Valley Spirit: December 22, 1869Go To Page : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
The Right of the Supreme Court to Decide Upon the Constitutionality of Acts of Congress
(Column 01)Summary: Reacts with alarm to Congressional moves toward limiting the power of the Supreme Court in interpreting laws. Forcefully comes out in support of separation of powers and the right of the Supreme Court to declare laws void if necessary. Quotes extensively from the Federalist Papers and other sources to back up the argument.
Full Text of Article:
The bills introduced into Congress by Senator Drake, of Missouri, and Senator Trumbull, of Illinois, which are leveled at the authority of the Supreme Court, have awakened in the public mind a sense of painful insecurity. They are regarded as attempts on the party of the Radical majority to deprive the Judiciary of a right which clearly belongs to that Department of the Government, under the Constitution.
That this apprehension is correct, is certainly manifest from the very words of that instrument. Section 2nd of Article 3rd of the Constitution provides that "the judicial power shall extend to all cases in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority," &c., &c. There is no limitation of power here as to cases which arise under the Constitution of the United States.
The various acts relating to the reconstruction of the States that seceded, the legal-tender act, the act in regard to income tax, and all other acts of Congress must have their warrant in the Constitution of the United States, or they are absolutely void, because "this Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land."
This Constitution is the work of the people. Its preamble runs thus: "We, the people of the United States, in order to &c., &c., do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." The members of the Legislative Department hold their commissions under this Constitution. To say now, that Congress may legislate according to its notions, or interpretation of the Constitution, and then prevent any power from sitting in judgment upon that legislation, is to say that these representatives of the people, elected for a brief term, shall set at naught the will of the people who are their masters. The stream can never rise higher than its fountain.
As this subject is of vital importance to the people, it may be interesting, in this connection, to reproduce the language of one greater than any of those who occupy seats in the American Congress at the present time, one also who aided in framing the Constitution, helped to discuss it in all its parts, and whose opinions upon that instrument have been received with the highest respect ever since. We refer to Alexander Hamilton. In the 78th number of the Federalist (pages 577-9 of Mr. J. C. Hamilton's edition) this great man writes as follows: "Some perplexity respecting the right of the courts to pronounce legislative acts void, because contrary to the Constitution, has arisen from an imagination that the doctrine would imply a superiority of the judiciary to the legislative power. It is urged that the authority which can declare the acts of another void, must necessarily be superior to the one whose acts may be declared void. As this doctrine is of great importance in all the American constitutions, a brief discussion of the grounds on which it rests cannot be unacceptable.
There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men, acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.
"If it is said that the legislative body are themselves the constitutional judges of their own powers, and that the construction they put upon them is conclusive upon the other departments, it may be answered, that this can not be the natural presumption where it is not to be collected from any particular provisions in the Constitution. It is not otherwise to be supposed, that the Constitution could intend to enable the representatives of the people to substitute their will to that of their constituents. It is far more rational to suppose, that the Courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and the legislature, in order, among other things to keep the latter within the limits assigned to their authority. The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the Courts. A constitution is, in fact, and must be, regarded by the judges as a fundamental law. It must therefore belong to them to ascertain its meaning as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. If there should happen to be an irreconcilable variance between the two, that which has the superior obligation and validity ought, of course, to be preferred; in other words, the Constitution ought to be preferred to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their agents.
"Nor does the conclusion by any means suppose a superiority of the judicial to the legislative power. It only supposes that the power of the people is superior to both; and that where the will of the legislature declared in its statutes, stands in opposition to that of the people declared in the Constitution, the judges ought to be governed by the latter, rather than the former. They ought to regulate their decision by the fundamental laws, rather than by those which are not fundamental.
