to the plight of the Indians, Marshall and the court felt that they could not go against the text of the constitution.

While Marshall was successful in better defining the role of the Supreme Court and utilizing the constitution, in this case it is a travesty that the racist forefathers did not think to include a description of what to do if the Indians ever decided to use U.S. law to protect the rights that every human should be given . Bound to the letter of the constitution Marshall and the court felt they were helpless in stopping the continued genocide and theft of Indian lands. The “Indian problem” was again brushed under the carpet and the United States continued its policy of human degradation.