I picked this book up recently and thought it would be worth recommending to CW readers. The Great Decision: Jefforson, Adams, Marshall and the Battle for the Supreme Court is an eminently readable and well-written work that lays out the story surrounding the famous "Marbury v. Madison" case that established the concept of judicial review in 1803.
I'm a big fan of "history is the story of the people who made it" view of history, and this work doesn't disappoint. The authors are successful in bringing all the major players to life--Thomas Jefferson is especially well covered here. As a UVA grad, I'm supposed to get all weepy and genuflect whenever Thomas Jefferson is named--but the more I learn of him, the more smarmy and sneaky he becomes.
Chief Justice John Marshall comes out of this treatment remarkably well, the kind of guy you'd want to have a beer with (something with which he was ENTIRELY familiar).
I first learned about Marbury v. Madison in high school, but all I retained was the Cliff's Notes version--Marbury was appointed by Adams (signed and sealed commission) to a Justice of the Peace position in the District of Columbia, Jefferson caused the commission not to be delivered, Marbury sued the responsible officer (Secretary of State James Madison). I'd always known that Marbury sort of won his suit, and I'd always known that the case created judicial review of Congressional acts. What I didn't know was the pure tactical genius in Marshall's reasoning of the verdict. I won't spoil it here for any of you who choose to read it, but if you come away unimpressed with Marshall as a jurist, then there's just no satisfying you.
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