Sunday, April 21, 2013

"the legislature shall have NO power to . . . INFRINGE ANY part of, the constitution"

"...What is a Constitution? It is the form of government, delineated by the mighty hand of the people, in which certain first principles of fundamental laws are established. The Constitution is certain and fixed; it contains the permanent will of the people, and is the supreme law of the land; it is paramount to the power of the Legisature, and can be revoked or altered only by the authority that made it. The life-giving principle and the death-doing stroke must proceed from the same hand. What are Legislatures? Creatures of the Constitution; they owe their existence to the Constitution: they derive their powers from the Constitution: It is their commission; and, therefore, all their acts must be conformable to it, or else they will be void. The Constitution is the work or will of the People themselves, in their original, sovereign, and unlimited capacity. Law is the work or will of the Legislature in their derivative and subordinate capacity. The one is the work of the Creator, and the other of the Creature. The Constitution fixes LIMITS to the exercise of legislative authority, and prescribes the orbit within which it MUST move. In short, gentlemen, the Constitution is the sun of the political system, around which all Legislative, Executive and Judicial bodies MUST revolve. Whatever may be the case in other countries, yet in this there can be no doubt, that every act of the Legislature, repugnant to the Constitution, as absolutely VOID."

"...Surely no. As to these points there was no devolution of power; the authority was purposely WITHHELD, and RESERVED by the people to themselves. If the Legislature had passed an act declaring, that, in future, there should be no trial by Jury, would it have been obligatory? No: It would have been VOID for want of jurisdiction, or constitutional extent of power. The right of trial by Jury is a fundamental law, made sacred by the Constitution, and CANNOT be legislated away. The Constitution of a State is stable and permanent, NOT to be worked upon by the temper of the times, NOR to rise and fall with the tide of events: notwithstanding the competition of opposing interests, and the violence of contending parties, it remains FIRM and IMMOVEABLE, as a mountain amidst the strife of storms, or a rock in the ocean amidst the raging of the waves. I take it to be a clear position; that if a legislative act oppugns a constitutional principle, the former MUST give way, and be REJECTED on the score of REPUGNANCE. I hold it to be a position equally clear and found, that, in such case, it will be the DUTY of the Court to ADHERE to the Constitution, and to declare the act NULL and VOID. The Constitution is the BASIS of legislative authority; it lies at the foundation of ALL law, and is a RULE and commission by which both Legislators and Judges are to proceed. It is an important principle, which, in the discussion of questions of the present kind, ought NEVER to be lost sight of, that the Judiciary in this country is not a subordinate, but co-ordinate, branch of the government...."

"...The constitution expressly declares, that the right of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property is natural, inherent, and unalienable. It is a right not ex gratia from the legislature, but ex debito from the constitution.


"It is sacred; for, it is further declared, that the legislature shall have NO power to add to, alter, abolish, or INFRINGE ANY part of, the constitution. The constitution is the origin and measure of legislative authority. It says to legislators, thus far ye shall go and NO further. Not a particle of it should be shaken; not a pebble of it should be removed. Innovation is dangerous. One incroachment leads to another; precedent gives birth to precedent; what has been done may be done again; thus radical principles are generally broken in upon, and the constitution [Page 2 U.S. 304, 312] eventually destroyed...."

 "... If this be the Legislation of a Republican Government, in which the preservation of property is made sacred by the Constitution, I ask, wherein it differs from the mandate of an Asiatic Prince? Omnipotence in Legislation is DESPOTISM. According to this doctrine, we have nothing that we can call our own, or are sure of for a moment; we are all tenants at will, and hold our landed property at the mere pleasure of the Legislature. Wretched situation, precarious tenure! And yet we boast of property and its security, of Laws, of Courts, of Constitutions, and call ourselves free! In short, gentlemen, the confirming act is VOID; it NEVER had Constitutional existence; it is a DEAD letter, and of NO more virtue or avail, than if it NEVER had been made...."--Justice Patterson, U.S. Supreme Court, VANHORNE'S LESSEE v. DORRANCE, 2 U.S. 304 (1795), 2 U.S. 304 (F.Cas.) 2 Dall. 304.

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