Justice Joseph Story and the Rise of the Supreme Court

By Gerald T. Dunne | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Our Man in Salem

Like a wolf's head thrust out to the sea, Essex County on the upper Massachusetts coast reaches due east into the Atlantic. Newburyport rests high on the forehead; Cape Ann is the muzzle; Salem, seemingly about to be gulped down, lies deep in the open mouth; the Marblehead promontory forms the lower jaw. It is a sea-born country, hard and beautiful, where blazing summer and frigid winter alike are periodically shaken by fierce inbound storms which seek to take back what the sea has given.

Its men have matched geography and weather, and the snarling wolf's head appropriately symbolizes the long series of confrontations there -- white man and red, patriot and Tory, Unitarian and Congregationalist, immigrant and Yankee. It would be difficult to select the most hate-filled and divisive of the conflicts, yet as bitter as any was that which pitted Jeffersonian against Federalist at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The very nomenclature of its political discourse suggested the depth of suspicion. The Federalists, certain that President Jefferson was about to bring a guillotine to every New England common, labeled their opponents as the "Democratic" or "French" Party and so suggested an ideological nexus with Jacobin Terror. Not to be outdone in insinuations of subversion, the Jeffersonians called themselves "Republicans" to imply that the Federalist opposition was but a step away from a royalist coup. They also labeled that opposition's inner establishment "the Essex Junto,"

-17-

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