Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court (rev.)
Publication Year: 2004
Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court reflects the substantial changes in the makeup of the High Court and landmark rulings from recent Court terms. No other reference on the Court offers so much detail and insight in such a readable format. This classic resource explains everything readers need to know about the Supreme Court, from its origins and how it functions to the people who have shaped it and the impact of its decisions on American life and the path of U.S. constitutional law. Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court covers the Court’s entire history; its operations; its power in relation to other branches of government; major decisions affecting the other branches, the states, individual rights and liberties; and biographies of the justices.
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Chapter 1. Origins of Judicial Power
- Chapter 2. From the Gilded Age to the Great Depression
- Chapter 3. The New Deal, Civil Rights, and the Conservative Revival
- Chapter 4. The Court and the Powers of Congress: Article I
- Chapter 5. The Court and the Powers of the President: Article II
- Chapter 6. The Court and Judicial Power: Article III
- Chapter 7. The Court and the States
- Chapter 8. The Court and the Individual
- Chapter 9. Freedom for Ideas: The First Amendment and the Right to Believe, to Speak, to Assemble, to Petition, and to Publish
- Chapter 10. The Rights of Political Participation
- Chapter 11. Crime and Punishment
- Chapter 12. Equal Rights and Personal Liberties
- Chapter 13. Congressional Pressure
- Chapter 14. Presidential Pressure
- Chapter 15. The Court, the Press, and the Public
- Chapter 16. Operations and Traditions of the Court
- Chapter 17. The People of the Court
- Chapter 18. Courtrooms and Costs
- Chapter 19. Members of the Court
- Chapter 20. Brief Biographies
Copyright by Sage Publications, Inc.
Preface to the Fourth Edition
At 10 p.m. on December 12, 2000, the bright lights of television and the eyes of the nation were trained on the white marble facade of the U.S. Supreme Court building. Voters had gone to the polls thirty-five days earlier, splitting their votes nearly evenly between Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic candidate, and Texas governor George W. Bush, the Republican contender. Of the more than 100 million votes cast, Gore had received 540,000 more than Bush. Under the terms of the U.S. Constitution, however, that did not make him the victor.
At the nation's founding, the men who wrote the Constitution believed wise men, rather like themselves, should pick the president; only the best-informed citizens would even know the character and reputations of the candidates qualified for the job. In short, in a vast country of farms and woods, where travel was plodding and communication slow, ordinary Americans could not be entrusted with choosing a national leader, or so the framers thought. Thus, the Constitution of 1787 set forth a three-step process for choosing the president. First, the states “shall appoint … Electors … in such Manner as the Legislature may direct.” Second, those selected meet and vote for the persons they think should be president and vice president. They then “transmit [their votes] sealed to the seat of the government of the United States,” where they are opened and counted. “The Person having the greatest Number of Votes for President shall be the President,” the Constitution says.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century the original purpose of this peculiar “electoral college” system had long faded from memory, but its legal structure had survived. Americans did not truly vote directly for their president. Rather, they voted, state by state, for a slate of electors, and in all but two states the candidate who received the most votes won all of the state's electors. That winner-take-all system in most states spurred the Democratic and Republican Parties to focus most of their attention on the handful of evenly divided large states, because a slight tilt in favor of one candidate would yield a large prize of electoral votes. Florida was such a state, and by midnight on November 7 it had become clear that the winner in the Sunshine State would win the presidency. Who, however, was the winner in Florida?
Governor Bush appeared initially to eke out a narrow win in Florida, with 1,768 more votes, but a quick retallying of county-by-county totals reduced his margin to 327 votes, and Gore refused to concede. Pointing to problems in the punch-card voting machines, Gore sought a recount of the paper ballots in several counties under a provision of Florida law that calls for a manual recount where there appears to be “an error in the vote tabulation which could affect the outcome of the election.” So began the legal battle for the presidency that ended, as many suspected it would, at the U.S. Supreme Court. Florida judges twice rejected Gore's requests for recounts, and the Florida Supreme Court twice intervened to order further recounts. The court's first decision extended the time for recounting ballots, and its second ordered a statewide recount of an estimated 42,000 ballots that had been run through the tabulating machines but had failed to register a vote. Section 101.561 of Florida's electoral law states that “no vote shall be declared invalid or void if there is a clear indication of the intent of the voter,” so the state high court ruled that teams of reviewers should inspect the discarded paper ballots and tally those on which the voter's intent was clear.
On December 9, however, the Supreme Court granted an emergency appeal filed on Bush's behalf and ordered the vote count to stop. Lawyers for Bush contended that a “standardless manual recount” violated the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection of the law, and two hours before midnight on December 12, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote said it agreed with Bush. A hasty recount based on a hazy standard would not yield a reliable result, the majority held, and it was too late to initiate a recount with a precise standard for counting defective ballots.
The ruling, though controversial, succeeded in resolving the election dispute. Less than twenty-four hours after the Court had spoken, Vice President Gore announced that although he disagreed with the decision, he accepted it as the law and conceded the presidency to Bush. It was a stark lesson in the power wielded by the Supreme Court as well as its extraordinary role in the U.S. legal system: Nine justices have the final word on the meaning of federal law and the U.S. Constitution, including conflicts involving state law. Their word, once spoken, stands. Case closed. As Justice Robert H. Jackson once wrote, the justices cannot claim to be infallible in interpreting the law. Rather, he stated of his colleagues, “We are infallible only because we are final.”
To people unfamiliar with U.S.-style democracy—and perhaps to many who are knowledgeable—it is remarkable that so much power rests in the hands of nine unelected judges. It may be a paradox, but it is not an accident. Americans place great faith in the rule of law and in a Constitution that stands above the everyday frays of life. If the Constitution is to indeed stand as the highest law—the law that governs the lawmakers—some person or persons must determine what the Constitution means in a particular dispute. The justices who sit atop the federal court system are those persons.
[Page pxii]Throughout U.S. history, the Supreme Court has played the role of final arbiter in legal disputes, many of them equally bitter and as hard fought as the 2000 election, even if not as instantly significant. These controversies have sometimes defined an era. In the nineteenth century they were the role of the new federal government in the growing nation, the persistence of slavery in a land in theory dedicated to liberty, and later the power of railroads and manufacturers over farmers and workers. In the twentieth century, they were minimum wages and unions, child labor and racial segregation, prayer in schools and protests in the streets, abortion and the death penalty, flag burning and drug testing, and affirmative action and gay rights.
The fourth edition of Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court conveys the story of the Court's history, conflicts, decisions, workings, and impact. Only the most determined student of the Court will approach these volumes as a narrative, for they are designed to be read in sections, perhaps a few pages that cover an area of the law or maybe the few paragraphs on a key decision. Part 1, chapters 1 through 3, recounts the history of the Court from its early days, when Chief Justice John Marshall and his colleagues met in a tavern in the evenings to discuss their cases, to today, when the Court's marble temple on Capitol Hill stands as the forum where the great legal questions of the day are argued and decided.
Part 2, chapters 4 through 7, looks at the Court's role in defining the powers of the government—Congress, the presidency, the courts, and the states. These powers have waxed and waned. After 1937 the Court determined that Congress had a nearly unlimited authority to regulate American life. In the 1990s, however, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and his colleagues reasserted the earlier view that Congress's power had limits. The constitutional authority to “regulate commerce among the several states” does not mean the power to regulate everything, including matters that are not commercial, Rehnquist asserted. In a set of rulings more controversial than that one, the Rehnquist Court held that the Constitution includes an implied principle of “sovereign immunity” for states and that this immunity sometimes shields them from being sued when they violate certain federal laws.
The president's powers as set forth in the Constitution look to be secondary, and not merely because they appear in the document's second section, after Congress's powers are delineated in Article I. In practice, the president has usually been the dominant figure in the government. Nonetheless, presidents have suffered their share of defeats before the Supreme Court. Franklin D. Roosevelt saw his first New Deal programs struck down as unconstitutional. Harry S Truman was rebuked for seizing control of the nation's steel mills during the Korean War. Richard M. Nixon was told that he had to surrender recordings made in the Oval Office in a decision that ultimately led to his resignation. Bill Clinton was told that he could be forced to respond to a private lawsuit against him while he was in office, a ruling that set in motion his impeachment in the House of Representatives.
Part 3, chapters 8 through 12, focuses on the Court's modern role in shaping the rights of individuals in such areas as freedom of speech, the press, and religion; elections and voting; crime and punishment; and civil rights and personal liberties. If there is a surprise in these chapters, it is that these rights are of rather recent vintage. Though the Bill of Rights dates to 1791, its impact on American life was minimal until the 1930s. Then, and slowly at first, the Court began to enforce these fundamental rights—the freedoms of speech, press, and religion; fair trials; and due process and equal treatment under law—as limits not just on the federal government, but on state agencies, police, school officials, and municipal authorities as well.
While volume 1 details the Court's decisions, volume 2 focuses on the Court's institutional setting and how the justices go about their work. The Court is the most insulated of the three branches of national government, yet it has an inescapable role to play in politics. Part 4 of volume 2 captures how the Court's work is affected by the actions of Congress and the president, as well as by the media and public opinion, and in turn how these institutions and processes are affected by the Court.
Part 5 chronicles the operations and traditions of the Court, the roles of the people who staff and support it, and the costs of this unique constitutional institution. Part 6 examines the Court's members and provides brief biographies of every justice. Volume 2 also includes excerpts of major decisions, a chronology of landmark rulings, acts of Congress concerning the judiciary, and other reference material on the Court and American constitutional law.
This book rests heavily on the work of the many people who contributed to its earlier editions. Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court began with Elder Witt, who created and wrote the first edition with the help of an able team of writers. She updated the second edition in 1990. Joan Biskupic, Supreme Court reporter for USA Today, revised and updated the third edition, which appeared in 1997. This fourth edition takes the Court into the twenty-first century and addresses the sometimes surprising developments in the areas of religion, free speech, states' rights, capital punishment, and gay rights that have marked the Rehnquist era. All predictions to the contrary, the Court has been anything but reticent in asserting its authority across the spectrum of American life and law.
Christopher Anzalone launched this edition of Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Douglas Goldenberg-Hart skillfully steered the project to completion. Copy editors Robin Surratt and Sabra Ledent and production editors Sally Ryman and Daphne Levitas undertook the enormous task of editing and producing the two volumes line by line, from chapter titles to the last footnote. Grace Hill conducted photo research and supplied captions. It was a pleasure to work with such professionals.
David G. Savage
AppendixAppendix A. Chronological Documents and TextsDeclaration of Independence
On June 11, 1776, the responsibility to “prepare a declaration” of independence was assigned by the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, to five members: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman. Impressed by his talents as a writer, the committee asked Jefferson to compose a draft. After modifying Jefferson's draft the committee turned it over to Congress on June 28. On July 2 Congress voted to declare independence; on the evening of July 4, it approved the Declaration of Independence.
The declaration is best remembered for its ringing preamble, which affirms the “self-evident” truths that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Besides asserting this natural law, the declaration also elevated the importance of public will: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Many later Supreme Court decisions attempted to find a balance these two fundamental pillars of American democracy: unalienable rights and popular will.
In Congress, July 4, 1776,
The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Government long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws of Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislature.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislature, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already [Page p1028]begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely parallel in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free People.
Nor have We been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
- New Hampshire:
- Josiah Bartlett,
- William Whipple,
- Matthew Thornton.
- Samuel Adams,
- John Adams,
- Robert Treat Paine,
- Elbridge Gerry.
- Rhode Island:
- Stephen Hopkins,
- William Ellery.
- Roger Sherman,
- Samuel Huntington,
- William Williams,
- Oliver Wolcott.
- New York:
- William Floyd,
- Philip Livingston,
- Francis Lewis,
- Lewis Morris.
- Robert Morris,
- Benjamin Harris,
- Benjamin Franklin,
- John Morton,
- George Clymer,
- James Smith,
- George Taylor,
- James Wilson,
- George Ross.
- Caesar Rodney,
- George Read,
- Thomas McKean.
- Button Gwinnett,
- Lyman Hall,
- George Walton.
- Samuel Chase,
- William Paca,
- Thomas Stone,
- Charles Carroll of Carrollton.
- George Wythe,
- Richard Henry Lee,
- Thomas Jefferson,
- Benjamin Harrison,
- Thomas Nelson Jr.,
- Francis Lightfoot Lee,
- Carter Braxton.
- North Carolina:
- William Hooper,
- Joseph Hewes,
- John Penn.
- South Carolina:
- Edward Rutledge,
- Thomas Heyward Jr.,
- Thomas Lynch Jr.,
- Arthur Middleton.
Articles of Confederation
- New Jersey:
- Richard Stockton,
- John Witherspoon,
- Francis Hopkinson,
- John Hart,
- Abraham Clark.
On June 11, 1776, the same day that it created a five-member committee to prepare the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress appointed a thirteen-member committee (one from each state) to draft a “plan of confederation.” The two decisions were closely connected: a new and independent nation needed a government of some sort. The committee recommended the Articles of Confederation to Congress on July 12; Congress adopted the plan on November 15, 1777; and unanimous ratification by the states finally came on March 1, 1781.
The Articles of Confederation, which did not provide for a system of national courts, created a weak central government with no executive at all and made Congress the sole organ of the new national government. The Articles provided a barely adequate framework for fighting and winning the Revolutionary War: the presence of a common enemy fostered a certain amount of unity among the states. But when the British were defeated in 1783, the national government found it increasingly difficult to unite the country to confront the new challenges of peace. The lack of a federal court system also remained a major source of embarrassment for the young nation.
To all to whom these Presents shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States affixed to our Names send greeting. Whereas the Delegates of the United States of America in Congress assembled did on the fifteenth day of November in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy seven, and in the Second Year of the Independence of America agree to certain articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts-bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, South-Carolina and Georgia in the Words following, viz. “Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the states of Newhampshire, Massachusetts-bay, Rhodeisland and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, South-Carolina and Georgia.Article I.
The Stile of this confederacy shall be “The United States of America.”Article II.
Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction and Right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.Article III.
The said states hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defence, the security of their Liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretence whatever.Article IV.
The better to secure the perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different states in this union, the free inhabitants of each of these states, paupers, vagabonds and fugitives from Justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several states; and the people of each state shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other state, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties, impositions and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively, provided that such restriction shall not extend so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any state, to any other state of which the Owner is an inhabitant; provided also that no imposition, duties or restriction shall be laid by any state, on the property of the united states, or either of them.
If any Person guilty of, or charged with treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor in any state, shall flee from Justice, and be found in any of the united states, he shall upon demand of the Governor or executive power, of the state from which he fled be delivered up and removed to the state having jurisdiction of his offence.
Full faith and credit shall be given in each of these states to the records, acts and judicial proceedings of the courts and magistrates of every other state.Article V.
For the more convenient management of the general interests of the united states, delegates shall be annually appointed in such manner as the legislature of each state shall direct, to meet in Congress on the first Monday in November, in every year, with a power reserved to each state, to recall its delegates, or any of them, at any time within the year, and to send others in their stead, for the remainder of the Year.
No state shall be represented in Congress by less than two, nor by more than seven Members; and no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years; nor shall any person, being a delegate, be capable of holding any office under the united states, for which he, or another for his benefit receives any salary, fees or emolument of any kind.
Each state shall maintain its own delegates in a meeting of the states, and while they act as members of the committee of the states.
In determining questions in the united states, in Congress assembled, each state shall have one vote.
Freedom of speech and debate in Congress shall not be impeached or questioned in any Court, or place out of Congress, and the members of congress shall be protected in their persons from arrests and imprisonments, during the time of their going to and from, and attendance on congress, except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace.Article VI.
No state without the Consent of the united states in congress assembled, shall send any embassy to, or receive any embassy from, or enter into any conference, agreement, or alliance or treaty with any King, prince or state; nor shall any person holding any office of profit or trust under the united states, or any of them, accept of any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from any king, prince or foreign state; nor shall the united states in congress assembled, or any of them, grant any title of nobility.
No two or more states shall enter into any treaty, confederation or alliance whatever between them, without the consent of the united states in congress assembled, specifying accurately the purposes for which the same is to be entered into, and how long it shall continue.
No state shall lay any imposts or duties, which may interfere with any stipulations in treaties, entered into by the united states in congress assembled, with any king, prince or state, in pursuance of any treaties already proposed by congress, to the courts of France and Spain.
No vessels of war shall be kept up in time of peace by any state, except such number only, as shall be deemed necessary by the united states in congress assembled, for the defence of such state, or its trade; nor shall any body of forces be kept up by any state, in time of peace, except such number only, as in the judgment of the united states, in congress assembled, shall be deemed requisite to garrison the forts necessary for the defence of such state; but every state shall always keep up a well regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutred, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage.
[Page p1030]No state shall engage in any war without the consent of the united states in Congress assembled, unless such state be actually invaded by enemies, or shall have received certain advice of a resolution being formed by some nation of Indians to invade such state, and the danger is so imminent as not to admit of a delay, till the united states in congress assembled can be consulted: nor shall any state grant commissions to any ships or vessels of war, nor letters of marque or reprisal, except it be after a declaration of war by the united states in congress assembled, and then only against the kingdom or state and the subjects thereof, against which war has been so declared, and under such regulations as shall be established by the united states in congress assembled, unless such state be infested by pirates, in which case vessels of war may be fitted out for that occasion, and kept so long as the danger shall continue, or until the united states in congress assembled shall determine otherwise.Article VII.
When land-forces are raised by any state for the common defence, all officers of or under the rank of colonel, shall be appointed by the legislature of each state respectively by whom such forces shall be raised, or in such manner as such state shall direct, and all vacancies shall be filled up by the state which first made the appointment.Article VIII.
All charges of war, and all other expences that shall be incurred for the common defence or general welfare, and allowed by the united states in congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several states, in proportion to the value of all land within each state, granted to or surveyed for any Person, as such land and the buildings and improvements thereon shall be estimated according to such mode as the united states in congress assembled, shall from time to time direct and appoint. The taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid and levied by the authority and direction of the legislatures of the several states within the time agreed upon by the united states in congress assembled.Article IX.
The united states in congress assembled, shall have the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war, except in the cases mentioned in the sixth article—of sending and receiving ambassadors—entering into treaties and alliances, provided that no treaty of commerce shall be made whereby the legislative power of the respective states shall be restrained from imposing such imposts and duties on foreigners, as their own people are subjected to, or from prohibiting the exportation or importation of any species of goods or commodities whatsoever—of establishing rules for deciding in all cases, what capture on land or water shall be legal, and in what manner prizes taken by land or naval forces in the service of the united states shall be divided or appropriated—of granting letters of marque and reprisal in times of peace—appointing courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas and establishing courts for receiving and determining finally appeals in all cases of captures, provided that no member of congress shall be appointed a judge of any of the said courts.
The united states in congress assembled shall also be the last resort on appeal in all disputes and differences now subsisting or that hereafter may arise between two or more states concerning boundary, jurisdiction or any other cause whatever; which authority shall always be exercised in the manner following. Whenever the legislative or executive authority or lawful agent of any state in controversy with another shall present a petition to congress, stating the matter in question and praying for a hearing, notice thereof shall be given by order of congress to the legislative or executive authority of the other state in controversy, and a day assigned for the appearance of the parties by their lawful agents, who shall then be directed to appoint by joint consent, commissioners or judges to constitute a court for hearing and determining the matter in question: but if they cannot agree, congress shall name three persons out of each of the united states, and from the list of such persons each party shall alternately strike out one, the petitioners beginning, until the number shall be reduced to thirteen; and from that number not less than seven, nor more than nine names as congress shall direct, shall in the presence of congress be drawn out by lot, and the persons whose names shall be so drawn or any five of them, shall be commissioners or judges, to hear and finally determine the controversy, so always as a major part of the judges who shall hear the cause shall agree in the determination: and if either party shall neglect to attend at the day appointed, without shewing reasons, which congress shall judge sufficient, or being present shall refuse to strike, the congress shall proceed to nominate three persons out of each state, and the secretary of congress shall strike in behalf of such party absent or refusing; and the judgment and sentence of the court to be appointed, in the manner before prescribed, shall be final and conclusive; and if any of the parties shall refuse to submit to the authority of such court, or to appear to defend their claim or cause, the court shall nevertheless proceed to pronounce sentence, or judgment, which shall in like manner be final and decisive, the judgment or sentence and other proceedings being in either case transmitted to congress, and lodged among the acts of congress for the security of the parties concerned: provided that every commissioner, before he sits in judgment, shall take an oath to be administered by one of the judges of the supreme or superior court of the state, where the cause shall be tried, “well and truly to hear and determine the matter in question, according to the best of his judgment, without favour, affection or hope of reward:” provided also that no state shall be deprived of territory for the benefit of the united states.
All controversies concerning the private right of soil claimed under different grants of two or more states, whose jurisdictions as they may respect such lands, and the states which passed such grants are adjusted, the said grants or either of them being at the same time claimed to have originated antecedent to such settlement of jurisdiction, shall on the petition of either party to the congress of the united states, be finally determined as near as may be in the same manner as is before prescribed for deciding disputes respecting territorial jurisdiction between different states.
The united states in congress assembled shall also have the sole and exclusive right and power of regulating the alloy and value of coin struck by their own authority, or by that of the respective states—fixing the standard of weights and measures throughout the united states—regulating the trade and managing all affairs with the Indians, not members of any of the states, provided that the legislative right of any state within its own limits be not infringed or violated—establishing and regulating post-offices from one state to another, throughout all the united states, and exacting such postage on the papers passing thro' the same as may be requisite to defray the expences of the said office—appointing all officers of the land forces, in the service of the united states, excepting regimental officers—appointing all the officers of the naval forces, and commissioning all officers whatever in the service of the united states—making rules for the government and regulation of the said land and naval forces, and directing their operations.
The united states in congress assembled shall have authority to appoint a committee, to sit in the recess of congress, to be denominated “A Committee of the States,” and to consist of one delegate from each state; and to appoint such other committees and civil officers as may be necessary for managing the general affairs of the united states under their direction—to appoint one of their number to preside, provided that no person be allowed to serve in the office of president more than one year in any term of three years; to ascertain the necessary sums of Money to be raised for the service of the united [Page p1031]states, and to appropriate and apply the same for defraying the public expences—to borrow money, or emit bills on the credit of the united states, transmitting every half year to the respective states an account of the sums of money so borrowed or emitted,—to build and equip a navy—to agree upon the number of land forces, and to make requisitions from each state for its quota, in proportion to the number of white inhabitants in such state; which requisition shall be binding, and thereupon the legislature of each state shall appoint the regimental officers, raise the men and cloath, arm and equip them in a soldier like manner, at the expence of the united states, and the officers and men so cloathed, armed and equipped shall march to the place appointed, and within the time agreed on by the united states in congress assembled: But if the united states in congress assembled shall, on consideration of circumstances judge proper that any state should not raise men, or should raise a smaller number than its quota, and that any other state should raise a greater number of men than the quota thereof, such extra number shall be raised, officered, cloathed, armed and equipped in the same manner as the quota of such state, unless the legislature of such state shall judge that such extra number cannot be safely spared out of the same, in which case they shall raise, officer, cloath, arm and equip as many of such extra number as they judge can be safely spared. And the officers and men so cloathed, armed and equipped, shall march to the place appointed, and within the time agreed on by the united states in congress assembled.
The united states in congress assembled shall never engage in a war, nor grant letters of marque and reprisal in time of peace, nor enter into any treaties or alliances, nor coin money, nor regulate the value thereof, nor ascertain the sums and expences necessary for the defence and welfare of the united states, or any of them, nor emit bills, nor borrow money on the credit of the united states, nor appropriate money, nor agree upon the number of vessels of war, to be built or purchased, or the number of land or sea forces to be raised, nor appoint a commander in chief of the army or navy, unless nine states assent to the same: nor shall a question on any other point, except for adjourning from day to day be determined, unless by the votes of a majority of the united states in congress assembled.
The congress of the united states shall have power to adjourn to any time within the year, and to any place within the united states, so that no period of adjournment be for a longer duration than the space of six Months, and shall publish the Journal of their proceedings monthly, except such parts thereof relating to treaties, alliances or military operations as in their judgment require secresy; and the yeas and nays of the delegates of each state on any question shall be entered on the Journal, when it is desired by any delegate; and the delegates of a state, or any of them, at his or their request shall be furnished with a transcript of the said Journal, except such parts as are above excepted, to lay before the legislatures of the several states.Article X.
The committee of the states, or any nine of them, shall be authorised to execute, in the recess of congress, such of the powers of congress as the united states in congress assembled, by the consent of nine states, shall from time to time think expedient to vest them with; provided that no power be delegated to the said committee, for the exercise of which, by the articles of confederation, the voice of nine states in the congress of the united states assembled is requisite.Article XI.
Canada acceding to this confederation, and joining in the measures of the united states, shall be admitted into, and entitled to all the advantages of this union: but no other colony shall be admitted into the same, unless such admission be agreed to by nine states.Article XII.
All bills of credit emitted, monies borrowed and debts contracted by, or under the authority of congress, before the assembling of the united states, in pursuance of the present confederation, shall be deemed and considered as a charge against the united states, for payment and satisfaction whereof the said united states, and the public faith are hereby solemnly pledged.Article XIII.
Every state shall abide by the determinations of the united states in congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this confederation shall be inviolably observed by every state, and the union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a congress of the united states, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every state.
And Whereas it has pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said articles of confederation and perpetual union. Know Ye that we the under-signed delegates, by virtue of the power and authority to us given for that purpose, do by these presents, in the name and in behalf of our respective constituents, fully and entirely ratify and confirm each and every of the said articles of confederation and perpetual union, and all and singular the matters and things therein contained: And we do further solemnly plight and engage the faith of our respective constituents, that they shall abide by the determinations of the united states in congress assembled, on all questions, which by the said confederation are submitted to them. And that the articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the states we respectively represent, and that the union shall be perpetual. In Witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands in Congress. Done at Philadelphia in the state of Pennsylvania the ninth Day of July in the Year of our Lord one Thousand seven Hundred and Seventy-eight, and in the third year of the independence of America.
- New Hampshire:
- Josiah Bartlett,
- John Wentworth Jr.
- John Hancock,
- Samuel Adams,
- Elbridge Gerry,
- Francis Dana,
- James Lovell,
- Samuel Holten.
- Rhode Island:
- William Ellery,
- Henry Marchant,
- John Collins.
- Roger Sherman,
- Samuel Huntington,
- Oliver Wolcott,
- Titus Hosmer,
- Andrew Adams.
- New York:
- James Duane,
- Francis Lewis,
- William Duer,
- Gouverneur Morris.
- New Jersey:
- John Witherspoon,
- Nathaniel Scudder.
- Robert Morris,
- Daniel Roberdeau,
- Jonathan Bayard Smith,
- William Clingan,
- Joseph Reed.
- Thomas McKean,
- John Dickinson,
- Nicholas Van Dyke.
- John Hanson,
- Daniel Carroll.
- Richard Henry Lee,
- John Banister,
- Thomas Adams,
- John Harvie,
- Francis Lightfoot Lee.
- North Carolina:
- John Penn,
- Cornelius Harnett,
- John Williams.
- South Carolina:
- Henry Laurens,
- William Henry Drayton,
- John Mathews,
- Richard Hutson,
- Thomas Heyward Jr.
Constitution of the United States
- John Walton,
- Edward Telfair,
- Edward Langworthy.
The United States Constitution was written at a convention that Congress called on February 21, 1787, for the purpose of recommending amendments to the Articles of Confederation. Every state but Rhode Island sent delegates to Philadelphia, where the convention met that summer. The delegates decided to write an entirely new constitution, completing their labors on September 17. Nine states (the number the Constitution itself stipulated as sufficient) ratified by June 21, 1788.
The Framers of the Constitution included only six paragraphs on the Supreme Court. Article III, Section 1, created the Supreme Court and the federal system of courts. It provided that “[t]he judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court,” and whatever inferior courts Congress “from time to time” saw fit to establish. Article III, Section 2, delineated the types of cases and controversies that should be considered by a federal—rather than a state—court. But beyond this, the Constitution left many of the particulars of the Supreme Court and the federal court system for Congress to decide in later years in judiciary acts.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.Article ISection 1.
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.Section 2.
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
[Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.]1 The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.
When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.
The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.Section 3.
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, [chosen by the Legislature thereof,]1 for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; [and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.]1
No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.
The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.Section 4.
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall [be on the first Monday in December],1 unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.Section 5.
Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.
Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.
Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.
Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.Section 6.
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.Section 7.
All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.
Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.
Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.Section 8.
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
- To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
- To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
- To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
- To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
- To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
- To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
- To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
- To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
- To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
- To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
- To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
- To provide and maintain a Navy;
- To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
- To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
- To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
- To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;—And
- To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.
The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.1
No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.
No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another; nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.
No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.Section 10.
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.
[Page p1034]No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.Article IISection 1.
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
[The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the list the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President.]1
The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.
No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office,1 the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.
The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”Section 2.
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.Section 3.
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.Section 4.
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.Article IIISection 1.
The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.Section 2.
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; — to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls; —to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction; —to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party; —to Controversies between two or more States; —between a State and Citizens of another State;1 —between Citizens of different States; —between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.1
In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before [Page p1035]mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.
The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.Section 3.
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.Article IVSection 1.
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.Section 2.
The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.
A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.
[No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.]Section 3.
New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.
The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.Section 4.
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.Article V
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided [that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and]1 that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.Article VI
All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
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; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.Article VII
The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.
Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth. IN WITNESS whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,
George Washington, President and deputy from Virginia.
- New Hampshire:
- John Langdon,
- Nicholas Gilman.
- Nathaniel Gorham,
- Rufus King.
- William Samuel Johnson,
- Roger Sherman.
- New York:
- Alexander Hamilton.
- New Jersey:
- William Livingston,
- David Brearley,
- William Paterson,
- Jonathan Dayton.
- Benjamin Franklin,
- Thomas Mifflin,
- Robert Morris,
- George Clymer,
- Thomas FitzSimons,
- Jared Ingersoll,
- James Wilson,
- Gouverneur Morris.
- George Read,
- Gunning Bedford Jr.,
- John Dickinson,
- Richard Bassett,
- Jacob Broom.
- James McHenry,
- Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer,
- Daniel Carroll.
- John Blair,
- James Madison Jr.
- North Carolina:
- William Blount,
- Richard Dobbs Spaight,
- Hugh Williamson.
- South Carolina:
- John Rutledge,
- Charles Cotesworth Pinckney,
- Charles Pinckney,
- Pierce Butler.
- William Few,
- Abraham Baldwin.
[Page p1036][The language of the original Constitution, not including the Amendments, was adopted by a convention of the states on September 17, 1787, and was subsequently ratified by the states on the following dates: Delaware, December 7, 1787; Pennsylvania, December 12, 1787; New Jersey, December 18, 1787; Georgia, January 2, 1788; Connecticut, January 9, 1788; Massachusetts, February 6, 1788; Maryland, April 28, 1788; South Carolina, May 23, 1788; New Hampshire, June 21, 1788.
Ratification was completed on June 21, 1788.
The Constitution subsequently was ratified by Virginia, June 25, 1788; New York, July 26, 1788; North Carolina, November 21, 1789; Rhode Island, May 29, 1790; and Vermont, January 10, 1791.]Amendments
(First ten amendments ratified December 15, 1791.)
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Amendment XI (Ratified February 7, 1795)
The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.
Amendment XII (Ratified June 15, 1804)
The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate; — The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted; — The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. [And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President. —]1 The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.
Amendment XIII (Ratified December 6, 1865)Section 1.
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.Section 2.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Amendment XIV (Ratified July 9, 1868)Section 1.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.Section 2.
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age,1 and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.Section 3.
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.Section 4.
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.Section 5.
The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Amendment XV (Ratified February 3, 1870)Section 1.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.Section 2.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Amendment XVI (Ratified February 3, 1913)
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
Amendment XVII (Ratified April 8, 1913)
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.
When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.
Amendment XVIII (Ratified January 16, 1919)Section 1.
After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.Section 2.
The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.Section 3.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.]1
Amendment XIX (Ratified August 18, 1920)
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Amendment XX (Ratified January 23, 1933)Section 1.
The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.Section 2.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.Section 3.
1 If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.Section 4.
The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.Section 5.
Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.Section 6.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.
Amendment XXI (Ratified December 5, 1933)Section 1.
The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.Section 2.
The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.Section 3.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.
Amendment XXII (Ratified February 27, 1951)Section 1.
No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.Section 2.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.
Amendment XXIII (Ratified March 29, 1961)Section 1.
The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct:
A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.Section 2.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Amendment XXIV (Ratified January 23, 1964)Section 1.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.Section 2.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Amendment XXV (Ratified February 10, 1967)Section 1.
In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.Section 2.
Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.Section 3.
Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.Section 4.
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
Amendment XXVI (Ratified July 1, 1971)Section 1.
The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.Section 2.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Amendment XXVII (Ratified May 7, 1992)
No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
Source: U.S.. Congress, House, Committee on the Judiciary, The Constitution of the United States of America, as Amended, 100th Cong., 1st sess., 1987, H Doc 100–94.
The part in brackets was changed by section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment.The part in brackets was changed by the first paragraph of the Seventeenth Amendment.The part in brackets was changed by the second paragraph of the Seventeenth Amendment.The part in brackets was changed by section 2 of the Twentieth Amendment.The Sixteenth Amendment gave Congress the power to tax incomes.The material in brackets was superseded by the Twelfth Amendment.This provision was affected by the Twenty-fifth Amendment.These clauses were affected by the Eleventh Amendment.This paragraph was superseded by the Thirteenth Amendment.Obsolete.The part in brackets was superseded by section 3 of the Twentieth Amendment.See the Nineteenth and Twenty-sixth Amendments.This amendment was repealed by section 1 of the Twenty-first Amendment.See the Twenty-fifth Amendment.Judiciary Act of 1789
Although the Constitution created the Supreme Court, it said much less about the Court than about Congress and the president. With the Judiciary Act of 1789, Congress set up a system of lower federal courts (district courts and circuit courts with limited jurisdiction), spelled out the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, and gave the Court the power to review and reverse or affirm state court rulings.
The act also set the number of Supreme Court justices at six: a chief justice and five associates. (Subsequent statutes changed the total number of justices successively to six, seven, nine, ten, seven, and nine.) In addition to establishing the size and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the act required the justices to “ride circuit”—a burdensome duty of traveling to and sitting on circuit courts around the country.Judiciary Act of 1789
An Act to establish the Judicial Courts of the United States.Section 1.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the supreme court of the United States shall consist of a chief justice and five associate justices, any four of whom shall be a quorum, and shall hold annually at the seat of government two sessions, the one commencing the first Monday of February, and the other the first Monday of August. That the associate justices shall have precedence according to the data of their commissions, or when the commissions of two or more of them bear date on the same day, according to the respective ages.Sec. 2.
