Magazine October 29, 2018, Issue

John Marshall and George Washington

(Roman Genn)
What our greatest judge learned from our greatest leader

Editor’s note: This essay is adapted from the book John Marshall: The Man Who Made the Supreme Court, which will be published in November.

John Marshall is the greatest judge in American history. As chief justice of the Supreme Court for 34 years — a record that still stands — he impressed, charmed, and defied colleagues, skeptics, and enemies, transforming an institution to which the Founding Fathers had given relatively little thought into a pillar of the nation. In 1801, when Marshall became chief justice, the job lacked “dignity,” as one contemporary put it, while the judiciary was, in the words of

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