The eldest of 15 children, John Marshall was born in a log cabin on the Virginia frontier (today in Fauquier co., Va.) and spent his childhood and youth in primitive surroundings. His father rose to prominence in local and state politics. Through his mother he was related to the Lees and the Randolphs and to Thomas Jefferson, later his great antagonist.
Marshall first left home for any length of time to serve as an officer in the American Revolution. He returned in 1779 after attending for a few months lectures on law given by George Wythe at the College of William and Mary (his only formal education). Admitted to the bar in 1780, he practiced law in the West and was elected (1782) a delegate to the Virginia assembly. He married and settled in Richmond, his home until his death.
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