ALS signed “J. Marshall,” one page, 7.75 x 10, March 26, 1820. Thoughtful letter to Samuel Farmar Jarvis, a professor of Biblical learning at the New York General Theological Seminary. In part: “I have deferred making my acknowledgments for your polite attention in favoring me with a copy of your ‘Discourse on the religion of the Indian tribes of North America’…The religion of these untaught children of the forest partakes less of group idolatry than has been generally supposed. It is a matter of curious observation that the original theory or creed of these ignorant savages approaches so nearly that of the most polished & enlightened nations, while unaided by revelation. Man, left to himself, seems, at all times, to have formed nearly the same systems reflecting the creator of all things, & some future state of rewards & punishments. There seems to be some sentiment impressed on our minds by the divine hand which produces nearly the same results in all created beings.” Addressed on the reverse of the second integral page in Marshall’s hand. In fine condition. Provenance: The Everett Fisher Collection.
Marshall’s court would go on to establish the framework for relations between the federal government and America’s indigenous peoples; it is possible that his understanding of Native American religion gleaned from this discourse went on to inform the court’s decisions. In his landmark Johnson v. M'Intosh ruling of 1823, Marshall cites the ‘principles of abstract justice which the Creator of all things has impressed on the mind of his creature man’—very nearly the same language he uses at the conclusion of this letter. Pre-certified PSA/DNA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.