And be it further enacted, That the United States shall be, and they hereby are divided into thirteen districts, to be limited and called as follows, to wit: one to consist of that part of the State of Massachusetts which lies easterly of the State of New Hampshire, and to be called Maine District; one to consist of the State of New Hampshire, and to be called New Hampshire District; one to consist of the remaining part of the State of Massachusetts, and to be called Massachusetts district; one to consist of the State of Connecticut, and to be called Connecticut District; one to consist of the State of New York, and to be called New York District; one to consist of the State of New Jersey, and to be called New Jersey District; one to consist of the State of Pennsylvania, and to be called Pennsylvania District; one to consist of the State of Delaware, and to be called Delaware District; one to consist of the State of Maryland, and to be called Maryland District; one to consist of the State of Virginia, except that part called the District of Kentucky, and to be called Virginia District; one to consist of the remaining part of the State of Virginia, and to be called Kentucky District; one to consist of the State of South Carolina, and to be called South Carolina District; and one to consist of the State of Georgia, and to be called Georgia District.Sec. 3.
And be it further enacted, That there be a court called a District Court, in each of the aforementioned districts, to consist of one judge, who shall reside in the district for which he is appointed, and shall be called a District Judge, and shall hold annually four sessions, the first of which to commence as follows, to wit: in the districts of New York and of New Jersey on the first, in the district of Pennsylvania on the second, in the district of Connecticut on the third, and in the district of Delaware on the fourth, Tuesdays of November next; in the districts of Massachusetts, of Maine, and of Maryland, on the first, in the district of Georgia on the second, and in the districts of New Hampshire, of Virginia, and of Kentucky, on the third Tuesdays of December next; and the other three sessions progressively in the respective districts on the like Tuesdays of every third calendar month afterwards, and in the district of South Carolina, on the third Monday in March and September, the first Monday in July, and the second Monday in December of each and every year, commencing in December next; and that the District Judge shall have power to hold special courts at his discretion. That the stated District Court shall be held at the places following, to wit: in the district of Maine, at Portland and Pownalsborough alternately, beginning at the first; in the district of New Hampshire, at Exeter and Portsmouth alternately, beginning at the first; in the district of Massachusetts, at Boston and Salem alternately, beginning at the first; in the district of Connecticut, alternately at Hartford and New Haven, beginning at the first; in the district of Connecticut, alternately at Hartford and New Haven, beginning at the first; in the district of New York, at New York; in the district of New Jersey, alternately at New Brunswick and Burlington, beginning at the first; in the district of Pennsylvania, at Philadelphia and York Town alternately, beginning at the first; in the district of Delaware, alternately at Newcastle and Dover, beginning at the first; in the district of Maryland, alternately at Baltimore and Easton, beginning at the first; in the district of Virginia, alternately at Richmond and Williamsburgh, beginning at the first; in the district of Kentucky, at Harrodsburgh; in the district of South Carolina, at Charleston; and in the district of Georgia, alternately at Savannah and Augusta, beginning at the first; and that the special courts shall be held at the same place in each district as the stated courts, or in districts that have two, at either of them, in the discretion of the judge, or at such other place in the district, as the nature of the business and his discretion shall direct. And that in the districts that have but one place for holding the District Court, the records thereof shall be kept [Page p1040]at that place; and in districts that have two, at that place in each district which the judge shall appoint.Sec. 4.
And be it further enacted, That the before mentioned districts, except those of Maine and Kentucky, shall be divided into three circuits, and be called the eastern, the middle, and the southern circuit. That the eastern circuit shall consist of the districts of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York; that the middle circuit shall consist of the districts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia; and that the south ern circuit shall consist of the districts of South Carolina and Georgia, and that there shall be held annually in each district of said circuits, two courts, which shall be called Circuit Courts, and shall consist of any two justices of the Supreme Court, and the district judge of such districts, any two of whom shall constitute a quorum: Provided, That no district judge shall give a vote in any case of appeal or error from his own decision; but may assign the reasons of such his decision.Sec. 5.
And be it further enacted, That the first session of the said circuit court in the several districts shall commence at the times following, to wit: in New Jersey on the second, in New York on the fourth, in Pennsylvania on the eleventh, in Connecticut on the twenty-second, and in Delaware on the twenty-seventh, days of April next; in Massachusetts on the third, in Maryland on the seventh, in South Carolina on the twelfth, in New Hampshire on the twentieth, in Virginia on the twenty-second, and in Georgia on the twenty-eighth, days of May next, and the subsequent sessions in the respective districts on the like days of every sixth calendar month afterwards, except in South Carolina, where the session of the said court shall commence on the first, and in Georgia where it shall commence on the seventeenth day of October, and except when any of those days shall happen on a Sunday, and then the session shall commence on the next day following. And the sessions of the said circuit court shall be held in the district of New Hampshire, at Portsmouth and Exeter alternately, beginning at the first; in the district of Massachusetts, at Boston; in the district of Connecticut, alternately at Hartford and New Haven, beginning at the last; in the district of New York, alternately at New York and Albany, beginning at the first; in the district of New Jersey, at Trenton; in the district of Pennsylvania, alternately at Philadelphia and Yorktown, beginning at the first; in the district of Delaware, alternately at New Castle and Dover, beginning at the first; in the district of Maryland, alternately at Annapolis and Easton, beginning at the first; in the district of Virginia, alternately at Charlottesville and Williamsburgh, beginning at the first; in the district of South Carolina, alternately at Columbia and Charleston, beginning at the first; and in the district of Georgia, alternately at Savannah and Augusta, beginning at the first. And the circuit courts shall have power to hold special sessions for the trial of criminal causes at any other time at their discretion, or at the discretion of the Supreme Court.Sec. 6.
And be it further enacted, That the Supreme Court may, by any one or more of its justices being present, be adjourned from day to day until a quorum be convened; and that a circuit court may also be adjourned from day to day by any one of its judges, or if none are present, by the marshal of the district until a quorum be convened; and that a district court, in case of the inability of the judge to attend at the commencement of a session, may by virtue of a written order from the said judge, directed to the marshal of the district, be adjourned by the said marshal to such day, antecedent to the next stated session of the said court, as in the said order shall be appointed; and in case of the death of the said judge, and his vacancy not being supplied, all process, pleadings and proceedings of what nature soever, pending before the said court, shall be continued of course until the next stated session after the appointment and acceptance of the office by his successor.Sec. 7.
And be it [further] enacted, That the Supreme Court, and the district courts shall have power to appoint clerks for their respective courts, and that the clerk for each district court shall be clerk also of the circuit court in such district, and each of the said clerks shall, before he enters upon the execution of his office, take the following oath or affirmation, to wit: “I, A. B., being appointed clerk of _____, do solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will truly and faithfully enter and record all the orders, decrees, judgments and proceedings of the said court, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties of my said office, according to the best of my abilities and understanding. So help me God.” Which words, so help me God, shall be omitted in all cases where an affirmation is admitted instead of an oath. And the said clerks shall also severally give bond, with sufficient sureties, (to be approved of by the Supreme and district courts respectively) to the United States, in the sum of two thousand dollars, faithfully to discharge the duties of his office, and seasonably to record the decrees, judgments and determinations of the court of which he is clerk.Sec. 8.
And be it further enacted, That the justices of the Supreme Court, and the district judges, before they proceed to execute the duties of their respective offices, shall take the following oath or affirmation, to wit: “I, A. B., do solemnly swear or affirm, that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent on me as _____, according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”Sec. 9.
And be it further enacted, That the district courts shall have, exclusively of the courts of the several States, cognizance of all crimes and offences that shall be cognizable under the authority of the United States, committed within their respective districts, or upon the high seas; where no other punishment than whipping, not exceeding thirty stripes, a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars, or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months, is to be inflicted; and shall also have exclusive original cognizance of all civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, including all seizures under laws of impost, navigation or trade of the United States, where the seizures are made, on waters which are navigable from the sea by vessels of ten or more tons burthen, within their respective districts as well as upon the high seas; saving to suitors, in all cases, the right of a common law remedy, where the common law is competent to give it; and shall also have exclusive original cognizance of all seizures on land, or other waters than as aforesaid, made, and of all suits for penalties and forfeitures incurred, under the laws of the United States. And shall also have cognizance, concurrent with the courts of the several States, or the circuit courts, as the case may be, of all causes where an alien sues for a tort only in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States. And shall also have cognizance, concurrent as last mentioned, of all suits at common law where the United States sue, and the matter in dispute amounts, exclusive of costs, to the sum or value of one hundred dollars. And shall also have jurisdiction exclusively of the courts of the several States, of all suits against consuls or vice-consuls, except for offences above the description aforesaid. And the trial of issues in fact, in the district courts, in all causes except civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, shall be by jury.Sec. 10.
And be it further enacted, That the district court in Kentucky district shall, besides the jurisdiction aforesaid, have jurisdiction of all other causes, except of appeals and writs of error, hereinafter made cognizable in a circuit court, and shall proceed therein in the same manner as a circuit court, and writs of error and appeals shall lie from decisions therein to the Supreme Court in the same causes, as from a circuit court to the Supreme Court, and under the same regulations. And the district court in Maine district shall, besides the jurisdiction herein before granted, have jurisdiction of all causes, except of appeals and writs of error herein after made cognizable in a circuit court, and shall proceed therein in the same manner as a circuit court: And writs of error shall lie from decisions therein to the circuit court in the district of Massachusetts in the same manner as from other district courts to their respective circuit courts.Sec. 11.
And be it further enacted, That the circuit courts shall have original cognizance, concurrent with the courts of the several States, of all suits of a civil nature at common law or in equity, where the matter in dispute exceeds, exclusive of costs, the sum or value of five hundred dollars, and the United States are plaintiffs, or petitioners; or an alien is a party, or the suit is between a citizen of the State where the suit is brought, and a citizen of another State. And shall have exclusive cognizance of all crimes and offences cognizable under the authority of the United States, except where this act otherwise provides, or the laws of the United States shall otherwise direct, and concurrent jurisdiction with the district courts of the crimes and offences cognizable therein. But no person shall be arrested in one district for trial in another, in any civil action before a circuit or district court. And no civil suit shall be brought before either of said courts against an inhabitant of the United States, by any original process in any other district than that whereof he is an inhabitant, or in which he shall be found at the time of serving the writ, nor shall any district or circuit court have cognizance of any suit to recover the contents of any promissory note or other chose in action in favour of an assignee, unless a suit might have been prosecuted in such court to recover the said contents if no assignment had been made, except in cases of foreign bills of exchange. And the circuit courts shall also have appellate jurisdiction from the district courts under the regulations and restrictions herein after provided.Sec. 12.
And be it further enacted, That if a suit be commenced in any state court against an alien, or by a citizen of the state in which the suit is brought against a citizen of another state, and the matter in dispute exceeds the aforesaid sum or value of five hundred dollars, exclusive of costs, to be made to appear to the satisfaction of the court; and the defendant shall, at the time of entering his appearance in such state court, file a petition for the removal of the cause for trial into the next circuit court, to be held in the district where the suit is pending, or if in the district of Maine to the district court next to be holden therein, or if in Kentucky district to the district court next to be holden therein, and offer good and sufficient surety for his entering in such court, on the first day of its session, copies of said process against him, and also for his there appearing and entering special bail in the cause, if special bail was originally requisite therein, it shall then be the duty of the state court to accept the surety, and proceed no further in the cause, and any bail that may have been originally taken shall be discharged and the said copies being entered as aforesaid, in such court of the United States, the cause shall there proceed in the same manner as if it had been brought there by original process. And any attachment of the goods or estate of the defendant by the original process, shall hold the goods or estate so attached, to answer the final judgment in the same manner as by the laws of such state they would have been holden to answer final judgment, had it been rendered by the court in which the suit commenced. And if in any action commenced in a state court, the title of land be concerned, and the parties are citizens of the [Page p1042]same state, and the matter in dispute exceeds the sum or value of five hundred dollars, exclusive of costs, the sum or value being made to appear to the satisfaction of the court, either party, before the trial, shall state to the court and make affidavit if they require it, that he claims and shall rely upon a right or title to the land, under a grant from a state other than that in which the suit is pending, and produce the original grant or an exemplification of it, except where the loss of public records shall put it out of his power, and shall move that the adverse party inform the court, whether he claims a right or title to the land under a grant from the state in which the suit is pending; the said adverse [party] shall give such information, or otherwise not be allowed to plead such grant, or give it in evidence upon the trial, and if he informs that he does claim under such grant, the party claiming under the grant first mentioned may then, on motion, remove the cause for trial to the next circuit court to be holden in such district, or if in the district of Maine, to the court next to be holden therein; or if in Kentucky district, to the district court next to be holden therein; but if he is the defendant, shall do it under the same regulations as in the beforementioned case of the removal of a cause into such court by an alien; and neither party removing the cause, shall be allowed to plead or give evidence of any other title than that by him stated as aforesaid, as the ground of his claim; and the trial of issues in fact in the circuit courts shall, in all suits, except those of equity, and of admiralty, and maritime jurisdiction, be by jury.Sec. 13.
And be it further enacted, That the Supreme Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction of all controversies of a civil nature, where a state is a party, except between a state and its citizens; and except also between a state and citizens of other states, or aliens, in which latter case it shall have original but not exclusive jurisdiction. And shall have exclusively all such jurisdiction of suits or proceedings against ambassadors, or other public ministers, or their domestics, or domestic servants, as a court of law can have or exercise consistently with the law of nations; and original, but not exclusive jurisdiction of all suits brought by ambassadors, or other public ministers, or in which a consul, or vice consul, shall be a party. And the trial of issues in fact in the Supreme Court, in all actions at law against citizens of the United States, shall be by jury. The Supreme Court shall also have appellate jurisdiction from the circuit courts and courts of the several states, in the cases herein after specially provided for; and shall have power to issue writs of prohibition to the district courts, when proceeding as courts of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, and writs of mandamus, in cases warranted by the principles and usages of law, to any courts appointed, or persons holding office, under the authority of the United States.Sec. 14.
And be it further enacted, That all the before-mentioned courts of the United States, shall have power to issue writs of scire facias, habeas corpus, and all other writs not specially provided for by statute, which may be necessary for the exercise of their respective jurisdictions, and agreeable to the principles and usages of law. And that either of the justices of the supreme court, as well as judges of the district courts, shall have power to grant writs of habeas corpus for the purpose of an inquiry into the cause of commitment — Provided, That writs of habeas corpus shall in no case extend to prisoners in gaol, unless where they are in custody, under or by colour of the authority of the United States, or are committed for trial before some court of the same, or are necessary to be brought into court to testify.Sec. 15.
And be it further enacted, That all the said courts of the United States, shall have power in the trial of actions at law, on motion and due notice thereof being given, to require the parties to produce books or writings in their possession or power, which contain evidence pertinent to the issue, in cases and under circumstances where they might be compelled to produce the same by the ordinary rules of proceeding in chancery; and if a plaintiff shall fail to comply with such order, to produce books or writings, it shall be lawful for the courts respectively, on motion, to give the like judgment for the defendant as in cases of nonsuit; and if a defendant shall fail to comply with such order, to produce books or writings, it shall be lawful for the courts respectively on motion as aforesaid, to give judgment against him or her by default.Sec. 16.
And be it further enacted, That suits in equity shall not be sustained in either of the courts of the United States, in any case where plain, adequate and complete remedy may be had at law.Sec. 17.
And be it further enacted, That all the said courts of the United States shall have power to grant new trials, in cases where there has been a trial by jury for reasons for which new trials have usually been granted in the courts of law; and shall have power to impose and administer all necessary oaths or affirmations, and to punish by fine or imprisonment, at the discretion of said courts, all contempts of authority in any cause or hearing before the same; and to make and establish all necessary rules for the orderly conducting business in the said courts, provided such rules are not repugnant to the laws of the United States.Sec. 18.
And be it further enacted, That when in a circuit court, judgment upon a verdict in a civil action shall be entered, execution may on motion of either party, at the discretion of the court, and on such conditions for the security of the adverse party as they may judge proper, be stayed forty-two days from the time of entering judgment, to give time to file in the clerk's office of said court, a petition for a new trial. And if such petition be there filed within said term of forty-two days, with a certificate thereon from either of the judges of such court, that he allows the same to be filed, which certificate he may [Page p1043]make or refuse at his discretion, execution shall of course be further stayed to the next session of said court. And if a new trial be granted, the former judgment shall be thereby rendered void.Sec. 19.
And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of circuit courts, in causes in equity and of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, to cause the facts on which they found their sentence or decree, fully to appear upon the record of either from the pleadings and decree itself, or a state of the case agreed by the parties, or their counsel, or if they disagree by a stating of the case by the court.Sec. 20.
And be it further enacted, That where in a circuit court, a plaintiff in an action, originally brought there, or a petitioner in equity, other than the United States, recovers less than the sum or value of five hundred dollars, or a libellant, upon his own appeal, less than the sum or value of three hundred dollars, he shall not be allowed, but at the discretion of the court, may be adjudged to pay costs.Sec. 21.
And be it further enacted, That from final decrees in a district court in causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, where the matter in dispute exceeds the sum or value of three hundred dollars, exclusive of costs, an appeal shall be allowed to the next circuit court, to be held in such district. Provided nevertheless, That all such appeals from final decrees as aforesaid, from the district court of Maine, shall be made to the circuit court, next to be holden after each appeal in the district of Massachusetts.Sec. 22.
And be it further enacted, That final decrees and judgments in civil actions in a district court, where the matter in dispute exceeds the sum or value of fifty dollars, exclusive of costs, may be re-examined, and reversed or affirmed in a circuit court, holden in the same district, upon a writ of error, whereto shall be annexed and returned therewith at the day and place therein mentioned, an authenticated transcript of the record, an assignment of errors, and prayer for reversal, with a citation to the adverse party, signed by the judge of such district court, or a justice of the Supreme Court, the adverse party having at least twenty days' notice. And upon a like process, may final judgments and decrees in civil actions, and suits in equity in a circuit court, brought there by original process, or removed there from courts of the several States, or removed there by appeal from a district court where the matter in dispute exceeds the sum or value of two thousand dollars, exclusive of costs, be re-examined and reversed or affirmed in the Supreme Court, the citation being in such case signed by a judge of such circuit court, or justice of the Supreme Court, and the adverse party having at least thirty days' notice. But there shall be no reversal in either court on such writ of error for error in ruling any plea in abatement, other than a plea to the jurisdiction of the court, or such plea to a petition or bill in equity, as is in the nature of a demurrer, or for any error in fact. And writs of error shall not be brought but within five years after rendering or passing the judgment or decree complained of, or in case the person entitled to such writ of error be an infant, feme covert, non compos mentis, or imprisoned, then within five years as aforesaid, exclusive of the time of such disability. And every justice or judge signing a citation on any writ of error as aforesaid, shall take good and sufficient security, that the plaintiff in error shall prosecute his writ to effect, and answer all damages and costs if he fail to make his plea good.Sec. 23.
And be it further enacted, That a writ of error as aforesaid shall be a supersedeas and stay execution in cases only where the writ of error is served, by a copy thereof being lodged for the adverse party in the clerk's office where the record remains, within ten days, Sundays exclusive, after rendering the judgment or passing the decree complained of. Until the expiration of which term of ten days, executions shall not issue in any case where a writ of error may be a supersedeas; and whereupon such writ of error the Supreme or a circuit court shall affirm a judgment or decree, they shall adjudge or decree to the respondent in error just damages for his delay, and single or double costs at their discretion.Sec. 24.
And be it further enacted, That when a judgment or decree shall be reversed in a circuit court, such court shall proceed to render such judgment or pass such decree as the district court should have rendered or passed; and the Supreme Court shall do the same on reversals therein, except where the reversal is in favor of the plaintiff, or petitioner in the original suit, and the damages to be assessed, or matter to be decreed, are uncertain, in which case they shall remand the cause for a final decision. And the Supreme Court shall not issue execution in causes that are removed before them by writs of error, but shall send a special mandate to the circuit court to award execution thereupon.Sec. 25.
And be it further enacted, That a final judgment or decree in any suit, in the highest court of law or equity of a State in which a decision in the suit could be had, where is drawn in question the validity of a treaty or statute of, or an authority exercised under the United States, and the decision is against their validity; or where is drawn in question the validity of a statute of, or an authority exercised under any State, on the ground of their being repugnant to the constitution, treaties or laws of the United States, and the decision is in favour of such their validity, or where is drawn in question the construction of any clause of the constitution, or of a treaty, or statute of, or commission held under the United States, and the decision is against the title, right, privilege or exemption specially set up or claimed by either party, under such clause of the said Constitution, treaty, statute or commission, may be re-examined and reversed or affirmed in the Supreme Court of the United States upon a writ of error, the [Page p1044]citation being signed by the chief justice, or judge or chancellor of the court rendering or passing the judgment or decree complained of, or by a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, in the same manner and under the same regulations, and the writ shall have the same effect, as if the judgment or decree complained of had been rendered or passed in a circuit court, and the proceeding upon the reversal shall also be the same, except that the Supreme Court, instead of remanding the cause for a final decision as before provided, may at their discretion, if the cause shall have been once remanded before, proceed to a final decision of the same, and award execution. But no other error shall be assigned or regarded as a ground of reversal in any such case as aforesaid, than such as appears on the face of the record, and immediately respects the before mentioned questions of validity or construction of the said constitution, treaties, statutes, commissions, or authorities in dispute.Sec. 26.
And be it further enacted, That in all causes brought before either of the courts of the United States to recover the forfeiture annexed to any articles of agreement, covenant, bond, or other speciality, where the forfeiture, breach or non-performance shall appear, by the default or confession of the defendant, or upon demurrer, the court before whom the action is, shall render judgment therein for the plaintiff to recover so much as is due according to equity. And when the sum for which judgment should be rendered is uncertain, the same shall, if either of the parties request it, be assessed by a jury.Sec. 27.
And be it further enacted, That a marshal shall be appointed in and for each district for the term of four years, but shall be removable from office at pleasure, whose duty it shall be to attend the district and circuit courts when sitting therein, and also the Supreme Court in the district in which that court shall sit. And to execute throughout the district, all lawful precepts directed to him, and issued under the authority of the United States, and he shall have power to command all necessary assistance in the execution of his duty, and to appoint as there shall be occasion, one or more deputies, who shall be removable from office by the judge of the district court, or the circuit court sitting within the district, at the pleasure of either; and before he enters on the duties of his office, he shall become bound for the faithful performance of the same, by himself and by his deputies before the judge of the district court to the United States, jointly and severally, with two good and sufficient sureties, inhabitants and freeholders of such district, to be approved by the district judge, in the sum of twenty thousand dollars, and shall take before said judge, as shall also his deputies, before they enter on the duties of their appointment, the following oath of office: “I, A. B., do solemnly swear or affirm, that I will faithfully execute all lawful precepts directed to the marshal of the district of ____ under the authority of the United States, and true returns make, and in all things well and truly, and without malice or partiality, perform the duties of the office of marshal (or marshal's deputy, as the case may be) of the district of ____, during my continuance in said office, and take only my lawful fees. So help me God.”Sec. 28.
And be it further enacted, That in all causes wherein the marshal or his deputy shall be a party, the writs and precepts therein shall be directed to such disinterested person as the court, or any justice or judge thereof may appoint, and the person so appointed, is hereby authorized to execute and return the same. And in case of the death of any marshal, his deputy or deputies shall continue in office, unless otherwise specially removed; and shall execute the same in the name of the deceased, until another marshal shall be appointed and sworn: And the defaults or misfeasances in office of such deputy or deputies in the mean time, as well as before, shall be adjudged a breach of the condition of the bond given, as before directed, by the marshal who appointed them; and the executor or administrator of the deceased marshal shall have like remedy for the defaults and misfeasances in office of such deputy or deputies during such interval, as they would be entitled to if the marshal had continued in life and in the exercise of his said office, until his successor was appointed, and sworn or affirmed: And every marshal or his deputy when removed from office, or when the term for which the marshal is appointed shall expire, shall have power notwithstanding to execute all such precepts as may be in their hands respectively at the time of such removal or expiration of office; and the marshal shall be held answerable for the delivery to his successor of all prisoners which may be in his custody at the time of his removal, or when the term for which he is appointed shall expire, and for that purpose may retain such prisoners in his custody until his successor shall be appointed and qualified as the law directs.Sec. 29.
And be it further enacted, That in cases punishable with death, the trial shall be had in the county where the offence was committed, or where that cannot be done without great inconvenience, twelve petit jurors at least shall be summoned from thence. And jurors in all cases to serve in the courts of the United States shall be designated by lot or otherwise in each State respectively according to the mode of forming juries therein now practised, so far as the laws of the same shall render such designation practicable by the courts or marshals of the United States; and the jurors shall have the same qualifications as are requisite for jurors by the laws of the State of which they are citizens, to serve in the highest courts of law of such State, and shall be returned as there shall be occasion for them, from such parts of the district from time to time as the court shall direct, so as shall be most favourable to an impartial trial, and so as not to incur an unnecessary expense, or unduly to burthen the citizens of any part of the district with such services. And writs of venire farias when directed by the court shall issue from the [Page p1045]clerk's office, and shall be served and returned by the marshal in his proper person, or by his deputy, or in case the marshal or his deputy is not an indifferent person, or is interested in the event of the cause, by such fit person as the court shall specially appoint for that purpose, to whom they shall administer an oath or affirmation that he will truly and impartially serve and return such writ. And when from challenges or otherwise there shall not be a jury to determine any civil or criminal cause, the marshal or his deputy shall, by order of the court where such defect of jurors shall happen, return jurymen de talibus circumstantibus sufficient to complete the pannel; and when the marshal or his deputy are disqualified as aforesaid, jurors may be returned by such disinterested person as the court shall appoint.Sec. 30.
And be it further enacted, That the mode of proof by oral testimony and examination of witnesses in open court shall be the same in all the courts of the United States, as well in the trial of causes in equity and of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, as of actions at common law. And when the testimony of any person shall be necessary in any civil cause depending in any district in any court of the United States, who shall live at a greater distance from the place of trial than one hundred miles, or is bound on a voyage to sea, or is about to go out of the United States, or out of such district, and to a greater distance from the place of trial than as aforesaid, before the time of trial, or is ancient or very infirm, the deposition of such person may be taken de bene esse before any justice or judge of any of the courts of the United States, or before any chancellor, justice or judge of a supreme or superior court, mayor or chief magistrate of a city, or judge of a county court or court of common pleas of any of the United States, not being of counsel or attorney to either of the parties, or interested in the event of the cause, provided that a notification from the magistrate before whom the deposition is to be taken to the adverse party, to be present at the taking of the same, and to put interrogatories, if he think fit, be first made out and served on the adverse party or his attorney as either may be nearest, if either is within one hundred miles of the place of such caption, allowing time for their attendance after notified, not less than at the rate of one day, Sundays exclusive, for every twenty miles travel. And in causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, or other cases of seizure when a libel shall be filed, in which an adverse party is not named, and depositions of persons circumstanced as aforesaid shall be taken before a claim be put in, the like notification as aforesaid shall be given to the person having the agency or possession of the property libelled at the time of the capture or seizure of the same, if known to the libellant. And every person deposing as aforesaid shall be carefully examined and cautioned, and sworn or affirmed to testify the whole truth, and shall subscribe the testimony by him or her given after the same shall be reduced to writing, which shall be done only by the magistrate taking the deposition, or by the deponent in his presence. And the depositions so taken shall be retained by such magistrate until he deliver the same with his own hand into the court for which they are taken, or shall, together with a certificate of the reasons as aforesaid of their being taken, and of the notice if any given to the adverse party, be by him the said magistrate sealed up and directed to such court, and remain under his seal until opened in court. And any person may be compelled to appear and depose as aforesaid in the same manner as to appear and testify in court. And in the trial of any cause of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction in a district court, the decree in which may be appealed from, if either party shall suggest to and satisfy the court that probably it will not be in his power to produce the witnesses there testifying before the circuit court should an appeal be had, and shall move that their testimony be taken down in writing, it shall be so done by the clerk of the court. And if an appeal be had, such testimony may be used on the trial of the same if it shall appear to the satisfaction of the court which shall try the appeal, that the witnesses are then dead or gone out of the United States, or to a greater distance than as aforesaid from the place where the court is sitting, or that by reason of age, sickness, bodily infirmity or imprisonment, they are unable to travel and appear at court, but not otherwise. And unless the same shall be made to appear on the trial of any cause, with respect to witnesses whose depositions may have been taken therein, such depositions shall not be admitted or used in the cause. Provided, That nothing herein shall be construed to prevent any court of the United States from granting a dedimus potestatem to take depositions according to common usage, when it may be necessary to prevent a failure or delay of justice, which power they shall severally possess, nor to extend to depositions taken in perpetuam rei memoriam, which if they relate to matters that may be cognizable in any court of the United States, a circuit court on application thereto made as a court of equity, may, according to the usages in chancery direct to be taken.Sec. 31.
And be it [further] enacted, That where any suit shall be depending in any court of the United States, and either of the parties shall die before final judgment, the executor or administrator of such deceased party who was plaintiff, petitioner, or defendant, in case the cause of action doth by law survive, shall have full power to prosecute or defend any such suit or action until final judgment; and the defendant or defendants are hereby obliged to answer thereto accordingly; and the court before whom such cause may be depending, is hereby empowered and directed to hear and determine the same, and to render judgment for or against the executor or administrator, as the case may require. And if such executor or administrator having been duly served with a scire facias from the office of the clerk of the court where such suit is depending, twenty days beforehand, shall neglect or refuse to [Page p1046]become a party to the suit, the court may render judgment against the estate of the deceased party, in the same manner as if the executor or administrator had voluntarily made himself a party to the suit. And the executor or administrator who shall become a party as aforesaid, shall, upon motion to the court where the suit is depending, be entitled to a continuance of the same until the next term of the said court. And if there be two or more plaintiffs or defendants, and one or more of them shall die, if the cause of action shall survive to the surviving plaintiff or plaintiffs, or against the surviving defendant or defendants, the writ or action shall not be thereby abated; but such death being suggested upon the record, the action shall proceed at the suit of the surviving plaintiff or plaintiffs against the surviving defendant or defendants.Sec. 32.
And be it further enacted, That no summons, writ, declaration, return, process, judgment, or other proceedings in civil causes in any of the courts of the United States, shall be abated, arrested, quashed or reversed, for any defect or want of form, but the said courts respectively shall proceed and give judgment according as the right of the cause and matter in law shall appear unto them, without regarding any imperfections, defects, or want of form in such writ, declaration, or other pleading, return, process, judgment, or course of proceeding whatsoever, except those only in cases of demurrer, which the party demurring shall specially sit down and express together with his demurrer as the cause thereof. And the said courts respectively shall and may, by virtue of this act, from time to time, amend all and every such imperfections, defects and wants of form, other than those only which the party demurring shall express as aforesaid, and may at any time permit either of the parties to amend any defect in the process or pleadings, upon such conditions as the said courts respectively shall in their discretion, and by their rules prescribe.Sec. 33.
And be it further enacted, That for any crime or offence against the United States, the offender may, by any justice or judge of the United States, or by any justice of the peace, or other magistrate of any of the United States where he may be found agreeably to the usual mode of process against offenders in such state, and at the expense of the United States, be arrested, and imprisoned or bailed, as the case may be, for trial before such court of the United States as by this act has cognizance of the offence. And copies of the process shall be returned as speedily as may be into the clerk's office of such court, together with the recognizances of the witnesses for their appearance to testify in the case; which recognizances the magistrate before whom the examination shall be, may require on pain of imprisonment. And if such commitment of the offender, or the witnesses shall be in a district other than that in which the offence is to be tried, it shall be the duty of the judge of that district where the delinquent is imprisoned, seasonably to issue, and of the marshal of the same district to execute, a warrant for the removal of the offender, and the witnesses, or either of them, as the case may be, to the district in which the trial is to be had. And upon all arrests in criminal cases, bail shall be admitted, except where the punishment may be death, in which cases it shall not be admitted but by the supreme or a circuit court, or by a justice of the supreme court, or a judge of a district court, who shall exercise their discretion therein, regarding the nature and circumstances of the offence, and of the evidence, and the usages of law. And if a person committed by a justice of the supreme or a judge of a district court for an offence not punishable with death, shall afterwards procure bail, and there be no judge of the United States in the district to take the same, it may be taken by any judge of the supreme or superior court of law of such state.Sec. 34.
And be it further enacted, That the laws of the several states, except where the constitution, treaties or statutes of the United States shall otherwise require or provide, shall be regarded as rules of decision in trials at common law in the courts of the United States in cases where they apply.Sec. 35.
And be it further enacted, That in all the courts of the United States, the parties may plead and manage their own causes personally or by the assistance of such counsel or attorneys at law as by the rules of the said courts respectively shall be permitted to manage and conduct causes therein. And there shall be appointed in each district a meet person learned in the law to act as attorney for the United States in such district, who shall be sworn or affirmed to the faithful execution of his office, whose duty it shall be to prosecute in such district all delinquents for crimes and offences, cognizable under the authority of the United States, and all civil actions in which the United States shall be concerned, except before the supreme court in the district in which that court shall be holden. And he shall receive as a compensation for his services such fees as shall be taxed therefore in the respective courts before which the suits or prosecutions shall be. And there shall also be appointed a meet person, learned in the law, to act as attorney-general for the United States, who shall be sworn or affirmed to a faithful execution of his office; whose duty it shall be to prosecute and conduct all suits in the Supreme Court in which the United States shall be concerned, and to give his advice and opinion upon questions of law when required by the President of the United States, or when requested by the heads of any of the departments, touching any matters that may concern their departments, and shall receive such compensation for his services as shall by law be provided.
APPROVED, September 24, 1789.
Source:Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, Vol. I (Boston: Charles C. Little & James Brown, 1845).Marbury v. Madison (1803)
The most famous decision made by the Court during the tenure of Chief Justice John Marshall, and perhaps the most famous in the Court's history, began as a relatively unimportant controversy over a presidential appointment. Federalist president John Adams, in his final days in office, attempted to entrench Federalists in the judiciary by appointing sixteen new circuit court judges and forty-two new justices of the peace for the District of Columbia. The commissions for four of the new justices of the peace, including William Marbury, were not delivered before Adams's last day in office. When Democratic-Republican secretary of state James Madison refused to give the four men their commissions, Marbury asked the Court to force Madison to do so.
