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The Man Who Made the Supreme Court

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A review of John Marshall: The Man Who Made the Supreme Court (Basic Books, 2018) by Richard Brookhiser

John Marshall presents a curious problem for Southern history. How can a man, born and bred in the same State, who breathed the same air and shared the same blood with Thomas Jefferson, have been such an ardent nationalist? The same question could be asked of Washington, and to a lesser extent, Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln. The answer in Marshall’s case is perhaps best explained by his opposition to Jefferson’s Republican faction. Marshall feared both a French-inspired revolution on American soil and the fragmentation of the Union, and to Marshall “nationalism” provided the only tangible remedy for Jacobin terrorism and Jeffersonian democracy. The center had to hold in order to maintain the legacy of the American War for Independence.

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