June/july 1985 | Volume 36, Issue 4
After ruling for thirty-four years as chief justice of the United States, John Marshall died in Philadelphia on July 6 of a liver ailment. When appointed to the post by President John Adams in 1801, Marshall seemed an unlikely candidate, despite his political career; although once a practicing lawyer, he had studied law for only six weeks. Yet after Marshall was named chief justice, his genius soon became apparent. He molded the Supreme Court into a prestigious and powerful body, and his decisions set forth the basic principles by which the Constitution is interpreted.
“There fell to Marshall perhaps the greatest place that was filled by a judge,” said Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes a century later, “but when I consider his might, his justice, and his wisdom, I do fully believe that if American law were to be represented by a single figure, sceptic and worshipper alike would agree that the figure could be only one alone, and that one John Marshall.”
It is said that the Liberty Bell cracked while tolling Marshall’s death.
June 15: H. L. Ellsworth is made the country’s first patent commissioner.
July 1: Trains begin running between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland.
July 29: Antislavery literature is confiscated from the post office in Charleston, South Carolina, and burned.