Marshall Court

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Supreme Court of the United States
Marshall Court
John Marshall by Henry Inman, 1832.jpg
February 4, 1801 – July 6, 1835
(34 years, 152 days)
SeatOld Supreme Court Chamber
Washington, D.C.
No. of positions6 (1801-1807)
7 (1807-1835)
Marshall Court decisions
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg

The Marshall Court refers to the Supreme Court of the United States from 1801 to 1835, when John Marshall served as the fourth Chief Justice of the United States. Marshall served as Chief Justice until his death, at which point Roger Taney took office. The Marshall Court played a major role in increasing the power of the judicial branch, as well as the power of the national government.[1]


The Marshall Court began in 1801, when President John Adams appointed Secretary of State John Marshall to replace the retiring Oliver Ellsworth. Marshall was nominated after former Chief Justice John Jay refused the position; many in Adams's party advocated the elevation of Associate Justice William Paterson, but Adams refused to nominate someone close to his intra-party rival, Alexander Hamilton.[2]

The Marshall Court began with Marshall and five Associate Justices from the Ellsworth Court: William Cushing, William Paterson, Samuel Chase, Bushrod Washington, and Alfred Moore. President Thomas Jefferson appointed William Johnson to replace Moore after Moore resigned in 1804. In 1807, Jefferson appointed two more justices, as Paterson died and Congress added a new seat for an Associate Justice. Jefferson successfully nominated Henry Brockholst Livingston and Thomas Todd. President James Madison appointed Gabriel Duvall and Joseph Story in 1811 and 1812, replacing Cushing and Chase. Madison had nominated Alexander Wolcott to replace Cushing, but the Senate voted him down. President James Monroe appointed Smith Thompson to succeed Livingston in 1823. President John Quincy Adams successfully nominated Robert Trimble to replace Todd in 1826. Trimble died in 1828, and Adams's nomination of John J. Crittenden was blocked by the Senate. Instead, Trimble was succeeded by John McLean, who was appointed by Andrew Jackson. In 1830, Jackson appointed Henry Baldwin to replace Washington, and in 1834, Jackson appointed James Moore Wayne to replace Johnson. In 1835, Jackson nominated Roger Taney to succeed the retiring Duvall, but the nomination was denied by the Senate. Marshall died in 1835, and Taney was instead nominated to replace Marshall as Chief Justice. Taney was confirmed in 1836, beginning the Taney Court.


Note: + denotes new seat

Bar key:        Washington appointee •        J. Adams appointee •        Jefferson appointee •        Madison appointee •        Monroe appointee •        J. Q. Adams appointee •        Jackson appointee

Political role[edit]

Marshall took office during the final months of John Adams's presidency, and his appointment entrenched Federalist power within the judiciary. The Judiciary Act of 1801 also established several new court positions that were filled by President Adams, but the act was largely repealed after the Democratic-Republicans took control of the government in the 1800 elections. Regardless, Marshall was the last justice appointed by a president of the Federalist Party, and the last justice appointed by a president who was not a member of the Democratic-Republicans or Democratic Party until the 1840s. Although Democratic-Republicans had appointed a majority of the justices after 1811, Marshall's philosophy of a relatively strong national government continued to guide the decisions of the Supreme Court until his death.[3] The Democratic-Republicans attempted to impeach Justice Chase for overtly campaigning for John Adams's re-election, possibly impeding the independence of the Supreme Court, but the attempt failed after defections from within the party.[4] Marshall's philosophy differed dramatically from that of some of his contemporaries outside the court, including Spencer Roane, who wrote a series of essays arguing that state courts should have the final say in most matters.[5] Marshall's domination of the courts ensured that the federal government would retain relatively strong powers, despite the political domination of Jeffersonians after 1800.[6] Marshall's opinions also helped to reinforce the independent power of the Supreme Court as a check on Congress,[7] and laid some of the philosophical foundations of the Whig Party, which arose in the 1830s.[8] Due to the Marshall Court's many accomplishments, President Adams referred to his appointment of Marshall as the "proudest act of his life."[7]

Rulings of the Court[edit]

The Marshall Court issued several major rulings during its tenure, including:[9]

