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He seemed destitute of those personal attributes which are often influential in the matter of professional employment and public preferment. When he first appeared in Richmond, to argue a cause, it is said that he wore a plain linen roundabout. He was somewhat careless and languid in his appearance and an amusing anecdote is related of the refusal of a litigant to employ Marshall because of his unprepossessing appearance, but engaged a venerable looking gentleman instead; but after he heard Marshall address the court in another case, and also his own counsel, he was so attracted by the ability displayed by Marshall that he at once employed him to assist the dignified gentleman to whom he had given the larger fee. As Chief Justice, indeed, there was very little in the outward appearance of Marshall to indicate his high office. This was doubtless due in some degree to the extreme modesty of his demeanor. In public he seemed never to be conscious of superiority of mind or of the fact that he occupied an exalted position. For many years before his withdrawal from the bar, the practice of Marshall was larger than that of any other Virginia lawyer; although his annual income from so extensive a business did not exceed probably five thousand dollars.
His professional career was frequently interrupted by the political exigencies of the times, which required him to represent the people in a public capacity. Office he never sought. Several of the stations filled by him were accepted at much inconvenience and only by reason of the urgent demands of an insistent constituency. His candidacy for Congress was strongly opposed to his inclinations and the result of the earnest solicitation of Washing
He served one term in Congress, represented his government as an envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to France, and while Secretary of State in the Cabinet of President Adams. was, on January 31, 1801, in his forty-sixth year, appointed to the office of Chief Justice, taking his seat on the fourth day of February.
As we are to invade the almost sacred precincts of his private life, and catch glimpses of the man in the more intimate relation
ships of family and friends, let me introduce him to you as they knew him. His figure was tall and slender, erect and steady, but not imposing nor altogether graceful. When he ascended to the dignity of Chief Justice, his hair was black; but later it took on the ripening gray of age. He wore his hair tied in a cue according to the custom of the times. He was usually referred to as “A plain man." His eyes were black and twinkling and always attracted one upon first meeting with him. Parton, in his life of Aaron Burr, speaks of them as the "finest ever seen," except Burr's; “large, black, and brilliant beyond description."
Harriet Martineau described him as she saw him near the close of his life in these words: "How delighted we were to see Judge Story bring in the tall, majestic, bright-eyed old man: old by chronology, by the lines on his composed face, and by his services to the Republic; but so dignified, so fresh, so present to the time, that no feeling of compassionate consideration for age dared to mix with the contemplation of him." And another has said of him that his countenance indicated "that simplicity of mind and benignity which so eminently distinguished his character."
He dressed simply but neat. I am inclined to believe that many of the descriptions of his attire are exaggerations. One informant states that he would wear a coat until it was threadbare without once having it brushed; and it has been quite customary with writers about Marshall to characterize him as careless in dress even to slovenliness. It is true that nothing could make him a fashionable man. The style of his garments were usually out of date as respects the decrees of fashion; but we have the word of a daughter-in-law that all who knew him best and saw him daily testified as to the neatness of his attire. His plain, simple and old-fashioned ideas in this regard, and his refusal to conform his apparel to that of other men about him, together with his modest. bearing, has served to bring down to us some amusing anecdotes. One morning he called upon a lady who had recently married his brother, but whom he had never met. She was expecting a visit from the butcher to look at a calf she wished to sell. The servant casually observing his appearance, being also unacquainted with
him, hastily deemed him unworthy to be ushered into the parlor, and his sister-in-law, being informed that a man was waiting at the door to see her, mistook him for the butcher, and ordered that he be conducted to the stable to see the calf. Mr. Marshall explained who he was, whereupon the lady, much mortified, at once invited him into the house. Another anecdote is quite familiar and I ought to apologize, perhaps, for repeating it. A young man lately removed to Richmond accosted a stranger at the entrance to the market as "old man" and inquired if he "would not like to make a nine pence by carrying a turkey home for him.” The stranger, being none other than the Chief Justice, took the turkey without a word, walked behind his youthful employer to the latter's gate. The young man, tossing a nine pence at his hireling, called out "catch." It was caught and pocketed; and as the "old man" passed on, a well known citizen who then came along deferentially raised his hat; the turkey buyer was led to inquire the name of "the shabby old fellow," and was quite confused to learn that he had been so patronizing to the great John Marshall.
