“John Marshall”


"We're glad to see you, John Marshall, my boy, So fresh from the chisel of Rogers. Go take your stand on the monument there Along with the other old codgers." The singer tells Marshall of all that has gone wrong since his death.


This song came out of the post-Civil War reconstruction of Virginia, when the southern states were still treated as occupied territory. The song portrays a state held in subjection, against what the singer views as the requirements of the constitution.

In defense of the Radical Republicans -- who put Virginia in this suppressed condition -- it should be pointed out that their view was that the Confederate states, by withdrawing from the Union, had committed governmental suicide and had therefore to be recreated.

John Marshall (1755-1835), of Virginia, was not the first Chief Justice of the United States, but he was the first great head of the judiciary. At the very beginning of his term (1803, in the case "Marbury vs. Madison") he established the principle of "judicial review," i.e. that the Supreme Court was the ultimate guardian and interpreter of the Constitution. Although not explicit in the Constitution, this capacity is one of the chief regulators of the U.S. balance of power. - RBW

Historical references

  • 1801-1835 - John Marshall serves as Chief Justice of the United States


  1. Randolph 236, "John Marshall" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Roud #7709
  3. BI, R236


Author: Innes Randolph?
Earliest date: 1941 (Randolph)
Keywords: America judge political
Found in: US(So)