On military leave in 1780, Marshall studied law with George Wythe and received a law license. He used this law commonplace book to document the legal, historical, and philosophical reading that helped shape his view. He also occasionally wrote Polly’s name in the margins. 1793 Account Book (courtesy College of William and Mary)


In 1775, 19-year-old John Marshall joined his father as a Culpeper Minuteman; the following year, he transitioned to a militia within George Washington’s Continental Army. He rose from the rank of lieutenant to captain in the 11th Virginia Continental Regiment, and was appointed deputy judge advocate general. Marshall participated in several battles, including Brandywine and the Battle of Monmouth, and survived the winter at Valley Forge. He would later reflect on how his time in the military shaped his belief in the importance of a robust central government. Marshall left the military in 1781 and entered the Virginia House of Delegates.