Two Supreme Court Justices for Their Times

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 10, 2002 | Go to article overview

Two Supreme Court Justices for Their Times


Byline: Willliam F. Gavin

Now that the Supreme Court has become the recipient of the second highest honor the TV industry can bestow - a prime-time drama about the court (only sitcoms rank higher in dignity) - it seems only fitting to examine two recent books, one about the legendary John Marshall and the other by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor concerning her childhood on an Arizona ranch.

John Marshall and The Heroic Age of The Supreme Court by R. Kent Newmyer (Louisiana State University Press, $39.95, 511 pages, illus.) is based on solid scholarship, graced by common sense, and written in a lucid, penetrating style. But be warned: This book is not easy reading. It is dense with legal, historical and social analyses, and all of them require close scrutiny.

The author, professor of law and history at the University of Connecticut School ofLaw, devotes most of the book to detailed examinations of the major opinions of Chief Justice John Marshall (1755-1835). This isn't one of those oh-look-how-human-he-was Great Man biographies, chock full of "humanizing" anecdotes. There are accounts of Marshall's good-humored friendliness, and the esteem with which he was held by those who knew him best, but the book focuses on how he reached judicial conclusions about profound constitutional issues.

Despite Mr. Newmyer's skill at painstakingly guiding the reader, point by point, through legal thickets, the material he deals with - nothing less than the interrelated legal, political, and economic trends of Marshall's long life - is of its very nature dauntingly complex and not suited to breezy, popular presentation.

Marshall was, among his many accomplishments, a Revolutionary War veteran, a successful Virginia lawyer, a state legislator, an admired diplomat (remember the XYZ Affair?), a congressman and cabinet officer (briefly) and a chief justice of historic importance. But, as the author points out, he was above all "a Burkean conservative," a Virginia aristocrat of strong Federalist views, and a "constitutional nationalist," placing him in direct confrontation with most of his Virginia friends and neighbors who held strong states rights views. Perhaps nowhere in American history can we find such a long and bitter political and philosophical enmity than that between the two great Virginians, Thomas Jefferson and Marshall, each of whom thought the other was a scheming, lying politician.

In 1801, Marshall was appointed Supreme Court justice by President John Adams, although, in one those ironies of history, he was sworn in by the next president, Jefferson, who even at that early date disliked and distrusted him. During the next two decades, Marshall was at the center of a debate concerning two of the most important political questions in American history: What do the words of the Constitution mean and what role should the Supreme Court play in determining the answer to that question? We are still asking those questions, as witness the presidential election of 2000.

To Marshall, the answers were clear. The American people themselves, not the sovereign states, created the Constitution. The national government they created does not depend upon the states to exercise its powers, and the Supreme Court has the constitutional right and duty to exercise judicial review, not only of laws by the states but by the Congress as well. The next question - What powers does the national government have and how do these powers relate to the equally constitutional, but different, rights and powers of the states? - was one Marshall would take more than two decades trying to answer. His decisions (based on the idea of "divided sovereignty" between the states and the national government), written in a forceful, reasoned, Olympian style, made him one of the most revered - and reviled - men of his time. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Two Supreme Court Justices for Their Times
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.