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REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF DETAIL, CONTINUED.— - FORMATION OF THE JUDICIAL POWER.
THERE now remains to be described the full conception and creation of the third department of the government, its judicial power.
The distribution of the powers of government, when its subjects are to sustain no relation to any other sovereignty than that whose fundamental laws it is proposed to ordain, is a comparatively easy task. In such a government, when the theoretical division into the legislative, executive, and judicial functions is once adopted, the objects to which each is to be directed fall readily into their appropriate places. All that is necessary is, to see that these departments do not encroach upon the rights and duties of each other. There is, at least, no other power, claiming the obedience of the same people, whose just authority it is necessary to regard, and on whose proper domain no intrusion is to be permitted.
How different is the task, when a government, either federal or national, is to be created, for a people inhabiting distinct political States, whose sovereign power is to remain for many purposes supreme over their respective subjects; when the
individual is to be under rules of civil duty declared by different public organs; and when the object is to provide a judicial system through which this very difference of authority may be made to work out the ends of social order, harmony, and peace! This difficult undertaking was imposed upon the framers of the Constitution of the United States, and it was by far the most delicate and difficult of all their duties. It was comparatively easy to agree on the powers which the people of the States ought to confer on the general government, to define the separate functions of the legislature and the executive, and to lay down certain rules of public policy which should restrain the States in the exercise of their separate powers over their own citizens. But to construct a judicial power within the general government, and to clothe it with attributes which would enable it to secure the supremacy of the general Constitution and of all its provisions; to give it the exact authority that would maintain the dividing line between the powers of the nation and those of the State, and to give to it no more; and to add to these a faculty of dispensing justice to foreigners, to citizens of different States, and among the sovereign States themselves, with a more even hand and with a more assured certainty of the great ends of justice than any State power could furnish, -these were objects not readily or easily to be attained. Yet they were attained with wonderful success. The judicial power of the United States, considered with reference to its adaptation to
the purposes of its creation, is one of the most admirable and felicitous structures that human governments have exhibited.
The groundwork of its formation has been partly described in a previous chapter, where some of the principles are stated, which had been arrived at as being necessary to its great purposes. These principles related to the persons who were to exercise its functions, and to the jurisdiction or authority which they were to possess. With respect to the persons who were to exercise the judicial power, the result that had been reached when the first draft of the Constitution was to be prepared had fixed the tenure of good behavior for their office, and had placed their salaries, when once established, beyond the reach of any power of diminution by the legislature. It had also been determined that there should be one supreme tribunal, under the Constitution, and that the legislature should have power to establish inferior tribunals. But nothing more precise had been arrived at respecting jurisdiction, than the broad principles which declared that it should extend to cases arising under laws passed by the general legislature, and to such other questions as might touch the national peace and harmony. The committee of detail were to give effect to this declaration. Their scheme provided, under the first of these heads, that the jurisdiction should embrace cases arising under the laws of the United States; and as questions touching the national peace and harmony, they enumerated all
cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls; impeachments of officers of the United States; all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; controversies between two or more States, excepting such as might regard territory or jurisdiction; controversies between a State and citizens of another State, between citizens of different States, and between a State or the citizens thereof and foreign states, citizens, or subjects. In cases of impeachment, cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls, and those in which a State should be party, they assigned the original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court. In all the other cases enumerated, the jurisdiction of the supreme tribunal was to be appellate only, with such exceptions and regulations as the legislature might make; and the original jurisdiction was left to be assigned by the legislature to such inferior tribunals as they might from time to time create. The trial of all criminal offences, except in cases of impeachment, was to be in the State where they had been committed, and was to be by jury. Controversies between States respecting jurisdiction or territory, and controversies concerning lands claimed under grants of different States, were to be tried by the Senate, and were consequently excluded from the judicial power.
This plan, when compared with the full outline of the jurisdiction, as it was finally established, presented several remarkable defects. In the first place, it was silent with respect to the important distinction, familiar to the people of the United States, between
proceedings in equity and proceedings at common law. This distinction, which extends not only to the forms of pleading, but to the principles of decision, the mode of trial, and the nature of the remedy, had been brought by the settlers of most of the Colonies from England, and had been perpetuated in their judicial institutions. It existed in most of the States, at the time of the formation of the national Constitution, and it was, in fact, a characteristic feature of the only system of judicature which the American people had known, excepting in their courts of admiralty. Although the institutions of the States differed in the degree in which they had adopted and followed it, the basis of their jurisprudence and forms of proceeding was the common law, as derived from its English sources and modified by their own customs or legislation, with more or less of that peculiar and more ample relief which is afforded by the jurisprudence and remedy known in the English system under the name of equity.
Since the judicial power of the United States was to be exercised over a people whose judicial habits were thus fixed; since it must, to some extent, take cognizance of rights that would have to be adjudicated in accordance with the jurisprudence under which they had arisen; and since the individuals who would have a title to enter its tribunals might reasonably demand remedies as ample as a judicature of English origin could furnish, it was highly expedient that the Constitution should fully adopt the main features of that judicature. It is quite true,