John Marshall

portrait by Henry Inman

I fear...that those have truth on their side who say that man is incapable of governing himself.

(1755 - 1835)

Founder, legal theorist, chief justices of the U.S. Supreme Court

          Chief Justice John Marshall, appointed to the high court by John Adams in the in final days of his presidency, was probably the most important of all the Founders of the American republic, and certainly the most under reported in the 'national narrative' about the country's founding. Click here for more on John Marshall

           John Marshall was the first of fifteen children born to his parents on the frontier of Fauquier County, Virginia.  He inherited his lanky frame and vigorous constitution from his father, and his droll wit and good nature from his mother.  He served with Washington's army in War of Independence, and quickly distinguished himself as an extraordinary legal mind.  Daniel Webster one described him as having a legal intelligence that was as faultless as his moral compass.  "I have never seen a man of whose intellect I had a higher opinion."

          Over the course of his thirty-four years as chief justice, Marshall wrote dozens of landmark opinions that continue to guide the ship of state and protect civil rights and liberties of individual citizens.  Of these, none have had greater impact on the American Indians than his opinions in three Indian cases, known as the Marshall Trilogy. For more on Worester, click here.  They not only laid the foundation for federal Indian law, but, through their application to the unfinished project of federalism, initiated a vital realignment of government itself.