« AnteriorContinuar »
tected by this court than those whose every right has been taken away from them, not only by laws of the States, but by force and fraud of individuals. In the quotation from page 244, the court speaks of the cause that gave rise to the eleventh amendment of the Constitution. It cannot but be perceived, as - we have before remarked, that this amendment clashes, in some measure, with the article in the body of the Constitution on the . powers of the judiciary. Why such an amendment was made, it would have been difficult to have explained, unless one was well acquainted with our history. On first reading this amendment over, and comparing it with the original article, we did not know what to make of it. . There evidently was something meant that was not explained on the face of the instrument; but what that something was we could not conjecture. We did not know but it was intended to meet the very case under consideration, — to prevent any person out of the slave States from bringing an action, where slavery would be involved; and although a case could be got into court, yet this amendment, it was thought, would stand in the way; but the court, it appears, gives a different version to the subject, and says it was intended merely to prevent foreigners and people out of the State from sueing their demands when a State was a creditor. It is also to be remarked, in these quotations, how distinctly the court refers to the caption of the Constitution to ascertain the purposes for
which the Constitution was formed, and that from this its intent and meaning were to be gathered. How far and how foreign from expressing the least idea, that the establishment of slavery was one of its objects, we need not attempt to explain. No person could think such a thing existed, or could exist, among a people whose representatives could write such language. In this case, we think, according to the opinion here expressed by the court, our proposition respecting the power of the courts is clearly established ; and that they would have power and jurisdiction over the subject of slavery ; and, if a case should be brought before them, they would be obliged to take cognizance of it, and declare the man to be free. In the case of Gibbens vs. Ogden, a case in which the State of New York had granted to R. R. Livingston and Robert Fulton exclusive privilege to navigate the waters of that State by steamboats, Ogden, deriving his right from them, obtained an injunction against Gibbens, who had established two steamboats on these waters. Gibbens, having been defeated in the highest court of the State, brought his cause before the United States Court, which court, as is well known, reversed the decisions of the courts of the State of New York. Speaking of the objects of the Constitution, and the powers granted by it, the court says, – “As preliminary to the very able discussion of the Constitution which we have heard from the bar, and as having some influence on its construction, reference has been made to the political situation of these States anterior to its formation. It has been said that they were sovereign, were completely independent, and were connected with each other only by a league. . This is true. But, when these allied sovereigns converted their league into a government, when they converted their congress of ambassadors, deputed to deliberate on their common concerns and to recommend measures of general utility, into a legislature, empowered to enact laws upon the most interesting subjects, the whole character in which the States appear underwent a change, the extent of which must be determined by a fair consideration of the instrument by which that change was effected. “This instrument contains an enumeration of powers expressly granted by the people to their government. It has been said these powers ought to be construed strictly. But why ought they to be so construed 2 Is there one sentence in the Constitution which gives countenance to this rule In the last of the enumerated powers, that which grants expressly the means of carrying all others into execution, congress is authorized “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper’ for the purpose. But this limitation on the means which may be used is not extended to the powers which are conferred, nor is there one sentence in the Constitution which has been pointed out by the gentlemen of the bar, or which we have been able to discover, that prescribes this rule. We do not, therefore, think ourselves justified in adopting it. What do gentlemen mean by a strict construction ? If they contend only against that enlarged construction which would extend words beyond their natural and obvious import, we might question the application of the term, but should not controvert the principle. If they contend for that narrow construction which, in support of some theory not to be found in the Constitu.
tion, would deny to the government those powers which the words of the grant, as usually understood, import, and which are consistent with the general views and objects of the instrument, for that narrow construction which would cripple the government, and render it unequal to the objects for which it is declared to be instituted, and to which the powers given, as fairly understood, render it competent, then we cannot perceive the propriety of this strict construction, nor adopt it as the rule by which the Constitution is to be expounded. As men whose intentions require no concealment generally employ the words which most directly and aptly ea press the ideas they intend to convey, the enlightened patriots who formed our Constitution, and the people who adopted it, must be understood to employ words in their natural sense, and to have intended what they have said. If, from the imperfection of human language, there should be serious doubts respecting the extent of any given power, it is a well settled rule that the objects for which it was given, especially when those objects are expressed in the instrument itself, should have great influence in the construction. We know of no reason for excluding this rule in the present case.” " Here the court admits, what every one in his sober senses must admit, that the men of that age meant what they said, and employed “words which most directly and aptly expressed the ideas they intended to convey;” that they “employed words in their natural sense.” We hope this will always be borne in mind when it is attempted to construe their words, when they speak of human rights; and, if it is done, we think there will be no difficulty in the way. When they say a man has inalienable rights, they mean he has them ; and when they say a man may be given up when he owes service, they mean, when it is proved that service is owed, it is time to give the creditor his due ; and we hold the amount of service due should be proved, as well as that it is for value received. This, however, may be called a strict construction; too strict for the intent and meaning of those who adopted it as a part of the Constitution. If such would be maintained, we would then appeal to the spirit of the Constitution, and to the objects for which it was formed : these objects, as the court has said, are to be found in the caption. Now, taking this in as strict or in as enlarged view as possible, not the least shadow or “color " of an idea could be gathered from that, that the continuation of slavery, or its guaranty, was to be effected by it; on the contrary, the general happiness, prosperity, and liberty, was the purpose to be gained. But, again, it may be objected, that the liberty, happiness, and prosperity of the individual was left and confided to the States; the general government had nothing to do with him : but the doctrine of the court, and the decision made in this case, give a different version to that subject. They here in effect declare, and undoubtedly with truth, that, on the adoption of the Constitution, the States resigned the protection of the individual to the care of the general government: they gave up their sovereignty of him to a power which they
* Marshall on the Constitution, p. 288.