The Court held that Marbury should have received his commission, which had been duly signed and sealed. But, Marshall held, the Court lacked the power to issue the order commanding Madison to deliver it. Congress had added unconstitutionally to the Court's original jurisdiction by authorizing the Court, in the Judiciary Act of 1789, to issue such orders to officers of the federal government. Marbury v. Madison has been called the single most important ruling in the history of the Supreme Court because it established the principle of judicial review, the Court's power to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional.
William Marbury v. James Madison, Secretary of State of the United States5 U.S.. 137, 1 Cranch 137, 2 L. Ed. 60 February, 1803.
AT the last term, viz. December term, 1801, William Marbury, Dennis Ramsay, Robert Townsend Hooe, and William Harper, by their counsel, Charles Lee, esq. late attorney general of the United States, severally moved the court for a rule to James Madison, secretary of state of the United States, to show cause why a mandamus should not issue commanding him to cause to be delivered to them respectively their several commissions as justices of the peace in the district of Columbia. This motion was supported by affidavits of the following facts; that notice of this motion had been given to Mr. Madison; that Mr. Adams, the late president of the United States, nominated the applicants to the senate for their advice and consent to be appointed justices of the peace of the district of Columbia; that the senate advised and consented to the appointments; that commissions in due form were signed by the said president appointing them justices, &c. and that the seal of the United States was in due form affixed to the said commissions by the secretary of state; that the applicants have requested Mr. Madison to deliver them their said commissions, who has not complied with that request; and that their said commissions are withheld from them; that the applicants have made application to Mr. Madison as secretary of state of the United States at his office, for information whether the commissions were signed and sealed as aforesaid; that explicit and satisfactory information has not been given in answer to that inquiry, either by the secretary of state or any officer in the department of state; that application has been made to the secretary of the Senate for a certificate of the nomination of the applicants, and of the advice and consent of the senate, who has declined giving such a certificate; whereupon a rule was laid to show cause on the fourth day of this term. This rule having been duly served,
Mr. Lee, in support of the rule, observed that it was important to know on what ground a justice of peace in the district of Columbia holds his office, and what proceedings are necessary to constitute an appointment to an office not held at the will of the president. However notorious the facts are, upon the suggestion of which this rule has been laid, yet the applicants have been much embarrassed in obtaining evidence of them. Reasonable information has been denied at the office of the department of state. Although a respectful memorial has been made to the senate praying them to suffer their secretary to give extracts from their executive journals respecting the nomination of the applicants to the senate, and of their advice and consent to the appointments, yet their request has been denied, and their petition rejected. They have therefore been compelled to summon witnesses to attend in court, whose voluntary affidavits they could not obtain. Mr. Lee here read the affidavit of Dennis Ramsay, and the printed journals of the senate of 31 January, 1803, respecting the refusal of the senate to suffer their secretary to give the information requested. He then called Jacob Wagner and Daniel Brent, who had been summoned to attend the court, and who had, as it is understood, declined giving a voluntary affidavit. They objected to being sworn, alleging that they were clerks in the department of state and not bound to disclose any facts relating to the business or transactions in the office….
The court ordered the witnesses to be sworn and their answers taken in writing, but informed them that when the questions were asked they might state their objections to answering each particular question, if they had any….
Mr. Lincoln, attorney general, having been summoned, and now called, objected to answering. He requested that the questions might be put in writing, and that he might afterwards have time to determine whether he would answer…. He was acting as secretary of state at the time when this transaction happened. He was of opinion, and his opinion was supported by that of others whom he highly respected, that he was not bound, and ought not to answer, as to any facts which came officially to his knowledge while acting as secretary of state.
The questions being written were then read and handed to him….
The court said, that if Mr. Lincoln wished time to consider what answers he should make, they would give him time; but they had no doubt he ought to answer. There was nothing confidential required to be disclosed. If there had been he was not obliged to answer it; and if he thought that any thing was communicated to him in confidence he was not bound to disclose it; nor was he obliged to state any thing which would criminate himself….
Mr. Lee then observed, that … he should confine such further remarks as he had to make in support of the rule to three questions:
- Whether the supreme court can award the writ of mandamus in any case.
- Whether it will lie to a secretary of state in any case whatever.
- Whether in the present case the court may award a mandamus to James Madison, secretary of state….
Opinion of the court
At the last term on the affidavits then read and filed with the clerk, a rule was granted in this case, requiring the secretary of state to show cause why a mandamus should not issue, directing him to deliver to William Marbury his commission as a justice of the peace for the county of Washington, in the district of Columbia.
No cause has been shown, and the present motion is for a mandamus. The peculiar delicacy of this case, the novelty of some of its [Page p1048]circumstances, and the real difficulty attending the points which occur in it, require a complete exposition of the principles, on which the opinion to be given by the court, is founded.
These principles have been, on the side of the applicant, very ably argued at the bar. In rendering the opinion of the court, there will be some departure in form, though not in substance, from the points stated in that argument.
In the order in which the court has viewed this subject, the following questions have been considered and decided.
- Has the applicant a right to the commission he demands?
- If he has a right, and that right has been violated, do the laws of his country afford him a remedy?
- If they do afford him a remedy, is it a mandamus issuing from this court?
The first object of inquiry is,
- Has the applicant a right to the commission he demands?
His right originates in an act of congress passed in February 1801, concerning the district of Columbia.
After dividing the district into two counties, the eleventh section of this law, enacts, “that there shall be appointed in and for each of the said counties, such number of discreet persons to be justices of the peace as the president of the United States shall, from time to time, think expedient, to continue in office for five years.
It appears, from the affidavits, that in compliance with this law, a commission for William Marbury as a justice of peace for the county of Washington, was signed by John Adams, then president of the United States; after which the seal of the United States was affixed to it; but the commission has never reached the person for whom it was made out.
In order to determine whether he is entitled to this commission, it becomes necessary to inquire whether he has been appointed to the office. For if he has been appointed, the law continues him in office for five years, and he is entitled to the possession of those evidences of office, which, being completed, became his property.
The second section of the second article of the constitution declares, “the president shall nominate, and, by and with the advice and consent of the senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not otherwise provided for.”
The third section declares, that “he shall commission all the officers of the United States.”
An act of congress directs the secretary of state to keep the seal of the United States, “to make out and record, and affix the said seal to all civil commissions to officers of the United States to be appointed by the President, by and with the consent of the senate, or by the President alone; provided that the said seal shall not be affixed to any commission before the same shall have been signed by the President of the United States.”
These are the clauses of the constitution and laws of the United States, which affect this part of the case. They seem to contemplate three distinct operations:
- The nomination. This is the sole act of the President, and is completely voluntary.
- The appointment. This is also the act of the President, and is also a voluntary act, though it can only be performed by and with the advice and consent of the senate.
- The commission. To grant a commission to a person appointed, might perhaps be deemed a duty enjoined by the constitution. “He shall,” says that instrument, “commission all the officers of the United States.”
The acts of appointing to office, and commissioning the person appointed, can scarcely be considered as one and the same; since the power to perform them is given in two separate and distinct sections of the constitution. The distinction between the appointment and the commission will be rendered more apparent by adverting to that provision in the second section of the second article of the constitution, which authorises congress “to vest by law the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments;” thus contemplating cases where the law may direct the President to commission an officer appointed by the courts or by the heads of departments. In such a case, to issue a commission would be apparently a duty distinct from the appointment, the performance of which, perhaps, could not legally be refused.
Although that clause of the constitution which requires the President to commission all the officers of the United States, may never have been applied to officers appointed otherwise than by himself, yet it would be difficult to deny the legislative power to apply it to such cases. Of consequence the constitutional distinction between the appointment to an office and the commission of an officer, who has been appointed, remains the same as if in practice the President had commissioned officers appointed by an authority other than his own.
It follows too, from the existence of this distinction, that, if an appointment was to be evidenced by any public act other than the commission, the performance of such public act would create the officer; and if he was not removable at the will of the President, would either give him a right to his commission, or enable him to perform the duties without it.
These observations are premised solely for the purpose of rendering more intelligible those which apply more directly to the particular case under consideration.
This is an appointment made by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the senate, and is evidenced by no act but the commission itself. In such a case therefore the commission and the appointment seem inseparable; it being almost impossible to show an appointment otherwise than by proving the existence of a commission; still the commission is not necessarily the appointment; though conclusive evidence of it.
But at what stage does it amount to this conclusive evidence?
The answer to this question seems an obvious one. The appointment being the sole act of the President, must be completely evidenced, when it is shown that he has done every thing to be performed by him.
Should the commission, instead of being evidence of an appointment, even be considered as constituting the appointment itself; still it would be made when the last act to be done by the President was performed, or, at furthest, when the commission was complete.
The last act to be done by the President, is the signature of the commission. He has then acted on the advice and consent of the senate to his own nomination. The time for deliberation has then passed. He has decided. His judgment, on the advice and consent of the senate concurring with his nomination, has been made, and the officer is appointed. This appointment is evidenced by an open, unequivocal act; and being the last act required from the person making it, necessarily excludes the idea of its being, so far as respects the appointment, an inchoate and incomplete transaction.
Some point of time must be taken when the power of the executive over an officer, not removable at his will, must cease. That point of time must be when the constitutional power of appointment has been exercised. And this power has been exercised when the last act, required from the person possessing the power, has been performed. This last act is the signature of the commission. This idea seems to [Page p1049]have prevailed with the legislature, when the act passed, converting the department of foreign affairs into the department of state. By that act it is enacted, that the secretary of state shall keep the seal of the United States, “and shall make out and record, and shall affix the said seal to all civil commissions to officers of the United States, to be appointed by the President:” “Provided that the said seal shall not be affixed to any commission, before the same shall have been signed by the President of the United States; nor to any other instrument or act, without the special warrant of the President therefor.”
The signature is a warrant for affixing the great seal to the commission; and the great seal is only to be affixed to an instrument which is complete. It attests, by an act supposed to be of public notoriety, the verity of the Presidential signature.
It is never to be affixed till the commission is signed, because the signature, which gives force and effect to the commission, is conclusive evidence that the appointment is made.
The commission being signed, the subsequent duty of the secretary of state is prescribed by law, and not to be guided by the will of the President. He is to affix the seal of the United States to the commission, and is to record it.
This is not a proceeding which may be varied, if the judgment of the executive shall suggest one more eligible, but is a precise course accurately marked out by law, and is to be strictly pursued. It is the duty of the secretary of state to conform to the law, and in this he is an officer of the United States, bound to obey the laws. He acts, in this respect, as has been very properly stated at the bar, under the authority of law, and not by the instructions of the President. It is a ministerial act which the law enjoins on a particular officer for a particular purpose.
If it should be supposed, that the solemnity of affixing the seal, is necessary not only to the validity of the commission, but even to the completion of an appointment, still when the seal is affixed the appointment is made, and the commission is valid. No other solemnity is required by law; no other act is to be performed on the part of government. All that the executive can do to invest the person with his office, is done; and unless the appointment be then made, the executive cannot make one without the co-operation of others.
After searching anxiously for the principles on which a contrary opinion may be supported, none have been found which appear of sufficient force to maintain the opposite doctrine.
Such as the imagination of the court could suggest, have been very deliberately examined, and after allowing them all the weight which it appears possible to give them, they do not shake the opinion which has been formed.
In considering this question, it has been conjectured that the commission may have been assimilated to a deed, to the validity of which, delivery is essential.
This idea is founded on the supposition that the commission is not merely evidence of an appointment, but is itself the actual appointment; a supposition by no means unquestionable. But for the purpose of examining this objection fairly, let it be conceded, that the principle, claimed for its support, is established.
The appointment being, under the constitution, to be made by the President personally, the delivery of the deed of appointment, if necessary to its completion, must be made by the President also. It is not necessary that the livery should be made personally to the grantee of the office: It never is so made. The law would seem to contemplate that it should be made to the secretary of state, since it directs the secretary to affix the seal to the commission after it shall have been signed by the President. If then the act of livery be necessary to give validity to the commission, it has been delivered when executed and given to the secretary for the purpose of being sealed, recorded, and transmitted to the party.
But in all cases of letters patent, certain solemnities are required by law, which solemnities are the evidences of the validity of the instrument. A formal delivery to the person is not among them. In cases of commissions, the sign manual of the President, and the seal of the United States, are those solemnities. This objection therefore does not touch the case.
It has also occurred as possible, and barely possible, that the transmission of the commission, and the acceptance thereof, might be deemed necessary to complete the right of the plaintiff.
The transmission of the commission is a practice directed by convenience, but not by law. It cannot therefore be necessary to constitute the appointment which must precede it, and which is the mere act of the President. If the executive required that every person appointed to an office, should himself take means to procure his commission, the appointment would not be the less valid on that account. The appointment is the sole act of the President; the transmission of the commission is the sole act of the officer to whom that duty is assigned, and may be accelerated or retarded by circumstances which can have no influence on the appointment. A commission is transmitted to a person already appointed; not to a person to be appointed or not, as the letter enclosing the commission should happen to get into the post-office and reach him in safety, or to miscarry.
It may have some tendency to elucidate this point, to inquire, whether the possession of the original commission be indispensably necessary to authorize a person, appointed to any office, to perform the duties of that office. If it was necessary, then a loss of the commission would lose the office. Not only negligence, but accident or fraud, fire or theft, might deprive an individual of his office. In such a case, I presume it could not be doubted, but that a copy from the record of the office of the secretary of state, would be, to every intent and purpose, equal to the original. The act of congress has expressly made it so. To give that copy validity, it would not be necessary to prove that the original had been transmitted and afterwards lost. The copy would be complete evidence that the original had existed, and that the appointment had been made, but not that the original had been transmitted. If indeed it should appear that the original had been mislaid in the office of state, that circumstance would not affect the operation of the copy. When all the requisites have been performed which authorize a recording officer to record any instrument whatever, and the order for that purpose has been given, the instrument is in law considered as recorded, although the manual labour of inserting it in a book kept for that purpose may not have been performed.
In the case of commissions, the law orders the secretary of state to record them. When therefore they are signed and sealed, the order for their being recorded is given; and whether inserted in the book or not, they are in law recorded.
A copy of this record is declared equal to the original, and the fees to be paid by a person requiring a copy are ascertained by law. Can a keeper of a public record erase therefrom a commission which has been recorded? Or can he refuse a copy thereof to a person demanding it on the terms prescribed by law?;
Such a copy would, equally with the original, authorize the justice of peace to proceed in the performance of his duty, because it would, equally with the original, attest his appointment.
If the transmission of a commission be not considered as necessary to give validity to an appointment; still less is its acceptance. The appointment is the sole act of the President; the acceptance is the sole act of the officer, and is, in plain common sense, posterior to the appointment. As he may resign, so may he refuse to accept: but neither the one nor the other is capable of rendering the appointment a non-entity.
That this is the understanding of the government, is apparent from the whole tenor of its conduct.
[Page p1050]A commission bears date, and the salary of the officer commences from his appointment; not from the transmission or acceptance of his commission. When a person, appointed to any office, refuses to accept that office, the successor is nominated in the place of the person who has declined to accept, and not in the place of the person who had been previously in office and had created the original vacancy.
It is therefore decidedly the opinion of the court, that when a commission has been signed by the President, the appointment is made; and that the commission is complete when the seal of the United States has been affixed to it by the secretary of state.
Where an officer is removable at the will of the executive, the circumstance which completes his appointment is of no concern; because the act is at any time revocable; and the commission may be arrested, if still in the office. But when the officer is not removable at the will of the executive, the appointment is not revocable and cannot be annulled. It has conferred legal rights which cannot be resumed.
The discretion of the executive is to be exercised until the appointment has been made. But having once made the appointment, his power over the office is terminated in all cases, where, by law, the officer is not removable by him. The right to the office is then in the person appointed, and he has the absolute, unconditional, power of accepting or rejecting it.
Mr. Marbury, then, since his commission was signed by the President, and sealed by the secretary of state, was appointed; and as the law creating the office, gave the officer a right to hold for five years, independent of the executive, the appointment was not revocable; but vested in the officer legal rights, which are protected by the laws of his country.
To withhold his commission, therefore, is an act deemed by the court not warranted by law, but violative of a vested legal right.
This brings us to the second inquiry; which is,
2. If he has a right, and that right has been violated, do the laws of his country afford him a remedy?;
The very essence of civil liberty certainly consists in the right of every individual to claim the protection of the laws, whenever he receives an injury. One of the first duties of government is to afford that protection. In Great Britain the king himself is sued in the respectful form of a petition, and he never fails to comply with the judgment of his court.
In the 3d vol. of his commentaries, p. 23, Blackstone states two cases in which a remedy is afforded by mere operation of law.
“In all other cases,” he says, “it is a general and indisputable rule, that where there is a legal right, there is also a legal remedy by suit or action at law, whenever that right is invaded.”
And afterwards, p. 109 of the same vol. he says, “I am next to consider such injuries as are cognizable by the courts of the common law. And herein I shall for the present only remark, that all possible injuries whatsoever, that did not fall within the exclusive cognizance of either the ecclesiastical, military, or maritime tribunals, are for that very reason, within the cognizance of the common law courts of justice; for it is a settled and invariable principle in the laws of England, that every right, when withheld, must have a remedy, and every injury its proper redress.”
The government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men. It will certainly cease to deserve this high appellation, if the laws furnish no remedy for the violation of a vested legal right.
If this obloquy is to be cast on the jurisprudence of our country, it must arise from the peculiar character of the case.
It behoves us then to inquire whether there be in its composition any ingredient which shall exempt it from legal investigation, or exclude the injured party from legal redress. In pursuing this inquiry the first question which presents itself, is, whether this can be arranged with that class of cases which come under the description of damnum absque injuria—a loss without an injury.
This description of cases never has been considered, and it is believed never can be considered, as comprehending offices of trust, of honor or of profit. The office of justice of peace in the district of Columbia is such an office; it is therefore worthy of the attention and guardianship of the laws. It has received that attention and guardianship. It has been created by special act of congress, and has been secured, so far as the laws can give security to the person appointed to fill it, for five years. It is not then on account of the worthlessness of the thing pursued, that the injured party can be alleged to be without remedy.
Is it in the nature of the transaction? Is the act of delivering or withholding a commission to be considered as a mere political act, belonging to the executive department alone, for the performance of which, entire confidence is placed by our constitution in the supreme executive; and for any misconduct respecting which, the injured individual has no remedy.
That there may be such cases is not to be questioned; but that every act of duty, to be performed in any of the great departments of government, constitutes such a case, is not to be admitted.
By the act concerning invalids, passed in June, 1794, vol. 3. p. 112, the secretary at war is ordered to place on the pension list all persons whose names are contained in a report previously made by him to congress. If he should refuse to do so, would the wounded veteran be without remedy? Is it to be contended that where the law in precise terms, directs the performance of an act in which an individual is interested, the law is incapable of securing obedience to its mandate? Is it on account of the character of the person against whom the complaint is made? Is it to be contended that the heads of departments are not amenable to the laws of their country?;
Whatever the practice on particular occasions may be, the theory of this principle will certainly never be maintained. No act of the legislature confers so extraordinary a privilege, nor can it derive countenance from the doctrines of the common law. After stating that personal injury from the king to a subject is presumed to be impossible, Blackstone, vol. 3. p. 255, says, “but injuries to the rights of property can scarcely be committed by the crown without the intervention of its officers; for whom, the law, in matters of right, entertains no respect or delicacy; but furnishes various methods of detecting the errors and misconduct of those agents by whom the king has been deceived and induced to do a temporary injustice.”
By the act passed in 1796, authorizing the sale of the lands above the mouth of Kentucky river (vol. 3d. p. 299) the purchaser, on paying his purchase money, becomes completely entitled to the property purchased; and on producing to the secretary of state, the receipt of the treasurer upon a certificate required by the law, the president of the United States is authorized to grant him a patent. It is further enacted that all patents shall be countersigned by the secretary of state, and recorded in his office. If the secretary of state should choose to withhold this patent; or the patent being lost, should refuse a copy of it; can it be imagined that the law furnishes to the injured person no remedy?
It is not believed that any person whatever would attempt to maintain such a proposition.
It follows then that the question, whether the legality of an act of the head of a department be examinable in a court of justice or not, must always depend on the nature of that act.
If some acts be examinable, and others not, there must be some rule of law to guide the court in the exercise of its jurisdiction.
[Page p1051]In some instances there may be difficulty in applying the rule to particular cases; but there cannot, it is believed, be much difficulty in laying down the rule.
By the constitution of the United States, the President is invested with certain important political powers, in the exercise of which he is to use his own discretion, and is accountable only to his country in his political character, and to his own conscience. To aid him in the performance of these duties, he is authorized to appoint certain officers, who act by his authority and in conformity with his orders.
In such cases, their acts are his acts; and whatever opinion may be entertained of the manner in which executive discretion may be used, still there exists, and can exist, no power to control that discretion. The subjects are political. They respect the nation, not individual rights, and being entrusted to the executive, the decision of the executive is conclusive. The application of this remark will be perceived by adverting to the act of congress for establishing the department of foreign affairs. This officer, as his duties were prescribed by that act, is to conform precisely to the will of the President. He is the mere organ by whom that will is communicated. The acts of such an officer, as an officer, can never be examinable by the courts.
But when the legislature proceeds to impose on that officer other duties; when he is directed peremptorily to perform certain acts; when the rights of individuals are dependent on the performance of those acts; he is so far the officer of the law; is amenable to the laws for his conduct; and cannot at his discretion sport away the vested rights of others.
The conclusion from this reasoning is, that where the heads of departments are the political or confidential agents of the executive, merely to execute the will of the President, or rather to act in cases in which the executive possesses a constitutional or legal discretion, nothing can be more perfectly clear than that their acts are only politically examinable. But where a specific duty is assigned by law, and individual rights depend upon the performance of that duty, it seems equally clear that the individual who considers himself injured has a right to resort to the laws of his country for a remedy.
If this be the rule, let us inquire how it applies to the case under the consideration of the court.
The power of nominating to the senate, and the power of appointing the person nominated, are political powers, to be exercised by the President according to his own discretion. When he has made an appointment, he has exercised his whole power, and his discretion has been completely applied to the case. If, by law, the officer be removable at the will of the President, then a new appointment may be immediately made, and the rights of the officer are terminated. But as a fact which has existed cannot be made never to have existed, the appointment cannot be annihilated; and consequently if the officer is by law not removable at the will of the President the rights he has acquired are protected by the law, and are not resumable by the President. They cannot be extinguished by executive authority, and he has the privilege of asserting them in like manner as if they had been derived from any other source.
The question whether a right has vested or not, is, in its nature, judicial, and must be tried by the judicial authority. If, for example, Mr. Marbury had taken the oaths of a magistrate, and proceeded to act as one; in consequence of which a suit had been instituted against him, in which his defence had depended on his being a magistrate; the validity of his appointment must have been determined by judicial authority.
So, if he conceives that, by virtue of his appointment, he has a legal right, either to the commission which has been made out for him, or to a copy of that commission, it is equally a question examinable in a court, and the decision of the court upon it must depend on the opinion entertained of his appointment.
That question has been discussed, and the opinion is, that the latest point of time which can be taken as that at which the appointment was complete, and evidenced, was when, after the signature of the president, the seal of the United States was affixed to the commission.
It is then the opinion of the court,
- That by signing the commission of Mr. Marbury, the president of the United States appointed him a justice of peace for the county of Washington in the district of Columbia; and that the seal of the United States, affixed thereto by the secretary of state, is conclusive testimony of the verity of the signature, and of the completion of the appointment; and that the appointment conferred on him a legal right to the office for the space of five years.
- That, having this legal title to the office, he has a consequent right to the commission; a refusal to deliver which, is a plain violation of that right, for which the laws of his country afford him a remedy.
It remains to be inquired whether,
- 3. He is entitled to the remedy for which he applies. This depends on,
- 1. The nature of the writ applied for, and,
- 2. The power of this court.
- 1. The nature of the writ.
Blackstone, in the 3d volume of his commentaries, page 110, defines a mandamus to be, “a command issuing in the king's name from the court of king's bench, and directed to any person, corporation, or inferior court of judicature within the king's dominions, requiring them to do some particular thing therein specified, which appertains to their office and duty, and which the court of king's bench has previously determined, or at least supposes, to be consonant to right and justice.”
Lord Mansfield, in 3d Burrows 1266, in the case of the King v. Baker, et al. states with much precision and explicitness the cases in which this writ may be used.
“Whenever,” says that very able judge, “there is a right to execute an office, perform a service, or exercise a franchise (more especially if it be in a matter of public concern, or attended with profit), and a person is kept out of possession, or dispossessed of such right, and has no other specific legal remedy, this court ought to assist by mandamus, upon reasons of justice, as the writ expresses, and upon reasons of public policy, to preserve peace, order and good government.” In the same case he says, “this writ ought to be used upon all occasions where the law has established no specific remedy, and where in justice and good government there ought to be one.”
In addition to the authorities now particularly cited, many others were relied on at the bar, which show how far the practice has conformed to the general doctrines that have been just quoted.
This writ, if awarded, would be directed to an officer of government, and its mandate to him would be, to use the words of Blackstone, “to do a particular thing therein specified, which appertains to his office and duty and which the court has previously determined, or at least supposes to be consonant to right and justice.” Or, in the words of Lord Mansfield, the applicant, in this case, has a right to execute an office of public concern, and is kept out of possession of that right.
These circumstances certainly concur in this case.
Still, to render the mandamus a proper remedy, the officer to whom it is to be directed, must be one to whom, on legal principles, such writ may be directed; and the person applying for it must be without any other specific and legal remedy.
1. With respect to the officer to whom it would be directed. The intimate political relation, subsisting between the president of the [Page p1052]United States and the heads of departments, necessarily renders any legal investigation of the acts of one of those high officers peculiarly irksome, as well as delicate; and excites some hesitation with respect to the propriety of entering into such investigation. Impressions are often received without much reflection or examination, and it is not wonderful that in such a case as this, the assertion, by an individual, of his legal claims in a court of justice; to which claims it is the duty of that court to attend; should at first view be considered by some, as an attempt to intrude into the cabinet, and to intermeddle with the prerogatives of the executive.
It is scarcely necessary for the court to disclaim all pretensions to such a jurisdiction. An extravagance, so absurd and excessive, could not have been entertained for a moment. The province of the court is, solely, to decide on the rights of individuals, not to inquire how the executive, or executive officers, perform duties in which they have a discretion. Questions, in their nature political, or which are, by the constitution and laws, submitted to the executive, can never be made in this court.
But, if this be not such a question; if so far from being an intrusion into the secrets of the cabinet, it respects a paper, which, according to law, is upon record, and to a copy of which the law gives a right, on the payment of ten cents; if it be no intermeddling with a subject, over which the executive can be considered as having exercised any control; what is there in the exalted station of the officer, which shall bar a citizen from asserting, in a court of justice, his legal rights, or shall forbid a court to listen to the claim; or to issue a mandamus, directing the performance of a duty, not depending on executive discretion, but on particular acts of congress and the general principles of law?
If one of the heads of departments commits any illegal act, under color of his office, by which an individual sustains an injury, it cannot be pretended that his office alone exempts him from being sued in the ordinary mode of proceeding, and being compelled to obey the judgment of the law. How then can his office exempt him from this particular mode of deciding on the legality of his conduct, if the case be such a case as would, were any other individual the party complained of, authorize the process?;
It is not by the office of the person to whom the writ is directed, but the nature of the thing to be done, that the propriety or impropriety of issuing a mandamus is to be determined. Where the head of a department acts in a case in which executive discretion is to be exercised; in which he is the mere organ of executive will; it is again repeated, that any application to a court to control, in any respect, his conduct, would be rejected without hesitation.
But where he is directed by law to do a certain act affecting the absolute rights of individuals, in the performance of which he is not placed under the particular direction of the President, and the performance of which, the President cannot lawfully forbid, and therefore is never presumed to have forbidden; as for example, to record a commission, or a patent for land, which has received all the legal solemnities; or to give a copy of such record; in such cases, it is not perceived on what ground the courts of the country are further excused from the duty of giving judgment, that right to be done to an injured individual, than if the same services were to be performed by a person not the head of a department.
This opinion seems not now, for the first time, to be taken up in this country.
It must be well recollected that in 1792, an act passed, directing the secretary at war to place on the pension list such disabled officers and soldiers as should be reported to him, by the circuit courts, which act, so far as the duty was imposed on the courts, was deemed unconstitutional; but some of the judges, thinking that the law might be executed by them in the character of commissioners, proceeded to act and to report in that character.
This law being deemed unconstitutional at the circuits, was repealed, and a different system was established; but the question whether those persons, who had been reported by the judges, as commissioners, were entitled, in consequence of that report, to be placed on the pension list, was a legal question, properly determinable in the courts, although the act of placing such persons on the list was to be performed by the head of a department.
That this question might be properly settled, congress passed an act in February, 1793, making it the duty of the secretary of war, in conjunction with the attorney general, to take such measures as might be necessary to obtain an adjudication of the supreme court of the United States on the validity of any such rights, claimed under the act aforesaid.
After the passage of this act, a mandamus was moved for, to be directed to the secretary at war, commanding him to place on the pension list a person stating himself to be on the report of the judges.
There is, therefore, much reason to believe, that this mode of trying the legal right of the complainant, was deemed by the head of a department, and by the highest law officer of the United States, the most proper which could be selected for the purpose.
When the subject was brought before the court the decision was, not that a mandamus would not lie to the head of a department, directing him to perform an act, enjoined by law, in the performance of which an individual had a vested interest; but that a mandamus ought not to issue in that case—the decision necessarily to be made if the report of the commissioners did not confer on the applicant a legal right.
The judgment in that case, is understood to have decided the merits of all claims of that description; and the persons on the report of the commissioners found it necessary to pursue the mode prescribed by the law subsequent to that which had been deemed unconstitutional, in order to place themselves on the pension list.
The doctrine, therefore, now advanced, is by no means a novel one.
It is true that the mandamus, now moved for, is not for the performance of an act expressly enjoined by statute.
It is to deliver a commission; on which subjects the acts of congress are silent. This difference is not considered as affecting the case. It has already been stated that the applicant has, to that commission, a vested legal right, of which the executive cannot deprive him. He has been appointed to an office, from which he is not removable at the will of the executive; and being so appointed, he has a right to the commission which the secretary has received from the president for his use. The act of congress does not indeed order the secretary of state to send it to him, but it is placed in his hands for the person entitled to it; and cannot be more lawfully withheld by him, than by another person.
It was at first doubted whether the action of detinue was not a specific legal remedy for the commission which has been withheld from Mr. Marbury; in which case a mandamus would be improper. But this doubt has yielded to the consideration that the judgment in detinue is for the thing itself, or its value. The value of a public office not to be sold, is incapable of being ascertained; and the applicant has a right to the office itself, or to nothing. He will obtain the office by obtaining the commission, or a copy of it from the record.
This, then, is a plain case of a mandamus, either to deliver the commission, or a copy of it from the record; and it only remains to be inquired,
Whether it can issue from this court.
The act to establish the judicial courts of the United States authorizes the supreme court “to issue writs of mandamus, in cases [Page p1053]warranted by the principles and usages of law, to any courts appointed, or persons holding office, under the authority of the United States.”
The secretary of state, being a person holding an office under the authority of the United States, is precisely within the letter of the description; and if this court is not authorized to issue a writ of mandamus to such an officer, it must be because the law is unconstitutional, and therefore absolutely incapable of conferring the authority, and assigning the duties which its words purport to confer and assign.
The constitution vests the whole judicial power of the United States in one supreme court, and such inferior courts as congress shall, from time to time, ordain and establish. This power is expressly extended to all cases arising under the laws of the United States; and consequently, in some form, may be exercised over the present case; because the right claimed is given by a law of the United States.
In the distribution of this power it is declared that “the supreme court shall have original jurisdiction in all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be a party. In all other cases, the supreme court shall have appellate jurisdiction.”
It has been insisted at the bar, that as the original grant of jurisdiction to the supreme and inferior courts, is general, and the clause, assigning original jurisdiction to the supreme court, contains no negative or restrictive words; the power remains to the legislature, to assign original jurisdiction to that court in other cases than those specified in the article which has been recited; provided those cases belong to the judicial power of the United States.
If it had been intended to leave it in the discretion of the legislature to apportion the judicial power between the supreme and inferior courts according to the will of that body, it would certainly have been useless to have proceeded further than to have defined the judicial power, and the tribunals in which it should be vested. The subsequent part of the section is mere surplussage, is entirely without meaning, if such is to be the construction. If congress remains at liberty to give this court appellate jurisdiction, where the constitution has declared their jurisdiction shall be original; and original jurisdiction where the constitution has declared it shall be appellate; the distribution of jurisdiction, made in the constitution, is form without substance.
Affirmative words are often, in their operation, negative of other objects than those affirmed; and in this case, a negative or exclusive sense must be given to them or they have no operation at all.
It cannot be presumed that any clause in the constitution is intended to be without effect; and therefore such construction is inadmissible, unless the words require it.
If the solicitude of the convention, respecting our peace with foreign powers, induced a provision that the supreme court should take original jurisdiction in cases which might be supposed to affect them; yet the clause would have proceeded no further than to provide for such cases, if no further restriction on the powers of congress had been intended. That they should have appellate jurisdiction in all other cases, with such exceptions as congress might make, is no restriction; unless the words be deemed exclusive of original jurisdiction.
When an instrument organizing fundamentally a judicial system, divides it into one supreme, and so many inferior courts as the legislature may ordain and establish; then enumerates its powers, and proceeds so far to distribute them, as to define the jurisdiction of the supreme court by declaring the cases in which it shall take original jurisdiction, and that in others it shall take appellate jurisdiction, the plain import of the words seems to be, that in one class of cases its jurisdiction is original, and not appellate; in the other it is appellate, and not original. If any other construction would render the clause inoperative, that is an additional reason for rejecting such other construction, and for adhering to the obvious meaning.
To enable this court then to issue a mandamus, it must be shown to be an exercise of appellate jurisdiction, or to be necessary to enable them to exercise appellate jurisdiction.
It has been stated at the bar that the appellate jurisdiction may be exercised in a variety of forms, and that if it be the will of the legislature that a mandamus should be used for that purpose, that will must be obeyed. This is true; yet the jurisdiction must be appellate, not original.
It is the essential criterion of appellate jurisdiction, that it revises and corrects the proceedings in a cause already instituted, and does not create that case. Although, therefore, a mandamus may be directed to courts, yet to issue such a writ to an officer for the delivery of a paper, is in effect the same as to sustain an original action for that paper, and therefore seems not to belong to appellate, but to original jurisdiction. Neither is it necessary in such a case as this, to enable the court to exercise its appellate jurisdiction.
