U.S. History Quarter 1 Project

John Marshall, the Supreme Court, and Judicial Review

Who is most responsible for growing the power of the Supreme Court and why?

A Short Essay By

Anna Tierney-Fife

Grade 8

U.S. History Blue 4

AOSR Quarter 1

Judicial Review -- Who, What, When

John Marshall is credited with the huge rise in power for the Supreme Court, which he secured by creating the power of judicial review. Before Marshall, the Supreme Court had not had much power or prestige. John Marshall made the Supreme Court equal in power to the Legislative and Executive branches of the government. He used his influence and the Supreme Court’s authority to reestablish the Court’s abilities concerning national law. With compelling arguments, John Marshall gave the Supreme Court the power of judicial review, which allows the Court to strike down an act of Congress that is determined to be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court also gained the power to overrule the states where both national and state interests are concerned. The case that helped establish judicial review was Marbury v. Madison, February 11th, 1803, wherein Marshall wrote an opinion that stated, “A law repugnant to the Constitution is void,” and dissolved a ruling of the legislature (Congress) that diverged from the Constitution. This case was a huge landmark for the Supreme Court and judicial review, helping build the United States of America into an indivisible nation and strengthening the Constitution.

Before Chief Justice

John Marshall led a successful career in politics before becoming Chief Justice. He was elected to the Virginia State Legislature and the Council of State in 1782, but left the Council of State in 1784 because it was decided that he could not be both on the Council and have a career in law. In 1788, Marshall was elected to a state convention to contribute towards approving the Constitution. He worked to get it accepted by Virginia. In 1797, he was made the United States minister to France, and sent by John Adams to deal reasonably with what is known as the XYZ Affair. Marshall was elected to the House of Representatives in 1799, becoming a leader among the Federalists and a rival of Thomas Jefferson. In 1800, Adams appointed Marshall to Secretary of State, and in January of 1801 he was selected for Chief Justice. He formally accepted the position on February 4 and served for 34 years, until he died.

John Marshall, The Federalist

John Marshall was a Federalist and believed that the Constitution was the United States’ most important law, to be followed to ensure rights, freedom, and liberty in America. While Federalists believed in loose interpretations of the Constitution, Marshall also believed it to be the most important law of the United States. Marshall thought that the United States needed one powerful central government instead of many state governments to strengthen the nation. Many Democratic Republicans, including President Jefferson, worried that the Supreme Court’s new power of judicial review would be used by the Federalists to weaken the states. Democratic Republicans believed in States’ rights and thought the ideal industrial America was composed of farmers rather than bankers, merchants, and investors, whereas the Federalists wanted large, powerful banks and businessmen. The Democratic Republicans also believed intensely in republicanism, the idea of the people ruling the country through chosen representatives. President Jefferson disagreed with many of Marshall’s political views, and protested him taking the case, saying, “The Federalists have retired into the judiciary as a stronghold.” But this power strengthened America as a whole and formed tighter bonds between the states.
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In Conclusion

John Marshall was essential for the Supreme Court’s rise in power through judicial review and crucial for growing the strength of the United States and the Constitution. He stood for what he believed in and worked to empower the Supreme Court and the United States.


Our Documents -- Marbury v. Madison (1803)

Primary Source

I did not use this source the most, but it is where I found the quote from John Marshall's written statement, " A law repugnant to the Constitution is void." It was remarkably difficult to find anything of this sort- quotes, letters, journal entries, etc.- of Marshall's.


World Book

I used this website for most of my information, though it did not offer a primary source.


United States History textbook, pgs. 269 - 270

I used the textbook to check the accuracy of my sources.

Democratic Republican Party

I used this for the section John Marshall, the Federalist as it gave me information on both the Democratic Republican and the Federalist beliefs.