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order that a system might be framed which would
render it unnecessary. This could be done only by making the authority of the government supreme in relation to the rights and powers that might be committed to it; and it could be made so only by applying its legislation to individuals through the intervention of a judiciary. A confederacy whose legislative power operates only upon States, or upon masses of people in a collective capacity, can be supreme only so far as it can employ superior force; and when the issue that is to determine the question of supremacy is once made up in that form, there is an actual civil war.
The introduction, therefore, of a judicial department into the new plan of government, of itself evinces an intention to clothe that government with powers that could be executed peacefully, and without the necessity of putting down the organized opposition of subordinate communities. By their resort to this great instrumentality, we may perceive how much, in this particular, the framers of the Constitution were aided by the spirit and forms of the institutions which the people of these States had already framed for their separate governments. The common law, which the founders of all these States had brought with them to this country, had accustomed them to regard the judiciary as clothed with functions in which two important objects were embraced. By the known course of that jurisprudence the judiciary is, in the first place, the department which declares the construction of the laws;
and, in the second place, when that department has announced the construction of a law, it is not only the particular case that is settled, but the rule is promulgated that is to determine all future cases of the same kind arising under the same law. Thus the judiciary, in governments whose adjudications proceed upon the course of the common law, becomes not merely the arbitrator in a particular controversy, but the department through which the government interprets the rule of action prescribed by the legislature, and by which all its citizens are to be guided. This office of the judicial department had long been known in all the States of the Union at the time of the formation of the national Constitution.
By the introduction of this department into their plan of government, the framers of the Constitution obviously intended that it should perform the same office in their national system which the corresponding department had always fulfilled in the States. No other function of a judiciary was known to the people of the United States, and this function was both known and deemed essential to a well-regulated liberty. It was known that the judicial department of a government is that branch by which the meaning of its laws is ascertained, and applied to the conduct of individuals. To effect this, it was introduced into the system whose gradual formation and development we are now examining.
The committee not only declared that this department, like the legislative and the executive, was to
be "supreme," but they proceeded to make it so. One of the first questions that arose concerning the construction of the judiciary was, whether it should consist solely of one central tribunal, to which appeals might be carried from the State courts, or should also embrace inferior tribunals to be established within the several States. The latter plan was resisted as an innovation, which, it was said, the States would not tolerate. But the necessity for an effective judiciary establishment, commensurate with the legislative authority, was generally admitted, and a large majority of the States were found to be in favor of conferring on the national legislature power to establish inferior tribunals; while the provision for a supreme central tribunal was to be made imperative by the Constitution.
The intention of the committee also to make the judicial coextensive with the legislative authority, appears from the definition which they gave to both. Upon the national legislature they proposed to confer, in addition to the rights vested in Congress by the Confederation, power to legislate in all cases to which the separate States were incompetent, or in which the harmony of the United States might be interrupted by the exercise of individual legislation; and the further power to negative all laws passed by the several States contravening, in the opinion of the national legislature, the Articles of Union, or any treaties subsisting under the authority of the
1 Eight States in the affirmative, two in the negative, and one divided.
Union. The jurisdiction of the national judiciary it was declared should extend to all cases which respect the collection of the national revenue, and to impeachments of national officers; and then the comprehensive addition was made of "questions which involve the national peace and harmony." This latter provision placed the general objects, which it was declared ought to be embraced by the legislative power, within the cognizance of the judiciary. Those objects were not yet described in detail, the purpose being merely to settle and declare the principles on which the powers of both departments ought to be founded.
But, as we have already had occasion to see, the idea of vesting in the judicial department such control over the legislation of the separate States as might be surrendered by them to the national government, was not yet propounded. The principle which was to ascertain the extent of that control was already introduced and acted upon, namely, that it should embrace all laws of the States which might conflict with the Constitution, or the treaties made under the national authority. The plan at present was, as we have seen, to treat this as a legislative power, to be executed by the direct control of a negative. But a nearer view of the great inconveniences of such an arrangement, and the general basis of the jurisdiction already marked out for the national judiciary, led to the development of the particular feature which was required as a substitute for direct interference with the legislative pow
ers of the States. In truth, the important principle which proposed to extend the judicial authority to questions involving the national peace and harmony, embraced all the power that was required; and it only remained to be seen that the exercise of that power by the indirect effect of judicial action on the laws of the States after they had been passed, was far preferable to a direct interference with those laws while in the process of enactment.
The committee, with complete unanimity, determined that the judges of the supreme tribunal should hold their offices during good behavior.' This tenure of office was taken from the English statutes, and from the constitutions of some of the States which had already adopted it. The commissions of the judges in England, until the year 1700, were prescribed by the crown; and although they were sometimes issued to be held during good behavior, they were generally issued during the pleasure of the crown, and it was always optional with the crown to adopt the one or the other tenure, as it saw fit. But in the statute passed in the thirteenth year of the reign of William III., which finally secured the ascendency of the Protestant religion in that country, and made other provisions for the rights and liberties of the subject, it was enacted that judges' commissions should be made during good behavior, and that their salaries should be ascertained and established; but it was made lawful
1 This was afterwards applied to the judges of the inferior courts also.