A senior editor of National Review and biographer of several founding fathers turns the spotlight on John Marshall, one of America's most revered chief justices who elevated the stature of the Supreme Court.
Brookhiser’s volume is the third to appear since the beginning of 2016. It is also the first that is genuinely satisfying ... This is due largely to the author’s penetrating intelligence and his style, which is both elegant and readable. It’s also reflective of his somewhat unusual approach to his tale ... rookhiser has wisely chosen to write what is essentially an inspired political and legal history of the early republic, with Marshall serving as the focal point. But, in common with almost all the author’s works, it aims to follow the pattern of Plutarch in its brevity, its felicitous prose, and its emphasis on meaningful analysis over the presentation of mountains of detail. One cannot but be struck by its timeliness ... [a] superb account of the life of America’s greatest jurist.
...as Richard Brookhiser’s fine new biography, John Marshall, makes clear, the polarization of the age of Marshall matched (or even surpassed) our current battles over the composition of the Supreme Court ... As Brookhiser’s compact and balanced account makes clear, Marshall famously transformed the judicial branch into one fully equal to the president and Congress in stature and legitimacy ... although Brookhiser’s biography reminds us that American politics has always been polarized, today the polarization threatens to transform the deliberations of the court.
It’s an understandable, but regrettable, lapse [that Brookhiser focusses on politics rather than law] ... Brookhiser also underestimates the chaos and danger of the politics that he does highlight. Perhaps for that reason, he doesn’t give Marshall his full due ... John Marshall is, to be sure, entertaining and instructive — worthy to be set beside its author’s earlier works. It would be ideal reading for a student contemplating law school. And in addition to the pleasure of its prose, it may, one hopes, whet appetites for an even deeper look at the career of 'the Great Chief Justice.' ... If Brookhiser aims to reveal the politics surrounding Marshall’s career, he disappoints somewhat at this point. A fuller political profile of the Marshall years would give the reader more of the scope of his unlikely triumph ... Brookhiser brings to vivid life the gaudy facts and seamy characters behind such great cases as Dartmouth College and McCulloch. And he summarizes the one area where Marshall’s legal imagination was lacking — the law of American slavery.