John Marshall, the fourth chief justice of the United States, was born in Germantown, Va., 260 years ago, on Sept. 24, 1755.
Though known primarily for his service on the Supreme Court, Marshall also served as a congressional representative for a little more than a year (1799-1800) and as secretary of state for a little less than a year (1800-01).
After serving in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, Marshall studied at the College of William and Mary, and was admitted to the bar in 1780.
He established a private law practice but also entered politics, serving in the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia General Assembly. George Washington offered Marshall the position of attorney general (which he declined) in 1795.
Following Washington’s death in 1799, Marshall wrote a biography of the president; the first of the five volumes was published in 1804.
As the nation’s longest serving chief justice, Marshall administered the oath of office to five presidents: Thomas Jefferson (1801 and 1805), James Madison (1809 and 1813), James Monroe (1817 and 1821), John Quincy Adams (1825), and Andrew Jackson (1829 and 1833).
Marshall is widely respected for guiding the Supreme Court during its early years, shaping it as a stronger voice within the U.S. government, and as a power that could overturn state court rulings that conflict with the U.S. Constitution.
Marshall first appeared on a U.S. stamp in 1894, on the $5 green stamp from the first issue of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (Scott 263).
He has been honored on other definitive stamps over the years, and on a 25¢ Supreme Court commemorative stamp in 1990 (Scott 2415).