American Minute with Bill Federer SEPT. 24 - 'The power to tax is the power to destroy'
American Minute with Bill Federer
SEPT. 24 - 'The power to tax is the power to destroy' -Chief Justice John Marshall
power to tax is the power to destroy," wrote John Marshall, 4th Chief
Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, who was born SEPTEMBER 24, 1755.
No one had a greater impact on Constitutional Law than John Marshall.
Home schooled as a youth, he served with the Culpeper Minutemen at the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
joined the Continental Army and served as a captain in Virginia
Regiment under General George Washington, enduring the freezing winter
at Valley Forge.
John Marshall later described George Washington:
"Without making ostentatious professions of religion, he was a sincere believer in the Christian faith, and a truly devout man."
John Marshall then studied law under Chancellor George Wythe at the College of William and Mary.
as a U.S. Congressman from Virginia, and became Secretary of State
under President John Adams, who then nominated him to the Supreme Court.
John Marshall swore in as Chief Justice on February 4, 1801, and served 34 years.
Every Supreme Court session opens with the invocation:
"God save the United States and this Honorable Court."
Marshall helped write over 1,000 decisions, usually favoring the
Federal Government, which put him at odds with President Thomas
Jefferson who championed State Governments.
John Marshall decided
in favor of the Cherokee Indian nation to stay in Georgia against the
Indian Removal Act of 1830, which was hurriedly pushed through Congress
by Democrat President Andrew Jackson.
John Marshall's decision, the Federal Government removed over 46,000
Native Americans from their homes and relocated them west, leaving
vacant 25 million acres open to the expansion of slavery.
Chief Justice John Marshall commented May 9, 1833, on the pamphlet The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United States written by Rev. Jasper Adams, President of the College of Charleston, South Carolina (The Papers of John Marshall, ed. Charles Hobson, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006, p, 278):
"No person, I believe, questions the importance of religion to the happiness of man even during his existence in this world...
The American population is entirely Christian, and with us, Christianity and religion are identified.
would be strange, indeed, if with such a people, our institutions did
not presuppose Christianity, and did not often refer to it, and express
relations with it."
According to tradition, the Liberty Bell cracked while tolling at John Marshall's funeral, July 8, 1835.
hundred years after John Marshall's death, the Supreme Court Building
was completed in 1935, with Herman A. MacNeil's marble relief above the
east portico featuring Moses with two stone tablets.
the Supreme Court chamber are Adolph A. Weinman's marble friezes
depicting lawgivers throughout history, including Moses holding the Ten
Commandments, and John Marshall.
A story was originally published in the Winchester Republican newspaper, and recounted in Henry Howe's Historical Collections of Virginia (Charleston, South Carolina, 1845, p. 275-276; Albert J. Beveridge, The Life of John Marshall, Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1919, Vol. 4, The Building of the Nation, 1815-1835):
is, too, a legend about an astonishing flash of eloquence from Marshall
- 'a streak of vivid lightning' - at a tavern, on the subject of
The impression said to have been made by Marshall on this occasion was heightened by his appearance when he arrived at the inn.
shafts of his ancient gig were broken and 'held together by switches
formed from the bark of a hickory sapling'; he was negligently dressed,
his knee buckles loosened.
In the tavern a discussion arose among some young men concerning 'the merits of the Christian religion.'
The debate grew warm and lasted 'from six o'clock until eleven.'
No one knew Marshall, who sat quietly listening.
Finally one of the youthful combatants turned to him and said:
'Well, my old gentleman, what think you of these things?'
Marshall responded with a 'most eloquent and unanswerable appeal.'
He talked for an hour, answering 'every argument urged against the teachings of Jesus.'
'In the whole lecture, there was so much simplicity and energy, pathos and sublimity, that not another word was uttered.'
The listeners wondered who the old man could be.
thought him a preacher; and great was their surprise when they learned
afterwards that he was the Chief Justice of the United States."
