John Marshall’s Ruling in Protecting Contract Sanctity and Today’s Influence
John Marshall: Early Decisions Influencing Today
How can the basic principles of one man be guidelines in the Supreme Court’s major ruling decisions? John Marshall, a man with no formal college education, was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Under his authority the Supreme Court established many of the most fundamental principles of American Constitutional law. Marshall’s basic principles of protecting the sanctity of contracts, strengthening the federal government, and protecting free enterprise from state control are seen established in many of the cases in which he ruled.
One of John Marshall’s motives was to protect the sanctity of contracts. Such principle is seen in the case of Dartmouth College vs. Woodward in 1819. In that case, the state of New Hampshire sought to take control over the private institution of Dartmouth College, for it was established by the charter of which their former ruler King George signed. The Supreme Court, however, ruled that that charters are legal contracts and therefore inviolable. As he said, it “enables a corporation to manage its own affairs and to hold property”. John Marshall also stated that “it is a contract for the security and disposition of property”. Thus, John Marshall’s protection of the sanctity of contracts was enforced through the Dartmouth College vs. Woodward case as he secured the charter written for the college.
Chief Justice John Marshall was also guided by his principle of strengthening the federal government. In the case of Marbury vs. Madison in 1803, in which Madison refused to deliver federal-appointed Justice of the Peace, William Marbury’s, commission was not delivered, Marshall claimed the “powers of the Legislature are defined and limited”. In this statement, he enforces his idea that court has the power to review acts, thus, strengthening the national government at the expense of state legislatures. Additionally, in the United States vs. Peters case of 1809, Marshall proclaimed, “legislature of a state cannot annul the judgments, nor determine the jurisdiction, of the courts of the United States”. There, John Marshall again established the principle that the Supreme Court has final jurisdiction, not state legislatures. Consequently, the federal government is responsible for final decisions.
Lastly, John Marshall’s ruling were guided by the principle of protecting free enterprise from state control. For instance, in the McCulloch vs. Maryland case in 1819, the state of Maryland sought to tax the Bank of the United States, which of course did not want to pay the tax. In his ruling, Marshall stated, “the power delegated to the State sovereignties were to be exercised by themselves, not by a distinct and independent sovereignty created by themselves”. In that trial, Marshall did not appeal to the idea that a state tax a national institution. In addition, in the Gibbons vs. Ogden case of 1921, where new York attempted to regulate interstate commerce in the Hudson River, Marshall ruled, “ the power to regulate commerce…is exclusively bested in Congress, and no part of it can be exercised by a state”. Therefore, John Marshall enforced his principle of protecting free enterprise from state control.
Chief justice John marshall stood very firm in his rulings, doing so according to his guiding principles. Among them were the protection of the sanctity of contracts, strengthening of the federal government, and protection of free enterprise from state control. All have been fundamental motives that even now the Supreme Court is guided by. Such was the influence of the man named John Marshall. A man who did not even have formal college education.