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warmest admirer would not claim; but the constantly diminishing number of his critics and the diminishing number of their followers sufficiently attest the fact that his immense fame as a judge is well founded and imperishable. No other judge had so many things to do; no other did them so well.
Marshall from his youth up was a man of studious habits, and of indefatigable industry; but in addition to these he had what few men ever possessed, a genius for the law as distinct as that of Napoleon for war. In that specialty he was thoroughly at home; and within its limits he is conspicuously pre-eminent. His colleague, Judge Story, was more learned than he; but Story himself was always the first to admit the superiority of Marshall; a remarkable instance, because very learned men are apt to overvalue their special attainments, and to undervalue the qualifications of those of inferior acquirements, though possessed of greater native ability. There was a natural modesty about Marshall that disarmed rivalry; but it is but just to say that this lofty appreciation of his colleague of itself indicates unusual elevation and nobility of character on the part of Judge Story. Indeed the close friendship that subsisted between these two great judges, which was only dissolved by death, is one of the most admirable episodes to be found in the history of our country.
Marshall possessed in an eminent degree the most essential qualities that go to the making of a judge. He was a thoroughly pure man; sincere, upright and conscientious, with a strong and wholesome sense of what is right and what is wrong. He possessed also a happy and well poised judicial temperament, with that fearlessness and independence of character that enables one to perform his duty as God gives him grace to see it without regard to praise or blame. Living in tumultuous times he was often censured and maligned; but as the needle of the compass in the middle of the ship still points unerringly toward the polar star, regardless of wind or wave, so no amount of clamor, or censure, or applause could induce him to diverge a hair's breadth from what, with coolest and most dispassionate judgment, he deemed to be the line of duty. No judge was ever endowed with a clearer vision of the most complex problems that can be presented by the endless combinations of human affairs. He possessed a most remarkable faculty of separating the relevant from the greatest mass of distracting and misleading matter, and of going straight to the heart of every controversy. In the clearness and lucidity of statement which leaves nothing upon which to hang a doubt he was probably never excelled. In this respect his opinions are models for all time. He did not sow them thick with multitudinous citations; and when he has recited the facts and has declared the law we feel that he has made everything so clear that a reference to numerous authorities would be superfluous. But it must not be supposed that because he avoided a needless display of learning Marshall did not examine attentively all of the sources of legal knowledge before making up his judgments. No man was more untiring in his investigations, or more unflagging in his researches; hence it is very dangerous to take it for granted that any opinion of his is not based on the most exhaustive inquiry as to former precedents. That very able and discriminating jurist, Mr. Hare, in his note to the opinion delivered by C. J. Marshall in Field vs. Holland, says rather sarcastically: “Mr. Justice Cowen, in Pattison vs. Hall, had satisfied himself that he had consigned to insignificance this conclusive authority by observing that in this case the books do not appear to have been consulted. It should be remembered, however, that there are some judges who consult more books than they quote, as there are others who quote more books than they understand.”
One striking quality to be noticed in the opinions of Marshall is the sparing use that he makes of analogies. No one knew better that though analogies are often very striking, they are in general extremely prone to deceive and mislead. With his close reasoning, his masterly and convincing logic, he had no need of such adventitious aid. Fixing his gaze searchingly on the law and the facts of the case in hand, he was able to reach satisfactory conclusions without invoking similitudes which might be only casual or incidental; and it is largely for this reason that we do not find in his long succession of adjudications those discrepancies and seeming contradictions that sometimes mar the decisions of judges not undistinguished for learning or for ability.
It has been said of some artists that by continually retouching and by overelaboration they deprived their works of originality, and divested them of that individual stamp that constituted their chief merit. No such charge could be laid at the door of Marshall. He never attempted to embellish his opinions by fine writing, or by showy declamation, nor to exhaust his subject down to the last word or syllable. It was said by a great master of the art of expression that the style is the man; and the saying is certainly true of Marshall. His character was of Doric simplicity ; and his style is more remarkable for its strength and unmistakable clearness of outline than for any other quality. From the first opinion that he delivered in the prime of his manhood down to the last that he delivered when he was an old man eighty years of age, we perceive the same clear and steady light illuminating everywhere the wide and varied fields of jurisprudence. If the quality of his work has a uniform excellence its scope is immense; and it remains for us and for those who are to come after us, an invaluable inheritance forever. Generations hence, when, after a thousand vicissitudes, the face of the earth shall have been changed and renewed, and when the social and national life shall have been modified by a thousand influences of which we can have no conception, his name will be as a beacon to guide, to guard and preserve. Had he written no opinions save those explanatory of the principles of constitutional law, they would be remembered and studied as long as the science of government is cultivated; but his labors were not confined to these; and there is no domain of the law that he has not enriched with the inexhaustible treasures of his genius.
It is no impeachment of the glory and renown of the greatest of the Roman jurists, or of the most illustrious of the judges of England, to say that in magnitude and importance his works far transcend their united achievements. Like them he sounded all of the depths of the law; but while they expanded and ameliorated the wide circle of existing systems of jurisprudence, a task in which he proved not inferior to any of them, his duties called him beyond into the virgin fields of constitutional law, where mere precedents could not avail, and where all of the resources of wise, prudent and discerning statesmanship were indispensable requisites. As a member
a of the Convention of Virginia, and during his brief career in Congress, Marshall exhibited all of the talents of the statesman, as well as those of the most accomplished debater. If during his term as Chief Justice he could also have had a seat in the Senate, as Mansfield and Camden had in the House of Lords, his influence in the legislative department would probably have been weightier and more decisive than theirs. But the qualities that would have enabled him to achieve other triumphs were not left to rust unused; for in the unexampled condition in which the new government was placed, the construction of the Constitution demanded of the court over which he presided all of the knowledge and all of the ability which the most perplexing emer
gencies could exact from the rulers of nations. Here it was that he vindicated his claim to be considered not only as a great judge, but as a statesman on a level with the highest and the most accomplished that the world has seen; with such men as Madison and Hamilton, whose labors he was destined to continue and to perfect. He built on the foundations that they had laid; but with such masterly ability that no seam or fissure in the completed structure betrays any want of proportion or of harmony, or any disparity in the workmanship. In view of his double fame as a jurist and as a statesman, crowning the labors of a lifetime, John Marshall occupies a position on the page of history, and in the realm of thought, that is solitary and unique.
His contemporaries have handed down to us many pleasant anecdotes illustrative of the unaffected simplicity and affability of manners of this great judge; of his gentleness of demeanor, his kindly consideration for the poor, the humble, and the offending; his sincerity, his unsuspecting and guileless nature, his freedom from envy and hatred and jealousy; a thousand virtues that endeared him to all who knew him, and bound his friends to him with hooks of steel. Perhaps it was not quite unfit that at last, when his career was done, he should die within sound of the old liberty bell that had first proclaimed the birth of a nation on the shores of the western world, and in sight of that hall, sacred to the most inspiring memories, where, under the presiding genius of Washington, had been framed that Constitution which he had so long and so ably expounded. In that fatal hour, when the world receded from his view, he could look back without regret over a well spent life; a life full of labor and high endeavor, bathed in the
"Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.”
Old Ennius, the father of Latin poetry, expressed the