• John Marshall

  • The Chief Justice Who Saved the Nation
  • By: Harlow Giles Unger
  • Narrated by: Robert Fass
  • Length: 11 hrs and 8 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (399 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A soul-stirring biography of John Marshall, the young Republic's great chief justice who led the Supreme Court to power and brought law and order to the nation.

In the political turmoil that convulsed America after George Washington's death, the surviving Founding Fathers went mad - literally pummeling each other in Congress and challenging one another to deadly duels in their quest for power. Out of the political intrigue, one man emerged to restore calm and dignity to the government: John Marshall. The longest-serving chief justice in American history, Marshall transformed the Supreme Court from an irrelevant appeals court into the powerful and controversial branch of government that Americans today either revere or despise.

Drawing on rare documents, Harlow Giles Unger shows how, with nine key decisions, Marshall rewrote the Constitution, reshaped government, and prevented Thomas Jefferson from turning tyrant. John Adamscalled his appointment of Marshall to chief justice his greatest gift to the nation and "the pride of my life".

©2014 Harlow Giles Unger (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about John Marshall

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History Alive

Riveting , and fast moving account of history, that one is not able to set down book until finished reading it.

7 people found this helpful

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John Marshall

A few years ago I visited John Marshall’s home in Richmond Va. I must admit I knew very little about his importance in American History and his relationship to the founding fathers. The Union was in danger of splitting from the outset and John Marshall helped keep it together. I loved this book.

5 people found this helpful

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the life and times of John Marshall

the book was good but it's more a book of the life and time of John Marshall. less than half the book talks about his time on the supreme court. very little of which is focused on the major cases he heard. rather the book is mostly about the founding of America and her earlier wars. while Marshall was a part of this he was not directly involved in much of what happens in the book. if your interested in his time on the bench this isn't the book for you.

10 people found this helpful

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Author sounds biased

I don't know how of the history expressed is accurate or not, but the language and tone of the book seen less scholarly than someone like McCullough. As a result, I'm questioning the veracity of the story in a way I've not done for over 200 other audio books.

2 people found this helpful

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invaluable information!

I loved this book. I didn't know a lot about John Marshall before I began to listen to this book, but I grew in my appreciation for his Solomon-like wisdom and the contribution he made to the formation of our country. I especially enjoyed the background to the early events of our country's history and the details of relationships between the founding fathers that I didn't know before. This was a truly enjoyable story that everyone should hear. This is the second book I've read by Harlow Unger, but it certainly won't be the last!

2 people found this helpful

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Sufficiently detailed and very interesting

Very interesting look at an incredible American. Pretty amazing the impact just one man can have. Not a very flattering look at Thomas Jefferson though.

2 people found this helpful

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Thank Goodness for John Marshall

H.G Unger has given John Marshall the light he so well deserves. Marshall was a devoted husband and father, a lawyer, a Revolutionary War hero, a diplomat and among the founders of the country. AND THAT was only during the first half of his life. That last 35 years was spent inventing how the Supreme Court should and would function in a democracy with three equal branches of government.

Few know how disruptive and contrary Thomas Jefferson was toward the federal judiciary. He did all he could (mostly duplicitously) to marginalize it and even eliminate it. Imagine. Had it not been for Marshall, Jefferson may have succeeded.

This book is the story of John Marshall, who he was and how he became such a force in American history. It's well written with excellent details, lots of characters and some thrilling exposés. The performance is excellent. For the American history buff, a must..

2 people found this helpful

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A decent bio burdened with overwrought language.

A decent bio burdened with overwrought language and lackluater analysis.

Unger's 2014 bio of John Marshall does an admirable job of humanizing a figure most Americans know only for his aloof position as the longest serving Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the opinions attributed him and the Court. Unger doestn ignore this (how could he?) but devotes a substsntial amount of his time to Marshall's time as a Revolutionary War Soldier, prominent Virginia politician, and father/husband.

While the book excels there, it falters in describing the political world Marshall was a part of. It's no secret that the early years of the America were filled with "heated" rhetoric. You couldn't turn your head without somebody accusing somebody else of being a monarchies, francophile, or doing something that would lead to dissolution of the union and civil war.

While that rhetoric was and has always been a part of the fabric of American political discourse, Unger seems to rely solely on the most heated excerpts from speeches/letters at every turn.

The effect of this is Unger describing darn near everything as a potential or actual "coup d'etat" - the phrase appears SEVERAL times. While Unger seems to mean this as various branches of govt and individuals asserting powers not clearly granted them under the Constitution (a very interesting topic by itself as the nation struggled with itself as to what this new controlling document meant), he never really analyzes it from that perspective.

Instead, it's selective overheated quotations that only the calm and measured Marshall can navigate and prevent conflict/civil war. This is the other major fault with Unger's work, he has a strong tendency to become far too enamored with his subject and drift into hagiography.

Overall, the heated rhetoric without adequate analysis makes for some fun reading but keeps this bio from becoming more than an enjoyable pulp diversion.

1 person found this helpful

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Fascinating

I enjoyed the fascinating history of the early founding and defining of our country. It's amazing how close we came to not remaining a nation very early in our history.

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  • JG
  • 05-28-22

Historically inaccurate and extremely biased

This book is riddled with historical inaccuracies and spends more time bashing Jefferson (and praising Burr?) than it does saying anything about Marshall. A wasted opportunity by the author, and a waste of the reader's time.

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  • Y. E. Kling
  • 12-11-21

engaging and informative

really enjoyed. as I have not grown up in the US it presented an interesting and informative view that was not covered in schoole ... but should be.

recommend the book and the reader
Eli

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  • Mrs. G. Moynihan
  • 09-12-21

An interesting account of early US political & legal machinations

I had little knowledge of the early formative days and years in US independent history, until I listened to this book. It’s a very thorough and well compiled account of what was apparently a very fragile political structure that came close to collapse in a number of occasions, even before the civil war ripped the junior world state apart.