January 27 - John Marshall confirmed

January 27 - the confirmation of John Marshall

​John Adams leaves a legacy to the Supreme Court that is uniquely Not his own.

Chief Justice John Marshall is confirmed by the United States Senate.

More from John Adams:


Gentlemen of the Senate.                                     United States Jan 20th 1801.

I nominate John Marshall Secretary of State to be a Chief Justice of the United States in the place of John Jay who has declined his appointment

John Adams

​John Adams ​liked ​ John Marshall. ​​​ Both men studied the law. Both men leaned more towards the Federalist approach to a stronger, centralized government. When Adams was President and Marshall was in the House of Representatives, the latter defended the former's administration for extraditing a murder suspect to England. They might not have been on the same paragraph, but they were mostly on the same page. 

Once Adams realized the majority of his Cabinet was "under the influence" of his Federalist nemesis Alexander Hamilton, the President cleaned house. Timothy Pickering (State), Oliver Wolcott, Jr. (Treasury), and James McHenry (War) all were show the door. Marshall almost got the invite to replace McHenry, but Adams had a quick change of heart and offered him the Secretary of State post instead. Marshall had declined a few such offerings before, but this time he said yes.

As Adams' term of office was winding down, Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth rather abruptly had to step down because of his health. Adams decided to offer the first Chief Justice John Jay a chance to return to the bench, but to no one's great surprise, Jay declined. Asides from his health also being poor, Jay felt the Federal judiciary was a bit sickly as well, and thought he would not find satisfaction in that court again.

And as Adams described in the video above, Jay's refusal was brought to Adams - by Marshall. And the rest, in Adams' mind, was history.

Marshall left a legacy that made Adams proud - at least, he was proud of what he was alive to see. As Chief Justice, John Marshall not only strengthened decisions by issuing single majority opinions (rather than one from every judge), he also strengthened the Federal Judiciary's standing as an equal third branch of the government.

Particularly, in ​Marbury v. Madison​, ​Marshall was the first to deem an act of Congress unconstitutional (Judiciary Act of 1789), establishing the process of judicial review. This brought all three branches of government to the ability to check and balance. No small task, and as Adams advocated for three equal, separate branches in his ​Thoughts on Government​, it was no small joy to see his vision for government closer to fruition.

He expressed his pleasure in his nomination, years later, to the nominee himself:​​​

John ​Adams

to ​John ​Marshall,

​August ​17, 1825.

​There is no part of my Life that I look back upon with more pleasure, than the short time I spent with you—And it is the pride of my life that I have given to this nation a Chief Justice equal to Coke or Hale, Holt or Mansfield—

About the Author

The "founding father" of Historic Experience. Peyton is an actor-historian with over 15 years experience as a John Adams and Theodore Roosevelt interpreter, impersonator, speaker, or whatever descriptor speaks to you. Peyton Dixon is based in central New Jersey and travels across the country bringing American history to life.