John Marshall, The Forgotten Founding Father (1st 7 Weeks)
W 2019


Asked who the most influential Founding Father was, many younger Americans, still in the flush of "Hamilton"-mania, might nominate their new hero, rap lyrics and all. An older generation might stick with the steady stand-by, George Washington. A certain brainy subset – its standard-bearers being the unlikely duo of John F. Kennedy and Christopher Hitchens – would put forward Thomas Jefferson. And yet for two centuries, American historians and constitutional scholars have championed Jefferson's cousin, John Marshall, whose term as the country's fourth Chief Justice lasted from 1801 to 1835 and revolutionized the role and status of the nation's highest court. Much of Marshall's story heretofore has focused on abstruse issues in constitutional law, but using Joel Paul's "Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times" as our foundation this potential problem is overcome by emphasizing the politics and personal stories underlying the court's landmark cases.  In other words you need not be a lawyer to enjoy learning about John Marshall from a biographical perspective.

Weekly Topics

  1. Life Experiences that influenced Marshall’s philosophy chapter 1-4 + Gibbons, John (2002) "Chief Justice John Marshall and Federalism," Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development: Vol. 16: Iss. 2, Article 5. Available at:
  2. Debt, the French and Neutrality chapters 5-9
  3. Brinksmanship and Negotiations chapters 10-14
  4. Jonathan Roberts, Pirates, and laying the foundation for the Marshall Court, chapters 15-17 + Defining the Office
  5. Marbury v Madison, Charming Betsy, and Aaron Burr chapters 18-21
  6. The meaning of sovereignty, setting the Supreme Law, and the pirate lottery chapters 22-27
  7. The Great steamboat case, drawing the line between public and private, getting around the Court and Marshall’s legacy chapters 28-33