John Marshall was the longest-serving chief justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, with a tenure lasting more than three decades. He was also arguably the most influential. Under his leadership the court defined itself in ways that persist to this day.
Available for the first time online, Marshall’s papers present a story that touches on most of the major events of the nation’s founding, following Marshall from his days as a soldier in the Continental Army under General Washington to his role in the ratification of the Constitution to his experiences as John Adams’s secretary of state. Nominated for chief justice of the Supreme Court by Adams--who called it "the proudest act of my life"--Marshall brought a decidedly Federalist philosophy to the many landmark cases tried in his court (including Marbury v. Madison, in which he famously clashed with President Thomas Jefferson). He joined a court that was distinctly weaker than the other branches of government--at a time, moreover, when the authority of the Constitution had yet to be tested. Under Marshall’s direction, the judicial branch achieved an equality with the legislative and executive branches that still endures, and the constitutionality of a law was firmly established as the deciding factor in all cases brought before the court.
This digital edition of Marshall’s papers includes the complete contents of the renowned print edition and presents them in a fully searchable online environment. As part of Rotunda’s American Founding Era collection, it is interoperable with the digital editions of other prominent Founders’ papers, including those of the first four presidents. For students and scholars of law and history, this is the most powerful and accessible way to study the legacy of the "Great Chief Justice."