A landmark decision made 200 years ago changed the Supreme Court forever. On the cold, rainy morning of March 4, 1801, Chief Justice John Marshall administered the oath of office An oath of office is an oath or affirmation a person takes before undertaking the duties of an office, usually a position in government or within a religious body, although such oaths are sometimes required of officers of other organizations. to Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the U.S.
Jefferson and Marshall were cousins who had grown up together in Virginia. Both had shown an early interest in the law, and both became leading statesmen and politicians.
The two men even looked alike: Each was over six feet tall, had piercing black eyes, and wore rumpled, ill-fitted clothes. Yet, they were neither friends nor political allies. In fact, they hated each other.
In a letter to a friendA Letter to a Friend (written 1656; published posthumously in 1690) , by the 17th century philosopher and physician Sir Thomas Browne is a medical treatise full of case-histories and witty speculations upon the human condition. , Marshall described Jefferson as "overly ambitious" and "untrustworthy." Jefferson, in turn, called Marshall "a menace" and "a man to be feared."