William and Mary Law School

John Marshall Family Bible

BIBLE. ENGLISH. The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments: Translated out of the Original Tongues: and With the former Translations. Diligently compared and Revised, by His Majesty's Special Command. Appointed to be read in Churches.

Oxford : Printed by W. Jackson and A. Hamilton, Printers to the University, 1784.

Bible As with many family Bibles, the Marshall Bible contains a listing of the members of the Marshall household.  Seen here at the beginning of the New Testament, this page has revealed family records previously unknown to historians.  The first three lines record the births of John Marshall on Sep. 24, 1755 and Mary Willis Ambler ("Polly") on March 18, 1766, as well as their marriage on Jan. 3, 1783.  A charming story of Marshall's courting of Polly is handed down by her older sister, Eliza.  It relates how Marshall wooed his future wife with undying zeal over a period of several months.  title page

When at last he had the chance to propose (the duties of the prominent Ambler family had removed them to Richmond during the courting), he did so confidently and abruptly.  Polly, who had intended to marry him since first hearing of Marshall, played coy and demurred.  Marshall quickly rode off, whereupon Polly wept in remorse for her jest, not intending the harm.  A cousin quickly removed a lock of Polly's hair and delivered it to him.  Without hesitation he assumed Polly had shyly avoided him, and they were soon married.  She wore a locket containing that hair throughout her life; Marshall donned it upon her death on Christmas Day, 1831.

John and Mary Willis Marshall bore ten children.  Two, Mary Ann Marshall (b. Nov. 24, 1789, d. Aug. 1, 1792) and John James Marshall (b. Feb. 13, 1792, d. pollyJun. 10, 1792) died in infancy, exacerbating Polly's lifelong frail health and temperament.  Compunded with this were the shenanigans of John and James K. Marshall (b. Jan. 13, 1798 and Feb. 13, 1800, respectively), who were both expelled from Cambridge because of their rebellious and immoral demeanors.  Both were reckless and incurred great debt during their lives, eventually settling down as farmers after squandering the benefits of a prominent family's name and legacy.

The Bible, printed at Oxford in 1784 and sold in London, was probably purchased by John Marshall sometime about 1797 while serving as the Minister to France.

The Bible was given by Mary Douthat Higgins, great-great-great-granddaughter first page of John Marshall, to the Commonwealth of Virginia in the fall of 1977 in recognition of a visit to the John Marshall House in Richmond, Virginia, by the Honorable Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice of the United States, and the Honorable Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Associate Justice of the United States. The Commonwealth subsequently placed it on permanent loan to the Marshall-Wythe School of Law Library.

The Bible, at the discretion of the Governor of Virginia and/or the President of the College of William and Mary, may be used for swearing-in ceremonies of governors of Virginia and Chief Justices of the Virginia Supreme Court.