What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation


The Chief Justice Who Elevated the Supreme Court Into a Co-Equal Branch of Government

Before John Marshall, the Court Had Been a Constitutional Afterthought

The Court is now in session: Chief Justice John Marshall. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By Joel Richard Paul

No one in the founding generation left a more lasting imprint on American government and law than Chief Justice John Marshall.

We remember Washington’s leadership, Jefferson’s eloquence, and Franklin’s wit, but Marshall breathed life into the Constitution, elevated the judiciary, and defended the federal government’s power over feuding states. The power of judicial review and the corresponding principle that courts should not interfere with political judgments are just two of the many doctrines that Marshall wove into our constitution.

How …


How Alexander Hamilton Fought the Tyranny of the Majority

By Shielding British Loyalists From Persecution, the Founder Elevated Principles Over Prejudice

Statue of Alexander Hamilton, U.S. Treasury Building, Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By Kate Elizabeth Brown

The struggles of America’s cultural outsiders to be included in the country—in the face of disparagement, exclusion, or punishment—are as old as the nation. And, as Alexander Hamilton discovered in the 1770s and 1780s, they cut to the core of what it means to be American.

Before Hamilton reached his political apotheosis in George Washington’s cabinet, he immigrated to the mainland North American colonies from Nevis, an island in the British West Indies. Like his contemporaries Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton …