John Marshall and International Law: Statesman and Chief Justice

By Frances Howell Rudko | Go to book overview

6
Conclusion

John Marshall's contribution to establishing a firm national government with a strong judiciary overshadows his work in forging a place for the United States in the world of nations. His two contributions to the development of the American Constitution are not only consistent with but closely related to his world view. Marshall was a nationalist and a practical visionary who believed that laws effectively governing men brought happiness and order. While the separate states were defining their existence within federal union, the nation was defining itself in the world. The Constitution provided the structure within which the states would coexist harmoniously. International law could provide the structure enabling the nations to live in peace. Marshall embraced the order offered by both, while accepting without reservation the basic concept of international law that "nations have an absolute fight to self-preservation and independence." 1

Chancellor James Kent in 1824 contended that a knowledge of international law was important to "every gentleman who [was] animated by . . . ambition to assume stations of high public trust." He described it as "elementary learning" and an "essential part of the education of an American lawyer." 2 Marshall did not systematize his concepts of international law, but his experiences in the practice of law, in international diplomacy, in Congress, in the State Department, and on the Court required a working knowledge of the rules governing nations. James Kent and another contemporary, Henry Wheaton, systematized the law that Marshall, with other jurists, was helping to create. 3

Marshall's familiarity with the treatises of international law is evident in his arguments in the British debt cases, which depended upon knowledge of the rules governing belligerents in time of war. Asserting that Virginia was an independent sovereign at the time of the sequestration act required Marshall to

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John Marshall and International Law: Statesman and Chief Justice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Political Science ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Notes 6
  • 2 - Attorney and Federalist 11
  • Notes 37
  • 3 - Minister to France 47
  • Notes 73
  • 4 - United States Representative 83
  • 5 - Secretary of State 97
  • Notes 114
  • 6 - Conclusion 121
  • Notes 123
  • Bibliography 125
  • Index 139
  • About the Author 147
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