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By iKlick on 04-29-18
Long & Informative. Oyez.
Extensive. Exhausting. Both are applicable to this book on John Marshall. Very comprehensive, and so anyone wanting to know what seems to be everything about him, this is the book for you. But I would have preferred the audio book to have been not as long. However, I am glad I did persevere until the end. About two-thirds through I just wanted it to be over. But the author (whose background research into Marshall is impressive) did not intend this book to be one of mere highlights. (His observations on Virginia politics was especially fascinating.)
Surprisingly, my opinion of John Marshall (which had been high) lowered as I learned more about him. I realize he was a product of his time, and a large majority of the elite favored property over freedom, but Marshall’s defense of property seemed to be more than it needed to be. Nevertheless, I still admire his efforts to establish and strengthen the importance and power of the Supreme Court (beginning, of course, with Marbury v. Madison). Although the Supreme Court has generated much ill as well as much good for American society (e.g., the Dred Scott case as opposed to Brown v. Board of Education), I shudder to think what this country would have been had the Supreme Court continued to be a lowly, mostly ignored third branch of government.
I do recommend this book for learning about John Marshall, and the narrator does a decent job. However, be prepared for a significant time commitment to wade through it all.
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.