Albert J. Beveridge wrote in The Life of John Marshall (Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1919, Vol. IV, The Building of the Nation, 1815-1835, p. 70):
"John Marshall's daughter makes this statement regarding her father's religious views:
'He told me that he believed in the truth of the Christian Revelation...during the last months of his life he read Alexander Keith on Prophecy,
where our Saviour's divinity is incidentally treated, and was
convinced by this work, and the fuller investigation to which it led,
of the supreme divinity of our Saviour.
He determined to apply
to the communion of our Church, objecting to communion in private,
because he thought it his duty to make a public confession of the
Albert J. Beveridge continued in The Life of John Marshall (referencing Bishop William Meade's Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia, 2 Vols., Richmond, 1910, Vol. 2, p. 221-222):
attended (Episcopal) services. Bishop William Meade informs us, not
only because 'he was a sincere friend of religion,' but also because he
wished 'to set an example.'
The Bishop bears this testimony:
'I can never forget how he would prostrate his tall form before the
rude low benches, without backs, at Coolspring Meeting-House (Leeds
Parish, near Oakhill, Fauquier County) in the midst of his children and
grandchildren and his old neighbors.'
When in Richmond,
Marshall attended the Monumental Church where, says Bishop Meade, 'he
was much incommoded by the narrowness of the pews...
room enough for his whole body within the pew, he used to take his
seat nearest the door of the pew, and, throwing it open, let his legs
stretch a little into the aisle.'"
John F. Dillon wrote in John
Marshall-Life, Character and Judicial Services-As Portrayed in the
Centenary and Memorial Addresses and Proceedings Throughout the United
States on John Marshall Day, 1901 (Chicago: Callaghan & Company, 1903):
Marshall Day, February 4, 1901, was appropriately observed by
exercises held in the hall of the House of Representatives, and
attended by the President, the members of the Cabinet, the Justices of
the Supreme and District courts, the Senate and House of
Representatives, and the members of the Bar of the District of Columbia...
program, prepared by a Congressional committee acting in conjunction
with committees of the American Bar Association and the Bar Association
of this District, was characterized by a dignity and simplicity
befitting the life of the great Chief Justice..."
an invocation delivered by John Marshall's great-grandson, Rev. Dr.
William Strother Jones of Trenton, N.J., Chief Justice Fuller made
"The August Term of the year of our Lord
eighteen hundred of the Supreme Court of the United States had
adjourned at Philadelphia... However, it was not until Wednesday,
February 4th, when John Marshall...took his seat upon the Bench..."
U.S. Attorney General Wayne MacVeagh then stated:
"The centennial anniversary of the entrance by John Marshall into the office of Chief Justice of the United States...
his forming hand, instead of becoming a dissoluble confederacy of
discordant States, became a great and indissoluble nation, endowed
with...the divine purpose for the education of the world...securing to
the whole American continent 'government of the people, by the people,
and for the people'...
Venerating the Constitution...as 'a sacred
instrument'...we have lived to see...such generous measures of
political equality, of social freedom, and of physical comfort and
well-being as were never dreamed of on the earth before...
Let us, on this day of all days...acknowledge that nations cannot live by bread alone...
have heretofore cherished, the Christian ideal of true national
greatness; and our fidelity to that ideal, however imperfect it has
been, entitled us in some measure to the divine blessing, for having
offered an example to the world for more than an entire generation of
how a nation could marvelously increase in wealth and strength and all
material prosperity while living in peace with all mankind...
all believe that the true glory of America and her true mission in the
new century...is what a great prelate of the Catholic Church has
recently declared it to be: to stand fast by Christ and his Gospel; to
cultivate not the Moslem virtues of war, of slaughter, of rapine, and
of conquest, but the Christian virtues of self-denial and kindness and
Then we may some day hear the benediction:
'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren
ye have done it unto me'...
The true mission of nations as of men is to promote righteousness on earth...
taking abundant care that every human creature beneath her starry
flag, of every color and condition, is as secure of liberty, of justice
and of peace as in the Republic of God.
