The Papers of John Marshall. Volume X: Correspondence, Papers, and Selected Judicial Opinions, January 1824-March 1827

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The Papers of John Marshall. Volume X: Correspondence, Papers, and Selected Judicial Opinions, January 1824-March 1827. Edited by Charles F. Hobson, Susan Holbrook Perdue, and Robert W. Smith. (Chapel Hill: Printed by the University of North Carolina Press in association with the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia, c. 2000. Pp. xlii, 449. $60.00, ISBN 0-8078-2520-4.)

The chronology of this volume marks the beginning of the final phase of Marshall's chief justiceship, a period notable for more compromise on his part and more disagreement within the U.S. Supreme Court. Indeed, one of Marshall's principal opinions in the collection is his dissent in Ogden v. Saunders (1827), his only dissenting opinion in a constitutional case. In that case the Court upheld a New York bankruptcy statute that applied only to future contracts of indebtedness. Marshall believed that the statute unconstitutionally impaired the obligation of contracts. Marshall's most significant opinion in the volume explains the Court's decision in Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), the tribunal's first interpretation of the commerce clause. Although that clause would become the source of most exercises of federal power, it served in this dispute, and in most other disputes of the antebellum period, as a restraint of state power. Using as its authority a federal statute enacted under the commerce clause, the Court struck down New York's grant of a steamboat monopoly. Marshall gave a broad reading of the term "commerce" and hinted that Congress's power over "commerce among the several states" might be exclusive--an implied outcome that would not be realized, as a later case would demonstrate.

Two of Marshall's other constitutional opinions also endorsed federal over state power. In Osborn v. Bank of the United States (1824), Marshall reiterated many of the themes of McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) in his justification of the Court's invalidation of Ohio's attempt to tax the Second Bank of the United States. …