previous next

‘ [75] has chosen to be, in many respects, and to many purposes, a nation; and for all these purposes, her government is complete; to all these objects, it is competent.’

These words give us some idea of the simplicity of the style, the evidence of power and confidence, the eloquence which can raise a judicial opinion into the realm of literature. This decision, emphatically maintaining the appellate authority of the Court and the supremacy of the national law when the law is consonant with the Constitution, left no further ground for legal discussion, though the men of Virginia, fretting under the authority of the Court, poured out their wrath in many words.1

In other decisions of vast influence on developing America, Marshall announced his doctrine of nationalism and marked out the limits of state competence. One of these, the case of McCulloch vs. Maryland, gave with renewed elaboration the doctrine of implied powers in the hands of the national government and laid down principles limiting the rights of the states. Here too Marshall examined the character of the Union and the scope of governmental authority under the Constitution, and did so with remarkable clearness. In the well-known case of Dartmouth College vs. Woodward, Marshall declared that a charter of a private corporation was a contract, inviolable by state authority. This decision is probably more sharply criticized by the modern lawyer than any other, and yet it is still standing and has stood for a century, the bulwark of the corporations, saving them at least from unreasonable and purely gratuitous attacks upon their privileges and property. A third case, Gibbons vs. Ogden, proclaiming in broad terms the extent of Federal power over interstate commerce, served as the foundation on which later decisions rested and at least suggested the legal foundation for the great development of nation-wide commerce. Thus, it will be seen, his work was of significance not alone because it furnished theories and principles of national organization and helped in determining the character of the Union, but also because, in passing on questions of state competence, his vision was sufficiently wide and

1 See William E. Dodd, Chief justice Marshall and Virginia, in American Historical review, XII (1907), 776-787.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
John Marshall (4)
Woodward (1)
Ogden (1)
McCulloch (1)
James Sloan Gibbons (1)
William E. Dodd (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1907 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: