Page images
PDF
EPUB

they are the courts of plutocracy cannot be successfully assailed. What excuse can men have who take a specific oath provided by law to do justice to the rich and the poor alike, so to build up a practice and a jurisprudence that the courts are accessible only to those who have money? The peculiar constitution of the Federal Courts has made this evolution easier than it would have been with them if the judges had been elective. A deep laid plan of imperial consolidation has promoted the enlargement of the jurisdiction of these courts by casuistical reasoning and ill-concealed usurpation until their jurisdiction is practically boundless.

“Depend upon it,” wrote Alexander H. Stephens, “there is no difference between consolidation and empire; no difference between centralism and imperialism.' When the 14th amendment was added to the Constitution they were poor judges of human nature who supposed that its apparent principles of liberty were in safer hands for being centrally administered than they would have been with the states themselves. And so the brave men who went through the terrible conflict of 1861, and who are yet living, have seen an interpretation put upon its results, which, if anticipated before the war, would have prevented the firing of a shot. A union of men or of states based upon affection is a different thing from a union bound together by force, and whose units are disciplined as to matters of the purest local interest by the appointive judiciary of a consolidated government.

The war abolished the avowed and visible slavery of the negro; but, accurately speaking, what does it

amount to in the face of the use to which the 14th amendment has been put?

The 14th amendment is very easily dodged so far as the negro is concerned. And this is done without much objection and generally with applause. While this magna charta of the general government has produced perennial benefits to those whom the abolitionists could scarcely have dreamed would have derived anything out of a glorious war for liberty. The 14th amendment has committed to the care of the Federal Courts every special interest. The states may tax corporations, but the Federal Courts may invalidate the taxation; all sorts of local regulations as to railroads, street railways and what not are invalidated under it. There seems to be no subject of state action which is not covered by the 14th amendment. The result is that the states may do only what the Federal Courts decide the 14th amendment does not prohibit. Philosophically and in truth what was, what could be gained when the power of securing the equal protection of the laws and equal rights for all involved the creation of a virtual empire? What a paradox this is, which purports to secure liberty by destroying the only sources of liberty known then or now, namely, the rule of the people and the supremacy of local government in local affairs. The last few years have seen diabolical constructions placed upon the war of 1861 by the party which claims the glories of that war, and which has been paramount since the war.

If the constitutional sequence of that war is the right to subjugate weaker people and tax them without representation; if as one of its results the military

can be supreme at will; if as another of its results the crime of sedition has been created, and freedom of the press and of speech and a right to use the mails have been curtailed or placed at the disposal of the government, then the mere fact that the negro was emancipated in the course of the war does not prevent the conclusion that the deeper impulse projected to this day with studied care was the creation of an empire robed for effect in the apparel of a republic. The Panama episode is good proof that secession of itself is not nearly so reprehensible as the republican party pretended in the days when it inveighed against secession as the embodiment of treason. The powers which have been coaxed from the plausible surface of the 14th amendment, and through which organized wealth has its way in the Federal Courts, is one of the criteria of the meaning of the war of 1861.

The task of taking these courts in hand now devolves upon the people. There is no place in a republic for courts so constituted. Time has fully shown that the reasons advanced in their favor when the constitution was pending before the people were such as men might advance, whose motives were sinister, or such as men might advance from the recesses of the mind, based upon insufficient data and without that experience, which in all matters of policy, is necessary to true knowledge. Jefferson uttered a great truth when he said that better results might be obtained by appointing the judges, but it was doubtful, and in such a case principle should be consulted. The principle was, of course, that the people are the source of government, and necessarily of all of its departments, and

that the judges should hold their commissions from the people themselves. Progress points the way to this end. Despotism and retrogression, its accompaniment, look to the perpetuation of the present system.

DESPOTISM REVAMPED.

The barons of special privilege, all of whom are uniformly supporting the present revolutionary administration, threaten the American people with financial wreckage, unless the policy outlined by the Porto Rican bill shall be approved at the polls. The administration is attempting to distract public attention to a purely economic question and from the colonial question. And if the people, led by this deception, return the present administration to power that act will be construed as a popular approval of the present colonialism of Porto Rico and of the future colonialism of the Philippines. If then it becomes advisable to test in the Supreme Court what the people will be alleged to have approved at the polls that also will be done. And when the Supreme Court finds that despotic government over Porto Rico is constitutional the people will in vain protest that they believed that there was no such issue as imperialism and that the currency question was paramount in 1900. The contest at that conjuncture of affairs will have been lost to the monarchial principle.

But before the people are distracted from the overshadowing issue to a mere economic problem, and before they give it into the hands of the revolutionists to say that this republican form of government has

« PreviousContinue »