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tv   American Artifacts Chief Justice John Marshalls Life Legacy  CSPAN  January 10, 2021 9:30pm-10:01pm EST

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archival films, lectures in college classrooms, and visits to museums and historic laces. all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. each week, american artifacts takes viewers into archives, museums, and historic sites around the country. , we visit the national constitution center in philadelphia to learn about the life and legacy of john marshall , the fourth chief justice of the united states who served on the supreme court from 1801-1835. donnelly and tom i'm senior fellow for studies at the constitutional center here in philadelphia. we are here to talk about chief justice john marshall in our new exhibit, "john marshall: patriot, statesman, chief justice." what's amazing about this exhibit is we cover what is most
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familiar about john marshall is that he was the fourth chief justice of the united states, and for many scholars and commentators he is thought of as , our great chief justice. this takes you from the beginning of his life, his fight in the american revolution, through his time as a lawyer and state legislator in virginia all the way through his time as a statesman in the john adams administration and his time as chief justice. let's look at the amazing exhibit. we begin our story with a young john marshall in virginia. he is the eldest of 15 children. his father was a state legislator and justice of the peace, taught him history, law, the classics. he begins his journey with the american revolution. john marshall was a militia member in the local militia. he works his way to become an officer in the continental army. this experience, as much as any other experience in life, forges
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his constitutional views about the role of the government. it would reverberate across his life. let's look at the artifacts that we have that tell the story. one of the highlights of the entire exhibit is the first letter we see. it is 1827. this is an old john marshall. at this point, he is 72 years old and writing a letter to his wife. he is talking about how the experience in the american revolution influenced his views later in life. this really encapsulates his vision. this is an amazing statement. he says, i found myself associated with the brave men from different states who were risking life and everything valuable in a common cause
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believed by all to be most precious and i was confirmed in the habit of considering america is my country and congress as my government. so this is an amazing statement. when you think of your country, you think of virginia, not the united states is a country so first. unlike his contemporaries in virginia, even older generations, like patrick henry would think of virginia as his country. but john marshall thinks of the united states as his country. we get this amazing letter. and then we have different artifacts that talk to his time in the military. i want to focus on the one in the bottom corner. these are revolutionary war uniform buttons that were pulled from valley forge. if we think about john marshall's experience in the revolution, he was there in the brutal winters in valley forge, he was there with george washington and alexander hamilton. they felt firsthand the
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sacrifices of war, of fighting for your country. they also felt the inadequacies of the government at the time. government that could not keep them properly supplied, that relied too much on states to volunteer supplies and fight in the war. so they would emerge from this -- hamilton, washington, and marshall -- from this war, feeling they needed a stronger federal government, one that could undertake big tasks. this philosophical view would and up informing much of marshall's views for the rest of his career. walk to the next case here and we are fast forwarding to john marshall's time when he returns home from the war, when he's trying to build his own family, build a career and a life for himself. we have the quote appear. -- up here. he and his heart knew that he was going to be called to the law. he said from my infancy, i was destined for the bar. he travels to william and mary and attends law lectures. he gets his training there.
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we have one artifact here that is his law commonplace book. this was the book he would use to write down legal principles and take notes. within here, you can see times in which he is dueling during his law lectures. -- doodling during his law lectures. he doodles the name of his future wife holly. of his life,eriod he does meet and fall in love with his wife holly, and they build a family together. more importantly with him professionally is he is building his law practice and political reputation. he was such a respected young lawyer that the great edmund randolph, from one of the most powerful families in virginia, presented the plan of the constitution virginia, although
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we didn't sign the constitution, this powerful lawyer in the state, turned over his legal practice to john marshall as he is building his professional career. if we are really digging in here, trying to get a sense of marshall's early career before he enters the federal government, we have amazing artifacts here. it is a first edition copy of the federal papers. -- federalist papers. marshall is a lawyer, he even argues a case for the supreme court as a young lawyer. he's also elected to the virginia state legislature. one important project of this point is he's a delegate to the virginia ratifying convection. this is connected to the story that we tell throughout this museum of the framers crafting the constitution, forging it through compromise and sending it to the states for ratification. when we think of virginia, we think of the largest most important state in the union of the time. if we are thinking of where we
