Here must be the key to Johnson's constitutional jurisprudence, which time, and the effect of the repression of Marshall's domination has obscured. The dynamic pattern of his thought is, however, unmistakable when analyzed without the burden of prepossession. There can be little meaning to what Johnson said in Ogden v. Saunders unless conceived in relation to Johnson's whole approach to man and society and his repeated insistence upon "that communication of thought and experiment without which nothing human can advance in improvement." Otherwise, we are unable to reconcile his repeated dwelling upon the literal meaning of words and their "technical signification," and his complaints about the careless use of language with the very critical statement that "a great part of the difficulties of the cause, arise from not giving sufficient weight to the general intent of this clause [the contract clause] in the constitution, and subjecting it to a severe literal construction, which would be better adapted to special pleadings."
A. J. Levin,
MR. JUSTICE WILLIAM JOHNSON AND THE COMMON INCIDENTS OF LIFE: II,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol44/iss2/4