"This exercise of judicial discretion, in determining between two contradictory laws, is exemplified in a familiar instance. It not uncommonly happens, that there are two statutes existing at one time, clashing in whole or in part with each other, and neither of them containing any repealing clause or expression. In such a case, it is the province of the Courts to liquidate and fix their meaning and operation: So far as they can, by any fair construction be reconciled to each other, reason and law conspire to dictate that this should be done: Where this is impracticable, it becomes a matter of necessity to give effect to one, in exclusion of the other. The rule which has obtained in the Courts for determining their relative validity is, that the last in order of time shall be preferred to the first. But this is a mere rule of construction, not derived from any positive law, but from the nature and reason of the thing. It is a rule not enjoined upon the Courts by legislative provision, but adopted by themselves, as consonant to truth and propriety, for the direction of their conduct as interpreters of the law. They thought it reasonable, that between the interfering acts of an equal authority, that which was the last indication of its will, should have the preference.
"But in regard to the interfering acts of a superior and subordinate authority, of an original and derivative power, the nature and reason of the thing indicate the converse of that rule as proper to be followed. They teach us, that the prior act of a superior, ought to be preferred to the subsequent act of an inferior and subordinate authority; and that, accordingly, whenever a particular statute contravenes the constitution, it will be the duty of the judicial tribunals to adhere to the latter, and disregard the former.
"It can be of no weight to say, that the courts, on the pretence of a repugnancy, may substitute their own pleasure to the constitutional intentions of the legislature. This might as well happen in the case of two contradictory statutes; or it might as well happen in every adjudication upon any single statute. The Courts must declare the sense of the law: and if they should be disposed to exercise WILL instead of JUDGMENT, the consequence would equally be the substitution of their pleasure to that of the legislative body. The observation, if it proved any thing, would prove that there ought to be no judges distinct from that body."
This then, is the view which the authors of the constitution entertained of the power of the judiciary when they framed it. These papers were written by Hamilton and others for the purpose of acquainting the people with the tenor and scope of the provisions of that instrument. The people then adopted it, and it is reasonable to infer that they accepted and adopted it with this idea of the power that belonged to the judicial department.
Montesquieu said that "there is not liberty, if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers." Hamilton concurred in this and held that so long as the judiciary remains truly distinct from both the legislatures and executive, the general liberty of the people can never be endangered from courts of justice. By giving permanency in office to the judges, he believed that the judiciary would be "the citadel of the public justice and the public security." Indeed he drew his very strongest argument for the permanence of the judges from the fact that the courts of justice would be "the bulwarks of a limited constitution against legislative encroachments."
Surely it becomes the American people to awaken from their apathy and say, in authoritative tones, to their representatives, that they will not tolerate this infringement upon their rights and liberties. Let Congress content itself with the exercise of power within its proper sphere. Let this encroachment be rebuked, and they may fear to awaken the indignation of the people by the perpetration of still further outrages. But if this movement be suffered to become a success, there is no security for the people against further encroachments. The constitution will then indeed be but a rope of sand, and the American people will live under the shadow of a despotism worse than that which caused our forefathers to rebel against the authority of the British Crown.
(Column 01)Summary: The Greenvillage Lyceum elected officers for the coming year.[No Title]
(Names in announcement: A. M. Criswell, H. Wallace, C. M. Ditslear, D. Solenberger, J. Hoover, D. Maclay, Jere Ott)
(Column 01)Summary: The Sunday School of the Trinity Episcopal Church will hold a concert and festival in Repository Hall on Christmas Eve.Masonic
(Column 01)Summary: George Washington Lodge, No. 143, A. Y. M., elected officers for the coming year.[No Title]
(Names in announcement: H. S. Stoner, D. W. Diehl, George W. Welsh, D. K. Wunderlich, Allen C. McGrath)
(Column 02)Summary: Bishop Simpson of the Methodist Episcopal Church will deliver a lecture on "The Future of Our Country" in the Chambersburg Methodist Church on January 3rd. The lecture comes with very high reviews.Court Proceedings
(Column 02)Summary: Gives very brief summaries of cases in the county court and verdicts. Most seem to be low profile cases concerning debts, slander, etc.
(Names in announcement: Dr. Maxwell Kennedy, Sally Mahon, George Johnston, John Dunceberger, Philip Florich, John Johnston, Daniel S. Reisher, John Miller, Malachi BrondleSr., Amos Detrich, Cyrus H. McCormick, Leander Wilkeson, J. B. Levering, William Reber, Wright, John Bromley, J. D. Jacobs)Full Text of Article:Lecture
Dr. Maxwell Kennedy, Committee of Sally Mason, vs. George Johnston. Action of Dower. Verdict for Defendant.
