John Marshall

Jean Edward Smith, Author Henry Holt & Company $35 (752p) ISBN 978-0-8050-1389-4
The most famous chief justice of the U. S. has been dead for 161 years, but his life and work continue to fascinate legal scholars, political scientists and biographers. Smith, a University of Toronto political scientist, is the most recent devotee. His endnotes and bibliography mention at least a dozen previous books about Marshall. It would be helpful to the lay reader if Smith explained why he believed another book, especially such a massive one, was needed. Like the recently published The Great Chief Justice: John Marshall and the Rule of Law by Charles F. Hobson (Forecasts, July 29), Smith's version of the life is both respectful and a revision of the revisionism. He acknowledges his debt to Hobson, editor of the Marshall papers, just as Hobson alerted readers to Smith's upcoming tome. While Hobson focused on Marshall's mind, Smith focuses on the externals of Marshall's life. This is essentially a chronological account of a life lived fully. There are few flourishes--for example, Marshall's death is handled matter-of-factly in two pages. The 151 pages of endnotes are frequently livelier, more interpretive and more informative than the matching portions of the text. The pedestrian nature of the text stems mainly from Smith's decision to let Marshall speak for himself. The biography is almost devoid of interpretation and speculation. Sound scholarship, yes; lively lifetelling, only occasionally. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/04/1996
Release date: 11/01/1996
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 800 pages - 978-0-8050-5510-8
Open Ebook - 752 pages - 978-1-4668-6231-9
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