Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

none, and more perfect remedies in other cases. It is adapted to the common law as one part of an indenture is to its counterpart. It is formed to tally with that in all its prominences and recesses, its asperities and defects, and with no other body of law on earth. It consists of a set of rules and maxims, modified by the English Chancellors thro' a course of several centuries, derived from no foreign model, but contrived to reduce specifically the principles of common law to those of justice. The Roman law has something similar in its Jus Prætorium, where the discretion of the Prætor was permitted to mollify and correct the harshness of the leges scriptæ. But to apply the Jus Pretorium to our common law, or our chancery to the leges scripta of the Romans, would be to apply to one thing the tally of another, or to mismatch the parts of different machines, so as to render them inconsistent and impracticable. Our chancery system is as different from the civil, as from the common law. All systems of law indeed profess to be founded on the principles of justice. But the superstructures erected are totally distinct. The chancery then being a system clearly distinct from that of the French and Roman laws, it cannot be said that the legislature of the U. S. by establishing the French and Roman laws in Orleans, established there the chancery system. It will not be pretended that the process of subpæna, used in the present case, and the sole and peculiar original process of chancery, is a civil law process.

It is known to have been the invention of Waltham, Chancellor of Richard II. founded on the statute of Westminster the 2d c. 24. giving writs in consimili casu.

Might it be urged (for I am really at a loss to conjecture on what grounds this power has been assumed) that possessing under the act of ’04, the powers of the chancery combined with those of the French and Roman laws, the subsequent act which gave them a common law jurisdiction, did not take away the others? In totidem verbis it did not, but in effect it did completely, by changing the government into one in all respects similar to that in the Missisipi territory, where there was no chancery jurisdiction. Moreover, there is not a word in the act

of '04, which gives them *chancery jurisdiction. It says, 'they shall have jurisdiction in all criminal cases, and original and appellate jurisdiction in all civil cases of the value of 75* 100 dollars, and the laws in force at the commencement of this act shall continue in force. Here then is their jurisdiction, and the particular system of law according to which they are to exercise it, and the chancery made no part of that system. This argument too would suppose that to the French, the Roman, the Spanish, and the Chancery laws, the common law was also added. This would be an extraordinary spectacle, indeed, and the imputation of such an intention would be an insult to the legislature. Their laws have always some rational object in view; and are so to be construed, as to produce order and justice. But this construction, establishing so many systems, and these inconsistent and contradictory, would produce anarchy and chaos, and a dissolution of all law, of all rights of person or property. And what would be the consequences of carrying on a system of chancery concurrent with the French and Roman laws? A case is brought, for instance, into their court of chancery. I ask the honorable judges, is the law of chancery in this case, the same as the civil law? If the same, what need of calling in the system of chancery? If different, will you decide against the law established by the legislature? If you carry on two systems, the one of which, in any case, gives a right to A. and the other to B. the suitor who covets his neighbor's property needs only to chuse that court, the rules of which will give it to him. Thus all rights will be set afloat between two opposite systems. The wisdom of the legislature therefore has been as sound in not giving a chancery jurisdiction concurrently with the civil law, as the judges have been ill-advised in usurping it. And have they adverted to the national feelings, when they have ventured, on their own authority, to abolish the trial by jury pledged by the Ordinance to the inhabitants forever ? Whoever wishes to take from his opponent the benefit of this trial, has only to bring his suit in the court of chancery. In this very case, on which the well-being of a great city is suspended, no

jury was called in. The judges took upon themselves to decide both fact and law; aware, at the same time, that a jury could not have been found in Orleans, which would not have given a contrary decision. I shall not ascribe either favoritism, or intentional wrong to them: but they ought not to be surprised, if those do whose interests and safety are so much jeopardised by this shuffle of the judges into the place of the jury. It is much regretted that these respectable judges have set such an example of acting against law. It will be more regretted if they do not, by the spontaneous exertion of their own good sense and self

denial, tread back their steps, and perceive that there is . *76 more honor and magnanimity in correcting, than *perse

vering in an error. They had before them too the example of their neighbors, of the Missisipi territory, whose government was expressly made the model of theirs. Their judges, like themselves, entitled to common law jurisdiction only, and sensible it needed the mollifying hand of the chancery, did not think the assumption of it within their competence. The territorial legislature therefore invested them with the jurisdiction. The Judiciary power of the Indian territory modelled by the same Ordinance, was enlarged in like manner by the local legislature. And yet the Orleans territory, least of all needed the aid of a Chancery, as possessing already a corresponding corrective, well adapted to the body of their law, to which the system of Chancery was entirely inapplicable.