  • Marbury v. Madison (1803): In a unanimous opinion written by Chief Justice Marshall, the court struck down Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, since it extended the court's original jurisdiction beyond what was established in Article III of the United States Constitution. In so doing, the court held that a law written by Congress was unconstitutional, firmly establishing the Supreme Court's power of judicial review. Although judicial review had a long history in American and British thought, Marbury was nonetheless extremely important for establishing the Supreme Court's independence and ability to strike down laws of Congress that it deemed unconstitutional.[10]
  • Fletcher v. Peck (1810): In an opinion written by Chief Justice Marshall, the court held that the state of Georgia had violated the Contract Clause by voiding land grants in the Yazoo lands that had been influenced by bribery. The case marked the first time that the court struck down a state law as unconstitutional.[11]
  • Martin v. Hunter's Lessee (1817): In an opinion written by Justice Story, the court held that it had held appellate power over state courts in regards to the United States Constitution and federal laws and treaties. The Supreme Court would again uphold this principle in Cohens v. Virginia (1821).[12]
  • McCulloch v. Maryland (1819): In a unanimous opinion written by Chief Justice Marshall, the court held that the state of Maryland had no power to tax a federal bank (the Second Bank of the United States) operating in Maryland. In so doing, the court upheld Congress's ability to establish the bank, taking a relatively broad view of the Necessary and Proper Clause.[13]
  • Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819): In an opinion written by Chief Justice Marshall (with several concurring opinions), the court invalidated New Hampshire's attempts to alter Dartmouth College's charter. The court held that the Contract Clause protects corporations from having contracts interfered with by the states.
  • Johnson v. M'Intosh (1823): In an opinion written by Chief Justice Marshall, the court held that private parties could not validly purchase land from Native Americans.
  • Gibbons v. Ogden (1824): In an opinion written by Chief Justice Marshall, the court struck down a New York law that had granted a monopoly on steamship operation in the state of New York. In its decision, the court upheld Congress's ability to regulate commerce under the Commerce Clause.[14]
  • Worcester v. Georgia (1832): In an opinion written by Chief Justice Marshall, the court voided the state of Georgia's conviction of Samuel Worcester and held that states have no authority to deal with Native American tribes. However, President Andrew Jackson refused to enforce the court's prohibition against Georgia's interference in Cherokee affairs.
  • Barron v. Baltimore (1833): In a unanimous opinion written by Chief Justice Marshall, the court held that the Bill of Rights does not apply to the actions of state governments. The decision would later be largely overruled by the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment and subsequent Supreme Court decisions.

For a full list of decisions by the Marshall Court, see lists of United States Supreme Court cases by volume, volumes 5 through 34.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Schwartz, Bernard (1993). A History of the Supreme Court. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 43–44.
  2. ^ Schwartz, 32-34
  3. ^ Schwartz, 58-59
  4. ^ Schwartz, 57-58
  5. ^ Schwartz, 54-57
  6. ^ Schwartz, 67-68
  7. ^ a b Haskins, George L. (November 1981). "LAW VERSUS POLITICS IN THE EARLY YEARS OF THE MARSHALL COURT". University of Pennsylvania Law Review. 130 (1): 1–2. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  8. ^ Graber, Mark (Fall 1998). "Federalist or Friends of Adams". Studies in American Political Development. 12: 264–265. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  9. ^ Schwartz, 32-68
  10. ^ Schwartz, 42-43
  11. ^ Schwartz, 43-44
  12. ^ Schwartz, 44-45
  13. ^ Schwartz, 45-46
  14. ^ Schwartz, 47-49

Further reading[edit]

Works centered on the Marshall Court[edit]

  • Clinton, Robert Lowry (2008). The Marshall Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781576078433.
  • Ellis, Richard E. (2007). Aggressive Nationalism: McCulloch v. Maryland and the Foundation of Federal Authority in the Young Republic. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198043508.
  • Graber, Mark A (1998). "Federalist or Friends of Adams: The Marshall Court and Party Politics". Studies in American Political Development. 12 (2): 229–66. doi:10.1017/s0898588x98001539.
  • Haskins, George L. (1981). "Law Versus Politics in the Early Years of the Marshall Court". University of Pennsylvania Law Review. 130 (1): 1–27. JSTOR 3311809.
  • Hobson, Charles F. (2006). "Defining the Office: John Marshall as Chief Justice". University of Pennsylvania Law Review. 154 (6): 1421–1461. JSTOR 40041344.
  • Johnson, Herbert A. (1998). The Chief Justiceship of John Marshall, 1801-1835. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 9781570032943.
  • Killenback, Mark R. (2006). M'Culloch v. Maryland Securing a Nation. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-1472-1.
  • Klarman, Michael J. (2001). "How Great Were the "Great" Marshall Court Decisions?". Virginia Law Review. 87 (6): 1111–1184. JSTOR 1073950.
  • Nelson, William E. (2018). Marbury v. Madison: The Origins and Legacy of Judicial Review. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-2653-3.
  • White, G. Edward (1984). "The Working Life of the Marshall Court, 1815-1835". Virginia Law Review. 70 (1): 1–52. JSTOR 1072823.

