Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Monday, September 1, 2014

John Marshall

                John Marshall was born on September 24, 1755, in a log cabin near Germantown, a rural community on the Virginia frontier.  His parents are Thomas Marshall and Mary Isham Keith; he had eight sisters and six brothers.  Several cousins also lived with the family.  John was noted for his good humor and black eyes.

                Thomas Marshall was employed as a surveyor and land agent by Lord Fairfax; this provided him with a good Fauquier County.  The family moved in the early 1960s to Leeds Manor located on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  There Mr. Marshall built a simple wooden cabin with two rooms on the first floor and a two-room loft above it.  Though the land was leased, they called their new home “the Hollow” and lived there for ten years.

                The family moved once again in 1773.  By that time, Thomas Marshall had greater means and purchased an estate adjacent to the main stage road between Salem and Delaplane.  When John was 17, Thomas Marshall built a seven-room frame home with two stories (four rooms on the first floor and three on the second; he named his new home Oak Hill.  It was a substantial home but modest in comparison to the estates of George Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson.  The home became John’s when Thomas moved to Kentucky.  He kept the home as a retreat until his death even though he lived much of his life in Richmond, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

                John Marshall began his education with his father, who had an exceptional library and helped his son to gain a love of history and poetry.  He had access to the home of Lord Fairfax at Greenway Court; there he had access to an extensive collection of classical and contemporary literature as well as “the works by ancient Roman historian Livy, the ancient Roman poet Horace, and the English writers Alexander Pope, John Dryden, John Milton, and William Shakespeare.”  As a result all of the children of Thomas Marshall were “accomplished, literate, and self-educated” under the direction of their parents.  When he was twelve years old John transcribed Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Man and some of his Moral Essays.

                At age fourteen John was sent to an academy in Washington parish located about one hundred miles from his home.  One of his classmates there was James Monroe, the future US president.  John was at the academy only one year when his father brought him back home to be tutored.  His father purchased a copy of William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England with which he studied law.

                Marshall served as a Lieutenant and then a Captain in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and was friends with General George Washington.  He was with General Washington during the brutal winter at Valley Forge (1777-1778).

                After his time in the army, John read law with George Wythe in Williamsburg, Virginia, at the College of William and Mary.  He continued studying law privately until he was admitted to practice law in 1780.

                Marshall began his political career when he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782, 1787, and 1795.  He was admitted to the bar in 1780.  He was in private practice bore entering politics.

                John Marshall became “the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1801-1835).  His court opinions helped lay the basis for United States constitutional law and made the Supreme Court of the United States a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches.  Previously, Marshall had been a leader of the Federalist Party in Virginia and served in the United States House of Representatives from 1799 to 1800.  He was Secretary of State under President John Adams from 1800 to 1801.

                Marshall was the “longest-serving Chief Justice and the fourth longest serving justice in U.S. Supreme Court history.  Marshall dominated the Court for over three decades and played a significant role in the development of the American legal system.  Most notably, he reinforced the principle that federal courts are obligated to exercise judicial review, by disregarding purported laws if they violate the Constitution.  Thus, Marshall cemented the position of the American judiciary as an independent and influential branch of government.  Furthermore, Marshall’s court made several important decisions relating to federalism, affecting the balance of power between the federal government and the states during the early years of the republic.  In particular, he repeatedly confirmed the supremacy of federal law over state law, and supported an expansive reading of the enumerated powers.

                “Some of his decisions were unpopular.  Nevertheless, Marshall built up the third branch of the federal government, and augmented fede4ral power in the name of the Constitution, and the rule of law.  Marshall, along with Daniel Webster (who argued some of the cases), was the leading Federalist of the day, pursuing Federalist Party approaches to build a strong federal government over the opposition of the Jeffersonian Republicans, who wanted stronger state governments.”

                Marshall married Mary Willis Ambler, and the couple became parent of Hon. Thomas Marshall, Rebecca Marshall, Dr. Jaquelin Ambler Marshall, Mary Ann Marshall, John James Marshall, Mary Marshall, John Marshall, James Keith Marshall, Charles William Marshall, and Edward Carrington Marshall.

                Marshall served as Chief Justice for over 34 years.  In 1831 at age 76, he had surgery to remove bladder stones and recovered without complications; his wife passed away later that year, and Marshall’s health declined quickly thereafter.  he traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in June 1835 for medical treatment; there he died on July 6 at the age of 79.  He was one of the last surviving Founding Fathers.

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