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was talking of it. It certainly is not a common law of the United States, acquired, as that of England was, by immemorial usage. The standing of the Government makes this impossible. It cannot be a code of laws adopted because they were universally in use in the States, for the States had no uniform code; and, if they had, it could hardly become, by implication, part of the code of a Government of limited powers, from which every thing is expressly retained which is not given. Is it the law of England, at any particular period, which
adopted? But the nature of the law of England makes it impossible that it should have been adopted in the lump into such a Government as this is, because it was a complete system for the management of all the affairs of a country. It regulated estates, punished all crimes, and, in short, went to all things for which laws were necessary.
But how was this law adopted ? Was it by the Constitution ? If so, it is immutable and incapable of amendment. In what part of the Constitution is it declared to be adopted ? Was it adopted by the courts? From whom do they derive their authority? The Constitution, in the clause first cited, relies on Congress to pass all laws necessary to enable the courts to carry their
powers into execution; it cannot, therefore, have been intended to give them a power not necessary to their declared powers. There does not seem to me the smallest pretext for so monstrous an assumption; on the contrary, while the Constitution is silent about it, every fair inference is against it.
Upon the whole, therefore, I am fully satisfied that no power is given by the Constitution to control the press, and that such laws are expressly prohibited by the amendment. I think it inconsistent with the nature of our Government that its administration should have power to restrain animadversions on public measures, and for protection from private injury from defamation the States are fully competent. It is to them that our officers must look for protection of persons, estates, and every other personal right; and, therefore, I see no reason why it is not proper to rely upon it for defence against private libels.