Wednesday July 23, 2014
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05-034 Mr. Justice Marshall I

Wednesday Jul 23, 2014

Lead: In the beginning the United States weren't very united. As originally conceived, the Federal Union was at best a loose confederation of sovereign states

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The Constitution of 1787 was a series of compromises: big state versus small state, slave versus free, commercial areas versus agricultural regions. No one knew how the political settlement would work.

One of the most intriguing questions involved the Federal Judiciary. The vision of the crafters of the Constitution was that each branch of the Federal Government would be independent of the others with separate powers and duties; but to prevent the other branches from getting too powerful, each branch would be able to check the authority of the others.

The Executive and Congress had their duties laid out, but the role of the Courts was less obvious. Two of the most important players in the early days when the nation was sorting out its constitutional arrangements were Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall. They were both Virginians, but Jefferson the aristocrat detested his distant cousin John Marshall born of hard frontier stock, and for Marshall the feeling was mutual. Jefferson did not fight in the Revolution; Marshall distinguished himself at the side of George Washington. Marshall worked hard to establish himself as a lawyer, was plain spoken, dressed informally, and was equally comfortable in tavern or statehouse. Marshall considered Jefferson something of a dandy. However, their conflict was not just personal: they were philosophical enemies. Jefferson, the Republican, fancied himself the champion of the small man and of states rights. Marshall was in favor of a strong Federal government.

Next time: Marbury v. Madison.

The Producer of A Moment in Time is Steve Clark.

At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.


Hobson, Charles F. The Great Chief Justice: John Marshall and

the Rule of Law. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1996.

Stites, Francis N. John Marshall: Defender of the Constitution.

Boston: Little, Brown Publishing Company, 1981.

Wernick, Robert. "Mr. Justice Marshall Takes the Law in Hand,"

Smithsonian 29 (8, November 1998): 156-175.

Copyright 2014 by Dan Roberts Enterprises, Inc.


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