11th Grade

During the founding of the new nation, the United States, there were a number of influential people who made important decisions based on their various opinions. These people, the founding fathers of the United States, would set examples, ideals, and rules for many leaders to come. Our first president George Washington, our 3rd president Thomas Jefferson, and our first Supreme Court justice John Marshall were all very important and influential individuals. Together, their opinions and ideals helped shape the growth of our nation from domestic policy to the basis of the government’s operation.

George Washington was the first president of the United States of America as well as one of its founding fathers. When he resigned from office and gave his farewell address, he stated three of his opinions that would be very influential in the development of the United States. During that farewell address, he addressed two very important issues. First was that the United States of America should remain in the most neutral position possible when it came to foreign affairs (this would be ignored by latter presidents).

Second was that no political parties should be formed within the new government. These were significant statements because they helped to shape the foundation and cultural beginnings of the new American government. In addition to his farewell advice, he informally set the presidential term limit to two terms, a tradition which has been upheld to this day with very few exceptions. (Note: FDR was the only president to hold three terms) These opinions were important to him because he believed that they would enable the people to grow together as one strong, unified nation.

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By unifying the people of the different parties as “Americans”, he helped to promote a feeling of unity among the states. This was one of the ideals promoted by George Washington when he warned America not to form political parties; it’s the same issue of unity, just addressed from a different angle. It also helped to calm the growing distress and conflict between the Republican and Federalist parties. Another very important accomplishment that happened when Jefferson was in office was the Louisiana Purchase. While it was significant because it more than doubled the size of the United States, it was also a source of much debate.

In the arguments against Jefferson there were many people who believed that the Louisiana Purchase was unconstitutional. Most prominent was whether the President had the power to spend 15 million dollars on a segment of land without the approval of the people (Congress, etc). His choice to spend the money was important because it basically said, “I’m the president and I have power. ” His actions don’t directly reflect his stated beliefs in strong state government, but they do illustrate the fact that he often chose the most pragmatic route in his decisions and put the good of the country over his personal beliefs

John Marshall, the first Supreme Court justice, was a very influential figure because his beliefs and opinions developed and gave power to the Supreme Court and the judiciary branch for the first time. One of the most important contributions he made for the Supreme Court was the concept of judicial review. After the case of Marbury vs. Madison, the Supreme Court was given the power to review laws, and court cases in order to determine whether a law or case was constitutional. John Marshall also extended the power of the Supreme Court to cover all matters not explicitly mentioned to be governed in the state.

In short, he created most of the power that is invested in the Supreme Court today. The most influential of these three men was John Marshall. He was the most influential person because he created a strong judicial branch, something that is essential to the system of checks and balances. Without the power that currently resides in the Judiciary branch of the United States, the government would be an unbalanced system that would be able to create laws between the executive branch and legislative branch without any chance of rulings on constitutionality from the court.

For example, in the case of Dred Scott vs. Sanford (a famous case regarding slaves’ Constitutional rights), the Supreme Court struck down several federal laws, including the Missouri Compromise, which was ruled unconstitutional. While most people today wouldn’t agree with the ruling given in Dred Scott, it still shows the power of the judicial system, able to strike down Federal law in accordance with an era’s political and social climate. The separation of powers is one of the most important parts of our government and without it our modern government would not exist in the same definition as it does today.

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