The Concept of Statesmanship in John Marshall’s Life of George Washington

Content Type
Journal Article
Issue Number
Publication Date
The Center for the Study of Statesmanship, Catholic University
By any conventional measure, Chief Justice John Marshall’s Life of George Washington (1804) was a flop. Intended to be the authoritative biography of the nation’s most celebrated general and president, the work was widely derided at the time of its overdue publication, and since then has been largely forgotten. Surely the sense of personal embarrassment Marshall experienced must have been keen, for he admired no public figure more than Washington. Amid his Supreme Court duties, he labored for years on the Life, digging deep into American military and political history in hopes of etching in the minds of his fellow citizens the memory of the republic’s foremost founder. Yet in spite of his efforts, on no other occasion were Marshall’s failures more total and public. At one point, Marshall expressed the desire to publish the work anonymously, and one wonders if his wish was motivated less by self-effacement than a faint premonition of the biography’s failure.
Law, Military Affairs, Domestic politics, Supreme Court
Political Geography
United States