The authority, therefore, given to the supreme court, by the act establishing the judicial courts of the United States, to issue writs of mandamus to public officers, appears not to be warranted by the constitution; and it becomes necessary to inquire whether a jurisdiction, so conferred, can be exercised.
The question, whether an act, repugnant to the constitution, can become the law of the land, is a question deeply interesting to the United States; but, happily, not of an intricacy proportioned to its interest. It seems only necessary to recognise certain principles, supposed to have been long and well established, to decide it.
That the people have an original right to establish, for their future government, such principles as, in their opinion, shall most conduce to their own happiness, is the basis on which the whole American fabric has been erected. The exercise of this original right is a very great exertion; nor can it nor ought it to be frequently repeated. The principles, therefore, so established are deemed fundamental. And as the authority, from which they proceed, is supreme, and can seldom act, they are designed to be permanent.
This original and supreme will organizes the government, and assigns to different departments their respective powers. It may either stop here; or establish certain limits not to be transcended by those departments.
The government of the United States is of the latter description. The powers of the legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken or forgotten, the constitution is written. To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing; if these limits may, at any time, be passed by those intended to be restrained? The distinction between a government with limited and unlimited powers is abolished, if those limits do not confine the persons on whom they are imposed, and if acts prohibited and acts allowed are of equal obligation. It is a proposition too plain to be contested, that the constitution controls any legislative act repugnant to it; or, that the legislature may alter the constitution by an ordinary act.
Between these alternatives there is no middle ground. The constitution is either a superior, paramount law, unchangeable by ordinary means, or it is on a level with ordinary legislative acts, and like other acts, is alterable when the legislature shall please to alter it.
If the former part of the alternative be true, then a legislative act contrary to the constitution is not law: if the latter part be true, then written constitutions are absurd attempts, on the part of the people, to limit a power in its own nature illimitable.
[Page p1054]Certainly all those who have framed written constitutions contemplate them as forming the fundamental and paramount law of the nation, and consequently the theory of every such government must be, that an act of the legislature repugnant to the constitution, is void.
This theory is essentially attached to a written constitution, and is consequently to be considered by this court as one of the fundamental principles of our society. It is not therefore to be lost sight of in the further consideration of this subject.
If an act of the legislature, repugnant to the constitution, is void, does it, notwithstanding its invalidity, bind the courts, and oblige them to give it effect? Or, in other words, though it be not law, does it constitute a rule as operative as if it was a law? This would be to overthrow in fact what was established in theory; and would seem, at first view, an absurdity too gross to be insisted on. It shall, however, receive a more attentive consideration.
It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases, must of necessity expound and interpret that rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each.
So if a law be in opposition to the constitution: if both the law and the constitution apply to a particular case, so that the court must either decide that case conformably to the law, disregarding the constitution; or conformably to the constitution, disregarding the law; the court must determine which of these conflicting rules governs the case. This is of the very essence of judicial duty.
If then the courts are to regard the constitution; and the constitution is superior to any ordinary act of the legislature; the constitution, and not such ordinary act, must govern the case to which they both apply.
Those then who controvert the principle that the constitution is to be considered, in court, as a paramount law, are reduced to the necessity of maintaining that courts must close their eyes on the constitution, and see only the law.
This doctrine would subvert the very foundation of all written constitutions. It would declare that an act, which, according to the principles and theory of our government, is entirely void, is yet, in practice, completely obligatory. It would declare, that if the legislature shall do what is expressly forbidden, such act, notwithstanding the express prohibition, is in reality effectual. It would be giving to the legislature a practical and real omnipotence, with the same breath which professes to restrict their powers within narrow limits. It is prescribing limits, and declaring that those limits may be passed at pleasure.
That it thus reduces to nothing what we have deemed the greatest improvement on political institutions—a written constitution—would of itself be sufficient, in America, where written constitutions have been viewed with so much reverence, for rejecting the construction. But the peculiar expressions of the constitution of the United States furnish additional arguments in favour of its rejection.
The judicial power of the United States is extended to all cases arising under the constitution.
Could it be the intention of those who gave this power, to say that, in using it, the constitution should not be looked into? That a case arising under the constitution should be decided without examining the instrument under which it arises?;
This is too extravagant to be maintained.
In some cases then, the constitution must be looked into by the judges. And if they can open it at all, what part of it are they forbidden to read, or to obey?;
There are many other parts of the constitution which serve to illustrate this subject.
It is declared that “no tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.” Suppose a duty on the export of cotton, of tobacco, or of flour; and a suit instituted to recover it. Ought judgment to be rendered in such a case? ought the judges to close their eyes on the constitution, and only see the law.
The constitution declares that “no bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed.”
If, however, such a bill should be passed and a person should be prosecuted under it, must the court condemn to death those victims whom the constitution endeavours to preserve?
“No person,” says the constitution, “shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.”
Here the language of the constitution is addressed especially to the courts. It prescribes, directly for them, a rule of evidence not to be departed from. If the legislature should change that rule, and declare one witness, or a confession out of court, sufficient for conviction, must the constitutional principle yield to the legislative act?;
From these and many other selections which might be made, it is apparent, that the framers of the constitution contemplated that instrument as a rule for the government of courts, as well as of the legislature.
Why otherwise does it direct the judges to take an oath to support it? This oath certainly applies, in an especial manner, to their conduct in their official character. How immoral to impose it on them, if they were to be used as the instruments, and the knowing instruments, for violating what they swear to support!
The oath of office, too, imposed by the legislature, is completely demonstrative of the legislative opinion on this subject. It is in these words, “I do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich; and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge all the duties incumbent on me as according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the constitution, and laws of the United States.”
Why does a judge swear to discharge his duties agreeably to the constitution of the United States, if that constitution forms no rule for his government? if it is closed upon him and cannot be inspected by him?;
If such be the real state of things, this is worse than solemn mockery. To prescribe, or to take this oath, becomes equally a crime.
It is also not entirely unworthy of observation, that in declaring what shall be the supreme law of the land, the constitution itself is first mentioned; and not the laws of the United States generally, but those only which shall be made in pursuance of the constitution, have that rank.
Thus, the particular phraseology of the constitution of the United States confirms and strengthens the principle, supposed to be essential to all written constitutions, that a law repugnant to the constitution is void, and that courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument.
The rule must be discharged.McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)
McCulloch v. Maryland involved a states' rights challenge to the chartering of the second national bank. The bank, chartered in 1816, was extremely unpopular, particularly in the eastern and southern states. Maryland attempted to tax the Baltimore branch out of existence by imposing a hefty tax on the notes issued by the bank. James McCulloch, a bank cashier, refused to pay the tax, claiming it was an unconstitutional infringement on the federally chartered bank. Maryland contended that Congress had exceeded its powers when it chartered the bank and that the state had the power to tax any bank within its borders.
Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the Court's decision, beginning on p. 1009, which upheld the power of Congress to incorporate the bank. He noted that the national government is “one of enumerated powers,” but asserted that “though limited in its powers [it] is supreme within its sphere of action.” The creation of the bank was valid under the Constitution's “necessary and proper” clause, which authorized Congress to enact “all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into “Execution” the powers specifically provided.
McCulloch v. State of Maryland et al.17 U.S.. 316, 4 L. Ed. 579, 4 Wheat. 316 February Term, 1819
Error to the Court of Appeals of the State of Maryland. This was an action of debt, brought by the defendant in error, John James, who sued as well for himself as for the state of Maryland, in the county court of Baltimore county, in the said state, against the plaintiff in error, McCulloch, to recover certain penalties, under the act of the legislature of Maryland, hereafter mentioned. Judgment being rendered against the plaintiff in error, upon the following statement of facts, agreed and submitted to the court by the parties, was affirmed by the court of appeals of the state of Maryland, the highest court of law of said state, and the cause was brought, by writ of error, to this court.
It is admitted by the parties in this cause, by their counsel, that there was passed, on the 10th day of April 1816, by the congress of the United States, an act, entitled, “an act to incorporate the subscribers to the Bank of the United States;” and that there was passed on the 11th day of February 1818, by the general assembly of Maryland, an act, entitled, “an act to impose a tax on all banks, or branches thereof, in the state of Maryland, not chartered by the legislature,” which said acts are made part of this statement, and it is agreed, may be read from the statute books in which they are respectively printed. It is further admitted, that the president, directors and company of the Bank of the United States, incorporated by the act of congress aforesaid, did organize themselves, and go into full operation, in the city of Philadelphia, in the state of Pennsylvania, in pursuance of the said act, and that they did on the ___ day of _____ 1817, establish a branch of the said bank, or an office of discount and deposit, in the city of Baltimore, in the state of Maryland, which has, from that time, until the first day of May 1818, ever since transacted and carried on business as a bank, or office of discount and deposit, and as a branch of the said Bank of the United States, by issuing bank-notes and discounting promissory notes, and performing other operations usual and customary for banks to do and perform, under the authority and by the direction of the said president, directors and company of the Bank of the United States, established at Philadelphia as aforesaid. It is further admitted, that the said president, directors and company of the said bank, had no authority to establish the said branch, or office of discount and deposit, at the city of Baltimore, from the state of Maryland, otherwise than the said state having adopted the constitution of the United States and composing one of the states of the Union. It is further admitted, that James William McCulloch, the defendant below, being the cashier of the said branch, or office of discount and deposit, did, on the several days set forth in the declaration in this cause, issue the said respective bank-notes therein described, from the said branch or office, to a certain George Williams, in the city of Baltimore, in part payment of a promissory note of the said Williams, discounted by the said branch or office, which said respective bank-notes were not, nor was either of them, so issued, on stamped paper, in the manner prescribed by the act of assembly aforesaid. It is further admitted, that the said president, directors and company of the Bank of the United States, and the said branch, or office of discount and deposit, have not, nor has either of them, paid in advance, or otherwise, the sum of $15,000, to the treasurer of the Western Shore, for the use of the state of Maryland, before the issuing of the said notes, or any of them, nor since those periods. And it is further admitted, that the treasurer of the Western Shore of Maryland, under the direction of the governor and council of the said state, was ready, and offered to deliver to the said president, directors and company of the said bank, and to the said branch, or office of discount and deposit, stamped paper of the kind and denomination required and described in the said act of assembly.
The question submitted to the court for their decision in this case, is, as to the validity of the said act of the general assembly of Maryland, on the ground of its being repugnant to the constitution of the United States, and the act of congress aforesaid, or to one of them. Upon the foregoing statement of facts, and the pleadings in this cause (all errors in which are hereby agreed to be mutually released), if the court should be of opinion, that the plaintiffs are entitled to recover, then judgment, it is agreed, shall be entered for the plaintiffs for $2500, and costs of suit. But if the court should be of opinion, that the plaintiffs are not entitled to recover upon the statement and pleadings aforesaid, then judgment of non pros shall be entered, with costs to the defendant.
It is agreed, that either party may appeal from the decision of the county court, to the court of appeals, and from the decision of the court of appeals to the supreme court of the United States, according to the modes and usages of law, and have the same benefit of this statement of facts, in the same manner as could be had, if a jury had been sworn and impannelled in this cause, and a special verdict had been found, or these facts had appeared and been stated in an exception taken to the opinion of the court, and the court's direction to the jury thereon.
Copy of the act of the Legislature of the State of Maryland, referred to in the preceding statement.
An act to impose a tax on all banks or branches thereof, in the state of Maryland, not chartered by the legislature.
Be it enacted by the general assembly of Maryland, that if any bank has established, or shall, without authority from the state first had and obtained, establish any branch, office of discount and deposit, or office of pay and receipt in any part of this state, it shall not be lawful for the said branch, office of discount and deposit, or office of pay and receipt, to issue notes, in any manner, of any other denomination than five, ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred, five hundred and one thousand dollars, and no note shall be issued, except upon stamped paper of the following denominations; that is to say, every five dollar note shall be upon a stamp of ten cents; every ten dollar note, upon a [Page p1056]stamp of twenty cents; every twenty dollar note, upon a stamp of thirty cents; every fifty dollar note, upon a stamp of fifty cents; every one hundred dollar note, upon a stamp of one dollar; every five hundred dollar note, upon a stamp of ten dollars; and every thousand dollar note, upon a stamp of twenty dollars; which paper shall be furnished by the treasurer of the Western Shore, under the direction of the governor and council, to be paid for upon delivery; provided always, that any institution of the above description may relieve itself from the operation of the provisions aforesaid, by paying annually, in advance, to the treasurer of the Western Shore, for the use of state, the sum of $15,000.
And be it enacted, that the president, cashier, each of the directors and officers of every institution established, or to be established as aforesaid, offending against the provisions aforesaid, shall forfeit a sum of $500 for each and every offence, and every person having any agency in circulating any note aforesaid, not stamped as aforesaid directed, shall forfeit a sum not exceeding $100 every penalty aforesaid, to be recovered by indictment, or action of debt, in the county court of the county where the offence shall be committed, one-half to the informer, and the other half to the use of the state.
And be it enacted, that this act shall be in full force and effect from and after the first day of May next.
February 22d–27th, and March 1st–3d.
Webster, for the plaintiff in error,1 stated: 1. That the question whether congress constitutionally possesses the power to incorporate a bank, might be raised upon this record; and it was in the discretion of the defendant's counsel to agitate it. But it might have been hoped, that it was not now to be considered as an open question. It is a question of the utmost magnitude, deeply interesting to the government itself, as well as to individuals. The mere discussion of such a question may most essentially affect the value of a vast amount of private property. We are bound to suppose, that the defendant in error is well aware of these consequences, and would not have intimated an intention to agitate such a question, but with a real design to make it a topic of serious discussion, and with a view of demanding upon it the solemn judgment of this court. This question arose early after the adoption of the constitution, and was discussed and settled, so far as legislative decision could settle it, in the first congress. The arguments drawn from the constitution, in favor of this power, were stated and exhausted in that discussion. They were exhibited, with characteristic perspicuity and force, by the first secretary of the treasury, in his report to the president of the United States. The first congress created and incorporated a bank. Act of 5th February 1791, ch. 84. Nearly each succeeding congress, if not every one, has acted and legislated on the presumption of the legal existence of such a power in the government. Individuals, it is true, have doubted, or thought otherwise; but it cannot be shown, that either branch of the legislature has, at any time, expressed an opinion against the existence of the power. The executive government has acted upon it; and the courts of law have acted upon it. Many of those who doubted or denied the existence of the powers, when first attempted to be exercised, have yielded to the first decision, and acquiesced in it, as a settled question. When all branches of the government have thus been acting on the existence of this power, nearly thirty years, it would seem almost too late to call it in question, unless its repugnancy with the constitution were plain and manifest. Congress, by the constitution, is invested with certain powers; and as to the objects, and within the scope of these powers, it is sovereign. Even without the aid of the general clause in the constitution, empowering congress to pass all necessary and proper laws for carrying its powers into execution, the grant of powers itself necessarily implies the grant of all usual and suitable means for the execution of the powers granted. Congress may declare war; it may consequently carry on war, by armies and navies, and other suitable means and methods of warfare. So, it has power to raise a revenue, and to apply it in the support of the government, and defence of the country; it may, of course, use all proper and suitable means, not specially prohibited, in the raising and disbursement of the revenue. And if, in the progress of society and the arts, new means arise, either of carrying on war, or of raising revenue, these new means doubtless would be properly considered as within the grant. Steam-frigates, for example, were not in the minds of those who framed the constitution, as among the means of naval warfare; but no one doubts the power of congress to use them, as means to an authorized end. It is not enough to say, that it does not appear that a bank was not in the contemplation of the framers of the constitution. It was not their intention, in these cases, to enumerate particulars. The true view of the subject is, that if it be a fit instrument to an authorized purpose, it may be used, not being specially prohibited. Congress is authorized to pass all laws “necessary and proper” to carry into execution the powers conferred on it. These words, “necessary and proper,” in such an instrument, are probably to be considered as synonymous. Necessarily, powers must here intend such powers as are suitable and fitted to the object; such as are best and most useful in relation to the end proposed. If this be not so, and if congress could use no means but such as were absolutely indispensable to the existence of a granted power, the government would hardly exist; at least, it would be wholly inadequate to the purposes of its formation. A bank is a proper and suitable instrument to assist the operations of the government, in the collection and disbursement of the revenue; in the occasional anticipations of taxes and imposts; and in the regulation of the actual currency, as being a part of the trade and exchange between the states. It is not for this court to decide, whether a bank, or such a bank as this, be the best possible means to aid these purposes of government. Such topics must be left to that discussion which belongs to them, in the two houses of congress. Here, the only question is, whether a bank, in its known and ordinary operations, is capable of being so connected with the finances and revenues of the government, as to be fairly within the discretion of congress, when selecting means and instruments to execute its powers and perform its duties. A bank is not less the proper subject for the choice of congress, nor the less constitutional, because it requires to be executed by granting a charter of incorporation. It is not, of itself, unconstitutional in congress to create a corporation. Corporations are but means. They are not ends and objects of government. No government exists for the purpose of creating corporations as one of the ends of its being. They are institutions established to effect certain beneficial purposes; and, as means, take their character generally from their end and object. They are civil or eleemosynary, public or private, according to the object intended by their creation. They are common means, such as all governments use. The state governments create corporations to execute powers confided to their trust, without any specific authority in the state constitutions for that purpose. There is the same reason that congress should exercise its discretion as to the means by which it must execute the powers conferred upon it. Congress has duties to perform and powers to execute. It has a right to the means by which these duties can be properly and most usefully performed, and these powers executed. Among other means, it has established a bank; and before the act establishing it can be pronounced unconstitutional and void, it must be shown, that a bank has no fair connection with the execution of any power or duty of the national government, and that its creation is consequently a manifest usurpation.
2. The second question is, whether, if the bank be constitutionally created, the state governments have power to tax it? The people of the United States have seen fit to divide sovereignty, and to establish a complex system. They have conferred certain powers on the state [Page p1057]governments, and certain other powers on the national government. As it was easy to foresee that question must arise between these governments thus constituted, it became of great moment to determine, upon what principle these questions should be decided, and who should decide them. The constitution, therefore, declares, that the constitution itself, and the laws passed in pursuance of its provisions, shall be the supreme law of the land, and shall control all state legislation and state constitutions, which may be incompatible therewith; and it confides to this court the ultimate power of deciding all questions arising under the constitution and laws of the United States. The laws of the United States, then, made in pursuance of the constitution, are to be the supreme law of the land, anything in the laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding. The only inquiry, therefore, in this case is, whether the law of the state of Maryland imposing this tax be consistent with the free operation of the law establishing the bank, and the full enjoyment of the privileges conferred by it? If it be not, then it is void; if it be, then it may be valid. Upon the supposition, that the bank is constitutionally created, this is the only question; and this question seems answered, as soon as it is stated. If the states may tax the bank, to what extent shall they tax it, and where shall they stop? An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy; because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation. A question of constitutional power can hardly be made to depend on a question of more or less. If the states may tax, they have no limit but their discretion; and the bank, therefore, must depend on the discretion of the state governments for its existence. This consequence is inevitable. The object in laying this tax, may have been revenue to the state. In the next case, the object may be to expel the bank from the state; but how is this object to be ascertained, or who is to judge of the motives of legislative acts? The government of the United States has itself a great pecuniary interest in this corporation. Can the states tax this property? Under the confederation, when the national government, not having the power of direct legislation, could not protect its own property by its own laws, it was expressly stipulated, that “no impositions, duties or restrictions should be laid by any state on the property of the United States.” Is it supposed, that property of the United States is now subject to the power of the state governments, in a greater degree than under the confederation? If this power of taxation be admitted, what is to be its limit? The United States have, and must have, property locally existing in all the states; and may the states impose on this property, whether real or personal, such taxes as they please? Can they tax proceedings in the federal courts? If so, they can expel those judicatures from the states. As Maryland has undertaken to impose a stamp-tax on the notes of this bank, what hinders her from imposing a stamp-tax also on permits, clearances, registers and all other documents connected with imposts and navigation? If, by one, she can suspend the operations of the bank, by the other, she can equally well shut up the custom-house. The law of Maryland, in question, makes a requisition. The sum called for is not assessed on property, nor deducted from profits or income. It is a direct imposition on the power, privilege or franchise of the corporation. The act purports, also, to restrain the circulation of the paper of the bank to bills of certain descriptions. It narrows and abridges the powers of the bank in a manner which, it would seem, even congress could not do. This law of Maryland cannot be sustained, but upon principles and reasoning which would subject every important measure of the national government to the revision and control of the state legislatures. By the charter, the bank is authorized to issue bills of any denomination above five dollars. The act of Maryland purports to restrain and limit their powers in this respect. The charter, as well as the laws of the United States, makes it the duty of all collectors and receivers to receive the notes of the bank in payment of all debts due the government. The act of Maryland makes it penal, both on the person paying and the person receiving such bills, until stamped by the authority of Maryland. This is a direct interference with the revenue. The legislature of Maryland might, with as much propriety, tax treasury-notes. This is either an attempt to expel the bank from the state; or it is an attempt to raise a revenue for state purposes, by an imposition on property and franchises holden under the national government, and created by that government, for purposes connected with its own administration. In either view, there cannot be a clearer case of interference. The bank cannot exist, nor can any bank established by congress exist, if this right to tax it exists in the state governments. One or the other must be surrendered; and a surrender on the part of the government of the United States would be a giving up of those fundamental and essential powers without which the government cannot be maintained. A bank may not be, and is not, absolutely essential to the existence and preservation of the government. But it is essential to the existence and preservation of the government, that congress should be able to exercise its constitutional powers, at its own discretion, without being subject to the control of state legislation. The question is not, whether a bank be necessary or useful, but whether congress may not constitutionally judge of that necessity or utility; and whether, having so judged and decided, and having adopted measures to carry its decision into effect, the state governments may interfere with that decision, and defeat the operation of its measures. Nothing can be plainer than that, if the law of congress, establishing the bank, be a constitutional act, it must have its full and complete effects. Its operation cannot be either defeated or impeded by acts of state legislation. To hold otherwise, would be to declare, that congress can only exercise its constitutional powers, subject to the controlling discretion, and under the sufferance, of the state governments.
Hopkinson, for the defendants in error, proposed three questions for the consideration of the court. 1. Had congress a constitutional power to incorporate the bank of the United States? 2. Granting this power to congress, has the bank, of its own authority, a right to establish its branches in the several states? 3. Can the bank, and its branches thus established, claim to be exempt from the ordinary and equal taxation of property, as assessed in the states in which they are placed?
1. The first question has, for many years, divided the opinions of the first men of our country. He did not mean to controvert the arguments by which the bank was maintained, on its original establishment. The power may now be denied, in perfect consistency with those arguments. It is agreed, that no such power is expressly granted by the constitution. It has been obtained by implication; by reasoning from the 8th section of the 1st article of the constitution; and asserted to exist, not of and by itself, but as an appendage to other granted powers, as necessary to carry them into execution. If the bank be not “necessary and proper” for this purpose, it has no foundation in our constitution, and can have no support in this court. But it strikes us, at once, that a power, growing out of a necessity which may not be permanent, may also not be permanent. It has relation to circumstances which change; in a state of things which may exist at one period, and not at another. The argument might have been perfectly good, to show the necessity of a bank, for the operations of the revenue, in 1791, and entirely fail now, when so many facilities for money transactions abound, which were wanting then. That some of the powers of the constitution are of this fluctuating character, existing, or not, according to extraneous circumstances, has been fully recognised by this court at the present term, in the case of Sturges v. Crowninshield (ante, p. 122). Necessity was the plea and justification of the first Bank of the United States. If the same necessity existed, [Page p1058]when the second was established, it will afford the same justification; otherwise, it will stand without justification, as no other is pretended. We cannot, in making this inquiry, take a more fair and liberal test, than the report of General Hamilton, the father and defender of this power. The uses and advantages he states, as making up the necessity required by the constitution, are three. 1st. The augmentation of the active and productive capital of the country, by making gold and silver the basis of a paper circulation. 2d. Affording greater facility to the government, in procuring pecuniary aids; especially, in sudden emergencies; this, he says, is an indisputable advantage of public banks. 3d. The facility of the payment of taxes, in two ways; by loaning to the citizen, and enabling him to be punctual; and by increasing the quantity of circulating medium, and quickening circulation by bank-bills, easily transmitted from place to place. If we admit, that these advantages or conveniences amount to the necessity required by the constitution, for the creation and exercise of powers not expressly given; yet it is obvious, they may be derived from any public banks, and do not call for a Bank of the United States, unless there should be no other public banks, or not a sufficiency of them for these operations. In 1791, when this argument was held to be valid and effectual, there were but three banks in the United States, with limited capitals, and contracted spheres of operation. Very different is the case now, when we have a banking capital to a vast amount, vested in banks of good credit, and so spread over the country, as to be convenient and competent for all the purposes enumerated in the argument. General Hamilton, conscious that his reasoning must fail, if the state banks were adequate for his objects, proceeds to show they were not. Mr. Hopkinson particularly examined all the objections urged by General Hamilton, to the agency of the state banks, then in existence, in the operations required for the revenue; and endeavored to show, that they had no application to the present number, extent and situation of the state banks; relying only on those of a sound and unquestioned credit and permanency. He also contended, that the experience of five years, since the expiration of the old charter of the Bank of the United States, has fully shown the competency of the state banks, to all the purposes and uses alleged as reasons for erecting that bank, in 1791. The loans to the government by the state banks, in the emergencies spoken of; the accommodation to individuals, to enable them to pay their duties and taxes; the creation of a circulating currency; and the facility of transmitting money from place to place, have all been effected, as largely and beneficially, by the state banks, as they could have been done by a bank incorporated by congress. The change in the country, in relation to banks, and an experience that was depended upon, concur in proving, that whatever might have been the truth and force of the bank argument in 1791, they were wholly wanting in 1816.
2. If this Bank of the United States has been lawfully created and incorporated, we next inquire, whether it may, of its own authority, establish its branches in the several states, without the direction of congress, or the assent of the states? It is true, that the charter contains this power, but this avails nothing, if not warranted by the constitution. This power to establish branches, by the directors of the bank, must be maintained and justified, by the same necessity which supports the bank itself, or it cannot exist. The power derived from a given necessity, must be coextensive with it, and no more. We will inquire, 1st. Does this necessity exist in favor of the branches? 2d. Who should be the judge of the necessity, and direct the manner and extent of the remedy to be applied? Branches are not necessary for any of the enumerated advantages. Not for pecuniary aids to the government; since the ability to afford them must be regulated by the strength of the capital of the parent bank, and cannot be increased by scattering and spreading that capital in the branches. Nor are they necessary to create a circulating medium; for they create nothing; but issue paper on the faith and responsibility of the parent bank, who could issue the same quantity, on the same foundation; the distribution of the notes of the parent bank can as well be done, and in fact, is done, by the state banks. Where, then, is that necessity to be found for the branches, whatever may be allowed to the bank itself? It is undoubtedly true, that these branches are established with a single view to trading, and the profit of the stockholders, and not for the convenience or use of the government; and therefore, they are located at the will of the directors, who represent and regard the interests of the stockholders, and are such themselves. If this is the case, can it be contended, that the state rights of territory and taxation are to yield for the gains of a money-trading corporation; to be prostrated at the will of a set of men who have no concern, and no duty but to increase their profits? Is this the necessity required by the constitution for the creation of undefined powers? It is true, that, by the charter, the government may require a branch in any place it may designate, but if this power is given only for the uses or necessities of the government, then the government only should have the power to order it. In truth, the directors have exercised the power, and they hold it, without any control from the government of the United States; and, as is now contended, without any control of the state governments. A most extravagant power to be vested in a body of men, chosen annually by a very small portion of our citizens, for the purpose of loaning and trading with their money to the best advantage! A state will not suffer its own citizens to erect a bank, without its authority, but the citizens of another state may do so; for it may happen that the state thus used by the bank for one of its branches, does not hold a single share of the stock. 2d. But if these branches are to be supported, on the ground of the constitutional necessity, and they can have no other foundation, the question occurs, who should be the judge of the existence of the necessity, in any proposed case; of the when and the where the power shall be exercised, which the necessity requires? Assuredly, the same tribunal which judges of the original necessity on which the bank is created, should also judge of any subsequent necessity requiring the extension of the remedy. Congress is that tribunal; the only one in which it may be safely trusted; the only one in which the states to be affected by the measure, are all fairly represented. If this power belongs to congress, it cannot be delegated to the directors of a bank, any more than any other legislative power may be transferred to any other body of citizens: if this doctrine of necessity is without any known limits, but such as those who defend themselves by it, may choose, for the time, to give it; and if the powers derived from it, are assignable by the congress to the directors of a bank; and by the directors of the bank to anybody else; we have really spent a great deal of labor and learning to very little purpose, in our attempt to establish a form of government in which the powers of those who govern shall be strictly defined and controlled; and the rights of the government secured from the usurpations of unlimited or unknown powers. The establishment of a bank in a state, without its assent; without regard to its interests, its policy or institutions, is a higher exercise of authority, than the creation of the parent bank; which, if confined to the seat of the government, and to the purposes of the government, will interfere less with the rights and policy of the states, than those wide-spreading branches, planted everywhere, and influencing all the business of the community. Such an exercise of sovereign power, should, at least, have the sanction of the sovereign legislature, to vouch that the good of the whole requires it, that the necessity exists which justifies it. But will it be tolerated, that twenty directors of a trading corporation, having no object but profit, shall, in the pursuit of it, tread upon the sovereignity of the state; enter it, without condescending to ask its leave; disregard, perhaps, the whole system of its policy; overthrow its institutions, and sacrifice its interests?
[Page p1059]3. If, however, the states of this Union have surrendered themselves in this manner, by implication, to the congress of the United States, and to such corporations as the congress, from time to time, may find it “necessary and proper” to create; if a state may no longer decide, whether a trading association, with independent powers and immunities, shall plant itself in its territory, carry on its business, make a currency and trade on its credit, raising capitals for individuals as fictitious as its own; if all this must be granted, the third and great question in this cause presents itself for consideration; that is, shall this association come there with rights of sovereignty, paramount to the sovereignty of the state, and with privileges possessed by no other persons, corporations or property in the state? in other words, can the bank and its branches, thus established, claim to be exempt from the ordinary and equal taxation of property, as assessed in the states in which they are placed? As this overwhelming invasion of state sovereignty is not warranted by any express clause or grant in the constitution, and never was imagined by any state that adopted and ratified that constitution, it will be conceded, that it must be found to be necessarily and indissolubly connected with the power to establish the bank, or it must be repelled. The court has always shown a just anxiety to prevent any conflict between the federal and state powers; to construe both so as to avoid an interference, if possible, and to preserve that harmony of action in both, on which the prosperity and happiness of all depend. If, therefore, the right to incorporate a national bank may exist, and be exercised consistently with the right of the state, to tax the property of such bank within its territory, the court will maintain both rights; although some inconvenience or diminution of advantage may be the consequence. It is not for the directors of the bank to say, you will lessen our profits by permitting us to be taxed; if such taxation will not deprive the government of the uses it derives from the agency and operations of the bank. The necessity of the government is the foundation of the charter; and beyond that necessity, it can claim nothing in derogation of state authority. If the power to erect this corporation were expressly given in the constitution, still, it would not be construed to be an exclusion of any state right, not absolutely incompatible and repugnant. The states need no reservation or acknowledgment of their right; all remain that are not expressly prohibited, or necessarily excluded; and this gives our opponents the broadest ground they can ask. The right now assailed by the bank, is the right of taxing property within the territory of the state. This is the highest attribute of sovereignty, the right to raise revenue; in fact, the right to exist; without which no other right can be held or enjoyed. The general power to tax is not denied to the states, but the bank claims to be exempted from the operation of this power. If this claim is valid, and to be supported by the court, it must be, either, 1. From the nature of the property: 2. Because it is a bank of the United States: 3. From some express provision of the constitution: or 4. Because the exemption is indispensably necessary to the exercise of some power granted by the constitution.
1st. There is nothing in the nature of the property of bank-stock that exonerates it from taxation. It has been taxed, in some form, by every state in which a bank has been incorporated; either annually and directly, or by a gross sum paid for the charter. The United States have not only taxed the capital or stock of the state banks, but their business also, by imposing a duty on all notes discounted by them. The bank paid a tax for its capital; and every man who deals with the bank, by borrowing, paid another tax for the portion of the same capital he borrowed. This species of property, then, so far from having enjoyed any exemption from the calls of the revenue, has been particularly burdened; and been thought a fair subject of taxation both by the federal and state governments.