John Dunceberger vs. Philip Florich. Slander. Judgment confessed for Plaintiff for $10 and costs.
John Johnston vs. Daniel S. Reisher. Scire Facis sur Mechanics' Lien. Verdict for Plaintiff, $81.09.
The Chambersburg Woolen Manufacturing Company vs. John Miller. Trover and Conversion. Verdict for Defendant.
Malachi Broudle Sr.'s Executor vs. Amos Detrich. Summons in Ejectment. Verdict for Plaintiff.
Cyrus H. McCormick & Bro. vs. Leander Wilkeson. Summons in Assumpsit, Settled by the parties.
J. B. Levering vs. William Reber. Summons in Debt on an Exemplification of a record from Knox county, Ohio. Verdict for Defendant.
Levering & Wright vs. William Reber. Summons in Debt on an Exemplification of a record from Knox county, Ohio. Verdict for Defendant.
John Bromley vs. J.D. Jacobs and Brother. Summons in Assumpsit. Plaintiff enters a non-suit.
(Column 02)Summary: The Rev. E. B. Raffensperger, financial agent of the Wilson Female College, will lecture in Repository Hall on December 23rd for the benefit of the Ladies' Mite Society of the Falling Spring Presbyterian Church. His topic is "The Humors of the Pulpit and the Pew." The lecture has received rave reviews every time it has been delivered.The Literary Entertainment at Mercersburg College
(Names in announcement: Rev. E. B. Raffensperger)
(Column 02)Summary: The Marshall Society of Mercersburg College gave an entertainment in the Mercersburg Reformed Church. Religious services as well as orations and a poem made up the evening's activities.Married
(Names in announcement: Charles H. Voigt, Luther S. Geissinger, Anderson J. Whitmore, W. L. Heyser, Prof. C. Hunting, H. B. Hatnich, F. J. Keller, Dr. Thomas G. Apple)
(Column 04)Summary: Bernard Baltimore and Catherine Carl were married in Chambersburg on December 6th by the Rev. P. S. Davis.Married
(Names in announcement: Bernard Baltimore, Catherine Carl, Rev. P. S. Davis)
(Column 04)Summary: John H. Luschbaugh of Hagerstown and Miss Kate McGrath, daughter of ex-sheriff McGrath, were married in Chambersburg on December 7th by the Rev. P. S. Davis.Married
(Names in announcement: John H. Luschbaugh, Kate McGrath, Rev. P. S. Davis)
(Column 04)Summary: Benjamin Parrott and Miss Eliza Grant were married on December 9th by the Rev. P. S. Davis.Married
(Names in announcement: Benjamin Parrott, Eliza Grant, Rev. P. S. Davis)
(Column 04)Summary: Jacob Myers and Miss Ann Reinhardt, both of Green, were married on October 6th by the Rev. G. Roths.Married
(Names in announcement: Jacob Myers, Ann Reinhardt, Rev. G. Roths)
(Column 04)Summary: John Wells and Miss Eve Elizabeth Scraffirt, both of Chambersburg, were married on December 12th by the Rev. G. Roths.Married
(Names in announcement: John Wells, Eve Elizabeth Scraffirt, Rev. G. Roths)
(Column 04)Summary: Robert Gibbons and Miss Annie Clugston, both of Chambersburg, were married on December 19th by the Rev. G. Roths.Married
(Names in announcement: Robert Gibbons, Annie Clugston, Rev. G. Roths)
(Column 04)Summary: William D. Hughes of Franklin and Miss Barbara A. Pry of Maryland were married on December 7th at the residence of the bride's father by the Rev. H. A. Gring.Married
(Names in announcement: William D. Hughes, Barbara A. Pry, Rev. H. A. Gring)
(Column 04)Summary: Peter M. Kadle and Miss Mollie E. Richter, both of Chambersburg, were married on December 16th by the Rev. L. A. Gotwald.
(Names in announcement: Peter M. Kadle, Mollie E. Richter, Rev. L. A. Gotwald)