John Marshall Essay, Research Paper
The United States of America, 224 years young, has gone through enumerable changes and stages. Many changes have gone through the constitution and its definitions of a perfect government. The intricate pathways of the branch system and checks and balances have proved to be extremely successful in the course of its existence. However, towards the beginning of its existence, there were controversial issues and power struggles. The constitution had left federalism undefined (now defined as: the distribution of power in an organization (as a government) between a central authority and the constituent units) and the power of the federal government and the state government was in conflict. John Marshall, fourth Chief Justice of the United States of America, accosted these issues and shaped the Supreme Court to distance itself from partisan politics of executive and legislative branches. Through persistence and effort, he changed Judiciary branch to equal the other branches. His impact on the forming of the U.S. is immeasurable. Federalism was changed for the country and continued that long after the Federalist Party.
John Marshall was born September 24, 1755 in Germantown, Virginia. He was taught to read and write at home by his slightly educated parents. He had access to books, which were scarce during that particular period of history and in the region in which he lived. Marshall received some formal education from a young Scotch minister, the academy of Reverend Archibald Campbell and at William and Mary College a short time after. He served as a captain in the American Revolution and later was selected Secretary of the State for his brave heroics in the war. He ran for a position in the House of Representatives but lost when going into reelection. After his loss, he was selected Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by John Adams.
As Chief Justice, Marshall was pressed to some important decisions concerning cases brought to him through the Supreme Court. Probably the most important case during John Marshall s term as Chief Justice was Marbury vs. Madison. On his last day of Presidency, John Adams made 47 midnight appointments to Justices of the Peace and other positions. When, the next secretary of the state (Madison) would not deliver the several of these documents, William Marbury, a recipient of the certificate for Justice of the Peace, asked the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus against James Madison. Marshall was in a predicament. If he had issued the writ, Jefferson and Madison would both ignore it and the country would loose respect for the Judicial Branch. If he didn t do anything, he and his fellow Justices would have looked like cowards. After brilliant thought and research, he reached a decision. His decision was that the Judiciary Act of 1789 that gave the Supreme Court the power to issue a writ of mandamus did not fit the parameters set in Article III of the constitution, and therefore was unconstitutional and void. He dodged his predicament and at the same time molded the strength of the Federal Government for centuries to come.
Probably the most important decision in the History of the Judiciary, Marshall s decision effected federalism and the strength of the Supreme Court. Before, he Judicial Branch wasn t looked upon as coequal with the Legislative and Executive branches. But after his brilliant decision, the Judicial Branch was able to declare acts unconstitutional, and was the final arbiter of the constitution. Marshall proves that he will go down as one of the most important people in the making of the United States with his brilliance and importance in the shaping of federalism.
Another important case he faced was the U.S. vs. The Schooner Peggy. The Peggy was a French merchant ship captured during the quasi-war with France. On September 23, 1800, it was sold in the United States as a prize from the war. Seven days later, the Convention of Mortefontaine was signed in Paris. It stated that any property of the opposition that had been obtained during the war and had not been permanently condemned should be returned to its original owner. Jefferson ordered the money returned to comply with the policy of the treaty. The court clerk was very reluctant to return the money to the original owner of The Peggy. Justice Cushing sustained him and the President s orders were ruled invalid. The Justice ruled it invalid because the treaty was never in effect at the time of the trial. Chief Justice John Marshall let the argument continue until the President could get the treaty ratified by the Congress. He gave his opinion to the court the morning after the treaty was ratified. He validated the President s rule.
This case really showed that Marshall did not want the party system to interfere with the Judiciary Branch. If he had taken a federalist view, and wanted to embarrass the President, he wouldn t have waited for him to get the treaty ratified. This case almost told the Legislative Branch and Executive Branch to do their jobs by controlling all foreign affairs.
Fletcher v. Peck, a court case in 1810, and Dartmouth College v. Woodward, a case in 1819, were two other cases handled by Marshall. Both were important in bringing federalism to a higher level, by giving the Judicial branch more power and balancing its power with the other two branches. In the case, Fletcher v. Peck, the court justified a citizen s property, and that the government cannot interfere with someone s property right. Dartmouth College v. Woodward describes the value and unbreakable power of a contract or charter. This case was brought to the Supreme Court when a state legislature violated the charter of Dartmouth College and named it Dartmouth University. This would give the national government more power all the way to today.
Another very important Supreme Court case that expanded the power of the central government, McCullough v. Maryland. It was a case that explained Article 1, section 8, clause 18. The implied powers of the Legislative Branch were verified by the judicial branch in this case and gave them the power to create a national bank. This was a victory for federalism since it expanded the power of the central government over the state governments.
John Marshall is responsible for the outcomes of the previous court cases, and is responsible for the development of a strong central system and the growth of federalism. His impact on federalism stretched beyond that of the Federalist Party who died out shortly after 1815. His impacts affect every one of those who walk the soil of this country and all those who ever had.