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are in the ratification process, eight states have ratified the constitution, and we have three state ratifying conventions meaning virginia the most influential, new york, and new hampshire where the most influential. the virginia story is an amazing one. it puts together some of the most important figures in early american politics. opposing the constitution are great revolutionary figures like patrick henry richard henry lee, , george mason. on the other sides supporting the constitution, you have james madison, the father of the constitution himself, and young john marshall. he gave influential speeches, including a defense of judicial independence. of article three of the constitution and the importance of the judiciary in the constitutional system. one aside about marshall is despite opposing views with someone like patrick henry, the firebrand, one of the great
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voices against the ratification of the constitution at the time one of the most powerful figures he was soinia, powerful he even tried to deny james madison a senate seat and ran james monroe against him in the house. but john marshall is someone who was really easy to get along with. so even despite political disagreements with patrick henry, he would maintain close relations with him. they would be quite tight. we will see this theme as we go through the rest of his career of the ability to hold strong constitutional views but also see the importance of compromise and finding common humanity even with one's adversaries and ultimately on the supreme court, forming unanimity on the legitimacy of the supreme court. that is a bit about marshall's early life and career. let's move to a time when he's finally in the federal government at the beginning of his career as a national leader
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of the federalist party. are up to john marshall's early career in the federal government. he's a leading federalist. at the urging of george washington, he's asked to run for the u.s. house of representatives in 1798. even with the support of political opponents like patrick henry, he secures that. two years later, john adams named him secretary of state. so we have john marshall moving from his career in virginia to a central role in the early federal government. the artifacts here tell that story and they tell it through the lens of one really important episode in john marshall's pre-supreme court career. this is during the adams administration. he's called upon to become an envoy to france. if we think of this moment in american history, it's amazing how much the politics are defined by the rivalry between great britain and france and where the united states fits, as
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former colonies of great britain but also as a former ally of france. george washington has to decide how he is going to address the conflicts happening between france and great britain? he declares neutrality. he sends john jay over to great britain and creates a treaty that ends up being very important for establishing political and commercial relations between great britain and the u.s. but that inflames thomas jefferson and his allies here who are more supporters of france and were hostile towards great britain and the commercial relationships that gave rise to an industrial class in the u.s. , centered on commerce. we have debates happening during the washington administration. marshall supports washington and supportsistration and
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john jay, and through this becomes a member of congress and member of the adams administration. because of these moves by the washington administration france , becomes inflamed with the united states. france had supported us during the revolution. we had war debts we owed france that we no longer wanted to pay after we got rid of the french king and the french revolution. and so adams dealing with from france, stealing our goods and stealing goods destined for britain, he sends john marshall and two other envoys to france to come together with a treaty that creates friendly relations between france and the united states. this is what becomes known as the xyz affair. john marshall is sent with eldridge gary and charles cups worth. the three of them are attempting to negotiate with the french government.
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they are trying to establish relationships with him. x,has his own envoys who are in these dispatches and he says you must bribe us, you must give us an exorbitant loan, to even talk to our ministers. so the account of the affair is publicized in the u.s., we are fused to give into this and it pulled a -- creates a political firestorm. that's the framework. what we have here is the traveling writing desk of john this so using during you can picture him writing about his communications with the french envoys. and even the conflict he has with his fellow diplomats with the american delegation he is , doing it right here at this desk. as we move further into this artifact case, we have the commission that john adams wrote with the appointment for these
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envoys and you can see john adams signature, mentioning pinckney, who was at the time the envoy. member ofge gerry, a the early congress, difficult person to get along with. he's kind of the opposite of john marshall. seems like the only person who could get along with him was john adams. then you have a young john marshall on his first diplomatic mission. so we have the papers for that appointment. we also have the spectacles and inkwell of john marshall that he used while at this desk. and then we have an artifact that is a letter from thomas jefferson to john marshall. it is 1798. marshall is coming back from france and is a hero for standing up to the french government.
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this is a short letter from jefferson to marshall, apologizing for not making it to the dinner in his honor. they are actually cousins. but they despise each other. but only for political reasons. they have very different views and we will get to this next exhibit case here. we have gotten a sense of john marshall the soldier, john marshall in virginia, the state legislator and lawyer supporting the constitution, john marshall in congress and early secretary of state, and finally in this case, we get to john marshall as chief justice, the image we as americans are most familiar with. is amazing to think about it that john marshall is nominated by adams in 1801. where were we then? adams had just lost the election to the democratic republicans. jefferson is getting ready to take over as president.
