John Marshall

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The people made the Constitution, and the people can unmake it. It is the creature of their own will, and lives only by their will.

John Marshall (September 24, 1755July 6, 1835) was an American statesman and jurist who greatly influenced American constitutional law. Marshall was the fourth Chief Justice of the United States, serving from February 4, 1801 until his death. He had previously served as a member of the United States House of Representatives and as Secretary of State, to John Adams.

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  • It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is...If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each...This is of the very essence of judicial duty.
    • Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch, 1317 (1803).
  • The people made the Constitution, and the people can unmake it. It is the creature of their own will, and lives only by their will.
    • Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheaton (19 U.S.) 264, 389 (1821).
  • The law does not expect a man to be prepared to defend every act of his life which may be suddenly and without notice alleged against him.
  • The acme of judicial distinction means the ability to look a lawyer straight in the eyes for two hours and not hear a damned word he says.
    • Reportedly said to a young John Bannister Gibson, who would later become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, when Gibson remarked that Marshall had reached the acme of judicial distinction; in David Goldsmith Loth, Chief Justice: John Marshall and the Growth of the Republic (1949), p. 275. See also Albert J. Beveridge, "Life of John Marshall" (1919).

McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)

McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. (4 Wheaton) 316 (1819).

  • We must never forget that it is a constitution we are expounding.
    • 4 Wheaton 316, 407.
  • This provision is made in a constitution, intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs.
    • 4 Wheaton 316, 415.
  • Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consist with the letter and spirit of the constitution, are constitutional.
    • 4 Wheaton 316, 421.
  • The power to tax involves the power to destroy.
    • 4 Wheaton 316, 431.

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