July 6, 1835 – Death of Chief Justice John Marshall

On this day in history, John Marshall died, two months before he would have turned eighty. Of Marshall, John Quincy Adams wrote in his diary:

He was one of the most eminent men that this country has ever produced. . . . Marshall has cemented the Union which the crafty and quixotic democracy of Jefferson had a perpetual tendency to dissolve. Jefferson hated and dreaded him. . . . Marshall, by the ascendency of his genius, by the amenity of his department and by the imperturbable command of his temper, has given a permanent and systematic character to the decisions of the Court, and settled many great constitutional questions favorably to the continuance of the Union.”

Chief Justice John Marshall

Chief Justice John Marshall

During Marshall’s tenure as Chief Justice, the Supreme Court handed down 1,180 decisions over thirty-five years, with Justice Marshall writing 549 of them. As Harlow Giles Unger noted of the output of the Court in his biography of Marshall:

Many [of his decisions] formed the foundation of American constitutional law. They established the Supreme Court as supreme arbiter of the Constitution and American laws and the federal judiciary as the third coequal branch of the federal government with the executive and legislative branches.”

Joel Richard Paul, professor of law at the University of California Hastings Law School in San Francisco, in his 2018 biography of Marshall, Without Precedent, opined:

None of the founding generation of American leaders had a greater impact on the American Constitution than John Marshall, and no one did more than Marshall to preserve the delicate unity of the fledgling republic.”

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