Book Reviews -- the Papers of John Marshall: Correspondence, Papers, and Selected Judicial Opinions, April 1807-December 1813 (Volume 7) Edited by Charles F. Hobson, Suzanne E. Coffman, Mark A. Mastromarino and Laura S. Gwilliam
Huebner, Timothy S., The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
After nearly a century of scholarly writing about John Marshall, the "Great Chief Justice" remains among the most enduring subjects of analysis among American constitutional historians. Ever since the appearance of biographies by Allan Magruder and Albert Beveridge around the turn of the century, scholars have devoted extraordinary attention to the life and work of Marshall and the early Supreme Court that he almost single-handedly fashioned. With the publication of volume 7 of The Papers of John Marshall, Charles F. Hobson and his colleagues ensure that Marshall's place in American history will continue to be reevaluated by the next generation of historians.
This volume contains 110 documents published in full, the bulk of which are either correspondence or judicial papers. Unfortunately, as the editors note, the surviving correspondence during the years covered by the volume is relatively scant-a total of just fifty-five letters, most of them written by Marshall. These letters deal primarily with political and business affairs; they have less to do with the business of the Court or the chief justice's relationship to his colleagues. Correspondence reveals, for example, Marshall's private responses to the American embargo against Britain, the events surrounding the War of 1812, and the Marshall family's involvement in the famous Fairfax lands litigation, which culminated in a series of important state and federal cases concerning the relationship between the state and federal judiciaries. The volume even includes a few letters from Benjamin Henry Latrobe, architect and surveyor of public buildings of the United States, detailing the Court's early struggle to find a suitable home within the Capitol. Overall, though the correspondence is thin, it does provide some useful insights into Marshall's life as a leading Virginian and as chief justice. …