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the reach of the popular will, and found in a constitutional judiciary the true and final custodian of the liberty of the subject.
The maintenance of these rights against all Federal interference was conferred upon the Court by amendment, almost immediately after the adoption of the Constitution, and as soon as it was perceived that the power ought to be expressed, because it might fail to be implied. The protection of them against State invasion in one important particular,—the inviolability of contracts,—was provided in the original Constitution. And when, twentytwo years ago, the interference of the States with the rights of life, liberty, and property was forbidden by the Fourteenth Amendment, the jurisdiction of the Court over this great subject became complete, and will, beyond doubt, always remain so. But one exception still exists, in the power of Congress, within the limited scope of its authority, to pass a law, though it may impair the obligation of a pre-existing contract.
Other topics of constitutional interpretation will always remain. The time will never come when questions of conflicting authority between the States and the Nation will cease to rise. But that field must gradually grow smaller, and its inquiries less critical. The main landmarks have now been planted, the boundary lines traced, the cardinal rules strongly and clearly established. Future labor in that direction, though constant, will be easier and plainer than in the century that has passed away.
But new attacks upon individual rights in many forms and under many pretexts, are beginning to be heard of, and are to be looked for in an increasing measure. The accursed warfare of classes is the danger that appears chiefly to threaten the future. It requires little prescience to perceive that the burden of constitutional administration by the Court is to shift thereafter in a considerable degree from the preservation of the machinery of government, to the enforcing of its ultimate object; from conflicts between the States and the Federation, to those between the State and the citizen, involving the protection of property, of contracts, of personal rights. But the best assurance that the Court will be found equal to the emergencies that are to come, whatever they may prove to be, is seen in the success with which it has encountered those of the past. And that success is most clearly shown by the public confidence it has inspired. The people of this country have learned to have faith in the Court, and pride in it. Elevated and in a measure isolated as it is, they still feel it to be their own. Many a plain man has never seen it, nor ever expects to see it. He cannot discriminate its jurisdiction nor understand its procedure. The principles of its jurisprudence are not for his comprehension. But he reposes with a more confident security under the roof his industry has raised, and enjoys with a better assurance the liberty that has made him free, because he knows there is a limit which oppression cannot transgress; that he can never be disseized, nor outlawed, nor otherwise destroyed; that no agency of power can go upon him or send upon him, but by the judgment of his peers and the law of the land; and he believes that if the worst should come to the worst, and wrong and outrage should be found intolerable and yet without other redress, there is still laid up for him a remedy under the Constitution of his country, to be based in some way or other, in the Supreme Court of the United States.
Long and late may it be, sir, before that confidence is shaken. If it is sometimes child-like in its simplicity, it is always noble in its origin. Long and late may it be before even the suggestion shall penetrate the faith of common men that the highest American justice is not for them. May no consideration of convenience, no pressure of business, ever seek its relief in any limitation which shall carry the idea to the body of the people that there is reserved in this country for the powerful corporation, the millionaire, and the great financier, an ultimate justice that the humbler citizen cannot reach; that a ruinous case may be decided against him without redress; and yet the same judgment in the case of another man, whose dealings are larger in amount though smaller in relative consequence, may be reversed and set aside as unlawful and unjust. Lawyers know that purely constitutional questions are not measured by figures. But that discrimination between the special and the general jurisdiction can neither be made nor understood by the mass of men. And such questions form, after all, but a very small part of the administration of justice. Public confidence is a sensitive plant. No institution in a free government can afford to endanger it.
And thus, by the inexorable logic of sound constitutional principles, it has been brought to pass, that the rights of the people find their last and best security, not in the popular assembly, nor in any agency of its creation, but in that institution of government which is furthest of all beyond the popular reach, which is made, as far as any institution can be, independent of public feeling, and invulnerable to the attack of majorities. Having its origin in the sovereignty of the people it is the bulwark of the people against their own unadvised action, their own uninstructed will. It saves them not merely from their enemies but it saves them from themselves. And so it perpetuates the sovereignty from which it sprang; and which has best provided for its own supremacy by the surrender of a power it was dangerous to retain. For this purpose alone, aside from those necessary to its own maintenance, does the National government cross the line of the States. All merely legal rights of the citizen, outside of Federal affairs, are left dependent upon the authority of the State in which he is found. The only cardinal personal rights are taken in charge by the Nation, as between the Government and the individual, because only through that protection can be assured either the value or the permanence of a Constitution which is itself the government and itself the Union.
The experience of American free government has shown that it is the tendency of its legislative branches to decrease, and of its judicial power to rise, in public estimation. It has added a fresh demonstration to the truth that is as old as the history of freedom, that it must find its safety where it found its origin, in the exertions of those to whom truth is better than popularity, and right superior to gain. And it has proved again what has been proved so often, that the only liberty humanity can tolerate is the liberty that is under the law.
To you, our especial and most honored guests—Justices of the Court, whose nativity we celebrate—more than Patres Conscripti in our Republic—the Bar of this country, in all its length and breadth, has to-day but one greeting to offer, one message to convey. It is the assurance of their supreme respect, their unfaltering confidence, their cordial attachment. The relations of the Court with the advocates who have from time to time gathered about it, have been always among its happiest incidents. It has had the good fortune in an uncommon degree to inspire them not merely with respect but with a sincere personal affection. To this sentiment you have never been strangers, and you never will be. If the words of eulogy that have been so felicitously uttered by my brother have touched those who have gone before you rather than yourselves, it is because, and only because, they are with the dead and you are still among the living. Long may that restraint seal the lips of your eulogists.
Judges will be appointed and will pass away. One generation rapidly succeeds another. But whoever comes and whoever goes, the Court remains. The king may die, but still the king survives. Strong in its traditions, consecrated by its memories, fortified with the steadfast support of the profession that surrounds it, anchored in the abiding trust of its countrymen, the great Court will go on—and still go on, keeping alive through many a century that we shall not see, the light that burns with a constant radiance upon the high altar of American constitutional justice.
ALFRED S. PINKERTON
SPIRIT OF ODD-FELLOWSHIP
[Address by Alfred S. Pinkerton, lawyer (born in Lancaster, Pa.,
March 19, 1856; ), delivered at Richmond, Va., in his capacity
as Grand Sire of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of Odd Fellows, September 17, 1900.]
Mr. Chairman, Your Excellency, Mr. Mayor, Representatives Of Our Order, Ladies And GentleMen :—This is not the first time that I have received the greetings of a Richmond audience and been the recipient of Virginian hospitality. I know the warmth of the one, the unbounded generosity of the other, and I voice the sentiment of every member of the Sovereign Grand Lodge when I say that each of us appreciates the splendid welcome you have given, and rejoices in the privilege that is his of visiting, under such happy auspices, this beautiful and historic State.
We knew that chivalry and knightly courtesy still existed in the Old Dominion; that Southern hearts would welcome us, and Southern hands be extended in fraternal greeting. Our anticipations have been realized, and we sit among you not as strangers, but as welcome guests, as neighbors, and as friends.
Representing an Order founded in man's nobility, we gladly assemble among a people whose ancestors first proclaimed the right of the individual man to direct his own affairs and destiny.
Before Plymouth Rock felt the touch of English feet the seeds of a nation had been sown at Jamestown. On Virginian soil representative government in America was born. The colonial charter of 1621 was the first grant of