The Marshall Court and
The Attorney General • Changes on the Court • The
Embargo Cases • United States v. Peters • The Hartford
Convention • The Court and Nationalist Sentiment •
Martin v. Hunter's Lessee • Madison's Proposals • The
Second Bank of the United States in Court • Cohens v.
Virginia • The Steamboat Case • Conclusion: The Marshall
Court's Legacy • For Further Reading
THE EARLY NINETEENTH century witnessed a phenomenal expansion of the United States in physical size and population, a growth accompanied by an increasing national sentiment. The triumph of this spirit would not occur until the Civil War, however, and states' rights sentiments and sectional animosities remained strong throughout the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian eras. In the Supreme Court, however, nationalism dominated, as John Marshall and his colleagues developed the Constitution into an effective instrument of governmental power.
On March 4, 1809, Jefferson relinquished the “splendid misery” of the presidency to his close friend and colleague, James Madison, and returned to his beloved Monticello, where he spent the remainder of his years happily occupied with the affairs of the mind. With his departure, much of the tension between the executive and judicial branches vanished. Madison did not share his predecessor's personal animosity toward the chief justice; moreover, his own nationalistic views had much in common with those of Marshall, and the new president fully appreciated the value of the federal judiciary as a nationalizing force. By 1811, a majority of the justices on the high bench were nominally Republican, and even if they came under the influence of John Marshall, the par