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The Eighteenth-Century Background of John Marshall\u27s Constitutional Jurisprudence

By William E. Nelson

Abstract

Between John Marshall\u27s appointment to the Supreme Court in1801 and Andrew Jackson\u27s inauguration as President in 1829, theMarshall Court declared one congressional act unconstitutional andinvalidated state statutes in fourteen cases. Among these cases weremany of Marshall\u27s major judicial opinions, including Marbury v.Madison Fletcher v. Peck, McCulloch v. Maryland,s Trustees ofDartmouth College v. Woodward, and Gibbons v. Ogden.Marshall\u27s constitutional cases have been of enduring significanceand have generated widespread scholarly debate. Perhaps thesingle issue that has most divided scholars is whether the great ChiefJustice should be understood to have been motivated primarily bypolitical considerations or by more neutral principles that were lesspolitical in character. On the one hand, many scholars have concluded, to quote one leading constitutional historian, that \u22[a]s a good Federalist, Chief Justice Marshall sought, naturally, to embody the point of view of his party . . . in constitutional law.\u22 At the other extreme, there exists a body of scholarship that understands Marshalla nd his contemporarietso have \u22plant[ed] themselves upon the provisions of the written Constitution, and den[ied] to popularlegislation the binding force of law, whenever such legislation infringe[d] a constitutional provision.\u2

Topics: John Marshall, jurisprudence, constitutional law, Constitutional Law, Jurisprudence, Law, Legal History
Publisher: Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository
Year: 1978
OAI identifier: oai:digitalcommons.law.yale.edu:fss_papers-5509
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