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Publisher's Summary

The bitter and protracted struggle between President Thomas Jefferson and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall defined the basic constitutional relationship between the executive and judicial branches of government. More than 150 years later, their clashes still reverberate in constitutional debates and political battles.

In this dramatic and fully accessible account of these titans of the early republic and their fiercely held ideas, James F. Simon brings to life the early history of the nation and sheds new light on the highly charged battle to balance the powers of the federal government and the rights of the states. A fascinating look at two of the nation's greatest statesmen and shrewdest politicians, What Kind of Nation presents a cogent, unbiased assessment of their lasting impact on American government.

National Review's 100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Century.

©2003 James F. Simon (P)2003 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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Interesting but a bit too biased for me

This is the first book I listened to about Chief Justice John Marshall. Honestly, the second one I read, Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times
by Joel Richard Paul, was far superior.

The conflicting visions of Jefferson and Marshall vis a vis the shape of the United States is fascinating and key to understanding our history and our nation. Simon does a good job laying out a bit of biography of each, and then focusing on the rulings that highlighted their differences.

What I didn't like was that Simon often stated as fact the Jeffersonian view of Marshall, and Adams and the rest of the Federalists for that matter, without explaining the ideological context in which his opinion was formed. With such contentious material, historical, cultural and ideological context and background is really key to understanding both sides of the issues. Simon did not convince me that he was sharing the whole story.

All that being said, learning about John Marshall is absolutely worth it. I read this after reading McCullough's John Adams and Chernow's Hamilton, and am very glad I did. Although lay people (non-lawyers) may not know and appreciate Marshall's importance, it turns out that he had as much to do with shaping the United States as any founding father. But, I would recommend reading Without Precedent to learn about this fascinating, important and inspiring man.