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John Marshall’s greatness rests on a relatively small number of Supreme Court opinions, of which the most famous are Marbury v. Madison, McCulloch v. Maryland, and Gibbons v. Ogden. Beyond these are a number of less famous but also important cases, including his opinions in the Native American cases, Fletcher v. Peck, and Dartmouth College v. Woodward.
What makes Marshall a great Justice? One feature is certainly his institutional role in making the U.S. Supreme Court much more important to American politics than it had been previously. That is a function, however, of the sorts of cases that were brought before the Court, and of the opinions he chose to write. Marshall was also important as an early intellectual leader of the Court, as opposed to being merely its Chief Justice. That, too, is a function of the opinions he wrote.
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