John Marshall

The Chief Justice Who Saved the Nation

Regular Price $11.99

Regular Price $15.99 CAD

Regular Price $11.99

Regular Price $15.99 CAD

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On Sale

Sep 30, 2014

Page Count

384 Pages




A hero in America’s war against British tyranny, John Marshall with his heroics as Chief Justice turned the Supreme Court into a bulwark against presidential and congressional tyranny and saved American democracy.

In this startling biography, award-winning author Harlow Giles Unger reveals how Virginia-born John Marshall emerged from the Revolutionary War’s bloodiest battlefields to become one of the nation’s most important Founding Fathers: America’s greatest Chief Justice. Marshall served his country as an officer, Congressman, diplomat, and Secretary of State before President John Adams named him the nation’s fourth Chief Justice, the longest-serving in American history. Marshall transformed the Supreme Court from an irrelevant appeals court into a powerful branch of government — and provoked the ire of thousands of Americans who, like millions today, accused him and the court of issuing decisions that were tantamount to new laws and Constitutional amendments.

And the Court’s critics were right! Marshall admitted as much.

With nine decisions that shocked the nation, John Marshall and his court assumed powers to strike down laws it deemed unconstitutional. In doing so, Marshall’s court acted without Constitutional authority, but its decisions saved American liberty by protecting individual rights and the rights of private business against tyranny by federal, state, and local government.

What's Inside

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American History, December 2014
“A rousing, eye-opening life and times of one of the most underappreciated figures in American history…As an account of the courtroom dramas in which Marshall was involved, the foreign and domestic intrigues, the clashes of temperamental geniuses, Unger's book is unsurpassed.”

Roanoke Times, 9/28/14
“Unger is a masterful storyteller. As he unfolds Marshall's personal life, his career at law and his service as chief justice, Unger also provides a concise tale of the birth of the United States as a unified country under the Constitution. This biography serves the dual purpose of explaining Marshall's critical role in saving the nation from chaos while giving a concise account of the social and political forces at play during the nation's salad days…In telling the story of Marshall, Unger provides keen insight into the very foundation of the United States of America and an excellent introduction to the United States Constitution and the Supreme Court, especially for those who want to know the story without having to read volumes of case law and sometimes arcane exegetical texts.”

Library Journal, 10/1/14
“Unger is very familiar with the founding fathers…His research is heavy on primary sources…Those interested in the founding fathers will appreciate this scholarly, accessible title.”
What Would the Founders Think?, 9/30/14
“Harlow Giles Unger follows John Marshall from his birth in 1755 to his death in 1835, but he does more than that. He shines a bright light on the men we call Founders…Unger's biography is also a fascinating history of the turbulent times in which Marshall lived…This is an extensively researched biography of a man who is too little remembered today. It's become a cliché to say that a book reads like a novel, but that doesn't make it any less true. Unger is a superb writer.”

New York Journal of Books, 9/30/14
“Highly readable…Unger's rigorously researched book offers a window into the everyday life of 18th and 19th century North America…Unger's biography of John Marshall reveals how he saved the nation, but also democracy's fragility.”

Bookviews, November 2014
“One man who played an extraordinary role in defending the Constitution is finally given his rightful honors in Harlow Giles Unger's book…A book that will give you a very different view of the men we hold in such great honor…A great book.”

InfoDad, 10/23/14
“Fascinating…A treat for scholars interested in early American history and an eye-opener for non-historians seeking insight into the unusual balance of powers within which the U.S. government functions.”

Kirkus Reviews, 8/1/14
“A cradle-to-grave biography of the U.S. Supreme Court's longest-serving chief justice…Unger chooses to present all aspects of Marshall's life, including his military heroism and his extraordinary devotion to a chronically ill wife and their children…It is well-researched, and the author is skilled at portraying the characters and viewpoints of Marshall's political friends and foes. Thomas Jefferson comes across as a stubborn, politically motivated and sometimes hypocritical man, and Unger employs the Marshall-Jefferson enmity effectively, adding tension to the narrative. A vigorous account of an influential American life.

New York Post, 7/17/14
“Read. Be proud of our country.”

Booklist, 9/15/14
“Unger offers a comprehensive account of Marshall's life and career that provides interesting insights into his personal qualities and political sympathies…But Unger is at his best covering the history-altering judicial activities of the court under Marshall, especially as the court clashed with the executive power of the Jefferson and Jackson administration…A well-done tribute to the man who made the judiciary a truly coequal branch of the national government.”
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