John Marshall: Patriot, Statesman, Chief Justice

Get to know Chief Justice John Marshall, a hero of the U.S. Constitution. Explore Marshall's character, constitutional legacy, and the influential roles he played in the early Republic. 

John Marshall: Patriot, Statesman, Chief Justice explores the influential career of John Marshall during the early years of a new nation. Visitors will learn about Marshall’s experience as a soldier in the American Revolution, his early career as a leading lawyer in Virginia, including his role as a key supporter of the U.S. Constitution during the Virginia ratifying convention. Marshall’s career in national politics is highlighted as well, showcasing his tenure in the House of Representatives and his service as President Adams’s secretary of state. The exhibit also traces Marshall’s constitutional legacy as our nation’s fourth chief justice. This includes landmark decisions such as Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland, his rivalry with President Thomas Jefferson and other Democratic-Republicans, and his efforts to forge bipartisan consensus and unanimity on the early Supreme Court.

The exhibit showcases nearly 30 historic documents and rare artifacts, including Marshall’s traveling desk from the 1797 XYZ Affair (Preservation Virginia), his spectacles (Preservation Virginia), John Adams’s nomination of Marshall as chief justice (National Archives), an 1831 portrait of Marshall by Henry Inman (Philadelphia Bar Association), and an autobiographical letter written by Marshall in 1827 (William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan).


Also displayed in John Marshall: Patriot, Statesman, Chief Justice:

  • Marshall’s law notebook with doodles of his future wife’s name (College of William & Mary)
  • Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Marshall showing their strained relationship (Preservation Virginia)
  • Letter from Marshall to Alexander Hamilton regarding the election of 1800 (Library of Congress)
  • Letter written by James Madison criticizing the McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) decision (The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History)
  • Supreme Court decree in Gibbons v. Ogden (1824) (National Archives)
  • Marshall’s military pension application (National Archives)


John Marshall: Patriot, Statesman, Chief Justice is presented in partnership with The John Marshall Foundation.

Lead sponsors for the exhibit are: Bank of America, Cozen O’Connor, Pepper Hamilton LLP, and The Philadelphia Contributionship. Additional sponsors are: Pennsylvania Bar Association and Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Commission on Judicial Independence. The National Constitution Center and The John Marshall Foundation are grateful for these sponsorships.

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