To the writer’s mind the most perfect specimen of the American lawyer known to our history was JOHN MARSHALL, of Virginia, Chief Justice of the United States. Profoundly learned in the law, irresistible in argument, and possessed of an eloquence which drew men in throngs to listen to him, he was also the soul of honor. Neither in his private nor professional life could the most malicious find an action open to reproach. Simple and earnest as a child, he was yet a tower of strength to the cause of justice. Occupying the highest place in our judiciary system, he was never unduly elated by his honors, and while gaining and awarding fortunes in the discharge of his professional duties, he was himself so true a man that the most brazen suitor would not have dared to offer him a bribe. He was in all things the simple, honest gentleman, the fearless advocate, the just judge, and the meek and earnest follower of his Saviour. Although belonging to a past generation, his story is presented here because I wish to offer to those who seek to follow him in his noble calling the purest and highest model our history affords.
John Marshall was born in Fauquier County, Virginia, on the 24th of September, 1755. He was the oldest of a family of fifteen children, and was the son of Colonel Thomas Marshall, a planter of moderate fortune. During the Revolution, Colonel Marshall commanded a regiment of Virginia troops, and won considerable distinction at the battles of the Great Bridge, Germantown, Brandywine, and Monmouth. At the Brandywine the regiment bore the brunt of the attack of the British army, led by Cornwallis in person.