Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

exposition in direct hostility with the principle now contended for, which does not betray that sacred regard for the office of a judge, that is, on this occasion,

a professed: in that very law will be found a clause which abolishes two district courts. The twentyfourth section says expressly, “the district courts of Kentucky and Tennessee shall be and hereby are abolished.” Will gentlemen tell this House how this express provision came into the act of the last session: and will they say, that though they voted for this law, yet no power exists in the legislature to abolish a court? It is true, that it has been said, that though you put down two district courts, you promoted the officers by increasing their salaries and making them judges of the circuit courts; but the fact is, you have abolished their offices; they are judges no longer of the districts of Kentucky and Tennessee; and they are, to every purpose, whatever may be their name, in reality circuit judges. Though you have not lessened their salaries, you have deprived them of their offices. However, therefore, gentlemen may calculate as to the benefit or injury done these two judges, the principle is not affected by any result; their offices are gone.

It is not enough to say, that though you destroyed their offices, you offered them others with higher salaries. You took away from them, in express terms, their offices, by abolishing the offices. You had stripped them of their offices, you had robbed them of their vested right, and then, to make friends, offered them a compensation; but whether the compensation thus offered for the deprivation they had suffered, was really equivalent to their loss, is a mere matter of calculation, and does not affect the constitutional principle. It is proper, however, to observe, that they were no parties to the proposed compromise, and that, indeed, they had no choice left them. They were obliged to accept of what you offered them, or have nothing. If they did not agree to become judges of the newly organized circuit courts, they could not remain

a

judges of the district courts, for these courts were absolutely and completely abolished.

Were I, Mr. President, to make a calculation on the comparative increase of duties and additional salary, in the case of one of those gentlemen, (Judge Innes, of Kentucky,) I should have no hesitation to say, that the bargain which has been made without his consent, and without his being a party to it, is a very bad one for him. Knowing too his particular situation, I am per

I suaded, that if the law had left him any election between his former and new situation, he would have preferred remaining where he was, and without a moment's hesitation, he would have rejected your proffered promotion, as it is called. This gentleman resides within a very few miles of Frankfort, where, as district judge of Kentucky, he held his court. Attached to domestic life, and enjoying all its felicities, engaged in and pleased with agricultural pursuits, he was never under the necessity, even during the sessions of the courts, to sleep out of his own bed one night, or to be separated a single day from his family. He could every morning give directions for the management of his farm, and return early enough in the evening to see whether his orders were executed.

How is he situated under the change which has been forced upon him ? Instead of attending one court almost at his door, your late law obliges him to attend four. The nearest at Bairdstown, fifty or sixty miles from home. You oblige him to travel through dreary and inhospitable regions to the north-western territory, something short of an hundred miles; and much greater distances to, and through still worse countries, Knoxville and Nashville, in Tennessee. In going from one to the other of those last mentioned places, he will have to pass through the country of the Cherokee Indians, nearly one hundred miles over the Cumberland mountains, where he will be exposed to every inclemency of the weather, without a shelter to retire to, for there is not a house or a hut in the wbole jour

ney; a journey in which all travellers are obliged, at all times, and of unavoidable necessity, to sleep one night at least, and from the fall of rains, and rise of watercourses, often many nights, without a roof to cover them from the beating of the storm; and moreover, where they are liable at every step to be robbed by the Indians, as I myself experienced, passing through that wilderness. Can it be supposed, that the five hundred dollars added to the salary of Judge Innes, should, by a person situated as he was, be deemed a sufficient compensation for the additional duties, the toils, the dangers, and the deprivations to which that law subjected him? In continuing to serve his country, I am sure he must have been influenced more by a sense of duty than a regard to private interest, or a belief that the change was in any respect advantageous to him.

By the seventh section of the law of the last session, which transforms the district into circuit courts, which melts down the judges and recoins them, it is enacted: That there shall be a circuit court, composed of one new circuit judge, and two old district judges, to be called the sixth circuit. Have you not then established a new office by the destruction of the old one? Have you not done more? Have

you not violated the constitution, by declaring, by law, who shall fill this new office : though the constitution declares, article second, section second, That the President shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the senate, shall appoint all officers which shall be established by law.

Where were these guardians of the constitutionthese vigilant sentinels of our rights and liberties, when this law passed? Were they asleep upon their

post ? Where was the gentleman from New York, who has, on this debate, made such a noble stand in favor of a violated constitution? Where was the Ajax Telamon of his party, or, to use his own more correct expression, the faction to which he belonged? Where was the

13

VOL. II.

hero with his seven-fold shield ? Not of bull's hide, but of brass, prepared to prevent or to punish this Trojan rape which he now sees meditated upon the constitution of his country by a wicked faction? Where was Hercules, that he did not crush this den of robbers that broke into the sanctuary of the constitution? Was he forgetful of his duty ? Were his nerves unstrung? Or, was he the very leader of the band that broke down these constitutional ramparts ?

I shall now, sir, trouble you with a few remarks on the expediency of repealing this law. It has been said, that there is nothing peculiarly disgustful in this law; that there has been no public clamor excited against it; that it was enacted with solemnity, on calm and deliberate reflection, and that time has not been yet given to test it by experience.

As no member, who has taken part in debate, was a member of this body when the law passed, I will say something of its history. I am not disposed to excite the sensibility of gentlemen, by any remarks which I shall make, or to call up unpleasant recollections of past scenes. But when I hear it said, that this law was passed with calmness, after mature reflection, and that we are now in a fit of passion, going to undo what was thus wisely done, I think it necessary that the public should have a correct statement.

It is true, that under the last administration, when there existed, (what I trust will never, in an equal degree, exist again,) an immoderate thirst for executive patronage, a proposition was made to establish a new judiciary system; a system worse than the present; as it proposed, according to my recollection, thirtyeight judges instead of sixteen. This law was very near passing. It was, however, rejected in the House of Representatives by a very small majority. But it was circulated as a project of a law among the people. It was ill received. It was thought too rank a thing, and met with general disapprobation throughout the United States, as far as I have been able to learn. Af

a

1

ter this reception, it was softened down to the plan introduced at the last session. What temper accompanied the progress of the bill in the other House I know not, nor if I did know, would it be proper for me here to say? But with respect to the acts of this body, I am not of opinion they added any dignity to our common course of procedure. The bill was referred to a committee, who, though it was very long, reported it without any amendment. Various amendments were offered, some of which were admitted to be

proper. But they were not received. One, indeed, proposed by a member from Connecticut, who was chairman of the committee, and was then hostile to the plan, did pass, in the early stages of the bill, but on the third reading it was expunged. All amendments proposed by the minority were uniformly rejected, by a steady, inflexible and undeviating majority. I confess that I saw no passion, but I certainly did see great pertinacity; something like what the gentleman from Connecticut had termed a holding fast. No amend. ments were admitted; when offered, we were told, no; you may get them introduced by a rider or supplementary bill, or in any way you please; but down this bill must go; it must be crammed down your throats. This was not the precise phrase, but such was the amount of what was said.

I will say, that not an argument was urged in favor of the bill, not a word to show the necessity or proprie ty of the change. Yet we are told, that there was great dignity, great solemnity in its progress and passage!

But there is something undignified in thus hastily repealing this law; in thus yielding ourselves to the fluctuations of public opinion! So we are told! But if there be blame, on whom does it fall ? Not: on us, who respected the public opinion when this law was passed, and who still respect it; but on those who, in defiance of public opinion, passed this law, after that pub. lic opinion had been decisively expressed. The revolu

« ZurückWeiter »