Young Federalist: The Influence of John Marshall's Early Life on Marbury V. Madison

Open Access
Canavan, Francis Joseph
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Annie Rose, Thesis Supervisor
  • Michael Milligan, Honors Advisor
  • John Marshall
Influential scholarly analyses of Chief Justice John Marshall’s opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison (1803) tend to focus on the immediate politics of the time, with a lack of emphasis on earlier developments in the life of Marshall. This study seeks to trace the growth of Marshall’s Federalist ideology long before the formal establishment of the political party to which he declared his allegiance. The influence of his father, his experience in the Revolutionary War, and his service in Virginia state government all powerfully shaped Marshall. The principle of judicial review stated by the Supreme Court in Marbury had already been developed in Marshall’s mind decades prior. Historians have long argued about whether a partisan motivation existed for the Supreme Court’s decision in Marbury; however, significant attention has not been directed towards what can be seen as parallels between the formative years of Marshall and his opinion written in 1803. Marshall’s decision in Marbury was the product of an early life typified by tireless advocacy in favor of the policies put forth by his ideological counterparts in favor of a stronger central government.