Magazine July 9, 2018, Issue

Juris Prudence

Joel Richard Paul
Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times, by Joel Richard Paul (Riverhead, 512 pp., $30)

When John Marshall was asked the first time by President John Adams to be on the Supreme Court, he promptly declined. Alexander Hamilton had rejected the same offer from President Washington, as had Patrick Henry. John Jay had been chief justice but resigned when he was elected governor of New York; when Adams asked him to return to the Court, he refused to preside over “a system so defective.”

The Supreme Court was no place for an ambitious, self-respecting jurist. In its first decade, it averaged just over six decisions per year, most of them insignificant. There were no lower

Matthew Spalding is the associate vice president and dean of educational programs for Hillsdale College in Washington, D.C., where he is the Allan P. Kirby Jr. Chair in Constitutional Studies.

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