Works centered on Marshall Court justices[edit]

  • Goldstone, Lawrence (2008). The Activist: John Marshall, Marbury V. Madison, and the Myth of Judicial Review. Walker. ISBN 9780802714886.
  • Haw, James (1980). Stormy Patriot: the Life of Samuel Chase. Maryland Historical Society. ISBN 9780938420002.
  • Hobson, Charles F. (1996). The Great Chief Justice: John Marshall and the Rule of Law. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 9780700607884.
  • Morgan, Donald G. (1954). Justice William Johnson, the First Dissenter: The Career and Constitutional Philosophy of a Jeffersonian Judge. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 0872490602.
  • McClellan, James (1990). Joseph Story and the American Constitution: A Study in Political and Legal Thought with Selected Writings. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0806109718.
  • Newmyer, R. Kent (2001). John Marshall and the Heroic Age of the Supreme Court. LSU Press. ISBN 9780807127018.
  • Newmyer, R. Kent (1985). Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story: Statesman of the Old Republic. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0807841641.
  • O'Connor, John E. (1986). William Paterson: Lawyer and Statesman, 1745-1806. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0813508801.
  • Paul, John Richard (2018). Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times. Penguin. ISBN 9780525533276.
  • Robarge, David Scott (2000). A Chief Justice's Progress: John Marshall from Revolutionary Virginia to the Supreme Court. Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313308581.
  • Simon, James F. (2003). What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and the Epic Struggle to Create a United States. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9780684848716.
  • Smith, Jean Edward (1996). John Marshall: Definer of a Nation. Macmillan. ISBN 9780805013894.
  • Unger, Harlow Giles (2014). John Marshall: The Chief Justice Who Saved the Nation. Da Capo Press. ISBN 9780306822216.
  • White, G. Edward (2001). "Reassessing John Marshall". William and Mary Quarterly. 58 (3): 673–693. JSTOR 2674300.

Other relevant works[edit]

  • Abraham, Henry Julian (2008). Justices, Presidents, and Senators: A History of the U.S. Supreme Court Appointments from Washington to Bush II. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780742558953.
  • Amar, Akhil Reed (1989). "Marbury, Section 13, and the Original Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court". University of Chicago Law Review. 56 (2): 443–99. JSTOR 1599844.
  • Cushman, Clare (2001). The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies, 1789–1995 (2nd ed.). (Supreme Court Historical Society, Congressional Quarterly Books). ISBN 1-56802-126-7.
  • Friedman, Leon; Israel, Fred L., eds. (1995). The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions. Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 0-7910-1377-4.
  • Hall, Kermit L.; Ely, Jr., James W.; Grossman, Joel B., eds. (2005). The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195176612.
  • Hall, Kermit L.; Ely, Jr., James W., eds. (2009). The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195379396.
  • Hall, Timothy L. (2001). Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 9781438108179.
  • Hoffer, Peter Charles; Hoffer, WilliamJames Hull; Hull, N. E. H. (2018). The Supreme Court: An Essential History (2nd ed.). University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-2681-6.
  • Howe, Daniel Walker (2007). What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848. Oxford History of the United States. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507894-2.
  • Irons, Peter (2006). A People's History of the Supreme Court: The Men and Women Whose Cases and Decisions Have Shaped Our Constitution (Revised ed.). Penguin. ISBN 9781101503133.
  • Martin, Fenton S.; Goehlert, Robert U. (1990). The U.S. Supreme Court: A Bibliography. Congressional Quarterly Books. ISBN 0-87187-554-3.
  • Rehnquist, William (1999). Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments Of Justice Samuel Chase And President Andrew Johnson. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780688171711.
  • Sloan, Cliff; McKean, David (2009). The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall, and the Battle for the Supreme Court. PublicAffairs. ISBN 9781586484262.
  • Tomlins, Christopher, ed. (2005). The United States Supreme Court: The Pursuit of Justice. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0618329694.
  • Urofsky, Melvin I. (1994). The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary. Garland Publishing. ISBN 0-8153-1176-1.
  • Wood, Gordon S. (2009). Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815. Oxford History of the United States. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-503914-6.