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Tuesday, January 04, 2022

The Marshall/Washington Court

My biography of Bushrod Washington will (as all biographies do) provide many fascinating details about the subject and the times in which he lived. If there is one overarching theme of the book, though, it is that we should understand the Marshall Court as a partnership between John Marshall and Bushrod Washington.

One way to view constitutional law is as a series of remarkable collaborations. For the Warren Court, there was Earl Warren and William Brennan. At the Founding, there was: (1) George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, and (2) Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. These pairs sometimes worked together and sometimes were opposed, but each member of each pair complemented the other and made the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

When we turn to the early Supreme Court, though, the focus is almost on John Marshall alone. Or sometimes we say John Marshall with a little help from Joseph Story. My book argues that the answer is really John Marshall with a lot of help from Bushrod Washington and a little help from Joseph Story. Bushrod Washington and Marshall balanced each other both personally and professionally. Indeed, there are echoes of the Hamilton/George Washington relationship there, with Marshall playing a version of the Hamiltonian role with Bushrod displaying George's sober temperament.) The proof of this will be in the telling of the book, and I may expand on this idea in other posts.  

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on January 4, 2022 at 05:03 PM | Permalink


Thank you for allowing comments for as long as you did.

Multiple blogs have in recent years closed comments.

It's a sad reality of the times.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 8, 2022 2:55:27 PM

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