In cherishing these
aspirations...we are wholly in the spirit of the great Chief Justice;
and...so effectually honor his memory." (Dillon, Vol. 1, p. 7-42)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Horace Gray gave an address the same day in Virginia:
of the Bar of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and of the City of
Richmond: One hundred years ago today, the Supreme Court of the United
States, after sitting for a few years in Philadelphia, met for the first
time in Washington, the permanent capital of the Nation; and John
Marshall, a citizen of Virginia, having his home in Richmond, and a
member of this bar, took his seat as Chief Justice of the United
Chief Justice Marshall was a steadfast believer in the
truth of Christianity as revealed in the Bible. He was brought up in
the Episcopal Church; and Bishop Meade, who knew him well, tells us
that he was a constant and reverent worshipper in that church, and
contributed liberally to its support, although he never became a
All else that we know of his personal religion is
derived from the statements (as handed down by the good bishop) of a
daughter of the Chief Justice, who was much with him during the last
months of his life.
She said that her father told her he never
went to bed without concluding his prayer by repeating the Lord's
Prayer and the verse beginning, 'Now I lay me down to sleep,' which his
mother had taught him when he was a child;
and that the reason
why he had never been a communicant was that it was but recently that
he had become fully convinced of the divinity of Christ, and he then
'determined to apply for admission to the communion of our church
objected to commune in private, because he thought it his duty to make a
public confession of the Saviour and, while waiting for improved
health to enable him to go to the church for that purpose, he grew
worse and died, without ever communing.'" (Dillon, Vol. 1, p. 42, 47,
New Hampshire Supreme Court Judge Jeremiah Smith gave an address:
this brings us to what is...the great distinguishing feature in
Marshall s life; the real secret of his extraordinary success...that is
his high personal character...
John Marshall was pre-eminently
single minded. His whole life was pervaded by an overpowering sense of
duty and by strong religious principle. A firm believer in the
Christian religion, his life was in accord with his belief." (Dillon,
Vol. 1, p. 162)
Charles E. Perkins, nephew of Harriet Beecher Stowe and President of the Connecticut Bar Association stated:
a man, Marshall appears to have been as near perfection in
disposition, habits, and conduct as it is possible for a mortal man to
be...He had no vices and, I may almost say, no weaknesses.
In spite of his eminent talents, his high positions, and his great reputation, there was no tinge of conceit...
His charities were constant and great. He bore no malice toward those who offended or injured him.
He was a sincere Christian and believed in and obeyed the commands of the Bible." (Dillon, Vol. 1, p. 330)
U.S. Rep. William Bourke Cockran addressed the Erie County Bar Association, Buffalo, New York:
from the establishment of Christianity, the foundation of this
republic was the most memorable event in the history of man...
if the foundation of this government be the most momentous human
achievement of all the centuries, then clearly the appointment of John
Marshall to the Chief Justiceship of the United States was the first
event of the last century no less in the magnitude of its importance
than in the order of its occurrence." (Dillon, Vol. 1, p. 404-405)
U.S. Senator and former Maryland Governor William Pinkney Whyte stated:
you not call a man religious who said the Lord's Prayer every day?
And the prayer he learned at his mother's knee went down with him to
He was a constant and liberal contributor to the support of the Episcopal Church.
never doubted the fact of the Christian revelation, but he was not
convinced of the fact of the divinity of Christ till late in life.
after refusing privately to commune, he expressed a desire to do so
publicly, and was ready and willing to do so when opportunity should be
had. The circumstances of his death only forbade it...
never professedly Unitarian, and he had no place in his heart for
either an ancient or a modern agnosticism." (Dillon, Vol. 2, p. 2-3)
U.S. Rep. Horace Binney of Pennsylvania stated that Marshall:
"...was a Christian, believed in the gospel, and practiced its tenets." (Dillon, Vol. 3, p. 325)
Nathan Sargent, former Commissioner of Customs, wrote in Public Men and Events from 1817 to 1853
(Philadelphia, 1875, Vol. 1, p. 299), that Marshall's "name has
become a household word with the American people implying greatness,
purity, honesty, and all the Christian virtues."