In America’s time there have been many great men who have spent their lives creating this great country. Men such as George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson fit these roles. They are deemed America’s “founding fathers” and laid the support for the most powerful country in history. However, one more man deserves his name to be etched into this list. His name was John Marshall, who decided case after case during his role as Chief Justice that has left an everlasting mark on today’s judiciary, and even society itself. Through Cases such as Marbury v. Madison (1803) and McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) he established the Judicial Branch as an independent power. One case in particular, named Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), displayed his intuitive ability to maintain a balance of power, suppress rising sectionalism, and unite the states under the Federal Government.
Aaron Ogden, a captain of a ship passing through New York State to trade with other states, was stopped one evening by Thomas Gibbons. He addressed Ogden to cede his ship over to New York officials. Ogden, Gibbons argued, had not a license that permitted him to sail through these particular waters. Therefore, he had a right to seize Ogden’s ship. Ogden, on the other hand, claimed he had a federally approved license to navigate any waters in the United States. Gibbons declared the supremacy of the New York Steamboat Act, while Ogden stated the Federal Coasting Law as the rule. The stage had been set for the Supreme Court.
The case came to the Supreme Court as the infamous Federal versus State battle for power. Once again the question plagued Marshall whether to support Federalism, or keep States’ rights alive.
Certain things became apparent to Marshall. The Constitution did give the federal government complete control over the nation’s commerce. (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3) Also, the Federal Law, according to the Constitution, was the supreme law of the land. (Article 6, Clause 2) Marshall, a Federalist, had always supported a strong central government. However, issues were arising in other parts of the country that would make him consider any decision he made further.
A black slave had entered the State of South Carolina earlier and had incited a small but effective rebellion ...
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...n was none other than extraordinary. He had single-handedly prevented further debate over slavery (for the meantime, anyhow), and satisfied any contention with Federal jurisdiction. He had, once again, made a very historic decision that would see itself all the way through America’s lifespan.
Historically, Marshall supported Federalism, as he had in other cases such as Marbury v. Madison (1803). This would carry the country further from a loose collection of States into a National Power to be reckoned with. Also, by putting off the slavery issue again, he extended the amount of time before there eventually would be an outbreak over the issue. He and the others knew the day would come, but they would deal with it at that later time; probably by use of arms.
For his contributions to the development of Federal power as displayed in this, Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), and other cases, John Marshall has clearly devoted his life to the well being and formation of a better union. Just as the other well-known American men, he deserves a higher place in history for what he has done for all of America, throughout his time and into ours.
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