Abbildungen der Seite

conceive any such necessity; I will not suppose, for I cannot suppose, that any party or faction will ever do any thing so wild, so extravagant. But I will ask, how does this strange supposition consist with the doctrine of gentlemen, that public opinion is a sufficient check on the legislature, and a sufficient safeguard to the people? Put the case to its consequences, and what becomes of the check? Will gentlemen say, it is to be found in the force of this wise precedent? Is this to control succeeding rulers, in their wild, their mad career? But how? Is the creation of judicial officers the only thing committed to their discretion ? Have they not, according to the doctrine contended for, our all at their disposal, with no other check than public opinion, which, according to the supposition, will not prevent them from committing the greatest follies and absurdities ? Take then all the gentleman's ideas, and compare them together, it will result, that here is an inestimable treasure put into the hands of drunkards, madmen and fools.

But away with all these derogatory suppositions. The legislature may be trusted. Our government is a system of salutary checks: one legislative branch is a check on the other. And should the violence of party spirit bear both of them away, the President, an officer high in honor, high in the public confidence, charged with weighty concerns, responsible to his own reputation, and to the world, stands ready to arrest their too impetuous course. This is our system. It

. makes no mad appeal to every mob in the country. It appeals to the sober sense of men selected from their fellow-citizens for their talents, for their virtue ; of men advanced in life, and of matured judgment. It appeals to their understanding, to their integrity, to their honor, to their love of fame, to their sense of shame. If all these checks should prove insufficient, and alas ! such is the condition of human nature, that I fear they will not always be sufficient, the constitution has given us one more: it has given us an independent judiciary. We have been told, that the executive authority carries your laws into execution. But let us not be the dupes of sound. The executive magistrate commands, indeed, your fleets and armies ; and duties, imposts, excises, and other taxes are collected, and all expenditures are made by officers whom he has appointed. So far, indeed, he executes your laws. But these, his acts, apply not often to individual concerns. In those cases, so important to the peace and happiness of society, the execution of your laws is confided to your judges; and therefore are they rendered independent. Before, then, that you violate that independence-pause. There are state sovereignties, as well as the sovereignty of the general government. There are cases, too many cases, in which the interest of one is not considered as the interest of the other. Should these conflict, if the judiciary be gone, the question is no longer of law, but of force. This is a state of things which no honest and wise man can view without horror.

Suppose, in the omnipotence of your legislative authority, you trench upon the rights of your fellow-citizens, by passing an unconstitutional law: if the judiciary department preserve its vigor, it will stop you short : instead of a resort to arms, there will be a happier appeal to argument. Suppose a case still more impressive. The President is at the head of your armies. Let one of his generals, flushed with victory, and proud in command, presume to trample on the rights of your most insignificant citizen: indignant of the wrong, he will demand the protection of your tribunals, and safe in the shadow of their wings, will laugh his oppressor to scorn.

Having now, I believe, examined all the arguments adduced to show the expediency of this motion, and which, fairly sifted, reduce themselves at last to these two things: restore the ancient system, and save the additional expense. Before I close what I have to say on this ground, I hope I shall be pardoned for saying

one or two words about the expense. I hope, also, that, notwithstanding the epithets which may be applied to my arithmetic, I shall be pardoned for using that which I learned at school. It may have deceived me when it taught me that two and two make four: but though it should now be branded with opprobrious terms, I must still believe that two and two do still make four. Gentlemen of newer theories, and of higher attainments, while they smile at my inferiority, must bear with my infirmities, and take me as I am.

