Impact of the Marshall Court

Of all of the Supreme Court Judges, none could match the power and influence of the famed John Marshall. Appointed by President John Adams as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1801--35), his actions throughout his term led to many great improvements as well as the creation of many precedents. Devoted to improvement of the national commerce, establishing the power of the Judicial branch, and securing strength in the central government, Marshall used his great charisma and wisdom as he presided over many critical cases that would ultimately result in revolutionary verdicts.

A major issue during John Marshall’s term was the dispute over the validity of land grants. In the case of Fletcher vs. Peck Marshall concluded that a land grant was indeed a valid contract. In a case that aided in strengthening this ruling, Marshall again stated that in the trail of Dartmouth vs. Woodward, the land grants given to people or organizations act as a legal contract and give that owner rights and privileges to that land.

To challenge these rulings, the southern states felt that they should be able to overturn the judgment of the court to how they saw fit. However, in the case, Cohen vs. Virginia, John Marshall established the court's right to find actions by state legislatures unconstitutional and thus make the Judicial branch a dominate power. This was a very important case because it established a crucial point, which stopped states from defying the federal government.

Another issue was who had jurisdiction over interstate trade such as through rivers and geographical areas that moved in and out of states. The answer to this problem was found in the trial of Gibbons vs. Ogden, where it was ruled that the federal government again had power over such matters.

John Marshall also reinforced the “necessary and proper” clause in the constitution during the famous McCulloch vs. Maryland case. Again, many southerners as well as western settlers felt that the national bank was too imposing and they used their states powers to tax it vigorously. Daniel Webster, one of the bank’s attorneys, told Marshall that if the states were given even the slightest power to tax the bank; they would do it to death. Thus, John Marshall’s decision in favor of the bank once again gave extra power to the federal government over the states.

Another pressing matter was how the states should deal with Native Americans during expansion. The first crucial case was Johnson vs. McIntosh where the ruling was that the tribes were a separate entity within the United States and that they were to follow the laws as citizens even though they were not. Later, in the Cherokee vs. Georgia case, it was decided that the Indians were also under the protection and not just the limitation of the federal government.

As one can see, John Marshall’s many rulings shaped the way the US functions. He promoted state and national commerce as well as providing means for the country to control the currency. However, through his many overrulings of the states Marshall also increased the strength of the judicial branch and the federal government. Finally, his decisions decided how the Indians would be treated in the US.

Note: This is an original work and should be cited if used.