2d. Is it then exempt, as being a bank of the United States? How is it such? In name only. Just as the Bank of Pennsylvania, or the Bank of Maryland, are banks of those states. The property of the bank, real or personal, does not belong to the United States only, as a stockholder, and as any other stockholders. The United States might have the same interest in any other bank, turnpike or canal company. So far as they hold stock, they have a property in the institution, and no further; so long, and no longer. Nor is the direction and management of the bank under the control of the United States. They are represented in the board by the directors appointed by them, as the other stockholders are represented by the directors they elect. A director of the government has no more power or right than any other director. As to the control the government may have over the conduct of the bank, by its patronage and deposits, it is precisely the same it might have over any other bank, to which that patronage would be equally important. Strip it of its name, and we find it to be a mere association of individuals, putting their money into a common stock, to be loaned for profit, and to divide the gains. The government is a partner in the firm, for gain also; for, except a participation of the profits of the business, the government could have every other use of the bank, without owning a dollar in it. It is not, then, a bank of the United States, if by that we mean, an institution belonging to the government, directed by it, or in which it has a permanent, indissoluble interest. The convenience it affords in the collection and distribution of the revenue, is collateral, secondary, and may be transferred at pleasure to any other bank. It forms no part of the construction or character of this bank; which, as to all its rights and powers, would be exactly what it now is, if the government was to seek and obtain all this convenience from some other source; if the government were to withdraw its patronage, and sell out its stock. How, then, can such an institution claim the immunities of sovereignty; nay, that sovereignty does not possess? for a sovereign who places his property in the territory of another sovereign, submits it to the demands of the revenue, which are but justly paid, in return for the protection afforded to the property. General Hamilton, in his report on this subject, so far from considering the bank a public institution, connected with, or controlled by, the government, holds it to be indispensable that it should not be so. It must be, says he, under private, not public, direction; under the guidance of individual interest, not public policy. Still, he adds, the state may be holder of part of its stock; and consequently (what? it becomes a public property? no!), a sharer of the profits. He traces no other consequence to that circumstance. No rights are founded on it; no part of its utility or necessity arises from it. Can an institution, then, purely private, and which disclaims any public character, be clothed with the power and rights of the government, and demand subordination from the state government, in virtue of the federal authority, which it undertakes to wield at its own will and pleasure? Shall it be private, in its direction and interests; public, in its rights and privileges: a trading money-lender, in its business; an uncontrolled sovereign, in its powers? If the whole bank, with all its property and business, belonged to the United States, it would not, therefore, be exempted from the taxation of the states. To this purpose, the United States and the several states must be considered as sovereign and independent; and the principle is clear, that a sovereign putting his property within the territory and jurisdiction of another sovereign, and of course, under his protection, submits it to the ordinary taxation of the state, and must contribute fairly to the wants of the revenue. In other words, the jurisdiction of the state extends over all its territory, and everything within or upon it, with a few known exceptions. With a view to this principle, the constitution has provided for those cases in which it was deemed necessary and proper to give the United States jurisdiction within a state, in exclusion of the state authority; and even in these cases, it will be seen, it cannot be done, without the assent of the state. For a seat of government, for forts, arsenals, dock-yards, &c., the assent of the state to surrender its [Page p1060]jurisdiction is required; but the bank asks no consent, and is paramount to all state authority, to all the rights of territory, and demands of the public revenue. We have not been told, whether the banking-houses of this corporation, and any other real estate it may acquire, for the accommodation of its affairs, are also of this privileged order of property. In principle, it must be the same; for the privilege, if it exists, belongs to the corporation, and must cover equally all its property. It is understood, that a case was lately decided by the supreme court of Pennsylvania, and from which no appeal has been taken, on the part of the United States, to this court, to show that United States property, as such, has no exemption from state taxation. A fort, belonging to the federal government, near Pittsburgh, was sold by public auction; the usual auction duty was claimed, and the payment resisted, on the ground, that none could be exacted from the United States. The court decided otherwise. In admitting Louisiana into the Union, and so, it is believed, with all the new states, it is expressly stipulated, “that no taxes shall be imposed on lands, the property of the United States.” There can, then, be no pretence, that bank property, even belonging to the United States, is, on that account, exonerated from state taxation.1
3d. If, then, neither the nature of the property, nor the interest the United States may have in the bank, will warrant the exemption claimed, is there anything expressed in the constitution, to limit and control the state right of taxation, as now contended for? We find but one limitation to this essential right, of which the states were naturally and justly most jealous. In the 10th section of the 1st article, it is declared, that “no state shall, without the consent of congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws;” and there is a like prohibition to laying any duty of tonnage. Here, then, is the whole restriction or limitation, attempted to be imposed by the constitution, on the power of the states to raise revenue, precisely in the same manner, from the same subjects, and to the same extent, that any sovereign and independent state may do; and it never was understood by those who made, or those who received, the constitution, that any further restriction ever would, or could, be imposed. This subject did not escape either the assailants or the defenders of our form of government; and their arguments and commentaries upon the instrument ought not to be disregarded, in fixing its construction. It was foreseen, and objected by its opponents, that under the general sweeping power given to congress, “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper, for carrying into execution the foregoing powers,” &c., the states might be exposed to great dangers, and the most humiliating and oppressive encroachments, particularly in this very matter of taxation. By referring to the Federalist, the great champion of the constitution, the objections will be found stated, together with the answers to them. It is again and again replied, and most solemnly asserted, to the people of these United States, that the right of taxation in the states is sacred and inviolable, with “the sole exception of duties on imports and exports;” that “they retain the authority in the most absolute and unqualified sense; and that an attempt on the part of the national government to abridge them in the exercise of it, would be a violent assumption of power, unwarranted by any article or clause of its constitution.” With the exception mentioned, the federal and state powers of taxation are declared to be concurrent; and if the United States are justified in taxing state banks, the same equal and concurrent authority will justify the state in taxing the Bank of the United States, or any other bank.1 The author begins No. 34, by saying, “I flatter myself it has been clearly shown, in my last number, that the particular states, under the proposed constitution, would have co-equal authority with the Union, in the article of revenue, except as to duties on imports.” Under such assurances from those who made, who recommended, and carried, the constitution, and who were supposed best to understand it, was it received and adopted by the people of these United States; and now, after a lapse of nearly thirty years, they are to be informed, that all this is a mistake, all these assurances are unwarranted, and that the federal government does possess most productive and important powers of taxation, neither on imports, exports or tonnage, but strictly internal, which are prohibited to the states. The question then was, whether the United States should have any command of the internal revenue; the pretension now is, that they shall enjoy exclusively the best portion of it. The question was then quieted, by the acknowledgment of a co-equal right; it is now to be put at rest, by the prostration of the state power. The federal government is to hold a power by implication, and ingenious inference from general words in the constitution, which it can hardly be believed would have been suffered in an express grant. If, then, the people were not deceived, when they were told that, with the exceptions mentioned, the state right of taxation is sacred and inviolable; and it be also true, that the Bank of the United States cannot exist under the exercise of that right, the consequence ought to be, that the bank must not exist; for if it can live only by the destruction of such a right—if it can live only by the exercise of a power, which this court solemnly declared to be a “violent assumption of power, unwarranted by any clause in the constitution”—we cannot hesitate to say, let it not live.
But, in truth, this is not the state of the controversy. No such extremes are presented for our choice. We only require, that the bank shall not violate state rights, in establishing itself, or its branches; that it shall be submitted to the jurisdiction and laws of the state, in the same manner with other corporations and other property; and all this may be done, without ruining the institution, or destroying its national uses. Its profits will be diminished, by contributing to the revenue of the state; and this is the whole effect that ought, in a fair and liberal spirit of reasoning, to be anticipated. But, at all events, we show, on the part of the state, a clear, general, absolute and unqualified right of taxation (with the exception stated); and protest against such a right being made to yield to implications and obscure constructions of indefinite clauses in the constitution. Such a right must not be defeated, by doubtful pretensions of power, or arguments of convenience or policy to the government; much less to a private corporation. It is not a little alarming, to trace the progress of this argument. 1. The power to raise the bank is founded on no provision of the constitution that has the most distant allusion to such an institution; there is not a word in that instrument that would suggest the idea of a bank, to the most fertile imagination; but the bank is created by implication and construction, made out by a very subtle course of reasoning; then, by another implication, raised on the former, the bank, this creature of construction, claims the right to enter the territory of a state, without its assent; to carry on its business, when it pleases, and where it pleases, against the will, and perhaps, in contravention of the policy, of the sovereign owner of the soil. Having such great success in the acquirement of implied rights, the experiment is now pushed further; and not contented with having obtained two rights in this extraordinary way, the fortunate adventurer assails the sovereignty of the state, and would strip from it its most vital and essential power. It is thus with the famous fig tree of India, whose branches shoot from the trunk to a considerable distance; then drop upon the earth, where they take root and become trees, from which also other branches shoot, and plant and propagate and extend themselves in the same way, until gradually a vast surface is covered, and everything perishes in the spreading shade.
What have we opposed to these doctrines, so just and reasonable? Distressing inconveniences, ingeniously contrived; supposed dangers; [Page p1061]fearful distrusts; anticipated violence and injustice from the states, and consequent ruin to the bank. A right to tax, is a right to destroy, is the whole amount of the argument, however varied by ingenuity, or embellished by eloquence. It is said, the states will abuse the power; and its exercise will produce infinite inconvenience and embarrassment to the bank. Now, if this were true, it cannot help our opponents; because, if the states have the power contended for, this court cannot take it from them, under the fear that they may abuse it; nor, indeed, for its actual abuse; and if they have it not, they may not use it, however moderately and discreetly. Nor is there any more force in the argument, that the bank property will be subjected to double or treble taxation. Each state will tax only the capital really employed in it; and it is always in the power of the bank, to show how its capital is distributed. But it is feared, the capital in a state may be taxed in gross; and the individual stockholders also taxed for the same stock. Is this common case of a double taxation of the same article, to be a cause of alarm now? Our revenue laws abound with similar cases; they arise out of the very nature of our double government. So says the Federalist; and it is the first time it has been the ground of complaint. Poll taxes are paid to the federal and state governments; licenses to retail spirits; land taxes; and the whole round of internal duties, over which both governments have a concurrent, and, until now, it was supposed, a co-equal right. Were not the state banks taxed by the federal, and also by the state governments; in some, by a bonus for the charter; in others, directly and annually? The circumstance, that the taxes go to different governments, in these cases, is wholly immaterial to those who pay; unless it is, that it increases the danger of excess and oppression. It is justly remarked, on this subject, by the Federalist, that our security from excessive burdens on any source of revenue, must be found in mutual forbearance and discretion in the use of the power; this is the only security, and the authority of this court can add nothing to it. When that fails, there is an end to the confederation, which is founded on a reasonable and honorable confidence in each other.
It has been most impressively advanced, that the states, under pretence of taxing, may prohibit and expel the banks; that in the full exercise of this power, they may tax munitions of war; ships, about to sail, and armies on their march; nay, the spirit of the court is to be aroused by the fear that judicial proceedings will also come under this all-destroying power. Loans may be delayed for stamps, and the country ruined for the want of the money. But whenever the states shall be in a disposition to uproot the general government, they will take more direct and speedy means; and until they have this disposition, they will not use these. What power may not be abused; and whom or what shall we trust, if we guard ourselves with this extreme caution? The common and daily intercourse between man and man; all our relations in society, depend upon a reasonable confidence in each other. It is peculiarly the basis of our confederation, which lives not a moment, after we shall cease to trust each other. If the two governments are to regard each other as enemies, seeking opportunities of injury and distress, they will not long continue friends. This sort of timid reasoning about the powers of the government, has not escaped the authors so often alluded to; who, in their 31st number, treat it very properly. Surely, the argument is as strong against giving to the United States the power to incorporate a bank with branches. What may be more easily, or more extensively abused; and what more powerful engine can we imagine to be brought into operation against the revenues and rights of the states? If the federal government must have a bank for the purposes of its revenue, all collision will be avoided, by establishing the parent bank in its own district, where it holds an exclusive jurisdiction; and planting its branches in such states as shall assent to it; and using state banks, where such assent cannot be obtained. Speaking practically, and by our experience, it may be safely asserted, that all the uses of the bank to the government might be thus obtained. Nothing would be wanting but profits and large dividends to the stockholders, which are the real object in this contest. Whatever may be the right of the United States to establish a bank, it cannot be better than that of the states. Their lawful power to incorporate such institutions has never yet been questioned; whatever may be in reserve for them, when it may be found “necessary and proper” for the interests of the national bank to crush the state institutions, and curtail the state authority. Granting, that these rights are equal in the two governments; and that the sovereignty of the state, within its territory, over this subject, is but equal to that of the United States; and that all sovereign power remains undiminished in the states, except in those cases in which it has, by the constitution, been expressly and exclusively transferred to the United States; the sovereign power of taxation (except on foreign commerce) being, in the language of the Federalist, co-equal to the two governments; it follows, as a direct and necessary consequence, that having equal powers to erect banks, and equal powers of taxation on property of that description, being neither imports, exports or tonnage, whatever jurisdiction the federal government may exercise in this respect, over a bank created by a state, any state may exercise over a bank created by the United States. Now, the federal government has assumed the right of taxing the state banks, precisely in the manner in which the state of Maryland has proceeded against the Bank of the United States; and as this right has never been resisted or questioned, it may be taken to be admitted by both parties; and must be equal and common to both parties, or the fundamental principles of our confederation have been strangely mistaken, or are to be violently overthrown. It has also been suggested, that the bank may claim a protection from this tax, under that clause of the constitution, which prohibits the states from passing laws, which shall impair the obligation of contracts. The charter is said to be the contract between the government and the stockholders; and the interests of the latter will be injured by the tax which reduces their profits. Many answers offer themselves to this agreement. In the first place, the United States cannot, either by a direct law, or by a contract with a third party, take away any right from the states, not granted by the constitution; they cannot do, collaterally and by implication, what cannot be done directly. Their contracts must conform to the constitution, and not the constitution to their contracts. If, therefore, the states have, in some other way, parted with this right of taxation, they cannot be deprived of it, by a contract between other parties. Under this doctrine, the United States might contract away every right of every state; and any attempt to resist it, would be called a violation of the obligations of a contract. Again, the United States have no more right to violate contracts than the states, and surely, they never imagined they were doing so, when they taxed so liberally the stock of the state banks. Again, it might as well be said, that a tax on real estate, imposed after a sale of it, and not then perhaps contemplated, or new duties imposed on merchandise, after it is ordered, violate the contract between the vendor and the purchaser, and diminishes the value of the property. In fact, all contracts in relation to property, subject to taxation, are presumed to have in view the probability or possibility that they will be taxed; and the happening of the event never was imagined to interfere with the contract, or its lawful obligations.
The Attorney-General, for the plaintiff in error, argued: 1. That the power of congress to create a bank ought not now to be questioned, after its exercise ever since the establishment of the constitution, sanctioned by every department of the government: by the legislature, in the charter of the bank, and other laws connected with the incorporation; by the executive, in its assent to those laws; and by the [Page p1062]judiciary, in carrying them into effect. After a lapse of time, and so many concurrent acts of the public authorities, this exercise of power must be considered as ratified by the voice of the people, and sanctioned by precedent. In the exercise of criminal judicature, the question of constitutionality could not have been overlooked by the courts, who have so often inflicted punishment for acts which would be no crimes, if these laws were repugnant to the fundamental law.
2. The power to establish such a corporation is implied, and involved in the grant of specific powers in the constitution; because the end involves the means necessary to carry it into effect. A power without the means to use it, is a nullity. But we are not driven to seek for this power in implication: because the constitution, after enumerating certain specific powers, expressly gives to congress the power “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.” If, therefore, the act of congress establishing the bank was necessary and proper to carry into execution any one or more of the enumerated powers, the authority to pass it is expressly delegated to congress by the constitution. We contend, that it was necessary and proper to carry into execution several of the enumerated powers, such as the powers of levying and collecting taxes throughout this widely-extended empire; of paying the public debts, both in the United States and in foreign countries; of borrowing money, at home and abroad; of regulating commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states; of raising and supporting armies and a navy; and of carrying on war. That banks, dispersed throughout the country, are appropriate means of carrying into execution all these powers, cannot be denied. Our history furnishes abundant experience of the utility of a national bank as an instrument of finance. It will be found in the aid derived to the public cause from the Bank of North America, established by congress, during the war of the revolution; in the great utility of the former Bank of the United States; and in the necessity of resorting to the instrumentality of the banks incorporated by the states, during the interval between the expiration of the former charter of the United States Bank, in 1811, and the establishment of the present bank in 1816; a period of war, the calamities of which were greatly aggravated by the want of this convenient instrument of finance. Nor is it required, that the power of establishing such a moneyed corporation should be indispensably necessary to the execution of any of the specified powers of the government. An interpretation of this clause of the constitution, so strict and literal, would render every law which could be passed by congress unconstitutional; for of no particular law can it be predicated, that it is absolutely and indispensably necessary to carry into effect any of the specified powers; since a different law might be imagined, which could be enacted, tending to the same object, though not equally well adapted to attain it. As the inevitable consequence of giving this very restricted sense to the word “necessary,” would be to annihilate the very powers it professes to create; and as so gross an absurdity cannot be imputed to the framers of the constitution, this interpretation must be rejected.
Another not less inadmissible consequence of this construction is, that it is fatal to the permanency of the constitutional powers; it makes them dependent for their being, on extrinsic circumstances, which, as these are perpetually shifting and changing, must produce correspondent changes in the essence of the powers on which they depend. But surely, the constitutionality of any act of congress cannot depend upon such circumstances. They are the subject of legislative discretion, not of judicial cognisance. Nor does this position conflict with the doctrine of the court in Sturges v. Crowninshield (ante, p. 122). The court has not said, in that case, that the powers of congress are shifting powers, which may or may not be constitutionally exercised, according to extrinsic or temporary circumstances; but it has merely determined, that the power of the state legislatures over the subject of bankruptcies is subordinate to that of congress on the same subject, and cannot be exercised so as to conflict with the uniform laws of bankruptcy throughout the Union which congress may establish. The power, in this instance, resides permanently in congress, whether it chooses to exercise it or not; but its exercise on the part of the states is precarious, and dependent, in certain respects, upon its actual exercise by congress. The convention well knew that it was utterly vain and nugatory, to give to congress certain specific powers, without the means of enforcing those powers. The auxiliary means, which are necessary for this purpose, are those which are useful and appropriate to produce the particular end. “Necessary and proper” are, then, equivalent to needful and adapted; such is the popular sense in which the word necessary is sometimes used. That use of it is confirmed by the best authorities among lexicographers; among other definitions of the word “necessary,” Johnson gives “needful;” and he defines “need,” the root of the latter, by the words, “want, occasion.” Is a law, then, wanted, is there occasion for it, in order to carry into execution any of the enumerated powers of the national government; congress has the power of passing it. To make a law constitutional, nothing more is necessary than that it should be fairly adapted to carry into effect some specific power given to congress. This is the only interpretation which can give effect to this vital clause of the constitution; and being consistent with the rules of the language, is not to be rejected, because there is another interpretation, equally consistent with the same rules, but wholly inadequate to convey what must have been the intention of the convention. Among the multitude of means to carry into execution the powers expressly given to the national government, congress is to select, from time to time, such as are most fit for the purpose. It would have been impossible to enumerate them all in the constitution; and a specification of some, omitting others, would have been wholly useless. The court, in inquiring whether congress had made a selection of constitutional means, is to compare the law in question with the powers it is intended to carry into execution; not in order to ascertain whether other or better means might have been selected, for that is the legislative province, but to see whether those which have been chosen have a natural connection with any specific power; whether they are adapted to give it effect; whether they are appropriate means to an end. It cannot be denied, that this is the character of the Bank of the United States. But it is said, that the government might use private bankers, or the banks incorporated by the states, to carry on their fiscal operations. This, however, presents a mere question of political expediency, which, it is repeated, is exclusively for legislative consideration; which has been determined by the legislative wisdom; and cannot be reviewed by the court.
It is objected, that this act creates a corporation; which, being an exercise of a fundamental power of sovereignty, can only be claimed by congress, under their grant of specific powers. But to have enumerated the power of establishing corporations, among the specific powers of congress, would have been to change the whole plan of the constitution; to destroy its simplicity, and load it with all the complex details of a code of private jurisprudence. The power of establishing corporations is not one of the ends of government; it is only a class of means for accomplishing its ends. An enumeration of this particular class of means, omitting all others, would have been a useless anomaly in the constitution. It is admitted, that this is an act to sovereignty, and so is any other law; if the authority of establishing corporations be a sovereign power, the United States are sovereign, as to all the powers specifically given to their government, and as to all others [Page p1063]necessary and proper to carry into effect those specified. If the power of chartering a corporation be necessary and proper for this purpose, congress has it to an extent as ample as any other sovereign legislature. Any government of limited sovereignty can create corporations only with reference to the limited powers that government possesses. The inquiry then reverts, whether the power of incorporating a banking company, be a necessary and proper means of executing the specific powers of the national government. The immense powers incontestably given, show that there was a disposition, on the part of the people, to give ample means to carry those powers into effect. A state can create a corporation, in virtue of its sovereignty, without any specific authority for that purpose, conferred in the state constitutions. The United States are sovereign as to certain specific objects, and may, therefore, erect a corporation for the purpose of effecting those objects. If the incorporating power had been expressly granted as an end, it would have conferred a power not intended; if granted as a means, it would have conferred nothing more than was before given by necessary implication.
Nor does the rule of interpretation we contend for, sanction any usurpation, on the part of the national government; since, if the argument be, that the implied powers of the constitution may be assumed and exercised, for purposes not really connected with the powers specifically granted, under color of some imaginary relation between them, the answer is, that this is nothing more than arguing from the abuse of constitutional powers, which would equally apply against the use of those that are confessedly granted to the national government; that the danger of the abuse will be checked by the judicial department, which, by comparing the means with the proposed end, will decide, whether the connection is real, or assumed as the pretext for the usurpation of powers not belonging to the government; and that, whatever may be the magnitude of the danger from this quarter, it is not equal to that of annihilating the powers of the government, to which the opposite doctrine would inevitably tend.
3. If, then, the establishment of the parent bank itself be constitutional, the right to establish the branches of that bank in the different states of the Union follows, as an incident of the principal power. The expediency of this ramification, congress is alone to determine. To confine the operation of the bank to the district of Columbia, where congress has the exclusive power of legislation, would be as absurd as to confine the courts of the United States to this district. Both institutions are wanted, wherever the administration of justice, or of the revenue, is wanted. The right, then, to establish these branches, is a necessary part of the means. This right is not delegated by congress to the parent bank. The act of congress for the establishment of offices of discount and deposit, leaves the time and place of their establishment to the directors, as a matter of detail. When established, they rest, not on the authority of the parent bank, but on the authority of congress.
4. The only remaining question is, whether the act of the state of Maryland, for taxing the bank thus incorporated, be repugnant to the constitution of the United States? We insist, that any such tax, by authority of a state, would be unconstitutional, and that this act is so, from its peculiar provisions. But it is objected, that, by the 10th amendment of the constitution, all powers not expressly delegated to the United States, nor prohibited to the states, are reserved to the latter. It is said, that this being neither delegated to the one, nor prohibited to the other, must be reserved: and it is also said, that the only prohibition on the power of state taxation, which does exist, excludes this case, and thereby leaves it to the original power of the states. The only prohibition is, as to laying any imposts, or duties on imports and exports, or tonnage duty, and this, not being a tax of that character, is said not to be within the terms of the prohibition; and consequently, it remains under the authority of the states. But we answer, that this does not contain the whole sum of constitutional restrictions on the authority of the states. There is another clause in the constitution, which has the effect of a prohibition on the exercise of their authority, in numerous cases. The 6th article of the constitution of the United States declares, that the laws made in pursuance of it, “shall be the supreme law of the land, anything in the constitution, or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.” By this declaration, the states are prohibited from passing any acts which shall be repugnant to a law of the United States. The court has already instructed us in the doctrine, that there are certain powers, which, from their nature, are exclusively vested in congress.1 So, we contend here, that the only ground on which the constitutionality of the bank is maintainable, excludes all interference with the exercise of the power by the states. This ground is, that the bank, as ordained by congress, is an instrument to carry into execution its specified powers; and in order to enable this instrument to operate effectually, it must be under the direction of a single head. It cannot be interfered with, or controlled in any manner, by the states, without putting at hazard the accomplishment of the end, of which it is but a means. But the asserted power to tax any of the institutions of the United States, presents directly the question of the supremacy of their laws over the state laws. If this power really exists in the states, its natural and direct tendency is to annihilate any power which belongs to congress, whether express or implied. All the powers of the national government are to be executed in the states, and throughout the states; and if the state legislatures can tax the instruments by which those powers are executed, they may entirely defeat the execution of the powers. If they may tax an institution of finance, they may tax the proceedings in the courts of the United States. If they may tax to one degree, they may tax to any degree; and nothing but their own discretion can impose a limit upon this exercise of their authority. They may tax both the bank and the courts, so as to expel them from the states. But, surely, the framers of the constitution did not intend, that the exercise of all the powers of the national government should depend upon the discretion of the state governments. This was the vice of the former confederation, which it was the object of the new constitution to eradicate. It is a direct collision of powers between the two governments. Congress says, there shall be a branch of the bank in the state of Maryland; that state says, there shall not. Which power is supreme? Besides, the charter, which is a contract between the United States and the corporation, is violated by this act of Maryland. A new condition is annexed by a sovereignty which was no party to the contract. The franchise, or corporate capacity, is taxed by a legislature, between whom and the object of taxation there is no political connection.
Jones, for the defendants in error, contended: 1. That this was to be considered as an open question, inasmuch as it had never before been submitted to judicial determination. The practice of the government, however inveterate, could never be considered as sanctioning a manifest usurpation; still less, could the practice, under a constitution of a date so recent, be put in competition with the contemporaneous exposition of its illustrious authors, as recorded for our instruction, in the “Letters of Publius,” or the Federalist. The interpretation of the constitution, which was contended for by the state of Maryland, would be justified from that text-book, containing a commentary, such as no other age or nation furnishes, upon its public law.
It is insisted, that the constitution was formed and adopted, not by the people of the United States at large, but by the people of the respective states. To suppose, that the mere proposition of this fundamental law threw the American people into one aggregate mass, would be to assume what the instrument itself does not profess to establish. It is, therefore, a compact between the states, and all the [Page p1064]powers which are not expressly relinquished by it, are reserved to the states. We admit, that the 10th amendment to the constitution is merely declaratory; that it was adopted ex abundanti cautela; and that with it, nothing more is reserved, than would have been reserved without it. But it is contended, on the other side, that not only the direct powers, but all incidental powers, partake of the supreme power, which is sovereign. This is an inherent sophism in the opposite argument, which depends on the conversion and ambiguity of terms. What is meant by sovereign power? It is modified by the terms of the grant under which it was given. They do not import sovereign power, generally, but sovereign power, limited to particular cases; and the question again recurs, whether sovereign power was given in this particular case. Is it true, that by conferring sovereign powers on a limited, delegated government, sovereign means are also granted? Is there no restriction as to the means of exercising a general power? Sovereignty was vested in the former confederation, as fully as in the present national government. There was nothing which forbade the old confederation from taxing the people, except that three modes of raising revenue were pointed out, and they could resort to no other. All the powers given to congress, under that system, except taxation, operated as directly on the people, as the powers given to the present government. The constitution does not profess to prescribe the ends merely for which the government was instituted, but also to detail the most important means by which they were to be accomplished. “To levy and collect taxes,” “to borrow money,” “to pay the public debts,” “to raise and support armies,” “to provide and maintain a navy,” are not the ends for which this or any other just government is established. If a banking corporation can be said to be involved in either of these means, it must be as an instrument to collect taxes, to borrow money, and to pay the public debts. Is it such an instrument? It may, indeed, facilitate the operation of other financial institutions; but in its proper and natural character, it is a commercial institution, a partnership, incorporated for the purpose of carrying on the trade of banking. But we contend, that the government of the United States must confine themselves, in the collection and expenditure of revenue, to the means which are specifically enumerated in the constitution, or such auxiliary means as are naturally connected with the specific means. But what natural connection is there between the collection of taxes, and the incorporation of a company of bankers? Can it possibly be said, that because congress is invested with the power of raising and supporting armies, that it may give a charter of monopoly to a trading corporation, as a bounty for enlisting men? Or that, under its more analogous power of regulating commerce, it may establish an East or a West India company, with the exclusive privilege of trading with those parts of the world? Can it establish a corporation of farmers of the revenue, or burden the internal industry of the states with vexatious monopolies of their staple productions? There is an obvious distinction between those means which are incidental to the particular power, which follow as a corollary from it, and those which may be arbitrarily assumed as convenient to the execution of the power, or usurped under the pretext of necessity.
For example, the power of coining money implies the power of establishing a mint. The power of laying and collecting taxes implies the power of regulating the mode of assessment and collection, and of appointing revenue officers; but it does not imply the power of establishing a great banking corporation, branching out into every district of the country, and inundating it with a flood of paper-money. To derive such a tremendous authority from implication, would be to change the subordinate into fundamental powers; to make the implied powers greater than those which are expressly granted; and to change the whole scheme and theory of the government. It is well known, that many of the powers which are expressly granted to the national government in the constitution, were most reluctantly conceded by the people, who were lulled into confidence, by the assurances of its advocates, that it contained no latent ambiguity, but was to be limited to the literal terms of the grant: and in order to quiet all alarm, the 10th article of amendments was added, declaring “that the powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” It would seem, that human language could not furnish words less liable to misconstruction! But it is contended, that the powers expressly granted to the national government in the constitution, are enlarged to an indefinite extent, by the sweeping clause, authorizing congress to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers expressly delegated to the national government, or any of its departments or officers. Now, we insist, that this clause shows that the intention of the convention was, to define the powers of the government with the utmost precision and accuracy. The creation of a sovereign legislature, implies an authority to pass laws to execute its given powers. This clause is nothing more than a declaration of the authority of congress to make laws, to execute the powers expressly granted to it, and the other departments of the government. But the laws which they are authorized to make, are to be such as are necessary and proper for this purpose. No terms could be found in the language, more absolutely excluding a general and unlimited discretion than these. It is not “necessary or proper,” but “necessary and proper.” The means used must have both these qualities. It must be, not merely convenient—fit—adapted—proper, to the accomplishment of the end in view; it must likewise be necessary for the accomplishment of that end. Many means may be proper, which are not necessary; because the end may be attained without them. The word “necessary,” is said to be a synonyme of “needful.” But both these words are defined “indispensably requisite;” and, most certainly, this is the sense in which the word “necessary” is used in the constitution. To give it a more lax sense, would be to alter the whole character of the government as a sovereignty of limited powers. This is not a purpose for which violence should be done to the obvious and natural sense of any terms, used in an instrument drawn up with great simplicity, and with extraordinary precision. The only question, then, on this branch of the argument, will be, whether the establishment of a banking corporation be indispensably requisite to execute any of the express powers of the government? So far as the interest of the United States is concerned, as partners of this company of bankers, or so far as the corporation may be regarded as an executive officer of the government, acquiring real and personal property in trust for the use of the government, it may be asked, what right the United States have to acquire property of any kind, except that purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which such property may be, for the erection of forts, magazines, &c.; and ships or munitions of war, constructed or purchased by the United States, and the public treasure? Their right of acquiring property is absolutely limited to the subjects specified, which were the only means, of the nature of wealth or property, with which the people thought it necessary to invest them. The people never intended they should become bankers or traders of any description. They meant to leave to the states the power of regulating the trade of banking, and every other species of internal industry; subject merely to the power of congress to regulate foreign commerce, and the commerce between the different states, with which it is not pretended, that this asserted power is connected. The trade of banking, within the particular states, would then either be left to regulate itself, and carried on as a branch of private trade, as it is in many countries; or banking companies would be incorporated by the state legislatures to carry it on, as has been the usage of this country. But in either case, congress [Page p1065]would have nothing to do with the subject. The power of creating corporations is a distinct sovereign power, applicable to a great variety of objects, and not being expressly granted to congress for this, or any other object, cannot be assumed by implication. If it might be assumed for this purpose, it might also be exercised to create corporations for the purpose of constructing roads and canals; a power to construct which has been also lately discovered among other secrets of the constitution, developed by this dangerous doctrine of implied powers. Or it might be exercised to establish great trading monopolies, or to lock up the property of the country in mortmain, by some strained connection between the exercise of such powers, and those expressly given to the government.
3. Supposing the establishment of such a banking corporation, to be implied as one of the means necessary and proper to execute the powers expressly granted to the national government, it is contended by the counsel opposed to us, that its property is exempted from taxation by the state governments, because they cannot interfere with the exercise of any of the powers, express or implied, with which congress is invested. But the radical vice of this argument is, that the taxing power of the states, as it would exist, independent of the constitution, is in no respect limited or controlled by that supreme law, except in the single case of imposts and tonnage duties, which the states cannot lay, unless for the purpose of executing their inspection laws. But their power of taxation is absolutely unlimited in every other respect. Their power to tax the property of this corporation cannot be denied, without at the same time denying their right to tax any property of the United States. The property of the bank cannot be more highly privileged than that of the government. But they are not forbidden from taxing the property of the government, and therefore, cannot be constructively prohibited from taxing that of the bank. Being prohibited from taxing exports and imports, and tonnage, and left free from any other prohibition, in this respect; they may tax everything else but exports, imports and tonnage. The authority of “the Federalist” is express, that the taxing power of congress does not exclude that of the states over any other objects except these. If, then, the exercise of the taxing power of congress does not exclude that of the states, why should the exercise of any other power by congress, exclude the power of taxation by the states? If an express power will not exclude it, shall an implied power have that effect? If a power of the same kind will not exclude it, shall a power of a different kind? The unlimited power of taxation results from state sovereignty. It is expressly taken away only in the particular instances mentioned. Shall others be added by implication? Will it be pretended, that there are two species of sovereignty in our government? Sovereign power is absolute, as to the objects to which it may be applied. But the sovereign power of taxation in the states may be applied to all other objects, except imposts and tonnage: its exercise cannot, therefore, be limited and controlled by the exercise of another sovereign power in congress. The right of both sovereignties are co-equal and co-extensive. The trade of banking may be taxed by the state of Maryland; the United States may incorporate a company to carry on the trade of banking, which may establish a branch in Maryland; the exercise of the one sovereign power, cannot be controlled by the exercise of the other. It can no more be controlled in this case, than if it were the power of taxation in congress, which was interfered with by the power of taxation in the state, both being exerted concurrently on the same object. In both cases, mutual confidence, discretion and forbearance can alone qualify the exercise of the conflicting powers, and prevent the destruction of either. This is an anomaly, and perhaps an imperfection, in our system of government. But neither congress, nor this court, can correct it. That system was established by reciprocal concessions and compromises between the state and federal governments; its harmony can only be maintained in the same spirit. Even admitting that the property of the United States (such as they have a right to hold), their forts and dock-yards, their ships and military stores, their archives and treasures, public institutions of war, or revenue or justice, are exempt, by necessary implication, from state taxation; does it, therefore, follow, that this corporation, which is a partnership of bankers, is also exempt? They are not collectors of the revenue, any more than any state bank or foreign bankers, whose agency the government may find it convenient to employ as depositaries of its funds. They may be employed to remit those funds from one place to another, or to procure loans, or to buy and sell stock; but it is in a commercial, and not an administrative character, that they are thus employed. The corporate character with which these persons are clothed, does not exempt them from state taxation. It is the nature of their employment, as agents or officers of the government, if anything, which must create the exemption. But the same employment of the state bank or private bankers, would equally entitle them to the same exemption. Nor can the exemption of the stock of this corporation from state taxation, be claimed on the ground of the proprietary interest which the United States have in it as stockholders. Their interest is undistinguishably blended with the general capital stock; if they will mix their funds with those of bankers, or engage as partners in any other branch of commerce, their sovereign character and dignity are lost in the mercantile character which they have assumed; and their property thus employed becomes subject to local taxation, like other capital employed in trade.
