Madison in Federalist No. 55 on “qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence”

As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be, that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.

Federalist No. 55 (Madison)

The John Marshall Hero Project: An Introduction

The inaugural project for Law-RVA as an incubator for more lawful constitutional law is the John Marshall Hero Project.

The basic idea of the John Marshall Hero Project is simple: To convey why John Marshall is and ought to be a hero for those aspiring to more lawful constitutional law. The project will be critical, as it must to be credible. But it will be primarily constructive, in the sense of actually building something up.

The opening phase of the John Marshall Hero Project began a few months ago and is still ongoing. This phase started with an initial sweep of electronically accessible public domain materials about John Marshall. The guidebook for this first phase is a bibliography of materials about Marshall published in 1955 in connection with a celebration of Marshall’s 200th birthday. That bibliography by James Servies, then a law librarian William & Mary, includes both primary sources and secondary sources. But the completion of the John Marshall Papers Project a while back resulted in a more authoritative set of primary sources. The Servies bibliography phase of the John Marshall Hero Project has accordingly focused on secondary sources.

Welcome to Law-RVA.


Law-RVA is an incubator of sorts for better law and politics. The enterprise draws founding inspiration from three outstanding individuals who contributed to our republic through arguments in law, politics, and related matters: John Marshall (1755-1835), Charles Hammond (1779-1840), and Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865). Each of these men had flaws and limits. But that is part of what makes their examples useful. We, too, have our flaws and limits. But it can be uplifting to try to recognize in others better versions of practical reasonableness we seek to embody ourselves.