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Publisher's Summary

John Marshall (1755 - 1835) was arguably the most important judicial figure in American history. As the fourth chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from 1801 to 1835, he helped move the Court from the fringes of power to the epicenter of constitutional government. His great opinions in cases like Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland are still part of the working discourse of constitutional law in America. Drawing on a new and definitive edition of Marshall's papers, R. Kent Newmyer combines engaging narrative with new historiographical insights in a fresh interpretation of John Marshall's life in the law. More than the summation of Marshall's legal and institutional accomplishments, Newmyer's impressive study captures the nuanced texture of the justice's reasoning, the complexity of his mature jurisprudence, and the affinities and tensions between his system of law and the transformative age in which he lived. It substantiates Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.'s view of Marshall as the most representative figure in American law.
©2001 Louisiana State University Press (P)2016 Redwood Audiobooks
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Critic Reviews

"In this sustained and thoughtful examination, Newmyer concentrates on his subject's ideas more than his personality or his life's chronology.... this account will persuade readers that the judge is indeed worthy of study and admiration." ( Publishers Weekly)
"A legal and historical scholar with particular expertise in assessing the impact of U.S. Supreme Court heavyweights, Newmyer here offers fresh insight into the life, times, contributions, and significance of the Court's fourth chief justice. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries." ( Library Journal)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Diana Black Kennedy on 03-17-18

Excellent judicial, intellectual history

First and foremost, this should not be your first biography of John Marshall. Had I not just listened to an excellent one, I think I would have been lost quite a bit of the time. Newmyer assumes a passing knowledge of both Marshall and the law, and knowing a handful of Supreme Court cases doesn’t hurt.

That being said, Newmyer offers a fascinating analysis of Marshall’s decisions, situating them vis a vis intellectual, juridical and historical context, looking back to their sources and legal traditions and forward to their effects, ramifications and influences. He deftly teases apart Marshall’s legacy, maintaining their complexity while unwinding the strands into accessible, coherent themes and arguments.

Marshall’s tenure as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court stretched over six presidents: John Adams, who appointed him, Jefferson, who hated him, Madison and Monroe, who respected him while disagreeing with him, John Quincy Adams, who defended him and Andrew Jackson, who opposed him as much as possible. Newmyer explores how his jurisprudence adjusted to the changing politics of the age, while illuminating the consistent strands that connect all his decisions.

Well worth reading to fill out and expand your knowledge of John Marshall, antebellum American history, constitutional law and the Supreme Court.

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