The powers of the legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken, or forgotten, the constitution is written. To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing, if these limits may, at any time, be passed by those intended to be restrained? The distinction between a government with limited and unlimited powers is abolished, if limits do not confine the persons on whom they are imposed.” – John Marshall
JOHN MARSHALL was born on September 24, 1755, in Germantown, Virginia. Following service in the Revolutionary War, he attended a course of law lectures conducted by George Wythe at the College of William and Mary and continued the private study of law until his admission to practice in 1780. Marshall was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1782, 1787, and 1795. In 1797, he accepted appointment as one of three envoys sent on a diplomatic mission to France. Although offered appointment to the United States Supreme Court in 1798, Marshall preferred to remain in private practice. Marshall was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1799, and in 1800 was appointed Secretary of State by President John Adams. The following year, President Adams nominated Marshall Chief Justice of the United States, and the Senate confirmed the appointment on January 27, 1801. Notwithstanding his appointment as Chief Justice, Marshall continued to serve as Secretary of State throughout President Adams’ term and, at President Thomas Jefferson’s request, he remained in that office briefly following Jefferson’s inauguration. Marshall served as Chief Justice for 34 years, the longest tenure of any Chief Justice. During his tenure, he helped establish the Supreme Court as the final authority on the meaning of the Constitution. Marshall died on July 6, 1835, at the age of seventy-nine.
This biography is reprinted from the United States Supreme Court’s website. See http://www.supremecourthistory.org/