His brilliant skill in argument made him one of the most esteemed of the many great lawyers of Virginia. A defender of the new U.S. Constitution at the Virginia ratifying convention, Marshall later staunchly supported the Federalist administration, and after refusing Washington's offer to make him U.S. Attorney General or minister to France, he finally accepted appointment as one of the commissioners to France in the diplomatic dispute that ended in the XYZ Affair.
Marshall's effectiveness there made him a popular figure, and he was elected to Congress as a Federalist in 1799. One of the tiny group that continued to support President John Adams, he was prevailed upon to become Secretary of State (1800–1801). Before he left the cabinet he was appointed chief justice and confirmed by the Senate despite some opposition.
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