The acme of judicial distinction means the ability to look a lawyer straight in the eyes for two hours and not hear a damned word he says.
Reportedly said to a young John Bannister Gibson, who later became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, when Gibson remarked that Marshall had reached the acme of judicial distinction; in David Goldsmith Loth, Chief Justice: John Marshall and the Growth of the Republic (1949), p. 275. See also Albert J. Beveridge, "Life of John Marshall" (1919).
We have no more right to decline the exercise of jurisdiction which is given, than to usurp that which is not given. The one or the other would be treason to the constitution.John Marshall
No one admires more than I do the extraordinary powers of Marshall's mind; no one respects more his amiable deportment in private life. He is the most unpretending and unassuming of men. His abilities and his virtues render him an ornament not only to Virginia, but to our nature.John Marshall
A constitution is framed for ages to come, and is designed to approach immortality as nearly as human institutions can approach it.John Marshall
The people made the Constitution , and the people can unmake it. It is the creature of their own will, and lives only by their will.John Marshall
It is the peculiar province of the legislature to prescribe general rules for the government of society; the application of those rules to individuals in society would seem to be the duty of other departments.John Marshall
Courts are the mere instruments of the law, and can will nothing. When they are said to exercise a discretion, it is a mere legal discretion, a discretion to be exercised in discerning the course prescribed by law; and, when that is discerned, it is the duty of the Court to follow it. Judicial power is never exericised for the purpose of giving effect to the will of the Judge; always for the purpose of giving effect to the will of the Legislature; or, in other words, to the will of the law.John Marshall
The law does not expect a man to be prepared to defend every act of his life which may be suddenly and without notice alleged against him.John Marshall
It is also not entirely unworthy of observation, that in declaring what shall be the supreme law of the land, the constitution itself is first mentioned; and not the laws of the United States generally, but those only which shall be made in pursuance of the constitution, have that rank. Thus, the particular phraseology of the constitution of the United States confirms and strengthens the principle, supposed to be essential to all written constitutions, that a law repugnant to the constitution is void; and that courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument.John Marshall
We must never forget that it is a constitution we are expounding.John Marshall
As men, whose intentions require no concealment, generally employ the words which most directly and aptly express the ideas they intend to convey, the enlightened patriots who framed our constitution, and the people who adopted it, must be understood to have employed words in their natural sense, and to have intended what they have said.John Marshall
My gift of John Marshall to the people of the United States was the proudest act of my life. There is no act of my life on which I reflect with more pleasure. I have given to my country a judge equal to a Hole, Holt, or a Mansfield.John Marshall
Certainly all those who have framed written constitutions contemplate them as forming the fundamental and paramount law of the nation, and consequently the theory of every such government must be, that an act of the legislature, repugnant to the constitution, is void.John Marshall
John Marshall has made his decision: now let him enforce it!John Marshall