John Marshall and International Law: Statesman and Chief Justice

Document Type


Publication Date



John Marshall became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1801 at the age of forty-six. During his thirty-five year tenure (1801-1835), he wrote opinions in approximately eighty cases involving international law. Unquestionably until eight years before his appointment, Marshall's view of the world was largely insular. Only in 1793 did he begin to focus on international problems and to work towards resolving them through the application of international law. Most scholars who have considered the question contend that Marshall learned international law from counsel's arguments in cases which came before the Court and that his decisions reflect primarily on-the-job training. However, a close analysis of his experiences between 1793 and 1801, considered in relation to his decisions on international law while on the Court, reveals not only that he was schooled intensively in international law before he became Chief Justice, but also that he later applied the principles learned during his earlier experiences.


Originally published by Greenwood Press in 1991.