ACF Founders Series #3: John Marshall


Historian Richard Brookhiser returns to the podcast for our third conversation on a Founder–in this case, the man most responsible for the Supreme Court–John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice, a log cabin Federalist, a patriotic soldier in the Revolution and a very successful lawyer, who then served in all three branches of government. (You read that right: The first three CJs thought the job wasn’t worth it…) Mr. Brookhiser is just publishing his biography of Marshall, the last of the great Federalists, out the week after the election, so go order it, buy it, read it, and let everyone know! We’ve already covered two great Federalists — Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris — so by now we can show fairly well what it was like to be the first party in government in American history.

Here are our previous discussions of Founders:


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  1. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown

    John Marshall had such political skill, that he confirmed the Anti-federalists’ critique, of the proposed Constitution’s failure to truly check the supposedly least dangerous branch of government, without prompting swift drafting and ratification of a 13th Amendment, to correct the defect.

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  2. Jim Beck Member
    Jim Beck

    Morning Titus,

    There is other historic news. Marius Copil, a qualie, beat Marin Cilic, this week at the Swiss Indoor, he best victory yet.  And even better Copil is coached by Andre Pavel whe played at the RCA tournament several times.  You know a couple of humans who repeatedly saw Pavel play.  Greetings Titus, we hope this trip is as you had hoped.

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  3. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Hey, Jim! I remember Pavel from when I was a kid. By the by, Copil means child!

    I write from Phoenix, watching Game 3. Middle of the 9th, it’s a tie & I think extra innings are coming–dunno how the bullpens are gonna deal with this. Keep you posted!

    I’ve been lecturing &, believe it or not, I amaze people. Have one more school lecture & one more college lecture–or actually two. Folks treat me well, but I see that the charm has worn off. Nobody really cares to see me anymore–I mean, nobody except my friends, who have been more loyal than I can deserve. I’ve been trying to set up meetups, but people don’t really want to meet me. I think they may have a point, but I gotta stick up for myself regardless…

    Seeing all the crazy things that go on in America, however, has been a treat. 


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  4. Jim Beck Member
    Jim Beck

    Morning Titus,

    Well maybe some folks don’t recognize the John Marshall in you.  Among regular folks things aren’t as crazy,  many folks thought the Ford testimony was a little fishy if only in the timing.  Liberals are still religious about climate even when they have not read their climate Bible.  That is, I have yet to meet any climate change believer who knows how the this warming model describes the effect of green house gases.  There is little general talk about Trump in mixed company, the liberals think him is unbelievable, conservatives are warming to him.  I have a woman with whom I play pickle ball (a geezer version of tennis) who said that she could not believe that I supported Trump, I was nicer than she expected, or maybe the fact that I brushed my teeth regularly surprised her.  I like her, she is sweet, 78, and is living the part of life where one’s strength and nimbleness are waning, and doing so gracefully.  Entropy is irresistible and that is a hard lesson. What are your lectures about?

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  5. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    You’re a good man, Jim! Did you tell her about Fred Astaire? Smooths many a rough, not to say shrill, edge. Some days I think we just need to teach people to take out their nerves by hoofing rather than, say, crooning…

    As for the lectures–I talk about the newest & oldest things, about Aristotle’s Poetics, Homer, Ovid–& Disney, Netflix, the future of entertainment. I lectured some on communism, too; on American gov’t, the Founding, also. There’s still a wild card, so there may be one further subject….

    I’m going to Utah at year’s end. I wonder whether things are more staid, calmer, less histrionic there. Will report-

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  6. Jim Beck Member
    Jim Beck

    Morning again,

    Copil just beat Zverev, he is having the best tournament of his life.  His demeanor is placid almost flat and workman like, Andre was more like an American would imagine a Romanian, Ilie set the table.  Utah will be different, every Mormon has a 2 year mission trip in which contact with the internet, movies, tv, is broken and I think they only get to call home twice a year.  The question, how to engage folks so that they become curious.  Man that is to me, a telling difference.  Mom died September 9, we are in the process of sorting the house, my the books she had on almost any topic.  Of course she was one of those great books folks, and went to the local university to hear lectures, was a docent at the museum, garden club, book clubs, has a basketball signed by Larry Bird.  Recently I read an analogy about self awareness, if one considers one’s knowledge as a clearing in the forest and the forest as the world of the unknown, as one clears more and more forest the perimeter between the cleared part and the forest expands, and if one saw one knowledge in that light one would see that as the perimeter expands your awareness of the limited nature  knowledge should expand as well.  Well it seems to me that we are in an age where curiosity has shrunk, even about the story of each other’s lives, as if I don’t want to know you or I already know all about you.  To me this is discouraging.  There was a movie called my dinner with Andre, many folks including my sister (l love her to bits and she was with mom the lion’s share mom’s last three weeks) think this movie is clever if not deep.  To me if you think those conversations are deep then we have had different experiences.  I would like to know what parts of your lectures has sparked up the audiences most.  Sorry for the times when the audiences have been non responsive, that is hard on a speaker.

