The Great Decision

  • by Cliff Sloan, David McKean
  • Narrated by Peter Jay Fernandez
  • 8 hrs and 0 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In 1800, the United States teetered on the brink of a second revolution. The presidential election between Adams and Jefferson was a bitterly contested tie, and the government neared collapse. The Supreme Court had no clear purpose or power - no one had even thought to build it a courtroom in the new capital city. When Adams sought to prolong his policies in defiance of the electorate by packing the courts, the fine words of the new Constitution could do nothing to stop him. It would take a man to make those words good, and America found him in John Marshall.The Great Decision tells the riveting story of Marshall and of the landmark court case, Marbury v. Madison, through which he empowered the Supreme Court and transformed the idea of the separation of powers into a working blueprint for our modern state.Rich in atmospheric detail, political intrigue, and fascinating characters, The Great Decision is an illuminating tale of America's formative years and of the evolution of our democracy.

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What the Critics Say

"[T]heir book provides a colorful description of the tumultuous times in which the Court rendered its landmark judgment. And the book's implicit references and comparisons to our own politically divisive times will not be lost on the attentive reader." (The Washington Post)
"In this highly accessible book, the authors skillfully build suspense and tension around an outcome readers may already know." (Booklist)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Brings to life the early days of the USA

What did you love best about The Great Decision?

It is fascinating to learn more about the country's leading characters in the early days of this republic. An interesting story, well told, which expanded my understanding of this country, and its history.


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- Tim

How the Court gained its power

The 1800 elections unveiled a schism in the body politic for the first time in U.S. history. The battle of the two party systems begins with this election. In the final days of John Adam’s presidency, he tried to appoint as many Federalist as possible to position established in legislation passed by the outgoing Federalist majority Congress. He had recently appointed John Marshall as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court when John Jay refused to take the job again. A handful of commissions for justice of the peace remained undelivered when incoming Democratic-Republican President Thomas Jefferson took office. Jefferson ordered his Secretary of State, James Madison, not to deliver them. A disgruntled office seeker, William Marbury, sued to have his commission honored.

The book is well-research even including some contemporary newspaper accounts. The book reads like a political thriller. Marbury V Madison is considered the most important legal case in American history. The case established the judiciary as the final arbiter of any conflict between the law and the Constitution. The authors supply Marbury’s historical context and unravels the complex fabric of personalities, politics and law that animated the case. Sloan and McKean spent most of the book on the 1800 election and the thoughts of Adams and Jefferson. I wished they would have spent equal or more time on John Marshall and how he came to his decision. The book suffers from occasionally losing momentum, dragging and poor editing. But overall the book provided a review of the history of the 1800 election, the antagonism between Adams and Jefferson as well as insight into legal history. If one is interested in American history and legal history this is a great book to start with. Peter Jay Fernandez did a good job narrating the book.

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- Jean

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-30-2009
  • Publisher: Audible Studios