Martin, Attorney-General of Maryland.—1. Read several extracts from the Federalist, and the debates of the Virginia and New York conventions, to show that the contemporary exposition of the constitution, by its authors, and by those who supported its adoption, was wholly repugnant to that now contended for by the counsel for the plaintiff in error. That it was then maintained, by the enemies of the constitution, that it contained a vast variety of powers, lurking under the generality of its phraseology, which would prove highly dangerous to the liberties of the people, and the rights of the states, unless controlled by some declaratory amendment, which should negative their existence. This apprehension was treated as a dream of distempered jealousy. The danger was denied to exist; but to provide an assurance against the possibility of its occurrence, the 10th amendment was added to the constitution. This, however, could be considered as nothing more than declaratory of the sense of the people as to the extent of the powers conferred on the new government. We are now called upon to apply that theory of interpretation, which was then rejected by the friends of the new constitution, and we are asked to engraft upon it powers of vast extent, which were disclaimed by them, and which if they had been fairly avowed at the time, would have prevented its adoption. Before we do this, they must, at least, be proved to exist, upon a candid examination of this instrument, as if it were now, for the first time, submitted to interpretation. Although we cannot, perhaps, be allowed to say, that the states have been “deceived in their grant;” yet we may justly claim something like a rigorous demonstration of this power, which nowhere appears upon the face of the constitution, but which is supposed to be tacitly inculcated in its general object and spirit. That the scheme of the framers of the constitution, intended to leave nothing to implication, will be evident, from the consideration, that many of the powers expressly given are only means to accomplish other powers expressly given. For example, the power to declare war involves, by necessary implication, if anything was to be implied, the powers of raising and supporting armies, and providing and maintaining a navy, to prosecute the war then declared. So also, as money is the sinew of war, the powers of laying and collecting taxes, and of borrowing money, are involved in [Page p1066]that of declaring war. Yet all these powers are specifically enumerated. If, then, the convention has specified some powers, which being only means to accomplish the ends of government, might have been taken by implication; by what just rule of construction, are other sovereign powers, equally vast and important, to be assumed by implication? We insist, that the only safe rule is, the plain letter of the constitution; the rule which the constitutional legislators themselves have prescribed in the 10th amendment, which is merely declaratory; that the powers not delegated to the United States, nor prohibited to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people. The power of establishing corporations is not delegated to the United States, nor prohibited to the individual states. It is, therefore, reserved to the states, or to the people. It is not expressly delegated, either as an end, or a means, of national government. It is not to be taken by implication, as a means of executing any or all of the powers expressly granted; because other means, not more important or more sovereign in their character, are expressly enumerated. We still insist, that the authority of establishing corporations is one of the great sovereign powers of government. It may well exist in the state governments, without being expressly conferred in the state constitutions; because those governments have all the usual powers which belong to every political society, unless expressly forbidden, by the letter of the state constitutions, from exercising them. The power of establishing corporations has been constantly exercised by the state governments, and no portion of it has been ceded by them to the government of the United States.
2. But admitting that congress has a right to incorporate a banking company, as one of the means necessary and proper to execute the specific powers of the national government; we insist, that the respective states have the right to tax the property of that corporation, within their territory; that the United States cannot, by such an act of incorporation, withdraw any part of the property within the state from the grasp of taxation. It is not necessary for us to contend, that any part of the public property of the United States, its munitions of war, its ships and treasure, are subject to state taxation. But if the United States hold shares in the stock of a private banking company, or any other trading company, their property is not exempt from taxation, in common with the other capital stock of the company; still less, can it communicate to the shares belonging to private stockholders, an immunity from local taxation. The right of taxation by the state, is co-extensive with all private property within the state. The interest of the United States in this bank is private property, though belonging to public persons. It is held by the government, as an undivided interest with private stockholders. It is employed in the same trade, subject to the same fluctuations of value, and liable to the same contingencies of profit and loss. The shares belonging to the United States, or of any other stockholders, are not subjected to direct taxation by the law of Maryland. The tax imposed, is a stamp tax upon the notes issued by a banking-house within the state of Maryland. Because the United States happen to be partially interested, either as dormant or active partners, in that house, is no reason why the state should refrain from laying a tax which they have, otherwise, a constitutional right to impose, any more than if they were to become interested in any other house of trade, which should issue its notes, or bills of exchange, liable to a stamp duty, by a law of the state. But it is said, that a right to tax, in this case, implies a right to destroy; that it is impossible to draw the line of discrimination between a tax fairly laid for the purposes of revenue, and one imposed for the purpose of prohibition. We answer, that the same objection would equally apply to the right of congress to tax the state banks; since the same difficulty of discriminating occurs in the exercise of that right. The whole of this subject of taxation is full of difficulties, which the convention found it impossible to solve, in a manner entirely satisfactory. The first attempt was to divide the subjects of taxation between the state and the national government. This being found impracticable or inconvenient, the state governments surrendered altogether their right to tax imports and exports, and tonnage; giving the authority to tax all other subjects to congress, but reserving to the states a concurrent right to tax the same subjects to an unlimited extent. This was one of the anomalies of the government, the evils of which must be endured, or mitigated by discretion and mutual forbearance. The debates in the state conventions show that the power of state taxation was understood to be absolutely unlimited, except as to imports and tonnage duties. The states would not have adopted the constitution, upon any other understanding. As to the judicial proceedings, and the custom-house papers of the United States, they are not property, by their very nature; they are not the subjects of taxation; they are the proper instruments of national sovereignty, essential to the exercise of its powers, and in legal contemplation altogether extra-territorial as to state authority.
Pinkney, for the plaintiff in error, in reply, stated: 1. That the cause must first be cleared of a question which ought not to have been forced into the argument—whether the act of congress establishing the bank was consistent with the constitution? This question depended both on authority and on principle. No topics to illustrate it could be drawn from the confederation, since the present constitution was as different from that, as light from darkness. The former was a mere federative league; an alliance offensive and defensive between the states, such as there had been many examples of in the history of the world. It had no power of coercion but by arms. Its radical vice, and that which the new constitution was intended to reform, was legislation upon sovereign states in their corporate capacity. But the constitution acts directly on the people, by means of powers communicated directly from the people. No state, in its corporate capacity, ratified it; but it was proposed for adoption to popular conventions. It springs from the people, precisely as the state constitution springs from the people, and acts on them in a similar manner. It was adopted by them in the geographical sections into which the country is divided. The federal powers are just as sovereign as those of the states. The state sovereignties are not the authors of the constitution of the United States. They are preceding in point of time, to the national sovereignty, but they are postponed to it, in point of supremacy, by the will of the people. The means of giving efficacy to the sovereign authorities vested by the people in the national government, are those adapted to the end; fitted to promote, and having a natural relation and connection with, the objects of that government. The constitution, by which these authorities, and the means of executing them, are given, and the laws made in pursuance of it, are declared to be the supreme law of the land; and they would have been such, without the insertion of this declaratory clause; they must be supreme, or they would be nothing. The constitutionality of the establishment of the bank, as one of the means necessary to carry into effect the authorities vested in the national government, is no longer an open question. It has been long since settled by decisions of the most revered authority, legislative, executive and judicial. A legislative construction, in a doubtful case, persevered in for a course of years, ought to be binding upon the court. This, however, is not a question of construction merely, but of political necessity, on which congress must decide. It is conceded, that a manifest usurpation cannot be maintained in this mode; but, we contend, that this is such a doubtful case, that congress may expound the nature and extent of the authority under which it acts, and that this practical interpretation had become incorporated into the constitution. There are two distinguishing points which entitle it to great respect. The first is, that it was a contemporaneous construction; the [Page p1067]second is, that it was made by the authors of the constitution themselves. The members of the convention who framed the constitution, passed into the first congress, by which the new government was organized; they must have understood their own work. They determined that the constitution gave to congress the power of incorporating a banking company. It was not required, that this power should be expressed in the text of the constitution; it might safely be left to implication. An express authority to erect corporations generally, would have been perilous; since it might have been constructively extended to the creation of corporations entirely unnecessary to carry into effect the other powers granted; we do not claim an authority in this respect, beyond the sphere of the specific powers. The grant of an authority to erect certain corporations, might have been equally dangerous, by omitting to provide for others, which time and experience might show to be equally, and even more necessary. It is a historical fact, of great importance in this discussion, that amendments to the constitution were actually proposed, in order to guard against the establishment of commercial monopolies. But if the general power of incorporating did not exist, why seek to qualify it, or to guard against its abuse? The legislative precedent, established in 1791, has been followed up by a series of acts of congress, all confirming the authority. Political considerations alone might have produced the refusal to renew the charter in 1811; at any rate, we know that they mingled themselves in the debate, and the determination.
In 1815, a bill was passed by the two houses of congress, incorporating a national bank; to which the president refused his assent, upon political considerations only, waiving the question of constitutionality, as being settled by contemporaneous exposition, and repeated subsequent recognitions. In 1816, all branches of the legislature concurred in establishing the corporation, whose chartered rights are now in judgment before the court. None of these measures ever passed sub silentio; the proposed incorporation was always discussed, and opposed, and supported, on constitutional grounds, as well as on considerations of political expediency. Congress is prima facie a competent judge of its own constitutional powers. It is not, as in questions of privilege, the exclusive judge; but it must first decide, and that in a proper judicial character, whether a law is constitutional, before it is passed. It had an opportunity of exercising its judgment in this respect, upon the present subject, not only in the principal acts incorporating the former, and the present bank, but in the various incidental statutes subsequently enacted on the same subject; in all of which, the question of constitutionality was equally open to debate, but in none of which was it agitated.
There are, then, in the present case, the repeated determinations of the three branches of the national legislature, confirmed by the constant acquiescence of the state sovereignties, and of the people, for a considerable length of time. Their strength is fortified by judicial authority. The decisions in the courts, affirming the constitutionality of these laws, passed, indeed, sub silentio; but it was the duty of the judges, especially in criminal cases, to have raised the question; and we are to conclude, from this circumstance, that no doubt was entertained respecting it. And if the question be examined on principle, it will be found not to admit of doubt. Has congress, abstractedly, the authority to erect corporations? This authority is not more a sovereign power, than many other powers which are acknowledged to exist, and which are but means to an end. All the objects of the government are national objects, and the means are, and must be, fitted to accomplish them. These objects are enumerated in the constitution, and have no limits but the constitution itself. A more perfect union is to be formed; justice to be established; domestic tranquillity insured; the common defence provided for; the general welfare promoted; the blessings of liberty secured to the present generation, and to posterity. For the attainment of these vast objects, the government is armed with powers and faculties corresponding in magnitude. Congress has power to lay and collect taxes and duties, imposts and excises; to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States; to borrow money on the credit of the nation; to regulate commerce; to establish uniform naturalization and bankrupt laws; to coin money, and regulate the circulating medium, and the standard of weights and measures; to establish post-offices and post-roads; to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, by granting patents and copyrights; to constitute tribunals inferior to the supreme court, and to define and punish offences against the law of nations; to declare and carry on war; to raise and support armies, and to provide and maintain a navy; to discipline and govern the land and naval forces; to call forth the militia to execute the laws, suppress insurrections and repel invasions; to provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia; to exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases, over the district where the seat of government is established, and over such other portions of territory as may be ceded to the Union for the erection of forts, magazines, &c.; to dispose of, and make all needful rules and regulations respecting, the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution these powers, and all other powers vested in the national government, or any of its departments or officers. The laws thus made are declared to be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state are bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding. Yet it is doubted, whether a government invested with such immense powers has authority to erect a corporation within the sphere of its general objects, and in order to accomplish some of those objects! The state powers are much less in point of magnitude, though greater in number; yet it is supposed, the states possess the authority of establishing corporations, whilst it is denied to the general government. It is conceded to the state legislatures, though not specifically granted, because it is said to be an incident of state sovereignty; but it is refused to congress, because it is not specifically granted, though it may be necessary and proper to execute the powers which are specifically granted. But the authority of legislation in the state government is not unlimited; there are several limitations to their legislative authority. First, from the nature of all government, especially, of republican government, in which the residuary powers of sovereignty, not granted specifically, by inevitable implication, are reserved to the people. Secondly, from the express limitations contained in the state constitutions. And thirdly, from the express prohibitions to the states contained in the United States constitution. The power of erecting corporations is nowhere expressly granted to the legislatures of the states in their constitutions; it is taken by necessary implication: but it cannot be exercised to accomplish any of the ends which are beyond the sphere of their constitutional authority. The power of erecting corporations is not an end of any government; it is a necessary means of accomplishing the ends of all governments. It is an authority inherent in, and incident to, all sovereignty.
The history of corporations will illustrate this position. They were transplanted from the Roman law into the common law of England, and all the municipal codes of modern Europe. From England, they were derived to this country. But in the civil law, a corporation could be created by a mere voluntary association of individuals. 1 Bl. Com. 471. And in England, the authority of parliament is not necessary to create a corporate body. The king may do it, and may communicate his power to a subject (1 Bl. Com. 474), so little is this regarded as a transcendent power of sovereignty, in the British constitution. So also, in our constitution, it ought to be regarded as but a subordinate [Page p1068]power to carry into effect the great objects of government. The state governments cannot establish corporations to carry into effect the national powers given to congress, nor can congress create corporations to execute the peculiar duties of the state governments. But so much of the power or faculty of incorporation as concerns national objects has passed away from the state legislatures, and is vested in the national government. An act of incorporation is but a law, and laws are but means to promote the legitimate end of all government—the felicity of the people. All powers are given to the national government, as the people will. The reservation in the 10th amendment to the constitution, of “powers not delegated to the United States,” is not confined to powers not expressly delegated. Such an amendment was indeed proposed; but it was perceived, that it would strip the government of some of its most essential powers, and it was rejected. Unless a specific means be expressly prohibited to the general government, it has it, within the sphere of its specified powers. Many particular means are, of course, involved in the general means necessary to carry into effect the powers expressly granted, and in that case, the general means become the end, and the smaller objects the means.
It was impossible for the framers of the constitution to specify, prospectively, all these means, both because it would have involved an immense variety of details, and because it would have been impossible for them to foresee the infinite variety of circumstances, in such an unexampled state of political society as ours, for ever changing and for ever improving. How unwise would it have been, to legislate immutably for exigencies which had not then occurred, and which must have been foreseen but dimly and imperfectly! The security against abuse is to be found in the constitution and nature of the government, in its popular character and structure. The statute book of the United States is filled with powers derived from implication. The power to lay and collect taxes will not execute itself. Congress must designate in detail all the means of collection. So also, the power of establishing post-offices and post-roads, involves that of punishing the offence of robbing the mail. But there is no more necessary connection between the punishment of mail-robbers, and the power to establish post-roads, than there is between the institution of a bank, and the collection of the revenue and payment of the public debts and expenses. So, light-houses, beacons, buoys and public piers, have all been established, under the general power to regulate commerce. But they are not indispensably necessary to commerce. It might linger on, without these aids, though exposed to more perils and losses. So, congress has authority to coin money, and to guard the purity of the circulating medium, by providing for the punishment of counterfeiting the current coin; but laws are also made for punishing the offence of uttering and passing the coin thus counterfeited. It is the duty of the court to construe the constitutional powers of the national government liberally, and to mould them so as to effectuate its great objects. Whence is derived the power to punish smuggling? It does not collect the impost, but it is a means more effectually to prevent the collection from being diminished in amount, by frauds upon the revenue laws. Powers, as means, may then be implied in many cases. And if so, why not in this case as well as any other?;
The power of making all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory of the United States, is one of the specified powers of congress. Under this power, it has never been doubted, that congress had authority to establish corporations in the territorial governments. But this power is derived entirely from implication. It is assumed, as an incident to the principal power. If it may be assumed, in that case, upon the ground, that it is a necessary means of carrying into effect the power expressly granted, why may it not be assumed, in the present case, upon a similar ground? It is readily admitted, there must be a relation, in the nature and fitness of things between the means used and the end to be accomplished. But the question is, whether the necessity which will justify a resort to a certain means, must be an absolute, indispensable, inevitable necessity? The power of passing all laws necessary and proper to carry into effect the other powers specifically granted, is a political power; it is a matter of legislative discretion, and those who exercise it, have a wide range of choice in selecting means. In its exercise, the mind must compare means with each other. But absolute necessity excludes all choice; and therefore, it cannot be this species of necessity which is required. Congress alone has the fit means of inquiry and decision. The more or less of necessity never can enter as an ingredient into judicial decision. Even absolute necessity cannot be judged of here; still less, can practical necessity be determined in a judicial forum. The judiciary may, indeed, and must, see that what has been done is not a mere evasive pretext, under which the national legislature travels out of the prescribed bounds of its authority, and encroaches upon state sovereignty, or the rights of the people. For this purpose, it must inquire, whether the means assumed have a connection, in the nature and fitness of things, with the end to be accomplished. The vast variety of possible means, excludes the practicability of judicial determination as to the fitness of a particular means. It is sufficient, that it does not appear to be violently and unnaturally forced into the service, or fraudulently assumed, in order to usurp a new substantive power of sovereignty. A philological analysis of the terms “necessary and proper” will illustrate the argument. Compare these terms as they are used in that part of the constitution now in question, with the qualified manner in which they are used in the 10th section of the same article. In the latter, it is provided that “no state shall, without the consent of congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws.” In the clause in question, congress is invested with the power “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers,” &c. There is here then, no qualification of the necessity; it need not be absolute; it may be taken in its ordinary grammatical sense. The word necessary, standing by itself, has no inflexible meaning; it is used in a sense more or less strict, according to the subject. This, like many other words, has a primitive sense, and another figurative and more relaxed; it may be qualified by the addition of adverbs of diminution or enlargement, such as very, indispensably, more, less, or absolutely necessary; which last is the sense in which it is used in the 10th section of this article of the constitution. But that it is not always used in this strict and rigorous sense, may be proved, by tracing its definition, and etymology in every human language.
If, then, all the powers of the national government are sovereign and supreme; if the power of incorporation is incidental, and involved in the others; if the degree of political necessity which will justify a resort to a particular means, to carry into execution the other powers of the government, can never be a criterion of judicial determination, but must be left to legislative discretion, it only remains to inquire, whether a bank has a natural and obvious connection with other express or implied powers, so as to become a necessary and proper means of carrying them into execution. A bank might be established as a branch of the public administration, without incorporation. The government might issue paper, upon the credit of the public faith, pledged for its redemption, or upon the credit of its property and funds. Let the office where this paper is issued be made a place of deposit for the money of individuals, and authorize its officers to discount, and a bank is created. It only wants the forms of incorporation. But, surely, it will not be pretended, that clothing it with these forms would make such an establishment unconstitutional. In the bank which is actually established and incorporated, the [Page p1069]United States are joint stockholders, and appoint joint directors; the secretary of the secretary of the treasury has a supervising authority over its affairs; it is bound, upon his requisition, to transfer the funds of the government wherever they may be wanted; it performs all the duties of commissioners of the loan-office; it is bound to loan the government a certain amount of money, on demand; its notes are receivable in payment for public debts and duties; it is intimately connected, according to the usage of the whole world, with the power of borrowing money, and with all the financial operations of the government. It has, also, a close connection with the power of regulating foreign commerce, and that between the different states. It provides a circulating medium, by which that commerce can be more conveniently carried on, and exchanges may be facilitated. It is true, there are state banks by which a circulating medium to a certain extent is provided. But that only diminishes the quantum of necessity, which is no criterion by which to test the constitutionality of a measure. It is also connected with the power of making all needful regulations for the government of the territory, “and other property of the United States.” If they may establish a corporation to regulate their territory, they may establish one to regulate their property. Their treasure is their property, and may be invested in this mode. It is put in partnership; but not for the purpose of carrying on the trade of banking as one of the ends for which the government was established; but only as an instrument or means for executing its sovereign powers. This instrument could not be rendered effectual for this purpose, but by mixing the property of individuals with that of the public. The bank could not otherwise acquire a credit for its notes. Universal experience shows, that, if, altogether a government bank, it could not acquire, or would soon lose, the confidence of the community.
2. As to the branches, they are identical with the parent bank. The power to establish them is that species of subordinate power, wrapped up in the principal power, which congress may place at its discretion.
3. The last and greatest, and only difficult question in the cause, is that which respects the assumed right of the states to tax this bank, and its branches, thus established by congress? This is a question, comparatively of no importance to the individual states, but of vital importance to the Union. Deny this exemption to the bank as an instrument of government, and what is the consequence? There is no express provision in the constitution, which exempts any of the national institutions or property from state taxation. It is only by implication that the army and navy, and treasure, and judicature of the Union are exempt from state taxation. Yet they are practically exempt; and they must be, or it would be in the power of any one state to destroy their use. Whatever the United States have a right to do, the individual states have no right to undo. The power of congress to establish a bank, like its other sovereign powers, is supreme, or it would be nothing. Rising out of an exertion of paramount authority, it cannot be subject to any other power. Such a power in the states, as that contended for on the other side, is manifestly repugnant to the power of congress; since a power to establish, implies a power to continue and preserve.
There is a manifest repugnancy between the power of Maryland to tax, and the power of congress to preserve, this institution. A power to build up, what another may pull down at pleasure, is a power which may provoke a smile, but can do nothing else. This law of Maryland acts directly on the operations of the bank, and may destroy it. There is no limit or check in this respect, but in the discretion of the state legislature. That discretion cannot be controlled by the national councils. Whenever the local councils of Maryland will it, the bank must be expelled from that state. A right to tax, without limit or control, is essentially a power to destroy. If one national institution may be destroyed in this manner, all may be destroyed in the same manner. If this power to tax the national property and institutions exists in the state of Maryland, it is unbounded in extent. There can be no check upon it, either by congress, or the people of the other states. Is there then any intelligible, fixed, defined boundary of this taxing power? If any, it must be found in this court. If it does not exist here, it is a nonentity. But the court cannot say what is an abuse, and what is a legitimate use of the power. The legislative intention may be so masked, as to defy the scrutinizing eye of the court. How will the court ascertain, a priori, that the given amount of tax will crush the bank? It is essentially a question of political economy, and there are always a vast variety of facts bearing upon it. The facts may be mistaken. Some important considerations belonging to the subject may be kept out of sight; they must all vary with times and circumstances. The result, then, must determine, whether the tax is destructive. But the bank may linger on for some time, and that result cannot be known, until the work of destruction is consummated. A criterion which has been proposed, is to see whether the tax has been laid, impartially, upon the state banks, as well as the Bank of the United States. Even this is an unsafe test; for the state governments may wish, and intend, to destroy their own banks. The existence of any national institution ought not to depend upon so frail a security. But this tax is levelled exclusively at the branch of the United States Bank established in Maryland. There is, in point of fact, a branch of no other bank within that state, and there can legally be no other. It is a fundamental article of the state constitution of Maryland, that taxes shall operate on all the citizens impartially and uniformly, in proportion to their property, with the exception, however, of taxes laid for political purposes. This is a tax laid for a political purpose; for the purpose of destroying a great institution of the national government; and if it were not imposed for that purpose, it would be repugnant to the state constitution, as not being laid uniformly on all the citizens, in proportion to their property. So that the legislature cannot disavow this to be its object, without, at the same time, confessing a manifest violation of the state constitution. Compare this act of Maryland with that of Kentucky, which is yet to come before the court, and the absolute necessity of repressing such attempts in their infancy, will be evident. Admit the constitutionality of the Maryland tax, and that of Kentucky follows inevitably. How can it be said, that the office of discount and deposit in Kentucky cannot bear a tax of $60,000 per annum, payable monthly? Probably, it could not; but judicial certainty is essential; and the court has no means of arriving at that certainty. There is, then, here, an absolute repugnancy of power to power; we are not bound to show, that the particular exercise of the power in the present case is absolutely repugnant. It is sufficient, that the same power may be thus exercised.
There certainly may be some exceptions out of the taxing power of the states, other than those created by the taxing power of congress; because, if there were no implied exceptions, then, the navy, and other exclusive property of the United States, would be liable to state taxation. If some of the powers of congress, other than its taxing power, necessarily involve incompatibility with the taxing power of the states, this may be incompatible. This is incompatible; for a power to impose a tax ad libitum upon the notes of the bank, is a power to repeal the law, by which the bank was created. The bank cannot be useful, it cannot act at all, unless it issues notes. If the present tax does not disable the bank from issuing its notes, another may; and it is the authority itself which is questioned, as being entirely repugnant to the power which established and preserves the bank. Two powers thus hostile and incompatible cannot co-exist. There must be, in this case, an implied exception to the general taxing power of the states, because it is a tax upon the legislative faculty of congress, upon the [Page p1070]national property, upon the national institutions. Because the taxing powers of the two governments are concurrent in some respects, it does not follow, that there may not be limitations on the taxing power of the states, other than those which are imposed by the taxing power of congress. Judicial proceedings are practically a subject of taxation in many countries, and in some of the states of this Union. The states are not expressly prohibited in the constitution, from taxing the judicial proceedings of the United States. Yet such a prohibition must be implied, or the administration of justice in the national courts might be obstructed by a prohibitory tax. But such a tax is no more a tax on the legislative faculty of congress than this. The branch bank in Maryland is as much an institution of the sovereign power of the Union, as the circuit court of Maryland. One is established in virtue of an express power; the other by an implied authority; but both are equal, and equally supreme. All the property and all the institutions of the United States are, constructively, without the local, territorial jurisdiction of the individual states, in every respect, and for every purpose, including that of taxation. This immunity must extend to this case, because the power of taxation imports the power of taxation for the purpose of prohibition and destruction. The immunity of foreign public vessels from the local jurisdiction, whether state or national, was established in the case of The Exchange, 7 Cranch 116, not upon positive municipal law, nor upon conventional law; but it was implied, from the usage of nations, and the necessity of the case. If, in favor of foreign governments, such an edifice of exemption has been built up, independent of the letter of the constitution, or of any other written law, shall not a similar edifice be raised on the same foundations, for the security of our own national government? So also, the jurisdiction of a foreign power, holding a temporary possession of a portion of national territory, is nowhere provided for in the constitution; but is derived from inevitable implication. United States v. Rice (ante, p. 246). These analogies show, that there may be exemptions from state jurisdiction, not detailed in the constitution, but arising out of general considerations. If congress has power to do a particular act, no state can impede, retard or burden it. Can there be a stronger ground, to infer a cessation of state jurisdiction?;
The Bank of the United States is as much an instrument of the government for fiscal purposes, as the courts are its instruments for judicial purposes. They both proceed from the supreme power, and equally claim its protection. Though every state in the Union may impose a stamp tax, yet no state can lay a stamp tax upon the judicial proceedings or custom-house papers of the United States. But there is no such express exception to the general taxing power of the states contained in the constitution. It arises from the general nature of the government, and from the principle of the supremacy of the national powers, and the laws made to execute them, over the state authorities and state laws.
It is objected, however, that the act of congress, incorporating the bank, withdraws property from taxation by the state, which would be otherwise liable to state taxation. We answer, that it is immaterial, if it does thus withdraw certain property from the grasp of state taxation, if congress had authority to establish the bank, since the power of congress is supreme. But, in fact, it withdraws nothing from the mass of taxable property in Maryland, which that state could tax. The whole capital of the bank, belonging to private stockholders, is drawn from every state in the Union, and the stock belonging to the United States, previously constituted a part of the public treasure. Neither the stock belonging to citizens of other states, nor the privileged treasure of the United States, mixed up with this private property, were previously liable to taxation in Maryland; and as to the stock belonging to its own citizens, it still continues liable to state taxation, as a portion of their individual property, in common with all the other private property in the state. The establishment of the bank, so far from withdrawing anything from taxation by the state, brings something into Maryland which that state may tax. It produces revenue to the citizens of Maryland, which may be taxed equally and uniformly, with all their other private property. The materials of which the ships of war, belonging to the United States, are constructed, were previously liable to state taxation. But the instant they are converted into public property, for the public defence, they cease to be subject to state taxation. So, here, the treasure of the United States, and that of individuals, citizens of Maryland, and of other states, are undistinguishably confounded in the capital stock of this great national institution, which, it has been before shown, could be made useful as an instrument of finance, in no other mode than by thus blending together the property of the government and of private merchants. This partnership is, therefore, one of necessity, on the part of the United States. Either this tax operates upon the franchise of the bank, or upon its property. If upon the former, then it comes directly in conflict with the exercise of a great sovereign authority of congress; if upon the latter, then it is a tax upon the property of the United States; since the law does not, and cannot, in imposing a stamp tax, distinguish their interest from that of private stockholders.
But it is said, that congress possesses and exercises the unlimited authority of taking the state banks; and therefore, the states ought to have an equal right to tax the Bank of the United States. The answer to this objection is, that, in taxing the state banks, the states in congress exercise their power of taxation. Congress exercises the power of the people; the whole acts on the whole. But the state tax is a part acting on the whole. Even if the two cases were the same, it would rather exempt the state banks from federal taxation, than subject the Bank of the United States to taxation by a particular state. But the state banks are not machines essential to execute the powers of the state sovereignties, and therefore, this is out of the question. The people of the United States, and the sovereignties of the several states, have no control over the taxing power of a particular state. But they have a control over the taxing power of the United States, in the responsibility of the members of the house of representatives to the people of the state which sends them, and of the senators, to the legislature by whom they are chosen. But there is no correspondent responsibility of the local legislature of Maryland, for example, to the people of the other states of the Union. The people of other states are not represented in the legislature of Maryland, and can have no control, directly or indirectly, over its proceedings. The legislature of Maryland is responsible only to the people of that state. The national government can withdraw nothing from the taxing power of the states, which is not for the purpose of national benefit and the common welfare, and within its defined powers. But the local interests of the states are in perpetual conflict with the interests of the Union; which shows the danger of adding power to the partial views and local prejudices of the states. If the tax imposed by this law be not a tax on the property of the United States, it is not a tax on any property; and it must, consequently, be a tax on the faculty or franchise. It is, then, a tax on the legislative faculty of the Union, on the charter of the bank. It imposes a stamp duty upon the notes of the bank, and thus stops the very source of its circulation and life. It is as much a direct interference with the legislative faculty of congress, as would be a tax on patents, or copyrights, or custom-house papers or judicial proceedings.
Since, then, the constitutional government of this republican empire cannot be practically enforced, so as to secure the permanent glory, safety and felicity of this great country, but by a fair and liberal interpretation of its powers; since those powers could not all be expressed in the constitution, but many of them must be taken by [Page p1071]implication; since the sovereign powers of the Union are supreme, and, wherever they come in direct conflict and repugnancy with those of the state governments, the latter must give way; since it has been proved, that this is the case as to the institution of the bank, and the general power of taxation by the states; since this power unlimited and unchecked, as it necessarily must be, by the very nature of the subject, is absolutely inconsistent with, and repugnant to, the right of the United States to establish a national bank; if the power of taxation be applied to the corporate property, or franchise, or property of the bank, and might be applied in the same manner, to destroy any other of the great institutions and establishments of the Union, and the whole machine of the national government might be arrested in its motions, by the exertion, in other cases, of the same power which is here attempted to be exerted upon the bank: no other alternative remains, but for this court to interpose its authority, and save the nation from the consequences of this dangerous attempt.
March 7th, 1819. Marshall, Ch. J., delivered the opinion of the court
—In the case now to be determined, the defendant, a sovereign state, denies the obligation of a law enacted by the legislature of the Union, and the plaintiff, on his part, contests the validity of an act which has been passed by the legislature of that state. The constitution of our country, in its most interesting and vital parts, is to be considered; the conflicting powers of the government of the Union and of its members, as marked in that constitution, are to be discussed; and an opinion given, which may essentially influence the great operations of the government. No tribunal can approach such a question without a deep sense of its importance, and of the awful responsibility involved in its decision. But it must be decided peacefully, or remain a source of hostile legislation, perhaps, of hostility of a still more serious nature; and if it is to be so decided, by this tribunal alone can the decision be made. On the supreme court of the United States has the constitution of our country devolved this important duty.
The first question made in the cause is—has congress power to incorporate a bank? It has been truly said, that this can scarcely be considered as an open question, entirely unprejudiced by the former proceedings of the nation respecting it. The principle now contested was introduced at a very early period of our history, has been recognised by many successive legislatures, and has been acted upon by the judicial department, in cases of peculiar delicacy, as a law of undoubted obligation.
It will not be denied, that a bold and daring usurpation might be resisted, after an acquiescence still longer and more complete than this. But it is conceived, that a doubtful question, one on which human reason may pause, and the human judgment be suspended, in the decision of which the great principles of liberty are not concerned, but the respective powers of those who are equally the representatives of the people, are to be adjusted; if not put at rest by the practice of the government, ought to receive a considerable impression from that practice. An exposition of the constitution, deliberately established by legislative acts, on the faith of which an immense property has been advanced, ought not to be lightly disregarded.
The power now contested was exercised by the first congress elected under the present constitution. The bill for incorporating the Bank of the United States did not steal upon an unsuspecting legislature, and pass unobserved. Its principle was completely understood, and was opposed with equal zeal and ability. After being resisted, first, in the fair and open field of debate, and afterwards, in the executive cabinet, with as much persevering talent as any measure has ever experienced, and being supported by arguments which convinced minds as pure and as intelligent as this country can boast, it became a law. The original act was permitted to expire; but a short experience of the embarrassments to which the refusal to revive it exposed the government, convinced those who were most prejudiced against the measure of its necessity, and induced the passage of the present law. It would require no ordinary share of intrepidity, to assert that a measure adopted under these circumstances, was a bold and plain usurpation, to which the constitution gave no countenance. These observations belong to the cause; but they are not made under the impression, that, were the question entirely new, the law would be found irreconcilable with the constitution.
In discussing this question, the counsel for the state of Maryland have deemed it of some importance, in the construction of the constitution, to consider that instrument, not as emanating from the people, but as the act of sovereign and independent states. The powers of the general government, it has been said, are delegated by the states, who alone are truly sovereign; and must be exercised in subordination to the states, who alone possess supreme dominion. It would be difficult to sustain this proposition. The convention which framed the constitution was indeed elected by the state legislatures. But the instrument, when it came from their hands, was a mere proposal, without obligation, or pretensions to it. It was reported to the then existing congress of the United States, with a request that it might “be submitted to a convention of delegates, chosen in each state by the people thereof, under the recommendation of its legislature, for their assent and ratification.” This mode of proceeding was adopted; and by the convention, by congress, and by the state legislatures, the instrument was submitted to the people. They acted upon it in the only manner in which they can act safely, effectively and wisely, on such a subject, by assembling in convention. It is true, they assembled in their several states—and where else should they have assembled? No political dreamer was ever wild enough to think of breaking down the lines which separate the states, and of compounding the American people into one common mass. Of consequence, when they act, they act in their states. But the measures they adopt do not, on that account, cease to be the measures of the people themselves, or become the measures of the state governments.
From these conventions, the constitution derives its whole authority. The government proceeds directly from the people; is “ordained and established,” in the name of the people; and is declared to be ordained, “in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and to their posterity.” The assent of the states, in their sovereign capacity, is implied, in calling a convention, and thus submitting that instrument to the people. But the people were at perfect liberty to accept or reject it; and their act was final. It required not the affirmance, and could not be negatived, by the state governments. The constitution, when thus adopted, was of complete obligation, and bound the state sovereignties.
