John Marshall Bicentennial Celebration, 1955: Final Report

John Marshall Bicentennial Celebration, 1955: Final Report

John Marshall Bicentennial Celebration, 1955: Final Report

John Marshall Bicentennial Celebration, 1955: Final Report


If American law were to be represented by a single figure," the late Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote, "sceptic and worshipper alike would agree without dispute that the figure could be one alone, and that one John Marshall."

The wise opinions of Chief Justice Marshall, written more than a century ago, affected every facet of American life then and still do so even today. In fact, the whole nature of the development of government in our Nation might have been quite different had not John Marshall early and firmly established the authority of our national Constitution and basic Federal legislation, fixing their priority over the acts of States and other elements.

Yet, in spite of his major contributions to the molding of our Nation, the Marshall story has been too little told and too little known--perhaps because his name in history is surrounded by so many other great ones: George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, Daniel Webster, Andrew Jackson, and a score of others.

It was to be expected that historians and members of the legal profession, who have always had high appreciation of the work of that outstanding Chief Justice, would be quick to applaud the action of Congress when, by a resolution passed in 1954, it set in motion a nationwide recognition and celebration of the birth of John Marshall. They not only applauded but, led by officers of the American Bar Association, they threw much effort into assuring the widespread success of the celebration which, though now officially completed, bids fair to continue, through publications, meetings, lectures, and other observances, for many months to come.

The respect and admiration which so many members of the bar, especially, hold for Marshall is perhaps best understood when one reads the words of historians Charles and Mary Beard, who wrote:

The supremacy of the judiciary, implicit if not expressed, only needed the magic of John Marshall to make it a part of a sacred tradition illuminating the written word. In his long service on the bench, the Chief Justice raised the Supreme Court from an ignominious and anomalous position to power and majesty, and he moulded the Constitution by the breadth and wisdom of his interpretations.

Despite the majestic stature he reached as Chief Justice, John Marshall's early years were not spent in the specialized academic training . . .

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