Although I had before noted, pages 16, 68. that the decree of this court was a nullity as to the United States, 1. Because they were not a party, nor amenable to their tribunal ; 2. Because also it was on a subject over which they had no jurisdiction, I have thought it useful to prove it a nullity; 3uly. Because the result of a process, and a course of pleading and trial belonging to a court whose powers they do not possess. by law, in which course of action the law considers them as mere private persons, is entitled to the obedience of no one. I have done this the rather because it has been seized as a ground of censure ou the Executive, as violating the sanctuary of the judicial depart

ment, and of inculpating the Marshal, who, placed between two conflicting authorities, had to decide which was legitimate, and decided correctly, as I trust appears, in obeying that which ordered him to remove the plaintiff from an usurped possession.

The territorial legislature, three weeks after, took up the subject, and passed an act prescribing in what manner riparian proprietors should proceed, who wished to Act of territorial

Legislature. make new embankments in advance of those existing. This gave to Mr. Livingston an easy mode of applying for permission to resume his enterprise ; and had he obtained a regular permission, certainly it would have been duly respected by the National Executive. On the 1st of March I received from Governor Claiborne a letter of Jan. 29. informing me of the execution of our orders, and covering a vote of thanks from the legislative council and House of Representatives of Orleans, for our interposition: and on the 7th of the same month, I laid the case before Congress by the following message.

. To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States. In the city of New-Orleans and adjacent to it are sundry parcels of ground, some of them with buildings and other improvements on them, which it is my duty to present to the attention of the legislature. The title to *these grounds appears to have 77* been retained in the former sovereigns of the province of Louisiana, as public fiduciaries, and for the purposes of the province. Some of them were used for the residence of the Governor, for public offices, hospitals, barracks, magazines, fortifications, levées, &c. others for the town house, schools, markets, landings, and other purposes of the city of N. Orleans. Some were held by religious corporations, or persons; others seem to have been reserved for future disposition.

To these must be added a parcel called the batture, which requires more particular description. It is understood to have been a shoal, or elevation of the bottom of the river, adjacent to the bank of the suburb St. Mary, produced by the successive depositions of mud during the annual inundations of the river,

Message to
Congress.

and covered with water only during those inundations. At all other seasons it has been used by the city, immemorially, to furnish earth for raising their streets, and court yards, for mortar and other necessary purposes, and as a landing or Quai for unlading firewood, lumber, and other articles brought by water. This having lately been claimed by a private individual, the city opposed the claim on a supposed legal title in itself: but it has been adjudged that the legal title was not in the city. It is however alleged that that title, originally in the former sovereigns, was never parted with by them, but was retained by them for the uses of the city and province, and consequently has now passed over to the U. S. Until this question can be decided under legislative authority, measures have been taken according to law, to prevent any change in the state of things, and to keep the grounds clear of intruders. The settlement of this title, the appropriation of the grounds and improvements formerly occupied for provincial purposes to the same, or such other objects as may be better suited to present circumstances; the confirmation of the uses in other parcels to such bodies corporate, or private, as may of right, or on other reasonable considerations, expect them, are matters now submitted to the determination of the legislature. The paper and plans now transmitted, will give them such information on the subjects as I possess, and, being mostly originals, I must request that they may be communicated from the one to the other house, to answer the purposes of both. TH: JEFFERSON. March 7, 1808.' This removal of the case before Congress closed the official

duties of the Executive, and his interference respectRemovaloftbe, ing these grounds: except that the attorney of the

United States for the district of Orleans having given written permission to the inhabitants to use the batture as before, this, on the application of Mr. Livingston, was directed to be

withdrawn by a letter from the Secretary of State, of *78 Oct. 5. '09. This was correct. It placed the inhabitants

exactly *on their former footing, without either permission or prohibition on the part of the National government.

« ZurückWeiter »