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John Marshall: Definer of a Nation Paperback – 15 Mar 1998


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Product details

  • Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Holt McDougal; Reprint edition (15 Mar. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080505510X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805055108
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 4.7 x 22.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,092,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

John Marshall It was in tolling the death of Chief Justice John Marshall in 1835 that the Liberty Bell cracked, never to ring again. An apt symbol of the man who shaped both court and country, whose life "reads like an early history of the United States", as the "Wall Street Journal" noted, adding: Jean Edward Smith "does an excellent job of recounting the details of Marshall's life without missing the dramatic Full description

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Dec. 1998
Format: Hardcover
Although a long-time Jefferson fan, I could not put this book down about his "nemesis". Marshall turns out to have been every bit as patriotic, anti-party and fair minded as Jefferson is reputed to have been. As the author points out, it is hard to believe how two men that were so alike could dislike each other so much. Rather than ascertain the cause of their dislike, the author was very honest in stating that there doesn't seem to be any one particular instance to give reason to such enmity. As a matter of fact, the two men were related and Jefferson, as president, had appointed Marshall's father to an important surveyor's post. The author goes to great length to give Jefferson his due and to not be vindictive. While the author obviously likes Marshall, he does not play favorites or make excuses for his subject. He explains both men's actions and motivations and stresses that both were generally after the same goals for America. As he has in recent works, Jefferson did come across as a bit petulant and vindictive in some of his actions and reactions. I couldn't help many times agreeing with Marshall's points of view when looked at from a practical or legal point (independence of the courts, commerce clause protection, laws of contracts, strong national government and anti-nullification). He was also anti-slavery in a mild, southern way. Mr. Marshall comes across as a very bright, unpretentious, extremely likable man to friend and foe alike. He was able to prevent political differences from damaging friendships and always displayed a big heart (including leading local efforts to raise money to help the estate of the deceased Jefferson).Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 Mar. 1997
Format: Hardcover
Those who decry the current state of judicial affairs in this country will be interested to learn that our modern court system has changed very little since its inception back in the 18th Century. This, along with many other scholarly insights, is the compelling undercurrent running through Jean Edward Smith's John Marshall: Definer of a Nation.

Smith, no stranger to scholarship himself, guides the reader in painstaking detail through the rise of one of the most renoun jurists of early American history, John Marshall. Marshall, who served his country first as a soldier under General George Washington and later as the first truly influential chief justice of the Supreme Court, is a figure ripe for investigation at this particularly legal-oriented period in our history. For it was Marshall who, in his landmark decision, Marbury v. Madison, first gave rise to the notion of judicial review, the concept that suggests that the Supreme Court indeed has final say over the constitutionality of a given state action.

What is fascinating about Marshall's life is how bitterly he had to fight to establish what we today take for granted, the Court's supreme authority. Marshall's relentless pursuit of a powerful judiciary was often at odds with the vision of his fellow founding father, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, who pushed for a small, decentralized federal government in a largely agrarian America, was constanly at odds with Marshall, and the tale of their stormy political battles resonates throughout the pages of Smith's biography.

Of course, the philosophical musings and feindishly political battles of our founding fathers may not make for interesting reading for everyone. Smith's book is chock full of obscure anectdotes and oftentimes difficult-to-get-through detail.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 Jun. 1999
Format: Paperback
A must read for anyone interested in the formation of our nation, the debate over states' rights, icons of 18th century America and/or the origins of American jurisprudence. This biography is an easy read which you will recommend to family and friends.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of the best historical biographies I have ever read, full of interesting facts and insights into the life and character of a truly great American. The treatment of Jefferson was a little rough,though. I also found one very glaring inaccuracy which indicated that Smith's knowlegde of the Battle of Baltimore and North Point was limited. General Ross was not killed while "leading an attack on Fort McHenry" as stated on page 420. Ross died while leading his troops overland from North Point toward eastern Baltimore. Ross had nothing to do with the Naval bombardment of Fort McHenry observed by Francis Scott Key, author of the "Star Spangled Banner".
Smith's work is otherwise so excellent that I easily overlooked this histical slight to my hometown of Baltimore. I enjoyed his work as much as Grant's "Memoirs". Mr. Smith, please write a biography of Patrick Henry.
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