The New Republican Nationalism

Chief Justice John Marshall of the Supreme Court of the United States. By: Cephas Thompson.

John Marshall would serve as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835 and had a lasting impact on the institution. More broadly, he shaped the development of policy in America.

While Federalists and their ideology were withering away after the turn of the 19th Century, Chief Justice Marshall was preserving their legacy “through his jurisprudence.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 121. While on the bench, “[h]e believed in the supremacy of reason over passion, the general welfare over parties and factions, the national government over the states, and the wise, virtuous gentry over the mob.” Id.

Further, Associate Justice Joseph Story also contributed to the sense of nationalism that Chief Justice Marshall had instilled in the early American jurisprudence emanating from the United States Supreme Court. In the 1816 case Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, Justice Story published an opinion that explained the “necessity and constitutionality of a single ultimate interpreter of the law,” the Supreme Court. Id. at 123 citing Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, 14 U.S. 304 (1816). In effect, this meant that a case that had been appealed to any state’s highest court could then be appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 124.

Justice Story’s opinion “echoed the new Republican nationalism” that was emerging in American society and whose most vocal politicians were John Calhoun and Henry Clay. See id.

There would be different kinds of nationalism that emerged after the War of 1812 and as President Monroe’s Era of Good Feelings came to a close. Id. While there was a judicial nationalism of Chief Justice Marshall and Justice Story, that “endorsed the legislative nationalist program of banking and internal improvements,” there was another kind of nationalism, embodied by Andrew Jackson that embraced “territorial expansion, that embraced the strict constructionism of Spencer Roane.” Id.

These different senses of nationalism would manifest themselves in the split of the Republican Party into the modern Democratic Party and the Whig Party. These early years of nationalistic fervor are notable for that ultimate manifestation in creating new political parties but also because the judiciary became an institution that could transform and shape political developments. No longer would the general population or politicians be the only influence in the direction of the creation of political momentum.

In that sense, Chief Justice Marshall’s accomplishment of creating judicial review and implementing it for the Supreme Court would only be bested by his influence in continuing the Federalist ideology well into the 19th Century, which would ultimately lead to the creation of the fracturing of the Republican Party.

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