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  7. Jim Beck Member
    Jim Beck

    Morning Again,

    On the bright side of Americans.  My son Jon lives in Southport FLA just north of LynnHaven, he works for the Panama City govt as a carpenter, and his mobile home had 8 trees fall on it.  He says that everyone is helping everyone else generously, almost like brothers in arms, very few folks are busting out even in the long lines for gas.  The local govt has limited talent and this disaster has shown that bureaucracy and common sense are mutually exclusive.  I should have bought stock in Gaviscon or Adivan at the beginning of the year.

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  8. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Dear Jim,

    first & last things–I’m sorry to hear about your mother’s death. I hope she died well, consoled & without suffering. God rest her soul! It gladdened my heart to meet her–I sorrow now with you.

    About everything else, there is much to say, but as always, not nearly enough time. I’ve met groups of Mormons, in Bucharest; I take them out to tea; sometimes the wife & I, or friends, we invite them to lunch, if they can make it; other times, I show them a bit of the town–most of them have been Americans, but with a smattering of Aussies, Scandinavians, & others–most of them have very little notion of Europe, so perhaps it is a pleasant surprise to see certain parts of Bucharest. All are incredibly earnest & they talk to poor people & homeless people as human beings. They’re instantly recognizable, of course; I get the sense that the capacity for service helps them live decent lives as adults; I hope that two years protection from the rush & the push of modern American youth helps them be less frantic.

    I also see what you say about a dwindling of curiosity. So far as I can tell, many people now feel bruised. I understand why they do; but I prefer at least a modicum of daring in facing up to what we need to learn to do well in this world…

    & then the coming together of Americans in time of need–that seems to be the last form of association in America. I keep seeing evidence of it & hearing about it from people. (Spent a while in Houston, heard stories about last year’s hurricane…) It is encouraging. Of course, I also see the other side: Old Americans who are reclusive, & do not wish to ask for help or the attention they deserve, since they feel it would be an imposition, & perhaps they have a pride in their solitary twilight… They are still better at organizing; the young associate more, but I see many young Americans who are also lonely, reclusive–as I said, bruised… Perhaps the time is ripe for another awakening of faith. Lord knows people are now terribly needy, if but they become aware of it-

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  9. Jim Beck Member
    Jim Beck

    Evening Titus,

    What do you mean by bruised?  I am ready a couple of books some what related to this, “Suffering” by Paul Tripp, and “The Coddling of the American Mind” by Haidt and Lukianoff.  I am wondering if what you are seeing can be woven into these two books.  

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  10. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Yes, well, I’m more & more skeptical of Haidt&Lukianoff. I like their ideas about what an American university should be, but I doubt they understand nearly enough about the teenagers who actually live in America…

    I think it’s really hard to be American. There are certain demands made by the country–to identify with America. More & more of the American mind is nationalized. It’s not always what I would want things to be, but then things rarely are… Compared to America, more & more young Americans feel rather helpless & hopeless. I’ll add, poor Americans feel that way, too. There are statistics to bear this out for those who won’t take my word for it–of course, everyone will, but just in case. I do not believe there are either institutions or new enterprises eager or able to deal with this problem.

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  11. Jim Beck Member
    Jim Beck

    Morning Titus,

    I haven’t finished their book yet, so I am not sure what you are referring to concerning their misperceptions about teens.  They, and I think accurately, say that the iGen kids are about 3 years behind other generations in maturity, (and they site behavior associations studies).  To follow this observation, Mary and I were at a birthday party Saturday night; it ws for the father of the twins (soon 5) we baby sit on Fridays.  Chris (now 48), wife Ann, Chris’s parents Ray (former GI doc), his wife Jill and I were talking about Chris’s son Abe now 17 and dating.  Kids don’t date the same, maybe don’t even go steady the same, don’t have their dates over to the parents homes for dinner.  You don’t call on the phone to plan a date, you text, and later you appear in the driveway and text that you are there, and off you go.  This brought about a discussion of dating in different generations.  Then we talked about the eldest daughter, Cassia, who works for the AMA and lives in Chicago.  She notes that all of her girl friends are living with their boyfriends.  Gasps heard as far as River City Iowa (just a joke).

    What is glaring to me is the Haidt’s and Lukianoff’s left tilt is a blind spot they are unaware of.

    What I see generally in the young folks we know, besides their comparative immaturity, is that our culture has so many choices that they have become confused.  The structures of culture which highlight the good paths for success are either beaten down or hidden.  Also the concept of offense and injustice have become common in that folks now think that to become offended is something they should note and protest.  “I was offended by x” is a phrase unheard of in my and my parents generation, I never heard it.  Everything which can be viewed as an injustice, might be, (I can’t find the Tracy Ullman video for those so woke they can’t sleep, or I would insert it here).  The urge to see slight.

    Why is it harder to be an American say vs a Brit?

    Copil lost to Fed 7/6 6/4, still his best week effer.

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  12. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Yes, choice creates bewilderment. This starts early–parents expose their children to bewilderment young; it’s also a matter of learning from experience, since kids realize gradually that they don’t know which paths might lead to success.

    There is no one to tell them; there are not a lot of good answers either. America doesn’t look like it did in the mid-century; nor was that the American normal; nor do mid-century ideas or patterns hold sway now. Society used to function better, but it turns out it was neither able to prevent change, nor deal with it too well.

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