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The injury done to the public service by this system can admit of no dispute. But the point which is of general concern and interest, in a review of the working of the Constitution of the United States, is, the strange and flagrant departure, exhibited by this practice, from that which was regarded by the whole body of the enlightened and patriotic framers of the Constitution, as so fundamental a principle, and so essential to the interests and even liberties of the community, that they could conceive no other remedy for it, if it should by possibility, and contrary to all their expectations, exist, than the impeachment of the President, who should so far violate the spirit of their institutions as to lend himself to it.*
* The practice is receiving an illustration at present which is exciting some notice in the United States. The President has dismissed Mr. G. C. Bronson (formerly a judge, and still usually addressed as Judge Bronson) from his office of Collector of New York, on the ground of his being a political opponent. Judge Bronson, in a very temperate letter addressed to the “Washington Sentinel,” and dated New York, October 26, 1853, denies the imputation, and states that he does not entertain, and never did entertain the opinions imputed to him by Mr. Secretary Davis and the President. The
Democratic party, however, support the President. The following announcement is an indication of their sentiments :“ THE DEMOCRATS OF MASSACHUSETTS, on COLLECTOR BRON
“ Boston, Oct. 28, 1853. “ At the Democratic Convention of Plymouth County yesterday, it was resolved that the removal of the Collector of New York, when he attempted to disregard the principles of the union of the Democratic party, deserves, and will receive, the support of all true friends of Democratic principles.”
The Constitution of the United States being a written one, and defining, in certain terms, the rights and duties of all who live under it, it is a matter of necessity that there should be a power, lodged somewhere, of interpreting those terms, and declaring whether or not in any particular case they have been violated.
This power has been placed, by the Constitution, in the judiciary of the United States.
This body, therefore, is invested with an authority which cannot fail to appear to English eyes to be of a very extraordinary character, namely, that of declaring void and of none effect, an Act solemnly passed by the Legislature, should that Act be, in their opinion, at variance with the Constitution.*
Our system of government, which is founded partly on usage and partly on Acts of Parliament, neither knows, nor requires, nor would tolerate, any authority extraneous to that of the Legislature, when the will of the Legislature has been once declared by a formal Act. The decision of Parliament becomes the supreme law of the land, which all are bound to obey, and to which all submit, as the matured result of public opinion, and of the deliberations of the representatives of the whole community, in both Houses of Parlia. ment. We entrust to Parliament the power of altering the laws and modifying our institutions from time to time, as occasion may arise, and the demands of the day may require; and we so entrust it, in the confidence that enlightened public opinion will at all times be
*“It is an important principle, and never to be lost sight of, that the judiciary in this country is not a subordinate, but a co-ordinate, branch of the Government.”—Judgment of Mr. Justice Patterson. Dallas's Reports, vol. ii. p. 309. Philadelphia, 1798.
sufficient to prevent the abuse of that power, or to check and correct it.
But the system of government of the United States having, unlike ours, been strictly defined in a written document, and formally assented to, after being submitted to the suffrages of the electors throughout the whole of the States, and having thus been recognised as “the Supreme Law of the land,” all other laws that might be made contrary to it, either by Congress or by any one of the States, must necessarily be void ; and there must be some means of deciding what laws are of that nature, and thereupon declaring them void accordingly. Considering also the extent of the Union, and that it is composed of an assemblage of republics, each having its own judicature, it was essential, in order to prevent collisions between the laws and powers of the Union and those of the States, that there should be “some superintending judiciary establishment,” without which there could be no uniform administration or interpretation of the laws of the Union.