The Great Chief Justice : John Marshall And The Rule Of Law Essay

The Great Chief Justice : John Marshall And The Rule Of Law Essay

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The Great Chief Justice: John Marshall and the Rule of Law by Charles F. Hobson examines the judicial career of John Marshall, as well as the legal culture that helped to shape his political beliefs and his major constitutional opinions. The author sources much of his information from the formal opinions that Marshall issued during his judicial career. From these writings, Hobson presents Marshall 's views on law and government and provides explanations for what in Marshall 's life influenced those beliefs.
Hobson explains that he has examined Marshall 's judicial writings though "the perspective of the common law tradition in which [Marshall] was bred" (Hobson xiii) in order to better understand his intentions. He states that Marshall carefully read legal texts with great attention to detail in an attempt to determine the intent of the writer. Similarly, Hobson tries to gain a better understanding of Marshall 's principles through his writings.
Three significant life experiences helped to build Marshall 's political principles and had an influence over his judicial career: the American Revolution, the state legislature of the 1780s, and his time as a judge at the Virginia Court of Appeals. Living during the American Revolution meant Marshall rejected the idea of being ruled by a monarchy. Instead, he advocated for a republican government, viewing the government as an entity charged with protecting individuals ' natural rights. As a state legislator, the 1780s also had a direct influence on Marshall 's way of thinking. During this time, he watched the majority, along with other dominant political interests, claim power over those he described as the "wise and virtuous." This experience led to him seeing the judiciar...


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Despite the political roots the case arose from, Marshall believed the Court should only make decisions in cases that involve the legal rights of individuals. In his opinion, he acknowledged that Marbury had a legal right to the judgeship; however, the decision of the Court to reject his petition was based upon the unconstitutionality of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which was determined to expand the scope of the Court 's power. Marshall demonstrates his beliefs regarding the separation of law from politics, a theme that resonates throughout his other opinions set forth with the Court. This theme stems from his experiences during the 1780s, where it was shown to him what happens when people with corrupted interests make decisions based upon political gain. Marshall believed the Supreme Court and the judiciary should be isolated from and above such politics.

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