John Marshall was one of the most significant historical figures in early American history. As the fourth and longest-serving Chief Justice of the United States, he left an indelible mark on the Supreme Court and the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.
Here are some key facts about the life and career of this legal giant:
Quick Facts About John Marshall’s Life and Career
- Marshall was born in 1755 in Virginia. He served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War (American Revolutionary War).
- He began his legal training by reading law under Chancellor George Wythe at the College of William and Mary. He was admitted to the Virginia state bar in 1780 (College of William & Mary).
- Marshall served in the Virginia House of Delegates starting in 1782 and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1799 to 1800.
- President John Adams appointed him Secretary of State in 1800 and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1801.
- As Chief Justice from 1801-1835, Marshall helped establish federal authority over state laws.
- Some of his most impactful decisions include Marbury v. Madison (1803) and McCulloch v. Maryland (1819).
- Marshall died in 1835 at the age of 79, having served as Chief Justice for over 34 years.
Who Was John Marshall?
John Marshall was an American lawyer, politician, and jurist who shaped constitutional law as the fourth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835 (Supreme Court of the United States).
Marshall was born on September 24, 1755 in Germantown, Virginia. After studying law, he joined the Culpeper Minutemen and fought for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. He then built a successful legal practice in Richmond, Virginia.
Marshall’s political career began when he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782. He later served as an envoy to France in 1797 and as a U.S. congressman from 1799 to 1800.
In 1800, President John Adams appointed Marshall as Secretary of State. The following year, Adams nominated him as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Marshall would go on to become the longest-serving Chief Justice, shaping constitutional law through impactful decisions for over three decades.
Where Did John Marshall Go To College?
John Marshall did not formally attend college. After serving in the Revolutionary War, he began his legal studies in 1780 by reading law under Chancellor George Wythe at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, which was a common practice at the time.
Wythe mentored other prominent early American leaders like Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. Under Wythe’s guidance, Marshall gained strong foundations in political philosophy, history, and law that prepared him for his illustrious career.
Marshall was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1780 and quickly established a successful law practice in Richmond, handling prominent cases like defending James Monroe against charges of libel. Marshall did not receive a formal law degree, but his legal apprenticeship under George Wythe gave him the education and experience needed to ascend to the highest judicial position in the nation.
What Was John Marshall’s Net Worth?
John Marshall did not amass a large personal fortune over his decades of public service. Most accounts indicate that his net worth was relatively modest for his stature.
Marshall owned a small farm called Oak Hill in Fauquier County, Virginia along with a few household slaves and horses. His main residence was a simple brick home in Richmond.
As Chief Justice Marshall was paid about $3,000-$4,000 per year. While financially comfortable, he did not seem primarily motivated by accumulating wealth. Instead, his passion was for the law and public service.
Marshall died with an estate worth around $70,000, which would be around $2 million in today’s dollars. His legacy lies not in riches but in his fundamental role shaping constitutional law and justice in early America.
John Marshall’s Supreme Court Tenure
John Marshall served as Chief Justice for 34 years from 1801 to 1835, making him the longest serving Chief Justice in U.S. history. He participated in over 1,000 decisions and wrote 519 of the majority opinions himself.
Under Marshall, the Supreme Court established its authority to strike down laws conflicting with the Constitution. This power of judicial review was cemented in the landmark case Marbury v. Madison (1803).
Other key Marshall Court decisions include:
- Fletcher v. Peck (1810): Reaffirmed the Constitution as the supreme law of the land.
- McCulloch v. Maryland (1819): Ruled that Congress had implied powers beyond those enumerated to create laws deemed “necessary and proper.”
- Gibbons v. Ogden (1824): Held that the Constitution’s commerce clause granted Congress power over interstate commerce.
Through these and other rulings, Marshall strengthened the Federal government and promoted national unity under the rule of law. He ensured a lasting legacy that still shapes America’s constitutional order.
Follow John Marshall on Social Media
As John Marshall lived from 1755 to 1835, long before social media existed, he unfortunately does not have any official social media accounts. However, here are some related accounts that share content about Marshall’s life and legacy:
- Supreme Court Historical Society on Instagram
- Federal Judicial Center on Facebook
- John Marshall Foundation on Twitter
- National Constitution Center on Youtube
FAQs About John Marshall
What was John Marshall best known for?
John Marshall was best known for serving as the fourth and longest-tenured Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835. He shaped American constitutional law through landmark decisions like Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland.
Why is John Marshall considered so important?
As Chief Justice, Marshall strengthened the authority of the federal judiciary and established its power to strike down laws contradicting the Constitution through judicial review. His rulings promoted national unity under federal authority. Marshall’s impact endures through foundational principles like federal supremacy and implied powers.
What was John Marshall’s greatest accomplishment?
John Marshall’s greatest accomplishment was cementing the Supreme Court’s role in upholding the Constitution as the supreme law of the land through judicial review established in Marbury v. Madison. This decision forms the basis of the Court’s ongoing responsibility to evaluate the constitutionality of legislation.
What President appointed John Marshall as Chief Justice?
John Marshall was appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by President John Adams in 1801. Adams nominated Marshall near the end of his single term as President. Marshall’s long tenure outlasted multiple subsequent administrations.
How long did John Marshall serve on the Supreme Court?
John Marshall served on the Supreme Court for 34 years and 5 months, from February 1801 when he was appointed by President John Adams, until his death in July 1835. This makes him the longest serving Chief Justice in U.S. history.