It has been said, that the people had already surrendered all their powers to the state sovereignties, and had nothing more to give. But, surely, the question whether they may resume and modify the powers granted to government, does not remain to be settled in this country. Much more might the legitimacy of the general government be doubted, had it been created by the states. The powers delegated to the state sovereignties were to be exercised by themselves, not by a distinct and independent sovereignty, created by themselves. To the formation of a league, such as was the confederation, the state sovereignties were certainly competent. But when, “in order to form a more perfect union,” it was deemed necessary to change this alliance into an effective government, possessing great and sovereign powers, and acting directly on the people, the necessity of referring it to the [Page p1072]people, and of deriving its powers directly from them, was felt and acknowledged by all. The government of the Union, then (whatever may be the influence of this fact on the case), is, emphatically and truly, a government of the people. In form, and in substance, it emanates from them. Its powers are granted by them, and are to be exercised directly on them, and for their benefit.
This government is acknowledged by all, to be one of enumerated powers. The principle, that it can exercise only the powers granted to it, would seem too apparent, to have required to be enforced by all those arguments, which its enlightened friends, while it was depending before the people, found it necessary to urge; that principle is now universally admitted. But the question respecting the extent of the powers actually granted, is perpetually arising, and will probably continue to arise, so long as our system shall exist. In discussing these questions, the conflicting powers of the general and state governments must be brought into view, and the supremacy of their respective laws, when they are in opposition, must be settled.
If any one proposition could command the universal assent of mankind, we might expect it would be this—that the government of the Union, though limited in its powers, is supreme within its sphere of action. This would seem to result, necessarily, from its nature. It is the government of all; its powers are delegated by all; it represents all, and acts for all. Though any one state may be willing to control its operations, no state is willing to allow others to control them. The nation, on those subjects on which it can act, must necessarily bind its component parts. But this question is not left to mere reason: the people have, in express terms, decided it, by saying, “this constitution, and the laws of the United States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof,” “shall be the supreme law of the land,” and by requiring that the members of the state legislatures, and the officers of the executive and judicial departments of the states, shall take the oath of fidelity to it. The government of the United States, then, though limited in its powers, is supreme; and its laws, when made in pursuance of the constitution, form the supreme law of the land, “anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”
Among the enumerated powers, we do not find that of establishing a bank or creating a corporation. But there is no phrase in the instrument which, like the articles of confederation, excludes incidental or implied powers; and which requires that everything granted shall be expressly and minutely described. Even the 10th amendment, which was framed for the purpose of quieting the excessive jealousies which had been excited, omits the word “expressly,” and declares only, that the powers “not delegated to the United States, nor prohibited to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people;” thus leaving the question, whether the particular power which may become the subject of contest, has been delegated to the one government, or prohibited to the other, to depend on a fair construction of the whole instrument. The men who drew and adopted this amendment had experienced the embarrassments resulting from the insertion of this word in the articles of confederation, and probably omitted it, to avoid those embarrassments. A constitution, to contain an accurate detail of all the subdivisions of which its great powers will admit, and of all the means by which they may be carried into execution, would partake of the prolixity of a legal code, and could scarcely be embraced by the human mind. It would, probably, never be understood by the public. Its nature, therefore, requires, that only its great outlines should be marked, its important objects designated, and the minor ingredients which compose those objects, be deduced from the nature of the objects themselves. That this idea was entertained by the framers of the American constitution, is not only to be inferred from the nature of the instrument, but from the language. Why else were some of the limitations, found in the 9th section of the 1st article, introduced? It is also, in some degree, warranted, by their having omitted to use any restrictive term which might prevent its receiving a fair and just interpretation. In considering this question, then, we must never forget that it is a constitution we are expounding.
Although, among the enumerated powers of government, we do not find the word “bank” or “incorporation,” we find the great powers, to lay and collect taxes; to borrow money; to regulate commerce; to declare and conduct a war; and to raise and support armies and navies. The sword and the purse, all the external relations, and no inconsiderable portion of the industry of the nation, are intrusted to its government. It can never be pretended, that these vast powers draw after them others of inferior importance, merely because they are inferior. Such an idea can never be advanced. But it may with great reason be contended, that a government, intrusted with such ample powers, on the due execution of which the happiness and prosperity of the nation so vitally depends, must also be intrusted with ample means for their execution. The power being given, it is the interest of the nation to facilitate its execution. It can never be their interest, and cannot be presumed to have been their intention, to clog and embarrass its execution, by withholding the most appropriate means. Throughout this vast republic, from the St. Croix to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, revenue is to be collected and expended, armies are to be marched and supported. The exigencies of the nation may require, that the treasure raised in the north should be transported to the south, that raised in the east, conveyed to the west, or that this order should be reversed. Is that construction of the constitution to be preferred, which would render these operations difficult, hazardous and expensive? Can we adopt that construction (unless the words imperiously require it), which would impute to the framers of that instrument, when granting these powers for the public good, the intention of impeding their exercise, by withholding a choice of means? If, indeed, such be the mandate of the constitution, we have only to obey; but that instrument does not profess to enumerate the means by which the powers it confers may be executed; nor does it prohibit the creation of a corporation, if the existence of such a being be essential, to the beneficial exercise of those powers. It is, then, the subject of fair inquiry, how far such means may be employed.
It is not denied, that the powers given to the government imply the ordinary means of execution. That, for example, of raising revenue, and applying it to national purposes, is admitted to imply the power of conveying money from place to place, as the exigencies of the nation may require, and of employing the usual means of conveyance. But it is denied, that the government has its choice of means; or, that it may employ the most convenient means, if, to employ them, it be necessary to erect a corporation. On what foundation does this argument rest? On this alone: the power of creating a corporation, is one appertaining to sovereignty, and is not expressly conferred on congress. This is true. But all legislative powers appertain to sovereignty. The original power of giving the law on any subject whatever, is a sovereign power; and if the government of the Union is restrained from creating a corporation, as a means for performing its functions, on the single reason that the creation of a corporation is an act of sovereignty; if the sufficiency of this reason be acknowledged, there would be some difficulty in sustaining the authority of congress to pass other laws for the accomplishment of the same objects. The government which has a right to do an act, and has imposed on it, the duty of performing that act, must, according to the dictates of reason, be allowed to select the means; and those who contend that it may not select any appropriate means, that one particular mode of effecting the object is excepted, take upon themselves the burden of establishing that exception.
The creation of a corporation, it is said, appertains to sovereignty. This is admitted. But to what portion of sovereignty does it appertain? [Page p1073]Does it belong to one more than to another? In America, the powers of sovereignty are divided between the government of the Union, and those of the states. They are each sovereign, with respect to the objects committed to it, and neither sovereign, with respect to the objects committed to the other. We cannot comprehend that train of reasoning, which would maintain, that the extent of power granted by the people is to be ascertained, not by the nature and terms of the grant, but by its date. Some state constitutions were formed before, some since that of the United States. We cannot believe, that their relation to each other is in any degree dependent upon this circumstance. Their respective powers must, we think, be precisely the same, as if they had been formed at the same time. Had they been formed at the same time, and had the people conferred on the general government the power contained in the constitution, and on the states the whole residuum of power, would it have been asserted, that the government of the Union was not sovereign, with respect to those objects which were intrusted to it, in relation to which its laws were declared to be supreme? If this could not have been asserted, we cannot well comprehend the process of reasoning which maintains, that a power appertaining to sovereignty cannot be connected with that vast portion of it which is granted to the general government, so far as it is calculated to subserve the legitimate objects of that government. The power of creating a corporation, though appertaining to sovereignty, is not, like the power of making war, or levying taxes, or of regulating commerce, a great substantive and independent power, which cannot be implied as incidental to other powers, or used as a means of executing them. It is never the end for which other powers are exercised, but a means by which other objects are accomplished. No contributions are made to charity, for the sake of an incorporation, but a corporation is created to administer the charity; no seminary of learning is instituted, in order to be incorporated, but the corporate character is conferred to subserve the purposes of education. No city was ever built, with the sole object of being incorporated, but is incorporated as affording the best means of being well governed. The power of creating a corporation is never used for its own sake, but for the purpose of effecting something else. No sufficient reason is, therefore, perceived, why it may not pass as incidental to those powers which are expressly given, if it be a direct mode of executing them.
But the constitution of the United States has not left the right of congress to employ the necessary means, for the execution of the powers conferred on the government, to general reasoning. To its enumeration of powers is added, that of making “all laws which shall be necessary and proper, for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this constitution, in the government of the United States, or in any department thereof.” The counsel for the state of Maryland have urged various arguments, to prove that this clause, though, in terms, a grant of power, is not so, in effect; but is really restrictive of the general right, which might otherwise be implied, of selecting means for executing the enumerated powers. In support of this proposition, they have found it necessary to contend, that this clause was inserted for the purpose of conferring on congress the power of making laws. That, without it, doubts might be entertained, whether congress could exercise its powers in the form of legislation.
But could this be the object for which it was inserted? A government is created by the people, having legislative, executive and judicial powers. Its legislative powers are vested in a congress, which is to consist of a senate and house of representatives. Each house may determine the rule of its proceedings; and it is declared, that every bill which shall have passed both houses, shall, before it becomes a law, be presented to the president of the United States. The 7th section describes the course of proceedings, by which a bill shall become a law; and, then, the 8th section enumerates the powers of congress. Could it be necessary to say, that a legislature should exercise legislative powers, in the shape of legislation? After allowing each house to prescribe its own course of proceeding, after describing the manner in which a bill should become a law, would it have entered into the mind of a single member of the convention, that an express power to make laws was necessary, to enable the legislature to make them? That a legislature, endowed with legislative powers, can legislate, is a proposition too self-evident to have been questioned.
But the argument on which most reliance is placed, is drawn from that peculiar language of this clause. Congress is not empowered by it to make all laws, which may have relation to the powers confered on the government, but such only as may be “necessary and proper” for carrying them into execution. The word “necessary” is considered as controlling the whole sentence, and as limiting the right to pass laws for the execution of the granted powers, to such as are indispensable, and without which the power would be nugatory. That it excludes the choice of means, and leaves to congress, in each case, that only which is most direct and simple.
Is it true, that this is the sense in which the word “necessary” is always used? Does it always import an absolute physical necessity, so strong, that one thing to which another may be termed necessary, cannot exist without that other? We think it does not. If reference be had to its use, in the common affairs of the world, or in approved authors, we find that it frequently imports no more than that one thing is convenient, or useful, or essential to another. To employ the means necessary to an end, is generally understood as employing any means calculated to produce the end, and not as being confined to those single means, without which the end would be entirely unattainable. Such is the character of human language, that no word conveys to the mind, in all situations, one single definite idea; and nothing is more common than to use words in a figurative sense. Almost all compositions contain words, which, taken in a their rigorous sense, would convey a meaning different from that which is obviously intended. It is essential to just construction, that many words which import something excessive, should be understood in a more mitigated sense—in that sense which common usage justifies. The word “necessary” is of this description. It has not a fixed character, peculiar to itself. It admits of all degrees of comparison; and is often connected with other words, which increase or diminish the impression the mind receives of the urgency it imports. A thing may be necessary, very necessary, absolutely or indispensably necessary. To no mind would the same idea be conveyed by these several phrases. The comment on the word is well illustrated by the passage cited at the bar, from the 10th section of the 1st article of the constitution. It is, we think, impossible to compare the sentence which prohibits a state from laying “imposts, or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws,” with that which authorizes congress “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution” the powers of the general government, without feeling a conviction, that the convention understood itself to change materially the meaning of the word “necessary,” by prefixing the word “absolutely.” This word, then, like others, is used in various senses; and, in its construction, the subject, the context, the intention of the person using them, are all to be taken into view.
Let this be done in the case under consideration. The subject is the execution of those great powers on which the welfare of a nation essentially depends. It must have been the intention of those who gave these powers, to insure, so far as human prudence could insure, their beneficial execution. This could not be done, by confiding the choice of means to such narrow limits as not to leave it in the power of congress to adopt any which might be appropriate, and which were [Page p1074]conducive to the end. This provision is made in a constitution, intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs. To have prescribed the means by which government should, in all future time, execute its powers, would have been to change, entirely, the character of the instrument, and give it the properties of a legal code. It would have been an unwise attempt to provide, by immutable rules, for exigencies which, if foreseen at all, must have been seen dimly, and which can be best provided for as they occur. To have declared, that the best means shall not be used, but those alone, without which the power given would be nugatory, would have been to deprive the legislature of the capacity to avail itself of experience, to exercise its reason, and to accommodate its legislation to circumstances.
If we apply this principle of construction to any of the powers of the government, we shall find it so pernicious in its operation that we shall be compelled to discard it. The powers vested in congress may certainly be carried into execution, without prescribing an oath of office. The power to exact this security for the faithful performance of duty, is not given, nor is it indispensably necessary. The different departments may be established; taxes may be imposed and collected; armies and navies may be raised and maintained; and money may be borrowed, without requiring an oath of office. It might be argued, with as much plausibility as other incidental powers have been assailed, that the convention was not unmindful of this subject. The oath which might be exacted—that of fidelity to the constitution—is prescribed, and no other can be required. Yet, he would be charged with insanity, who should contend, that the legislature might not superadd, to the oath directed by the constitution, such other oath of office as its wisdom might suggest.
So, with respect to the whole penal code of the United States: whence arises the power to punish, in cases not prescribed by the constitution? All admit, that the government may, legitimately, punish any violation of its laws; and yet, this is not among the enumerated powers of congress. The right to enforce the observance of law, by punishing its infraction, might be denied, with the more plausibility, because it is expressly given in some cases.
Congress is empowered “to provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States,” and “to define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offences against the law of nations.” The several powers of congress may exist, in a very imperfect state, to be sure, but they may exist and be carried into execution, although no punishment should be inflicted, in cases where the right to punish is not expressly given.
Take, for example, the power “to establish post-offices and post-roads.” This power is executed, by the single act of making the establishment. But, from this has been inferred the power and duty of carrying the mail along the post-road, from one post-office to another. And from this implied power, has again been inferred the right to punish those who steal letters from the post-office, or rob the mail. It may be said, with some plausibility, that the right to carry the mail, and to punish those who rob it, is not indispensably necessary to the establishment of a post-office and post-road. This right is indeed essential to the beneficial exercise of the power, but not indispensably necessary to its existence. So, of the punishment of the crimes of stealing or falsifying a record or process of a court of the United States, or of perjury in such court. To punish these offences, is certainly conducive to the due administration of justice. But courts may exist, and may decide the causes brought before them, though such crimes escape punishment.
The baneful influence of this narrow construction on all the operations of the government, and the absolute impracticability of maintaining it, without rendering the government incompetent to its great objects, might be illustrated by numerous examples drawn from the constitution, and from our laws. The good sense of the public has pronounced, without hesitation, that the power of punishment appertains to sovereignty, and may be exercised, whenever the sovereign has a right to act, as incidental to his constitutional powers. It is a means for carrying into execution all sovereign powers, and may be used, although not indispensably necessary. It is a right incidental to the power, and conducive to its beneficial exercise.
If this limited construction of the word “necessary” must be abandoned, in order to punish, whence is derived the rule which would reinstate it, when the government would carry its powers into execution, by means not vindictive in their nature? If the word “necessary” means “needful,” “requisite,” “essential,” “conducive to,” in order to let in the power of punishment for the infraction of law; why is it not equally comprehensive, when required to authorize the use of means which facilitate the execution of the powers of government, without the infliction of punishment?;
In ascertaining the sense in which the word “necessary” is used in this clause of the constitution, we may derive some aid from that with which it is associated. Congress shall have power “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper to carry into execution” the powers of the government. If the word “necessary” was used in that strict and rigorous sense for which the counsel for the state of Maryland contend, it would be an extraordinary departure from the usual course of the human mind, as exhibited in composition, to add a word, the only possible effect of which is, to qualify that strict and rigorous meaning; to present to the mind the idea of some choice of means of legislation, not strained and compressed within the narrow limits for which gentlemen contend.
But the argument which most conclusively demonstrates the error of the construction contended for by the counsel for the state of Maryland, is founded on the intention of the convention, as manifested in the whole clause. To waste time and argument in proving that, without it, congress might carry its powers into execution, would be not much less idle, than to hold a lighted taper to the sun. As little can it be required to prove, that in the absence of this clause, congress would have some choice of means. That it might employ those which, in its judgment, would most advantageously effect the object to be accomplished. That any means adapted to the end, any means which tended directly to the execution of the constitutional powers of the government, were in themselves constitutional. This clause, as construed by the state of Maryland, would abridge, and almost annihilate, this useful and necessary right of the legislature to select its means. That this could not be intended, is, we should think, had it not been already controverted, too apparent for controversy.
We think so for the following reasons: 1st. The clause is placed among the powers of congress, not among the limitations on those powers. 2d. Its terms purport to enlarge, not to diminish the powers vested in the government. It purports to be an additional power, not a restriction on those already granted. No reason has been, or can be assigned, for thus concealing an intention to narrow the discretion of the national legislature, under words which purport to enlarge it. The framers of the constitution wished its adoption, and well knew that it would be endangered by its strength, not by its weakness. Had they been capable of using language which would convey to the eye one idea, and, after deep reflection, impress on the mind, another, they would rather have disguised the grant of power, than its limitation. If, then, their intention had been, by this clause, to restrain the free use of means which might otherwise have been implied, that intention would have been inserted in another place, and would have been expressed in terms resembling these. “In carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all others,” &c., “no laws shall be passed but [Page p1075]such as are necessary and proper.” Had the intention been to make this clause restrictive, it would unquestionably have been so in form as well as in effect.
The result of the most careful and attentive consideration bestowed upon this clause is, that if it does not enlarge, it cannot be construed to restrain the powers of congress, or to impair the right of the legislature to exercise its best judgment in the selection of measures to carry into execution the constitutional powers of the government. If no other motive for its insertion can be suggested, a sufficient one is found in the desire to remove all doubts respecting the right to legislate on that vast mass of incidental powers which must be involved in the constitution, if that instrument be not a splendid bauble.
We admit, as all must admit, that the powers of the government are limited, and that its limits are not to be transcended. But we think the sound construction of the constitution must allow to the national legislature that discretion, with respect to the means by which the powers it confers are to be carried into execution, which will enable that body to perform the high duties assigned to it, in the manner most beneficial to the people. Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consist with the letter and spirit of the constitution, are constitutional.1
That a corporation must be considered as a means not less usual, not of higher dignity, not more requiring a particular specification than other means, has been sufficiently proved. If we look to the origin of corporations, to the manner in which they have been framed in that government from which we have derived most of our legal principles and ideas, or to the uses to which they have been applied, we find no reason to suppose, that a constitution, omitting, and wisely omitting, to enumerate all the means for carrying into execution the great powers vested in government, ought to have specified this. Had it been intended to grant this power, as one which should be distinct and independent, to be exercised in any case whatever, it would have found a place among the enumerated powers of the government. But being considered merely as a means, to be employed only for the purpose of carrying into execution the given powers, there could be no motive for particularly mentioning it.
The propriety of this remark would seem to be generally acknowledged, by the universal acquiescence in the construction which has been uniformly put on the 3d section of the 4th article of the constitution. The power to “make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States,” is not more comprehensive, than the power “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution” the powers of the government. Yet all admit the constitutionality of a territorial government, which is a corporate body.
If a corporation may be employed, indiscriminately with other means, to carry into execution the powers of the government, no particular reason can be assigned for excluding the use of a bank, if required for its fiscal operations. To use one, must be within the discretion of congress, if it be an appropriate mode of executing the powers of government. That it is a convenient, a useful, and essential instrument in the prosecution of its fiscal operations, is not now a subject of controversy. All those who have been concerned in the administration of our finances, have concurred in representing its importance and necessity; and so strongly have they been felt, that statesmen of the first class, whose previous opinions against it had been confirmed by every circumstance which can fix the human judgment, have yielded those opinions to the exigencies of the nation. Under the confederation, congress, justifying the measure by its necessity, transcended, perhaps, its powers, to obtain the advantage of a bank; and our own legislation attests the universal conviction of the utility of this measure. The time has passed away, when it can be necessary to enter into any discussion, in order to prove the importance of this instrument, as a means to effect the legitimate objects of the government.
But were its necessity less apparent, none can deny its being an appropriate measure; and if it is, the decree of its necessity, as has been very justly observed, is to be discussed in another place. Should congress, in the execution of its powers, adopt measures which are prohibited by the constitution; or should congress, under the pretext of executing its powers, pass laws for the accomplishment of objects not intrusted to the government; it would become the painful duty of this tribunal, should a case requiring such a decision come before it, to say, that such an act was not the law of the land. But where the law is not prohibited, and is really calculated to effect any of the objects intrusted to the government, to undertake here to inquire into the decree of its necessity, would be to pass the line which circumscribes the judicial department, and to tread on legislative ground. This court disclaims all pretensions to such a power.
After this declaration, it can scarcely be necessary to say, that the existence of state banks can have no possible influence on the question. No trace is to be found in the constitution, of an intention to create a dependence of the government of the Union on those of the states, for the execution of the great powers assigned to it. Its means are adequate to its ends; and on those means alone was it expected to rely for the accomplishment of its ends. To impose on it the necessity of resorting to means which it cannot control, which another government may furnish or withhold, would render its course precarious, the result of its measures uncertain, and create a dependence on other governments, which might disappoint its most important designs, and is incompatible with the language of the constitution. But were it otherwise, the choice of means implies a right to choose a national bank in preference to state banks, and congress alone can make the election.
After the most deliberate consideration, it is the unanimous and decided opinion of this court, that the act to incorporate the Bank of the United States is a law made in pursuance of the constitution, and is a part of the supreme law of the land.
The branches, proceeding from the same stock, and being conducive to the complete accomplishment of the object, are equally constitutional. It would have been unwise, to locate them in the charter, and it would be unnecessarily inconvenient, to employ the legislative power in making those subordinate arrangements. The great duties of the bank are prescribed; those duties require branches; and the bank itself may, we think, be safely trusted with the selection of places where those branches shall be fixed; reserving always to the government the right to require that a branch shall be located where it may be deemed necessary.
It being the opinion of the court, that the act incorporating the bank is constitutional; and that the power of establishing a branch in the state of Maryland might be properly exercised by the bank itself, we proceed to inquire—
2. Whether the state of Maryland may, without violating the constitution, tax that branch? That the power of taxation is one of vital importance; that it is retained by the states; that it is not abridged by the grant of a similar power to the government of the Union; that it is to be concurrently exercised by the two governments—are truths which have never been denied. But such is the paramount character of the constitution, that its capacity to withdraw any subject from the action of even this power, is admitted. The states are expressly forbidden to lay any duties on imports or exports, except what may be [Page p1076]absolutely necessary for executing their inspection laws. If the obligation of this prohibition must be conceded—if it may restrain a state from the exercise of its taxing power on imports and exports—the same paramount character would seem to restrain, as it certainly may restrain, a state from such other exercise of this power, as is in its nature incompatible with, and repugnant to, the constitutional laws of the Union. A law, absolutely repugnant to another, as entirely repeals that other as if express terms of repeal were used.
On this ground, the counsel for the bank place its claim to be exempted from the power of a state to tax its operations. There is no express provision for the case, but the claim has been sustained on a principle which so entirely pervades the constitution, is so intermixed with the materials which compose it, so interwoven with its web, so blended with its texture, as to be incapable of being separated from it, without rending it into shreds. This great principle is, that the constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof are supreme; that they control the constitution and laws of the respective states, and cannot be controlled by them. From this, which may be almost termed an axiom, other propositions are deduced as corollaries, on the truth or error of which, and on their application to this case, the cause has been supposed to depend. These are, 1st. That a power to create implies a power to preserve: 2d. That a power to destroy, if wielded by a different hand, is hostile to, and incompatible with these powers to create and to preserve: 3d. That where this repugnancy exists, that authority which is supreme must control, not yield to that over which it is supreme.
These propositions, as abstract truths, would, perhaps, never be controverted. Their application to this case, however, has been denied; and both in maintaining the affirmative and the negative, a splendor of eloquence, and strength of argument, seldom, if ever, surpassed, have been displayed.
The power of congress to create, and of course, to continue, the bank, was the subject of the preceding part of this opinion; and is no longer to be considered as questionable. That the power of taxing it by the states may be exercised so as to destroy it, is too obvious to be denied. But taxation is said to be an absolute power, which acknowledges no other limits than those expressly prescribed in the constitution, and like sovereign power of every other description, is intrusted to the discretion of those who use it. But the very terms of this argument admit, that the sovereignty of the state, in the article of taxation itself, is subordinate to, and may be controlled by the constitution of the United States. How far it has been controlled by that instrument, must be a question of construction. In making this construction, no principle, not declared, can be admissible, which would defeat the legitimate operations of a supreme government. It is of the very essence of supremacy, to remove all obstacles to its action within its own sphere, and so to modify every power vested in subordinate governments, as to exempt its own operations from their own influence. This effect need not be stated in terms. It is so involved in the declaration of supremacy, so necessarily implied in it, that the expression of it could not make it more certain. We must, therefore, keep it in view, while construing the constitution.
The argument on the part of the state of Maryland, is, not that the states may directly resist a law of congress, but that they may exercise their acknowledged powers upon it, and that the constitution leaves them this right, in the confidence that they will not abuse it. Before we proceed to examine this argument, and to subject it to test of the constitution, we must be permitted to bestow a few considerations on the nature and extent of this original right of taxation, which is acknowledged to remain with the states. It is admitted, that the power of taxing the people and their property, is essential to the very existence of government, and may be legitimately exercised on the objects to which it is applicable, to the utmost extent to which the government may choose to carry it. The only security against the abuse of this power, is found in the structure of the government itself. In imposing a tax, the legislature acts upon its constituents. This is, in general, a sufficient security against erroneous and oppressive taxation.
The people of a state, therefore, give to their government a right of taxing themselves and their property, and as the exigencies of government cannot be limited, they prescribe no limits to the exercise of this right, resting confidently on the interest of the legislator, and on the influence of the constituent over their representative, to guard them against its abuse. But the means employed by the government of the Union have no such security, nor is the right of a state to tax them sustained by the same theory. Those means are not given by the people of a particular state, not given by the constituents of the legislature, which claim the right to tax them, but by the people of all the states. They are given by all, for the benefit of all—and upon theory, should be subjected to that government only which belongs to all.
It may be objected to this definition, that the power of taxation is not confined to the people and property of a state. It may be exercised upon every object brought within its jurisdiction. This is true. But to what source do we trace this right? It is obvious, that it is an incident of sovereignty, and is co-extensive with that to which it is an incident. All subjects over which the sovereign power of a state extends, are objects of taxation; but those over which it does not extend, are, upon the soundest principles, exempt from taxation. This proposition may almost be pronounced self-evident.
The sovereignty of a state extends to everything which exists by its own authority, or is introduced by its permission; but does it extend to those means which are employed by congress to carry into execution powers conferred on that body by the people of the United States? We think it demonstrable, that it does not. Those powers are not given by the people of a single state. They are given by the people of the United States, to a government whose laws, made in pursuance of the constitution, are declared to be supreme. Consequently, the people of a single state cannot confer a sovereignty which will extend over them.
If we measure the power of taxation residing in a state, by the extent of sovereignty which the people of a single state possess, and can confer on its government, we have an intelligible standard, applicable to every case to which the power may be applied. We have a principle which leaves the power of taxing the people and property of a state unimpaired; which leaves to a state the command of all its resources, and which places beyond its reach, all those powers which are conferred by the people of the United States on the government of the Union, and all those means which are given for the purpose of carrying those powers into execution. We have a principle which is safe for the states, and safe for the Union. We are relieved, as we ought to be, from clashing sovereignty; from interfering powers; from a repugnancy between a right in one government to pull down, what there is an acknowledged right in another to build up; from the incompatibility of a right in one government to destroy, what there is a right in another to preserve. We are not driven to the perplexing inquiry, so unfit for the judicial department, what degree of taxation is the legitimate use, and what degree may amount to the abuse of the power. The attempt to use it on the means employed by the government of the Union, in pursuance of the constitution, is itself an abuse, because it is the usurpation of a power which the people of a single state cannot give. We find, then, on just theory, a total failure of this original right to tax the means employed by the government of the Union, for the execution of its powers. The right never existed, and the question whether it has been surrendered, cannot arise.
[Page p1077]But, waiving this theory for the present, let us resume the inquiry, whether this power can be exercised by the respective states, consistently with a fair construction of the constitution? That the power to tax involves the power to destroy; that the power to destroy may defeat and render useless the power to create; that there is a plain repugnance in conferring on one government a power to control the constitutional measures of another, which other, with respect to those very measures, is declared to be supreme over that which exerts the control, are propositions not to be denied. But all inconsistencies are to be reconciled by the magic of the word confidence. Taxation, it is said, does not necessarily and unavoidably destroy. To carry it to the excess of destruction, would be an abuse, to presume which, would banish that confidence which is essential to all government. But is this a case of confidence? Would the people of any one state trust those of another with a power to control the most insignificant operations of their state government? We know they would not. Why, then, should we suppose, that the people of any one state should be willing to trust those of another with a power to control the operations of a government to which they have confided their most important and most valuable interests? In the legislature of the Union alone, are all represented. The legislature of the Union alone, therefore, can be trusted by the people with the power of controlling measures which concern all, in the confidence that it will not be abused. This, then, is not a case of confidence, and we must consider it is as it really is.
If we apply the principle for which the state of Maryland contends, to the constitution, generally, we shall find it capable of changing totally the character of that instrument. We shall find it capable of arresting all the measures of the government, and of prostrating it at the foot of the states. The American people have declared their constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof, to be supreme; but this principle would transfer the supremacy, in fact, to the states. If the states may tax one instrument, employed by the government in the execution of its powers, they may tax any and every other instrument. They may tax the mail; they may tax the mint; they may tax patent-rights; they may tax the papers of the custom-house; they may tax judicial process; they may tax all the means employed by the government, to an excess which would defeat all the ends of government. This was not intended by the American people. They did not design to make their government dependent on the states.
Gentlemen say, they do not claim the right to extend state taxation to these objects. They limit their pretensions to property. But on what principle, is this distinction made? Those who make it have furnished no reason for it, and the principle for which they contend denies it. They contend, that the power of taxation has no other limit than is found in the 10th section of the 1st article of the constitution; that, with respect to everything else, the power of the states is supreme, and admits of no control. If this be true, the distinction between property and other subjects to which the power of taxation is applicable, is merely arbitrary, and can never be sustained. This is not all. If the controlling power of the states be established; if their supremacy as to taxation be acknowledged; what is to restrain their exercising control in any shape they may please to give it? Their sovereignty is not confined to taxation; that is not the only mode in which it might be displayed. The question is, in truth, a question of supremacy; and if the right of the states to tax the means employed by the general government be conceded, the declaration that the constitution, and the laws made in pursuance thereof, shall be the supreme law of the land, is empty and unmeaning declamation.
In the course of the argument, the Federalist has been quoted; and the opinions expressed by the authors of that work have been justly supposed to be entitled to great respect in expounding the constitution. No tribute can be paid to them which exceeds their merit; but in applying their opinions to the cases which may arise in the progress of our government, a right to judge of their correctness must be retained; and to understand the argument, we must examine the proposition it maintains, and the objections against which it is directed. The subject of those numbers, from which passages have been cited, is the unlimited power of taxation which is vested in the general government. The objection to this unlimited power, which the argument seeks to remove, is stated with fulness and clearness. It is, “that an indefinite power of taxation in the latter (the government of the Union) might, and probably would, in time, deprive the former (the government of the states) of the means of providing for their own necessities; and would subject them entirely to the mercy of the national legislature. As the laws of the Union are to become the supreme law of the land; as it is to have power to pass all laws that may be necessary for carrying into execution the authorities with which it is proposed to vest it; the national government might, at any time, abolish the taxes imposed for state objects, upon the pretence of an interference with its own. It might allege a necessity for doing this, in order to give efficacy to the national revenues; and thus, all the resources of taxation might, by degrees, become the subjects of federal monopoly, to the entire exclusion and destruction of the state governments.”
The objections to the constitution which are noticed in these numbers, were to the undefined power of the government to tax, not to the incidental privilege of exempting its own measures from state taxation. The consequences apprehended from this undefined power were, that it would absorb all the objects of taxation, “to the exclusion and destruction of the state governments.” The arguments of the Federalist are intended to prove the fallacy of these apprehensions; not to prove that the government was incapable of executing any of its powers, without exposing the means it employed to the embarrassments of state taxation. Arguments urged against these objections, and these apprehensions, are to be understood as relating to the points they mean to prove. Had the authors of those excellent essays been asked, whether they contended for that construction of the constitution, which would place within the reach of the states those measures which the government might adopt for the execution of its powers; no man, who has read their instructive pages, will hesitate to admit, that their answer must have been in the negative.
It has also been insisted, that, as the power of taxation in the general and state governments is acknowledged to be concurrent, every argument which would sustain the right of the general government to tax banks chartered by the states, will equally sustain the right of the states to tax banks chartered by the general government. But the two cases are not on the same reason. The people of all the states have created the general government, and have conferred upon it the general power of taxation. The people of all the states, and the states themselves, are represented in congress, and, by their representatives, exercise this power. When they tax the chartered institutions of the states, they tax their constituents; and these taxes must be uniform. But when a state taxes the operations of the government of the United States, it acts upon institutions created, not by their own constituents, but by people over whom they claim no control. It acts upon the measures of a government created by others as well as themselves, for the benefit of others in common with themselves. The difference is that which always exists, and always must exist, between the action of the whole on a part, and the action of a part on the whole—between the laws of a government declared to be supreme, and those of a government which, when in opposition to those laws, is not supreme.
But if the full application of this argument could be admitted, it might bring into question the right of congress to tax the state banks, and could not prove the rights of the states to tax the Bank of the United States.
[Page p1078]The court has bestowed on this subject its most deliberate consideration. The result is a conviction that the states have no power, by taxation or otherwise, to retard, impede, burden, or in any manner control, the operations of the constitutional laws enacted by congress to carry into execution the powers vested in the general government. This is, we think, the unavoidable consequence of that supremacy which the constitution has declared. We are unanimously of opinion, that the law passed by the legislature of Maryland, imposing a tax on the Bank of the United States, is unconstitutional and void.
This opinion does not deprive the states of any resources which they originally possessed. It does not extend to a tax paid by the real property of the bank, in common with the other real property within the state, nor to a tax imposed on the interest which the citizens of Maryland may hold in this institution, in common with other property of the same description throughout the state. But this is a tax on the operations of the bank, and is, consequently, a tax on the operation of an instrument employed by the government of the Union to carry its powers into execution. Such a tax must be unconstitutional.
