« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
It is out of the range of possibility to say anything novel of an illustrious citizen like John Marshall, whose patriotic services and public character have been known of all men for more than half a century, and the record of whose achievements in behalf of his country has become a part of that country's history. Orators and jurists and statesmen, in glowing terms, have portrayed his intellectual power; his urbanity of temper; his absolute lack of knowledge of what men call fear; his unswerving fidelity to duty, and all the other characteristics which secured for him a popularity at home and abroad, second only to that of Washington.
His patriotic services are blended with the events of the Revolution and of the constructive period of the Constitution. To appreciate the man it is necessary briefly to review what has come down to us, as a photograph of his genius, bis intellectual vigor, and his combination of powers, which seem, at first, to militate with each other.
Poetry, “the morning dream of great minds: the prelude to thought and the precursor of action,” early engaged his overflowing intellect. Men of genius are, rarely, bereft of a love of poetry. The orators of antiquity began their intellectual labor by wooing the Muses. It was deemed a sign of the exuberance of mental vigor; so that it was no eccentricity of nature that in Marshall, with his solid and massive sense, there was room for imagination and 'poetry. With the eminent men of the times, he laid the foundation for bis future usefulness in the study of the highest literature then attainable, and turned with disgust from the trashy novels which, even then, were issued from publication houses. The beginning of his classical knowledge, however, was laid upon very unstable foundations; yet he built thereon a superstructure, by his own unaided labors,
which served him well during his judicial life. He knew that without great effort nothing worthy was ever achieved, and he gave himself up to the task with a confidence and will that could not be shaken.
IIis determination to accomplish what he undertook never deserted him during all his life. There was no time in his whole career when he shrank from the performance of bis duty. Vanity, too often the weak spot in a great character, had no part in the make-up of this magnificent type of American citizenship.
As a rule great mental power must be joined to strong and energetic physical health. The strain upon the intellectual faculties in continued and laborious exercise must be supplemented by a vigorous constitution. These were the elements of force in Marshall's composition. His early athletic exercises; his prudent and careful mode of life and his temperance, all contributed to his marvel. ous advancement in the public estimation as a lawyer, a jurist and statesman of rare endowments. It was this that sustained him in his laborious work and preserved, without impairment, to the close of his life, that clear and rarely erring judgment which only strong intellectual faculties could have shown.
Reared in a high region of country, he believed in a strenuous life, and the sports of his youthful companions found him one of their most faithful devotees. His connection with the war of the Revolution has taught us that the life of the soldier, its hardships and its discipline, is a good school for the orator, the judge and the statesman; and so that much which tended to build up for him his masterly leadership among men found its germ in the companionship of the camp. It was there, it is said, he laid the foundation of that undying friendship with Wash
ington and of his devoted admiration of Alexander Hamilton, with both of whom, in the later events of life, his destiny was inseparably linked.
The Revolutionary period found him in the condition of assuming “the gown of manhood,” and thus, starting upon the high road to win the name of soldier, patriot, jurist and statesman, it was not remarkable that he took a leading part in the stirring scenes of those eventful times. His enrollment among the citizens of his native State to defend their honor and their liberties made him at once a favorite of his people.
It is said that the oracle of the fane of Delphi taught Cicero the great principle of all good men who are called to the service of their country in times of revolution, that the surest road to the most honorable fame is "to follow, always, the dictates of your own conscience and not the opinion of the multitude;” and this was the master guide in the life of the great Marshall. Where, after mature reflection, which was the habit of his contemplative mind, he had assured himself of the correct view which should be taken of any question, he had the courage of his convictions, and be would have perished at the stake rather than surrender them.
It was at the age of twenty-seven years that he began the practice of the law, and unlike so many of the same profession in those days, he did not sit long in the cold shadow of neglect sighing for a brief, but rose rapidly to prominence and secured from the start a large and remunerative clientage.
Army life, and preparation for the trial of the cases which crowded upon him, left him little opportunity, in early life, to study the science of government; but his native talent, his thoughtful consideration of every ques
tion to which he gave attention; the knowledge he had acquired of the weakness of the Confederation, moulded his opinions for a strong political system, likely to hold together the sovereign communities in a bond of political union. It was natural that he became an ardent advo cate for a Constitution containing restrictions imposed upon the States, and that he should have sustained the party which supported views consonant with his pronounced opinions.
He remembered the sufferings brought upon the army by the inability of the government to provide means to carry on the war, and he devoted his talents and his energies to the obtention of a “more efficient and better organized general government."
It was at the close of the war, in 1782, he entered the General Assembly of Virginia, and the whole country seemed to be on the brink of bankruptcy and desperation. He began his efforts to secure the payment of the public obligations; to hold up the hands of the Federal authority, and to bring about a more perfect consolidation of the interests and affections of the people of all the sections of the country, and this he felt could be best secured by a more comprehensive and efficient general government.
In the effort to settle the various questions of govern. mental policy there arose in the country two great political parties. The distinctive lines upon which these parties were aligned it is not desirable now to describe; but it suffices to say that Marshall, at that early day, openly avowed his advocacy of a more efficient and better organized national government. This was the guiding principle with him during his whole life, which was dedicated to the preservation of a “limited, constitutional liberty." He was a Federalist, of the highest type of
that day. When the ratification of the Constitution came before the conventions of the sovereign States, Marshall was a member of the convention of Virginia, and was one of the most earnest advocates of its adoption, for he was enamored of the article which imposed restrictions on the States.
The convention of Virginia was a body of intellectual giants, and the debates upon the questions which arose out of the provisions of the Constitution, were unsurpassed by any convention in her sister States. Marshall himself, who was a logician of the highest order, but not so eloquent as Patrick Henry, yet by his powerful presentation of arguments in support of the power of taxation and of the Federal judicial system, led all the rest.
Under the Confederation, the War of the Revolution had been successfully waged and resulted in the treaty with Great Britain in 1783. The feebleness of the Confederation was soon demonstrated, and in its place the Constitution was ordained and established, in order to “form a more perfect Union.”
The revolution of arms had passed away and now a more peaceful and happy revolution had taken its place. This was the “formative period” of our republican government. Time does not permit me to refer in terms to the chaos which existed after the war under the old Articles of Confederation, nor the difficulties encountered by the Fathers of the Revolutionary and Constitutional age in constructing the marvelous machinery by which order was to be secured amid the then conflicting elements of government.
The Articles of Confederation was an agreement of expediency and temporary usefulness, and possessed none of the life and vigor of an efficient permanent govern