January 20, 1801 — John Marshall (September 24, 1755 – July 6, 1835) was appointed the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States today. He was the longest-serving Chief Justice, a position he held until 1835.
His court opinions helped lay the basis for United States constitutional law and many say made the Supreme Court of the United States a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches. Most notably, he reinforced the principle that federal courts are obligated to exercise judicial review, by disregarding purported laws if they violate the constitution. Thus, Marshall cemented the position of the American judiciary as an independent and influential branch of government.
Marshall, along with Daniel Webster (who argued some of the cases), was the leading Federalist of the day, pursuing Federalist Party approaches to build a stronger federal government over the opposition of the Jeffersonian Republicans, who wanted stronger state governments.
Previously, Marshall had been a leader of the Federalist Party in Virginia and served in the United States House of Representatives from 1799 to 1800. He was Secretary of State under President John Adams from 1800 to 1801.
Words of Wisdom for January 20, 2017
“It is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases must, of necessity, expound and interpret that rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the Courts must decide on the operation of each.”
— Chief Justice John Marshall, proclaiming the doctrine of judicial review, which reserves to the Supreme Court final authority to judge whether or not actions of the president or of the congress are within the powers granted to them by the Constitution. Illustration by Clarice Smith from "American Hero," by David Bruce Smith