Judgment.—This cause came on to be heard, on the transcript of the record of the court of appeals of the state of Maryland, and was argued by counsel: on consideration whereof, it is the opinion of this court, that the act of the legislature of Maryland is contrary to the constitution of the United States, and void; and therefore, that the said court of appeals of the state of Maryland erred, in affirming the judgment of the Baltimore county court, in which judgment was rendered against James W. McCulloch; but that the said court of appeals of Maryland ought to have reversed the said judgment of the said Baltimore county court, and ought to have given judgment for the said appellant, McCulloch: It is, therefore, adjudged and ordered, that the said judgment of the said court of appeals of the state of Maryland in this case, be, and the same hereby is, reversed and annulled. And this court, proceeding to render such judgment as the said court of appeals should have rendered; it is further adjudged and ordered, that the judgment of the said Baltimore county court be reversed and annulled, and that judgment be entered in the said Baltimore county court for the said James W. McCulloch.
This case involving a constitutional question of great public importance, and the sovereign rights of the United States and the state of Maryland; and the government of the United States having directed their attorney general to appear for the plaintiff in error, the court dispensed with its general rule, permitting only two counsel to argue for each party.See Roach v. Philadelphia County, 2 Am. L.J. 444; United v. Weise, 3 Wall. Jr. C. C. 72, 79.Letters of Publius, or The Federalist, Nos. 31–36.See Sturges v. Crowninshield, ante, p. 122.See Montague v. Richardson, 24 Conn. 348.Circuit Court of Appeals Act of 1891
In 1891 Congress passed the Circuit Court of Appeals Act, which established a new level of federal courts between the circuit and district courts and the Supreme Court. Relieving Supreme Court justices of the duty of sitting as circuit judges, the new circuit court of appeals was to hear all appeals from the decisions of the district and circuit courts.
Prior to the act, Supreme Court justices were required to ride circuit, a hardship for most justices. The justices were often required to travel long distances and deal with difficult conditions. Questions were also raised about the propriety of the justices participating in cases at the circuit level that were then reviewed by the Supreme Court.
The new circuit court of appeals would have final word in almost all diversity, admiralty, patent, revenue, and noncapital criminal cases. The Supreme Court would review such cases, after their decision by the appeals courts, only if the appeals court judges certified a case to the High Court—or if the Supreme Court decided to grant review through issue of a writ of certiorari. Cases involving constitutional questions, matters of treaty law, jurisdictional questions, capital crimes, and conflicting laws were still granted a right to appeal to the Supreme Court.Circuit Court of Appeals Act of 1891
An act to establish circuit courts of appeals and to define and regulate in certain cases the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there shall be appointed by the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, in each circuit an additional circuit judge, who shall have the same qualifications, and shall have the same power and jurisdiction therein that the circuit judges of the United States, within their respective circuits, now have under existing laws, and who shall be entitled to the same compensation as the circuit judges of the United States in their respective circuits now have.Sec. 2.
That there is hereby created in each circuit a circuit court of appeals, which shall consist of three judges, of whom two shall constitute a quorum, and which shall be a court of record with appellate jurisdiction, as is hereafter limited and established. Such court shall prescribe the form and style of its seal and the form of writs and other process and procedure as may be conformable to the exercise of its jurisdiction as shall be conferred by law. It shall have the appointment of the marshal of the court with the same duties and powers under the regulations of the court as are now provided for the marshal of the Supreme Court of the United States, so far as the same may be applicable. The court shall also appoint a clerk, who shall perform and exercise the same duties and powers in regard to all matters within its jurisdiction as are now exercised and performed by the clerk of the Supreme Court of the United States, so far as the same may be applicable. The salary of the marshal of the court shall be twenty-five hundred dollars a year, and the salary of the clerk of the court shall be three thousand dollars a year, to be paid in equal proportions quarterly. The costs and fees in the Supreme Court now provided for by law shall be costs and fees in the circuit courts of appeals; and the same shall be expended, accounted for, and paid for, and paid over to the Treasury Department of the United States in the same manner as is provided in respect of the costs and fees in the Supreme Court.
The court shall have power to establish all rules and regulations for the conduct of the business of the court within its jurisdiction as conferred by law.Sec. 3.
That the Chief-Justice and the associate justices of the Supreme Court assigned to each circuit, and the circuit judges within each circuit, and the several district judges within each circuit, shall be competent to sit as judges of the circuit court of appeals within their respective circuits in the manner hereinafter provided. In case the Chief-Justice or an associate justice of the Supreme Court should attend at any session of the circuit court of appeals he shall preside, and the circuit judges in attendance upon the court in the absence of the Chief-Justice or associate justice of the Supreme Court shall preside in the order of the seniority of their respective commissions.
In case the full court at any time shall not be made up by the attendance of the Chief-Justice or an associate justice of the Supreme Court and circuit judges, one or more district judges within the circuit shall be competent to sit in the court according to such order or provision among the district judges as either by general or particular assignment shall be designated by the court: Provided, That no justice or judge before whom a cause or question may have been tried or heard in a district court, or existing circuit court, shall sit on the trial or hearing of such cause or question in the circuit court of appeals. A term shall be held annually by the circuit court of appeals in the several judicial circuits at the following places: In the first circuit, in the city of Boston; in the second circuit, in the city of New York; in the third circuit, in the city of Philadelphia; in the fourth circuit, in the city of Richmond; in the fifth circuit, in the city of New Orleans; in the sixth circuit, in the city of Cincinnati; in the seventh circuit, in the city of Chicago; in the eighth circuit, in the city of Saint Louis; in the ninth circuit in the city of San Francisco; and in such other places in each of the above circuits as said court may from time to time designate. The first terms of said courts shall be held on the second Monday in January, eighteen hundred and ninety-one, and thereafter at such times as may be fixed by said courts.Sec. 4.
That no appeal, whether by writ of error or otherwise, shall hereafter be taken or allowed from [Page p1080]the district court to the existing circuit courts, and no appellate jurisdiction shall hereafter be exercised or allowed by said existing circuit courts, but all appeals by writ of error otherwise, from said district courts shall only be subject to review in the Supreme Court of the United States or in the circuit court of appeals hereby established, as is hereinafter provided, and the review, by appeal, by writ of error, or otherwise, from the existing circuit courts shall be had only in the Supreme Court of the United States or in the circuit courts of appeals hereby established according to the provisions of this act regulating the same.Sec. 5.
That appeals or writs of error may be taken from the district courts or from the existing circuit courts direct to the Supreme Court in the following cases:
In any case in which the jurisdiction of the court is in issue; in such cases the question of jurisdiction alone shall be certified to the Supreme Court from the court below for decision.
From the final sentences and decrees in prize causes.
In cases of conviction of a capital or otherwise infamous crime.
In any case that involves the construction or application of the Constitution of the United States.
In any case in which the constitutionality of any law of the United States, or the validity or construction of any treaty made under its authority, is drawn in question.
In any case in which the constitution or law of a State is claimed to be in contravention of the Constitution of the United States.
Nothing in this act shall affect the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in cases appealed from the highest court of a State, nor the construction of the statute providing for review of such cases.Sec. 6.
That the circuit courts of appeals established by this act shall exercise appellate jurisdiction to review by appeal or by writ of error final decision in the district court and the existing circuit courts in all cases other than those provided for in the preceding section of this act, unless otherwise provided by law, and the judgments or decrees of the circuit courts of appeals shall be final in all cases in which the jurisdiction is dependent entirely upon the opposite parties to the suit or controversy, being aliens and citizens of the United States or citizens of different States; also in all cases arising under the patent laws, under the revenue laws, and under the criminal laws and in admiralty cases, excepting that in every such subject within its appellate jurisdiction the circuit court of appeals at any time may certify to the Supreme Court of the United States any questions or propositions of law concerning which it desires the instruction of that court for its proper decision. And thereupon the Supreme Court may either give its instruction on the questions and propositions certified to it, which shall be binding upon the circuit courts of appeals in such case, or it may require that the whole record and cause may be sent up to it for its consideration, and thereupon shall decide the whole matter in controversy in the same manner as if it had been brought there for review by writ of error or appeal.
And excepting also that in any such case as is hereinbefore made final in the circuit court of appeals it shall be competent for the Supreme Court to require, by certiorari or otherwise, any such case to be certified to the Supreme Court for its review and determination with the same power and authority in the case as if it had been carried by appeal or writ of error to the Supreme Court.
In all cases not hereinbefore, in this section, made final there shall be of right an appeal or writ of error or review of the case by the Supreme Court of the United States where the matter in controversy shall exceed one thousand dollars besides costs. But no such appeal shall be taken or writ of error sued out unless within one year after the entry of the order, judgment, or decree sought to be reviewed.Sec. 7.
That where, upon a hearing in equity in a district court, or in an existing circuit court, an injunction shall be granted or continued by an interlocutory order or decree, in a cause in which an appeal from a final decree may be taken under the provisions of this act to the circuit court of appeals, an appeal may be taken from such interlocutory order or decree granting or continuing such injunction to the circuit court of appeals: Provided, That the appeal must be taken within thirty days from the entry of such order or decree, and it shall take precedence in the appellate court; and the proceedings in other respects in the court below shall not be stayed unless otherwise ordered by that court during the pendency of such appeal.Sec. 8.
That any justice or judge, who, in pursuance of the provisions of this act, shall attend the circuit court of appeals held at any place other than where he resides shall, upon his written certificate, be paid by the marshal of the district in which the court shall be held his reasonable expenses for travel and attendance, not to exceed ten dollars per day, and such payments shall be allowed the marshal in the settlement of his accounts with the United States.Sec. 9.
That the marshals of the several districts in which said circuit court of appeals may be held shall, under the direction of the Attorney-General of the United States, and with his approval, provide such rooms in the public buildings of the United States as may be necessary, and pay all incidental expenses of said court, including criers, bailiffs, and messengers: Provided, however, That in case proper rooms cannot be provided in such buildings, then the said marshals, with the approval of the Attorney-General of the United States, may, from time to time, lease such rooms as may be necessary for such [Page p1081]courts. That the marshals, criers, clerks, bailiffs, and messengers shall be allowed the same compensation for their respective services as are allowed for similar services in the existing circuit courts.Sec. 10.
That whenever an appeal or writ of error or otherwise a case coming directly from the district court or existing circuit court shall be reviewed and determined in the Supreme Court the cause shall be remanded to the proper district or circuit court for further proceedings to be taken in pursuance of such determination. And whenever on appeal or writ of error or otherwise a case coming from a circuit court of appeals shall be reviewed and determined in the Supreme Court the cause shall be remanded by the Supreme Court to the proper district or circuit court for further proceedings in pursuance of such determination. Whenever on appeal or writ or error or otherwise a case coming from a district or circuit court shall be reviewed and determined in the circuit court of appeals in a case in which the decision in the circuit court of appeals is final such cause shall be remanded to the said district or circuit court for further proceedings to be there taken in pursuance of such determination.Sec. 11.
That no appeal or writ of error by which any order, judgment, or decree may be reviewed in the circuit courts of appeals under the provisions of this act shall be taken or sued out except within six months after the entry of the order, judgment, or decree sought to be reviewed: Provided however, That in all cases in which a lesser time is now by law limited for appeals or writs of error such limits of time shall apply to appeals or writs of error in such cases taken to or sued out from the circuit courts of appeals. And all provisions of law now in force regulating the methods and system of review, through appeals or writs of error, shall regulate the methods and system of appeals and writs of error provided for in this act in respect of the circuit courts of appeals, including all provisions for bonds or other securities to be required and taken on such appeals, in respect of cases brought or to be brought to that court, shall have the same powers and duties as to the allowance of appeals or writs of error, and the conditions of such allowance, as now by law belong to the justices or judges in respect of the existing courts of the United States respectively.Sec. 12.
That the circuit court of appeals shall have the powers specified in section seven hundred and sixteen of the Revised Statutes of the United States.Sec. 13.
Appeals and writs of error may be taken and prosecuted from the decisions of the United States court in the Indian Territory to the Supreme Court of the United States, or to the circuit court of appeals in the eighth circuit, in the same manner and under the same regulations as from the circuit or district courts of the United States, under this act.Sec. 14.
That section six hundred and ninety-one of the Revised Statutes of the United States and section three of an act entitled “An act to facilitate the disposition of cases in the Supreme Court, and for other purposes,” approved February sixteenth, eighteen hundred and seventy-five, be, and the same are hereby repealed. And all acts and parts of acts relating to appeals or writs of error inconsistent with the provisions for review by appeals or writs of error in the preceding sections five and six of this act are hereby repealed.Sec. 15.
That the circuit court of appeal in cases in which the judgments of the circuit courts of appeal are made final by this act shall have the same appellate jurisdiction, by writ of error or appeal, to review the judgments, orders, and decrees of the supreme courts of the several Territories as by this act they may have to review the judgments, orders, and decrees of the district court and circuit courts; and for that purpose the several Territories shall, by orders of the Supreme court, to be made from time to time, be assigned to particular circuits.
Approved, March 3, 1891.
Source:Public Statutes At Large of the United States of America, Vol. XXVI (Washington, D.C.: U.S.. Government Printing Office, 1891).Judiciary Act of 1925
The Judiciary Act of 1925 established the jurisdictional rules that currently shape the Supreme Court's workload. The act gave the Court greater control of its docket by reducing the types of cases the Court was obliged to hear and by expanding its authority to select cases for review under a writ of certiorari—giving the Court virtually unlimited power in deciding which cases it would review.
Specifically, the act eliminated the right of appeal from appeals court rulings, except where the appeals court held a state law invalid under the Constitution, federal law, or treaties. A right of appeal from district court decisions remained, however, in cases under antitrust or interstate commerce laws; appeals by the government in criminal cases; suits to halt enforcement of state law or other official state action; and suits designed to halt enforcement of Interstate Commerce Commission orders.
The act is also known as the “judges bill”—a reference to the fact that the original legislation was drafted by members of the Court. Chief Justice William Howard Taft was instrumental in lobbying Congress for its passage. Taft maintained that the Court was becoming severely backlogged with cases. The law gave the justices, at least for a time, a more manageable caseload.Judiciary Act of 1925
An Act To amend the Judicial Code, and to further define the jurisdiction of the circuit courts of appeals and of the Supreme Court, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That sections 128, 129, 237, 238, 239, and 240 of the Judicial Code as now existing be, and they are severally, amended and reenacted to read as follows:Sec. 128.
(a) The circuit courts of appeal shall have appellate jurisdiction to review by appeal or writ of error final decisions —
“First. In the district courts, in all cases save where a direct review of the decision may be had in the Supreme Court under section 238.
“Second. In the United States district courts for Hawaii and for Porto Rico in all cases.
“Third. In the district courts for Alaska or any division thereof, and for the Virgin Islands, in all cases, civil and criminal, wherein the Constitution or a statute or treaty of the United States or any authority exercised thereunder is involved; in all other civil cases wherein the value in controversy, exclusive of interest and costs, exceeds $1,000; in all other criminal cases where the offense charged is punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year or by death, and in all habeas corpus proceedings; and in the district court for the Canal Zone in the cases and mode prescribed in the Act approved September 21, 1922, amending prior laws relating to the Canal Zone.
“Fourth. In the Supreme Courts of the Territory of Hawaii and of Porto Rico, in all civil cases, civil or criminal, wherein the Constitution or a statute or treaty of the United States or any authority exercised thereunder is involved; in all other civil cases wherein the value in controversy, exclusive of interest and costs, exceeds $5,000, and in all habeas corpus proceedings.
“Fifth. In the United States Court for China, in all cases.
(b) The circuit court of appeals shall also have appellate jurisdiction—
“First. To review the interlocutory orders or decrees of the district courts which are specified in section 129.
“Second. To review decisions of the district courts sustaining or overruling exceptions to awards in arbitrations, as provided in section 8 of an Act entitled ‘An Act providing for mediation, conciliation, and arbitration in controversies between certain employers and their employees,’ approved July 15, 1913.
“(c) The circuit courts of appeal shall also have an appellate and supervisory jurisdiction under sections 24 and 25 of the Bankruptcy Act of July 1, 1898, over all proceedings, controversies, and cases had or brought in the district courts under that Act or any of its amendments, and shall exercise the same in the manner prescribed in those sections; and the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in this regard shall cover the courts of bankruptcy in Alaska and Hawaii, and that of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit shall cover the court of bankruptcy in Porto Rico.
“(d) The review under this section shall be in the following circuit courts of appeal: The decisions of a district court of the United States within a State in the circuit court of appeals for the circuit embracing such State; those of the District Court of Alaska or any division thereof, the United States district court, and the Supreme Court of Hawaii, and the United States Court for China, in the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; those of the United States district court and the Supreme Court of Porto Rico in the Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit; those of the District Court of the Virgin Islands in the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; and those of the District Court of the Canal Zone in the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
“(e) The circuit courts of appeal are further empowered to enforce, set aside, or modify orders of the Federal Trade Commission, as provided in section 5 of ‘An Act to create a Federal Trade Commission, to define its powers and duties, and for other purposes,’ approved September 26, 1914; and orders of the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Federal Reserve Board, and the Federal Trade Commission, [Page p1083]as provided in section 11 of ‘An Act to supplement existing laws against unlawful restraints and monopolies, and for other purposes,’ approved October 15, 1914.“Sec. 129.
Where, upon a hearing in a district court, or by a judge thereof in vacation, an injunction is granted, continued, modified, refused, or dissolved by an interlocutory order or decree, or an application to dissolve or modify an injunction is refused, or an interlocutory order or decree is made appointing a receiver, or refusing an order to wind up a pending receivership or to take the appropriate steps to accomplish the purposes thereof, such as directing a sale or other disposal of property held thereunder, an appeal may be taken from such interlocutory order or decree to the circuit court of appeals; and sections 239 and 240 shall apply to such cases in the circuit courts of appeals as to other cases therein; Provided, That the appeal to the circuit court of appeals must be applied for within thirty days from the entry of such order or decree, and shall take precedence in the appellate court; and the proceedings in other respects in the district court shall not be stayed during the pendency of such appeal unless otherwise ordered by the court, or the appellate court, or a judge thereof: Provided, however, That the district court may, in its discretion, require an additional bond as a condition of the appeal.”Sec. 237.
(a) A final judgment or decree in any suit in the highest court of a State in which a decision in the suit could be had, where is drawn in question the validity of a treaty or statute of the United States, and the decision is against its validity; or where is drawn, in question the validity of a statute of any State, on the ground of its being repugnant to the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States, and the decision is in favor of its validity, may be reviewed by the Supreme Court upon a writ of error. The writ shall have the same effect as if the judgment or decree had been rendered or passed in a court of the United States. The Supreme Court may reverse, modify, or affirm the judgment or decree of such State court, and may, in its discretion, award execution or remand the cause to the court from which it was removed by the writ.
“(b) It shall be competent for the Supreme Court, by certiorari, to require that there be certified to it for review and determination, with the same power and authority and with like effect as if brought up by writ of error, any cause wherein a final judgment or decree has been rendered or passed by the highest court of a State in which a decision could be had where is drawn in question the validity of a treaty or statute of the United States; or where is drawn in question the validity of a statute of any State on the ground of its being repugnant to the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States; or where any title, right, privilege, or immunity is specially set up or claimed by either party under the Constitution, or any treaty or statute of, or commission held or authority exercised under, the United States; and the power to review under this paragraph may be exercised as well where the Federal claim is sustained as where it is denied. Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to limit or detract from the right to a review on a writ of error in a case where such a right is conferred by the preceding paragraph; nor shall the fact that a review on a writ of error might be obtained under the preceding paragraph be an obstacle to granting a review on certiorari under this paragraph.
“(c) If a writ of error be improvidently sought and allowed under this section in a case where the proper mode of invoking a review is by a petition for certiorari, this alone shall not be a ground for dismissal; but the papers whereon the writ of error was allowed shall be regarded and acted on as a petition for certiorari and as if duly presented to the Supreme Court at the time they were presented to the court or judge by whom the writ of error was allowed: Provided, That where in such a case there appears to be no reasonable ground for granting a petition for certiorari it shall be competent for the Supreme Court to adjudge to the respondent reasonable damages for his delay, and single or double costs, as provided in section 1010 of the Revised Statutes.”“Sec. 238.
A direct review by the Supreme Court of an interlocutory or final judgment or decree of a district court may be had where it is so provided in the following Acts or parts of Acts, and not otherwise:
“(1) Section 2 of the Act of February 11, 1903, ‘to expedite the hearing and determination’ of certain suits brought by the United States under the antitrust or interstate commerce laws, and so forth.
“(2) The Act of March 2, 1907, ‘providing for writs of error in certain instances in criminal cases’ where the decision of the district court is adverse to the United States.
“(3) An Act restricting the issuance of interlocutory injunctions to suspend the enforcement of the statute of a State or of an order made by an administrative board or commission created by and acting under the statute of a State, approved March 4, 1913, which Act is hereby amended by adding at the end thereof, ‘The requirement respecting the presence of three judges shall also apply to the final hearing in such suit in the district court; and a direct appeal to the Supreme Court may be taken from a final decree granting or denying a permanent injunction in such suit.’
“(4) So much of ‘An Act making appropriations to supply urgent deficiencies in appropriations for the fiscal year 1913, and for other purposes,’ approved October 22, 1913, as relates to the review of interlocutory and final judgments and decrees in suits to enforce, suspend, or set aside orders of the Interstate Commerce Commission other than for the payment of money.
[Page p1084]“(5) Section 316 of ‘An Act to regulate interstate and foreign commerce in livestock, livestock products, dairy products, poultry, poultry products, and eggs, and for other purposes’ approved August 15, 1921.”“Sec. 239.
In any case, civil or criminal, in a circuit court of appeals, or in the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia, the court at any time may certify to the Supreme Court of the United States any questions or propositions of law concerning which instructions are desired for the proper decision of the cause; and thereupon the Supreme Court may either give binding instructions on the questions and propositions certified or may require that the entire record in the cause be sent up for its consideration, and thereupon shall decide the whole matter in controversy in the same manner as if it had been brought there by writ of error or appeal.”Sec. 240.
(a) In any case, civil or criminal, in a circuit court of appeals, or in the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia, it shall be competent for the Supreme Court of the United States, upon the petition of any party thereto, whether Government or other litigant, to require by certiorari, either before or after a judgment or decree by such lower court, that the cause be certified to the Supreme Court for determination by it with the same power and authority, and with like effect, as if the cause had been brought there by unrestricted writ of error or appeal.
(b) Any case in a circuit court of appeals where is drawn in question the validity of a statute of any State, on the ground of its being repugnant to the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States, and the decision is against its validity, may, at the election of the party relying on such State statute, be taken to the Supreme Court for review on writ of error or appeal; but in that event a review on certiorari shall not be allowed at the instance of such party, and the review on such writ of error or appeal shall be restricted to an examination and decision of the Federal questions presented in the case.
“(c) No judgment or decree of a circuit court of appeals or of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia shall be subject to review by the Supreme Court otherwise than as provided in this section.”Sec. 2.
That cases in a circuit court of appeals under section 8 of “An Act providing for mediation, conciliation, and arbitration in controversies between certain employers and their employees,” approved July 15, 1913; under section 5 of “An Act to create a Federal Trade Commission, to define its powers and duties, and for other purposes,” approved September 26, 1914; and under section 11 of “An Act to supplement existing laws against unlawful restraints and monopolies, and for other purposes,” approved October 15, 1914, are included among the cases to which sections 239 and 240 of the Judicial Code shall apply.Sec. 3.
(a) That in any case in the court of Claims, including those begun under section 180 of the Judicial Code, that court at any time may certify to the Supreme Court any definite and distinct questions of law concerning which instructions are desired for the proper disposition of the cause; and thereupon the Supreme Court may give appropriate instructions on the questions certified and transmit the same to the Court of Claims for its guidance in the further progress of the cause.
(b) In any case in the Court of Claims, including those begun under section 180 of the Judicial Code, it shall be competent for the Supreme Court, upon the petition of either party, whether Government or claimant, to require, by certiorari, that the cause, including the findings of fact and the judgment or decree, but omitting the evidence, be certified to it for review and determination with the same power and authority, and with like effect, as if the cause had been brought there by appeal.
(c) All judgments and decrees of the Court of Claims shall be subject to review by the Supreme Court as provided in this section, and not otherwise.Sec. 4.
That in cases in the district courts wherein they exercise concurrent jurisdiction with the Court of Claims or adjudicate claims against the United States the judgments shall be subject to review in the circuit courts of appeals like other judgments of the district courts; and sections 239 and 240 of the Judicial Code shall apply to such cases in the circuit courts of appeals as to other cases therein.Sec. 5.
That the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia shall have the same appellate and supervisory jurisdiction over proceedings, controversies, and cases in bankruptcy in the District of Columbia that a circuit court of appeals has over such proceedings, controversies, and cases within its circuit, and shall exercise that jurisdiction in the same manner as a circuit court of appeals is required to exercise it.Sec. 6.
(a) In a proceeding in habeas corpus in a district court, or before a district judge or a circuit judge, the final order shall be subject to review, on appeal, by the circuit court of appeals of the circuit wherein the proceeding is had. A circuit judge shall have the same power to grant writs of habeas corpus within his circuit that a district judge has within his district; and the order of the circuit judge shall be entered in the records of the district court of the district wherein the restraint complained of is had.
(b) In such a proceeding in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, or before a justice thereof, the final order shall be subject to review, on appeal, by the Court of Appeals of that District.
(c) Sections 239 and 240 of the Judicial Code shall apply to habeas corpus cases in the circuit [Page p1085]courts of appeals and in the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia as to other cases therein.
(d) The provisions of sections 765 and 766 of the Revised Statutes, and the provisions of an Act entitled “An Act restricting in certain cases the right of appeal to the Supreme Court in habeas corpus proceedings,” approved March 10, 1908, shall apply to appellate proceedings under this section as they heretofore have applied to direct appeals to the Supreme Court.Sec. 7.
That in any case in the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands wherein the Constitution, or any statute or treaty of the United States is involved, or wherein the value in controversy exceeds $25,000, or wherein the title or possession of real estate exceeding in value the sum of $25,000 is involved or brought in question, it shall be competent for the Supreme Court of the United States, upon the petition of a party aggrieved by the final judgment or decree, to require, by certiorari, that the cause be certified to it for review and determination with the same power and authority, and with like effect, as if the cause had been brought before it on writ of error or appeal; and, except as provided in this section, the judgments and decrees of the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands shall not be subject to appellate review.Sec. 8.
(a) That no writ of error, appeal, or writ of certiorari, intended to bring any judgment or decree before the Supreme Court for review shall be allowed or entertained unless application therefor be duly made within three months after the entry of such judgment or decree, excepting that writs of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands may be granted where application therefor is made within six months: Provided, That for good cause shown either of such periods for applying for a writ of certiorari may be extended not exceeding sixty days by a justice of the Supreme Court.
(b) Where an application for a writ of certiorari is made with the purpose of securing a removal of the case to the Supreme Court from a circuit court of appeals or the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia before the court wherein the same is pending has given a judgment or decree the application may be made at any time prior to the hearing and submission in that court.
(c) No writ of error or appeal intended to bring any judgment or decree before a circuit court of appeals for review shall be allowed unless application therefor be duly made within three months after the entry of such judgment or decree.
(d) In any case in which the final judgment or decree of any court is subject to review by the Supreme Court on writ of certiorari, the execution and enforcement of such judgment or decree may be stayed for a reasonable time to enable the party aggrieved to apply for and to obtain a writ of certiorari from the Supreme Court. The stay may be granted by a judge of the court rendering the judgment or decree or by a justice of the Supreme Court, and may be conditioned on the giving of good and sufficient security, to be approved by such judge or justice, that if the aggrieved party fails to make application for such writ within the period allotted therefor, or fails to obtain an order granting his application, or fails to make his plea good in the Supreme Court, he shall answer for all damage and costs which the other party may sustain by reason of the stay.Sec. 9.
That in any case where the power to review, whether in the circuit courts of appeals or in the Supreme Court, depends upon the amount or value in controversy, such amount or value, if not otherwise satisfactorily disclosed upon the record, may be shown and ascertained by the oath of a party to the cause or by other competent evidence.Sec. 10.
That no court having power to review a judgment or decree of another shall dismiss a writ of error solely because an appeal should have been taken, or dismiss an appeal solely because a writ of error should have been sued out; but where such error occurs the same shall be disregarded and the court shall proceed as if in that regard its power to review were properly invoked.Sec. 11.
(a) That where, during the pendency of an action, suit, or other proceeding brought by or against an officer of the United States, or of the District of Columbia, or the Canal Zone, or of a county, city, or other governmental agency of such Territory or insular possession, and relating to the present or future discharge of his official duties, such officer dies, resigns, or otherwise ceases to hold such office, it shall be competent for the court wherein the action, suit, or proceeding is pending, whether the court be one of first instance or an appellate tribunal, to permit the cause to be continued and maintained by or against the successor in office of such officer, if within six months after his death or separation from the office it be satisfactorily shown to the court that there is a substantial need for so continuing and maintaining the cause and obtaining an adjudication of the questions involved.
(b) Similar proceedings may be had and taken where an action, suit, or proceeding brought by or against an officer of a State, or of a county, city, or other governmental agency of a State, is pending in a court of the United States at the time of the officer's death or separation from the office.
(c) Before a substitution under this section is made, the party or officer to be affected, unless expressly consenting thereto, must be given reasonable notice of the application therefor and accorded an opportunity to present any objection which he may have.Sec. 12.
That no district court shall have jurisdiction of any action or suit by or against any corporation upon the ground that it was incorporated by or under an Act of Congress: Provided, That this section shall not apply to any suit, action, or proceeding brought by or against a corporation incorporated by or under an Act of Congress wherein the Government of the United States is the owner of more than one-half of its capital stock.Sec. 13.
That the following statutes and parts of statutes be, and they are, repealed:
Sections 130, 131, 133, 134, 181, 182, 236, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, and 252 of the Judicial Code.
Sections 2, 4, and 5 of “An Act to amend an Act entitled ‘An Act to codify, revise, and amend the laws relating to the judiciary,’ approved March 3, 1911,” approved January 28, 1915.
Sections 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 of “An Act to amend the Judicial Code, to fix the time when the annual term of the Supreme Court shall commence, and further to define the jurisdiction of that court,” approved September 6, 1916.
Section 27 of “An Act to declare the purpose of the people of the United States as to the future political status of the people of the Philippine Islands, and to provide a more autonomous government for those islands,” approved August 29, 1916.
So much of sections 4, 9, and 10 of “An Act to provide for the bringing of suits against the Government of the United States,” approved March 3, 1887, as provides for a review by the Supreme Court on writ of error or appeal in the cases therein named.
So much of “An Act restricting in certain cases the right of appeal to the Supreme Court in habeas corpus proceedings,” approved March 10, 1908, as permits a direct appeal to the Supreme Court.
So much of sections 24 and 25 of the Bankruptcy Act of July 1, 1898, as regulates the mode of review by the Supreme Court in the proceedings, controversies, and cases therein named.
So much of “An Act to provide a civil government for Porto Rico, and for other purposes,” approved March 2, 1917, as permits a direct review by the Supreme Court of cases in the courts of Porto Rico.
So much of the Hawaiian Organic Act, as amended by the Act of July 9, 1921, as permits a direct review by the Supreme Court of cases in the courts in Hawaii.
So much of section 9 of the Act of August 24, 1912, relating to the government of the Canal Zone as designates the cases in which, and the courts by which, the judgments and decrees of the district court of the Canal Zone may be reviewed.
Sections 763 and 764 of the Revised Statutes.
An Act entitled “An Act amending section 764 of the Revised Statutes,” approved March 3, 1885.
An Act entitled “An Act to prevent the abatement of certain actions,” approved February 8, 1899.
An Act entitled “An Act to amend section 237 of the Judicial Code,” approved February 17, 1922.
An Act entitled “An Act to amend the Judicial Code in reference to appeals and writs of error,” approved September 14, 1922.
All other Acts and parts of Acts in so far as they are embraced within and superseded by this Act or are inconsistent therewith.Sec. 14.
That this Act shall take effect three months after its approval; but it shall not affect cases then pending in the Supreme Court, nor shall it affect the right to a review, or the mode or time for exercising the same, as respects any judgment or decree entered prior to the date when it takes effect.
Approved, February 13, 1925.
Source:Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, Vol. XLIII, Part 1 (Washington, D.C.: U.S.. Government Printing Office, 1925).Roosevelt's 1937 Court Reform Plan
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's plan to increase the Supreme Court's membership in 1937 was an example of a president attempting to change the size of the Court's membership to achieve a judicial consensus more to his liking.
In 1935 and 1936 the Court struck down nearly every important measure of Roosevelt's New Deal program, which called for government spending and work projects to help farmers, labor, and business survive the Great Depression. Encouraged by his overwhelming reelection mandate of 1936, Roosevelt proposed his “Court reform” bill—permitting a president to add a justice to the Supreme Court for every justice over seventy who refused to retire, for a total of fifteen justices. The “Court-packing” plan—as it became known—was extremely unpopular in Congress, and it opened a serious rift in the Democratic Party.
But the potential political confrontation was averted. By the time the bill was unfavorably reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Roosevelt had begun to get more cooperation from a Court suddenly more amenable to his legislation. The bill never reached the Senate floor, and the scheme was allowed to die. Roosevelt eventually transformed the Court by making nine appointments to it as vacancies arose during the rest of his presidency.Letter of Attorney General
February 2, 1937
The White House.
MY DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: Delay in the administration of justice is the outstanding defect of our Federal judicial system. It has been a cause of concern to practically every one of my predecessors in office. It has exasperated the bench, the bar, the business community, and the public.
The litigant conceives the judge as one promoting justice through the mechanism of the courts. He assumes that the directing power of the judge is exercised over its officers from the time a case is filed with the clerk of the court. He is entitled to assume that the judge is pressing forward litigation in the full recognition of the principle that “justice delayed is justice denied.” It is a mockery of justice to say to a person when he files suit that he may receive a decision years later. Under a properly ordered system rights should be determined promptly. The course of litigation should be measured in months and not in years.
Yet in some jurisdictions the delays in the administration of justice are so interminable that to institute suit is to embark on a life-long adventure. Many persons submit to acts of injustice rather than resort to the courts. Inability to secure a prompt judicial adjudication leads to improvident and unjust settlements. Moreover, the time factor is an open invitation to those who are disposed to institute unwarranted litigation or interpose unfounded defenses in the hope of forcing an adjustment which could not be secured upon the merits. This situation frequently results in extreme hardships. The small businessman or the litigant of limited means labors under a grave and constantly increasing disadvantage because of his inability to pay the price of justice.
Statistical data indicate that in many districts a disheartening and unavoidable interval must elapse between the date that issue is joined in a pending case and the time when it can be reached for trial in due course. These computations do not take into account the delays that occur in the preliminary stages of litigation or the postponements after a case might normally be expected to be heard.
The evil is a growing one. The business of the courts is continually increasing in volume, importance, and complexity. The average case load