It was, however, no unusual occurrence for that distinguished man to walk the streets from the market to his home with a turkey or other supplies for his table. It was then the custom, indeed, for gentlemen to attend personally to their own marketing; and it is said that "the Old Market on lower Main street in Richmond witnessed many friendly meetings each morning of solid men and echoed to much wise and witty talk. Behind each gentleman stood and walked a negro footman, bearing a big basket in which the morning purchases were deposited and taken home."
Judge Marshall on such occasions would chat with acquaintances in his usual happy manner; but in general carried his own basket, or if that carry-all had been forgotten, he would bestow his newly bought provisions about his person as seemed at the time most convenient. It is related that one morning in Christmas week the jurist was observed returning home, unconcernedly, with a huge turkey, legs tied together, hanging head downwards from one of his arms, while a brace of ducks dangled from the
other. A brown paper bundle, showing unmistakable signs of the beefsteak it enclosed, was in a coat-tail pocket, and festoons of "chitterlings" overflowed another.
He certainly paid some attention to the demands of his office in the way of dress, because as he informs his wife in 1825, he administered the oath of office to President John Quincy Adams, and was clad in a "new suit of domestic manufacture;" and he also informs his wife that the President was dressed in the same manner, though the cloth of the garments of the latter was, as he said, made at a different establishment. He adds, with some satisfaction, that "the cloth is very fine and smooth."
The official demands upon the duty of the Chief Justice being confined to the sessions of the Supreme Court at Washington, and looking after the circuit in Virginia and North Carolina, he had the privilege during much of the year of remaining at home. He owned a farm near Richmond, and was extremely fond of agriculture and well informed upon all matters pertaining to the successful cultivation of the Virginia soil. A fair share of his leisure from official duties was devoted to the farm; and he took especial delight in superintending its operation.
The house in which Marshall lived at Richmond was built by himself, and is still standing on the corner of Marshall and Ninth streets. It was a commodious structure, but modest in appearance and made no pretensions to architectural beauty. We are told that the exterior has never been remodeled, and but few changes have been made within. One writer has complained that this dwelling was constructed "hind-side before." "A handsome entrance hall and staircase, the balusters of which are of carved cherry, dark with age, are at the back opening toward the garden and domestic offices. Directly in front of this is the dining-room looking upon Marshall street. What was meant in the plan to be the back-door opens upon a porch upon the same thoroughfare. The general entrance for visitors is by a smaller door in the side street." In this home the Chief Justice was a most delightful host. Courteous and hospitable and a prince of entertainers, his house was always an attractive place for his friends. He cherished
the society of young people; and they were frequently guests in his home, his gentleness and generous conduct toward them inviting confidence and inspiring affectionate regard. Here, also, he and the wife he adored so profoundly, reared a family of six children, five sons and one daughter. They lost four others in childhood, which occasioned them much sorrow. Marshall was a kind and devoted father and deeply concerned in all that pertained to the welfare and happiness of his children.
In this home also he gave many large dinners to lawyers, which came to be quite celebrated among his friends and acquaintances. At those affairs there were usually not less than thirty members of the bar seated at the table, with the Chief Justice at the head. The table groaned with ample quantities of good things to eat, making of each repast an event long to be remembered; these, together with the "finest Maderia in the land," the witty remarks, the roars of laughter, as well as an abundance of wise conversation, served to add zest to the occasion, and withal they were quite grand and enjoyable affairs. Chief Justice Marshall was a social man, as well as a great jurist, and delighted in the companionship of congenial spirits. He had a jovial laugh, one which his friends liked immensely to hear-such a laugh as is never found in the possession of an intriguer. intriguer. It was the very antithesis of insincerity. His whole spirit abounded with buoyant good nature, and the tranquility of his temper, unflagging patience, generous disposition and never-failing courtesy rendered him equally agreeable in all the relations of his life; and particularly was he companionable in the retirement of his home and in the presence of intimate friends.
All his life the distinguished jurist keenly relished the game of quoits, then a popular out-door sport. He was one of the most popular and enthusiastic members, and skillful withal, of the Richmond Quoit Club, organized in 1778, and maintaining an active existence for more than forty years. The meetings of that club were held once every two weeks, during the spring and summer, about one mile from the city. The dinners served at such meetings were special features. They were served at half past twelve, and we are