In all this great system of saving; in all this ostentatious economy, this rage of reform, how happens it that the eagle eye has not yet been turned to the mint ? That no one piercing glance has been able to behold the expenditures of that department? I am far from wishing to overturn it. Though it be not of great necessity, nor even of substantial importance; though it be but a splendid trapping of your government; yet, as it may, by impressing on your current coin the emblems of your sovereignty, have some tendency to encourage a national spirit, and to foster the national pride, I am willing to contribute my share for its support. Yes, sir, I would foster the national pride. "I cannot indeed approve of national vanity, nor feed it with vile adulation. But I would gladly cherish the lofty sentiments of national pride. I would wish my countrymen to feel like Romans, to be as proud as Englishmen; and, going still farther, I would wish them to veil their pride in the well bred modesty of French politeness. But can this establishment, the mere decoration of your political edifice, can it be compared with the massy columns on which rest your peace and safety ? Shall the striking of a few half pence be put into a parallel with the distribution of justice? I find, sir, from the estimates on your table, that the salaries of the officers of the mint amount to ten thousand, six hundred dollars, and that the expenses are estimated at ten thousand, nine hundred : making twenty-one thousand, five hundred dollars.

I find that the actual expenditures of the last year, exclusive of salaries, amounted to twenty-five thousand, one hundred and fifty-four dollars; add the salaries, ten thousand, six hundred dollars, we have a total of thirty-five thousand, seven hundred and fiftyfour dollars; a sum which exceeds the salary of these sixteen judges.

I find further, that during the last year, they have coined cents and half cents to the amount of ten thousand, four hundred seventy three dollars and twentynine cents. Thus their copper coinage falls a little short of what it costs us for their salaries. We have, however, from this establishment, about a million of cents; one to each family in America; a little emblematical medal, to be hung over their chimney pieces; and this is all their compensation for all that expense. Yet not a word has been said about the mint; while the judges, whose services are so much greater, and of so much more importance to the community, are to be struck off at a blow, in order to save an expense which, compared with the object, is pitiful. What conclusion, then, are we to draw from this predilection?

I will not pretend to assign to gentlemen the motives by which they may be influenced; but if I should permit myself to make the inquiry, the style of many observations, and more especially the manner, the warmth, the irritability, which have been exhibited on this occasion, would lead to a solution of the problem. I had the honor, sir, when I addressed you the other day, to observe, that I believed the universe could not afford a spectacle more sublime than the view of a powerful state kneeling at the altar of justice, and sacrificing there her passion and her pride: that I once fostered the hope of beholding that spectacle of magnanimity in America. And now what a world of figures has the gentleman from Virginia formed on his misapprehension of that remark. I never expressed any thing like exultation at the idea of a state ignomi

niously dragged in triumph at the heels of your judges. But permit me to say, the gentleman's exquisite sensibility on that subject, his alarm and apprehension, all show his strong attachment to state authority. Far be it from me, however, to charge the gentleman with improper motives. I know that his emotions arise from one of those imperfections in our nature, which we cannot remedy. They are excited by causes which have naturally made him hostile to this constitution, though his duty compels him reluctantly to support it. I hope, however, that those gentlemen, who entertain different sentiments, and who are less irritable on the score of state dignity, will think it essential to preserve a constitution, without which, the independent existence of the states themselves will be but of short duration.

This, sir, leads me to the second object I had proposed. I shall, therefore, pray your indulgence, while I consider how far this measure is constitutional. I have not been able to discover the expediency, but will now, for argument's sake, admit it; and here, I cannot but express my deep regret for the situation of an honorable member from North Carolina. Tied fast as he is, by his instructions; arguments, however forcible, can never be effectual. I ought, therefore, to wish, for his sake, that his mind may not be convinced by any thing I shall say; for hard indeed would be his condition, to be bound by the contrariant obligations of an order and an oath. I cannot, however, but express my profound respect for the talents of those who gave him his instructions, and who, sitting at a distance, without hearing the arguments, could better understand the subject than their senator on this floor, after full discussion.

The honorable member from Virginia has repeated the distinction, before taken, between the supreme and the inferior tribunals; he has insisted on the distinction between the words shall and may; has inferred from that distinction, that the judges of the inferior courts

« ZurückWeiter »