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John Marshall

Influence and Style

Marshall in his arguments drew much from his colleagues, especially his devoted adherent, Justice Joseph Story, and he was stimulated and inspired by the lawyers pleading before the court, among them some of the most brilliant legal minds America has seen, including Daniel Webster, Luther Martin, William Pinkney, William Wirt, and Jeremiah Mason. Marshall in his manners combined the unceremonious heartiness of the frontier with the leisurely grace of the Virginia aristocracy. So great was his winning charm and so absolute his integrity that he gained the admiration of his enemies and the unbounded affection of his friends.

His style combined conciseness and precision. He wrote each opinion as a series of logical deductions from self-evident propositions, and it was almost never his practice to cite legal authority. It is in these opinions that his literary skill is shown rather than in his major nonlegal work, The Life of George Washington (5 vol., 1804–7). Marshall's constitutional opinions are collected in editions by J. M. Dillon (1903) and J. P. Cotton (1905). An autobiographic sketch was published in 1937.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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