July 3rd, 2021


Book Review: John Marshall: The Chief Justice Who Saved the Nation, by Harlow Giles Unger

The man who made the Supreme Court.

John Marshall: The Chief Justice Who Saved the Nation

Da Capo Press, 2014, 384 pages

A soul-stirring biography of John Marshall, the young Republic's great chief justice who led the Supreme Court to power and brought law and order to the nation.

In the political turmoil that convulsed America after George Washington's death, the surviving Founding Fathers went mad - literally pummeling each other in Congress and challenging one another to deadly duels in their quest for power. Out of the political intrigue, one man emerged to restore calm and dignity to the government: John Marshall. The longest-serving chief justice in American history, Marshall transformed the Supreme Court from an irrelevant appeals court into the powerful and controversial branch of government that Americans today either revere or despise.

Drawing on rare documents, Harlow Giles Unger shows how, with nine key decisions, Marshall rewrote the Constitution, reshaped government, and prevented Thomas Jefferson from turning tyrant. John Adams called his appointment of Marshall to chief justice his greatest gift to the nation and "the pride of my life".

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Also by Harlow Giles Unger: My reviews of John Quincy Adams, Lion of Liberty: Patrick Henry and the Call to a New Nation, and Henry Clay: America's Greatest Statesman.

My complete list of book reviews.