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the chief justice is oliver ellsworth of connecticut. he is ill and adams is rushing to replace him before the jeffersonians take over the presidency and the congress. he initially asks john jay to take the job as chief justice. he was an important early federalist. but john jay looked at the supreme court and said no, i do , not want to go back there. the institution does not have energy or influence. the early justices even have to go on horseback, hearing cases throughout the united states. in many ways, it was a very unpleasant mission so he did not want to take it up again. so adams turned to his own political ally, moderate federalist john marshall, his secretary of state. we get a great quote from adams. he says " my gift to john marshall to the people of the united states was the proudest act of my life." without a doubt, john marshall was the perfect man at the perfect moment for this institution. we have the peaceful transfer of
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first power from the federalists , the democratic republicans, from adams to jefferson. and with that, a major philosophical change from the president and congress. we have marshall in the judiciary. john marshall, a powerful federalist who believes in judicial independence and a strong national government, but we have the jeffersonians in charge of the political branches devoted to limited government, a believer in states' rights and a believer in judicial restraint. really believed it was up to the representatives to largely define the contours of the constitution. we are set up for a great moment of conflict between jefferson and marshall. and the jeffersonians go directly at the supreme court. they impeach justice samuel chase, >> a strong federalist >> . he's ultimately not convicted by the senate but a warning was sent to marshall to i think be careful, tread lightly.
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don't come directly after the jeffersonians. we have marshall taking over at this precarious moment. in this case, we get a bit of a sense of that. i think the most amazing artifact here is we have the actual nomination from john adams of marshall. this is the official nomination when he is sending john marshall's name to the senate to be chief justice. one of the great moments in john marshall's career and for our nation. also, we have a couple letters that give a sense of the emerging conflict between john marshall and thomas jefferson. a constitutional conflict, not a personal one. have -- on the top, we have a letter from john marshall to alexander hamilton. he's all the rage because of lin-manuel miranda, but he's a great early federalist. marshall is expressing concerns about jefferson taking over the presidency. he's worried that by weakening
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the office of the presidency, he will increase his personal power. the idea that publicly he will express limited power but would we'll great power over congress and the majority in congress. and we have this letter from john marshall to his old colleague in france from the xyz affair. charles pinckney, he's writing this letter and in the middle, he actually has to leave while writing it to oversee the inauguration of jefferson. so he writes part of it and then he comes back to finish it. he expresses more optimism, hoping jefferson, despite political differences, could bring the country together. finally, we have a letter from thomas where he's talking about his concerns about power from the marshall court and describes
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his concerns about judicial power. we have thomas jefferson talking about more restrictive goals -- rules for the judiciary and federal government the final thing here is a biography, the first official biography of george washington ever written, and it's written by john marshall at the urging of washington's family, knowing the close link between them. there's a belief part of the conflict between jefferson and marshall has to do with jefferson's criticism of president washington. here, john marshall knows importantly how important it is for american public memory to really celebrate our great like george washington and his vision of a new and energetic government. so we have this copy here and john marshall's biography of george washington. a great way to end as we walk over and talk about the
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decisions of the marshall courts. this is marshall as chief justice taking the reins. we will talk about the big decisions that happened in the marshall court. now we move to the most familiar part of his life. these are the great decisions. we are thinking about the big themes we get from these decisions. one is that john marshall's assertion of judicial independence. this is where decisions like marbury versus madison come in but connected with that is decisions that move to a vision of the constitution that give the federal government relatively more power. it's a reading of the constitution of broad powers to do things and it is the great flashpoint between jefferson and marshall. before getting into some of the artifacts, it's important to think about john marshall's legacy of building up the legitimacy of the supreme court during this. john jay was offer the
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commission to be chief justice again and he turned it down because he didn't think it was a very good job. but marshall sits on the court for 34 years. he was the longest-serving chief justice. during this, he was nominated by federalist john adams, but then he is succeeded by a series of democratic republicans, members of the opposition, all looking to lay claim to the constitution. jefferson, madison, monroe and eventually jackson. they all put supreme court justices on the court presumably to pursue the jeffersonian vision of limited government. but marshall, through his openness to compromise, through his own force of personality, helped forge the court together and build unanimity. one of the great innovations was to move beyond the practice were each justice would write his own opinion for every decision, what to instead issuing opinions of the court. during this, marshall writes the vast majority of the court
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decisions. unlike today, they tend to be unanimous even on divisive issues. let's dig into a few we see here. the first artifact we see here toward the back of the case is the court decree from a case in 1824. gibbons versus ogden. the state of new york issues a monopoly to steamboat operators. isey constitutional question , how broadly do we read the commerce power, the federal government's power over the economy? this is a debate that goes all the way back to the founding and the washington administration. effectively, marshall reads the commerce power broadly. he says it covers things like navigation on the waterways, like the operation of steamboats. therefore, it magnifies the power of congress and the federal government over the economy, over and against with the states are doing so it is an important assertion of national power. even more important is the case
