James F. Simon makes an interesting statement in his book, "What Kind of Nation: Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and the Epic Struggle to Create a United States," Simon proclaims that the tension between Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall played a huge role in the shaping of our nation. Their clash was over states' rights versus a commanding federal government- a clash over the independence of the judiciary and the power of the president. According to Simon, this issue and Jefferson and Marshall's confrontation is one of the most decisive quarrels between a president and a chief justice in American history, as it defined basic constitutional principles that still surface today in debates over the role of the states and the Supreme Court in interpreting laws.
[...] One of those arguments can be seen in Simon's “What Kind of Nation.” The story and dialogue between Thomas Jefferson and Marshall is one of the founding principles of our country and helped to determine whether or not, and to what extent, the “United States” were one united entity or actual separate states. Marshall's victory came from his ability to glance ahead towards the nation's future and what the people wanted. Even after all was said and done between the two men, this question was still left unresolved and by the end of their rule both Marshal and Jefferson were uncertain, and somewhat pessimistic, about the survival of the union. [...]
[...] Before 1796, the year John Adams took office as president and Jefferson, his opponent and member of the competing political party, became his vice president, political parties did not hold the same significance as they do today. Serving as Adam's vice president, Republican Jefferson was defiant and publicly criticized Adams and his fellow Federalists. When Jefferson refused Adam's proposal to Jefferson to represent America on a diplomatic mission to France to discuss the Jay Treaty of 1794, Marshall was sent instead; and when Jefferson very publicly criticized Adams and George Washington in a published letter in which Jefferson categorized Washington with who were Samsons in the field and Solomons in the council, but who have had their heads shorn by the harlot England,” Marshall publicly stood by Adams and Washington, two people he held with great reverence (37). [...]
[...] He and his colleagues would have to operate in a hostile political environment in which both Jefferson and the Republic-controlled Congress were intensely suspicious of the Court and prepared, no one could doubt, to curb what authority the justices possessed” (151). So he tried to unite the Court with simple gestures such as wearing a simple black gown like the other justices. Almost immediately upon taking office, Jefferson fervently worked to repeal the Judiciary Act of 1801 and, more specifically, to challenge Adams' “midnight judges” (161). [...]
[...] The animosity between Jefferson and Marshall heightened when Marshall defended the legality of the act, despite the fact that he saw the prosecutions as mistakes. The trials were extremely biased and Chief Justice Chase did nothing to hide his preference towards the Federalists. The trials severely injured the integrity of the Court. As Simon put it, "The Federalists' pursuit of William Duane made them look oppressive and, ultimately, incompetent, when they failed to capture the elusive Republican editor. Though the Federalists did corner Thomas Cooper, their success only made a martyr of him. [...]
[...] Some argue that the Kentucky Resolution, and later the Virginia Resolution, can be seen as prerequisites to the Civil War because they proclaimed that the states held the higher authority when there were disputes with the federal government, but Simon claims that Jefferson was against secession and discouraged "distraught colleagues such as another states' rights advocate, Virginia's John Taylor, who had raised the possibility of Virginia's and North Carolina's withdrawing from the union in 1798" (60). Federalists, including Marshall, were not convinced, however, and believed that Jefferson and his fellow Republicans sought the destruction of the union. [...]
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