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of mcculloch versus maryland, which in many ways is john marshall's masterpiece. marbury v madison is the most famous decision were marshall asserts judicial review for the supreme court and the power to declare laws unconstitutional. it is what most people begin casebooks with. here in mcculloch v maryland is where he writes out the theory of the constitution that has endured in many ways when the independence was issued. he lays out the theory of our constitution. the marshall court is wrestling with the most important question, the constitutionality of the national bank. we have all the way back in the washington administration, we had jefferson fighting with hamilton over whether or not congress has the power to establish a national bank. washington ultimately sides with hamilton and we have a national bank for a period of time. we have attempts by the state of maryland to undermine the national bank and they argue it
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is unconstitutional. marshall advances his constitutional vision but through judicial restraint. rather than aggressively asserting federal power over the says a government, he key thing is we as a matter of political practice have through the elected branches put a since theank in place washington administration and we have had it since due to the judgment of wise people. then he also reads the powers in the constitution under article eight, what we call the necessary and proper cause to say that the powers of congress extend beyond just each individual power listed in article one, section eight. instead, through the necessary and proper clause, allows congress to pass laws that recognize implied powers of the federal government. it may not say explicitly in the constitution that congress can establish a national bank, but it gives congress the power over
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things like commerce and through reading those, marshall and the marshall court give a broad reading to federal power. what's amazing about this artifact is it is not the decree from mcculloch v maryland, but it's actually father of the constitution james madison's reaction. he's highly critical. again, we have two visions. we have marshall with strong national government, but madison and jefferson were arguing for a more limited average. here we have madison arguing marshall court is reading the necessary and proper clause too broadly. we have jefferson and madison during the washington administration arguing against the constitutionality of the national bank. we have one of the key figures in constitutional history criticizing one of our landmark decisions, but it's written by one of our other great figures in american history, john
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marshall. it's a great reminder even the greatest constitutional minds can disagree about the most fundamental questions within the constitution, and the constitution is a document of debate and conversation we. get that from this artifact. . the final one i will point to hear is in the back. john marshall writes to his friend, justice joseph story, defending another decision where he's asserting federal power in a case called: v virginia. the idea being if you are in state courts, in this case a criminal prosecution, you think that your federal constitutional rights have been violated, it is saying you can appeal to the supreme court and get here because the supreme court can decide those cases dealing with federal constitutional rights. i will just end this case with a great quote from john marshall embracing the assertions of
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great founders like james wilson where he says that the people made the constitution and the people can unmake it. it is the creature of their will and lives only by their will. hear we are connecting to james wilson at the founding of popular sovereignty but also what we talked about the beginning and this john marshall, the nationalist john marshall, "my nation is the united states, it is not virginia, it is we the people." i think that's an important legacy of john marshall's time on the court, a time over three decades, a time in which he was able to bridge divides between supporters of jefferson, who in many ways would have opposed marshall constitutionally, but was able to forge compromise with people who disagreed with him, an important legacy that in the end built up the legitimacy of this up in court. it's why we think of him and him alone is the great chief justice. we end with this portrait. this is john marshall, the elder statesman. it is 1831.
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he's near the end of his life. he has come to philadelphia for surgery. the philadelphia bar reveres him and his legacy of chief justice that they have him sit for this portrait by the great american artist henry inman. it's worth reflecting on, as he gets to this point in his life, and what is his legacy? for many americans, the obvious is he is the great chief justice. he served for 34 years. he issues more than 600 opinions. he's able to forge unanimity among justices from across the ideological spectrum. he wrote great decisions like marbury v madison and mcculloch v maryland. things that are still in casebooks today, that lawyers today still read for purposes of learning the proper way to argue constitutionally and legal craft. decisions substantively, he served judicial independence and built up the legacy and legitimacy of the supreme court.
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an institution that was quite weak when he took it over and built it into a stronger institution. but that is just marshall as a chief justice. if we back up to the beginning of his story, he's a hero in the american revolution, serving in valley forge in those terrible winters with george washington and alexander hamilton. so being an important figure, a brave soldier in the revolution. he is a key supporter of the u.s. constitution and virginia, one of the pivotal ratifying conventions, staring down the barrel of patrick henry and george mason. great figures in american history themselves folks who , oppose the constitution. it's a young marshall making strong arguments for why we need a stronger government. so at the urging of george washington, we have john marshall serving in congress. shortly thereafter, being asked to be secretary of state for john adams. during the adams administration, he plays a key role in negotiations with france, trying to dampen hostilities.
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these negotiations ultimately fail, but through this experience, he earns the respect of the american people. by john adamspon ultimately again to become chief justice, the fourth chief justice of the united states. let's reflect back on his legacy and we can all thank chief justice john marshall for being an important patriot and important statement in one of the greatest early jurists and constitutional thinkers in american history. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> >> you can watch this and other programs by visiting c-span.org/--/history. >> american history tv is on social media. follow us at c-span history. >> each week, american artifacts visits museums, archives, and historic places. in 2014, 5 former secretaries of

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