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THE NEW STAR CHAMBER.
If it be remembered that positive law and judicial interpretation proceed from the ebb or flow of human emotions no difficulty can be encountered in explaining those revivals of regulations and restrictions which preceding ages have repudiated. Human nature undoubtedly improves and may always be capable of improvement. But human nature in its essential passions remains constituent and integral. Below these passions are human needs which produce activities of all sorts to obtain the means of life. And this is the rudimentary spring of human action out of which the whole drama of life is produced. As these needs are gratified or repressed; or in brief, as the economic question is regarded so are the laws framed and administered. If in the production of wealth the laws are unequal and if in its distribution the laws are unequal, the administration of these laws must preserve the inequality so established. And so out of the process of acquiring and holding land and personal property; and out of the process of producing and distributing wealth have arisen those laws which struck at human liberty. And at the bottom of these we perceive the play of human passion. Particular desires may exhaust themselves, or be eradicated; others may meet with counter desires and sink into deeper channels only to arise in a succeeding century
clothed in some other form. But whenever powerful factions renew the same ends the means of their attainment are likely to be of the same character as those employed before.
What prophetic insight had the author of that apothegm which reads "The love of money is the root of all evil.” It is the love of money which strikes at liberty to cripple the economic power of men; and it is the love of money which resorts to dissimulation in order to obscure the campaign that is being waged. For liberty was never attacked under the banner of despotism; but always under the banner of liberty. Religious and political persecutions and the sanguinary administration of internal government have always held aloft the standard of liberty, or the general welfare. Nor is it remarkable now that the sponsors of the “labor injunction” should urge in its defense its efficacy in preserving the liberty of the employer to hire whom he pleases; and the liberty of all men to obtain work without molestation. This is the out-worn sophistry of kings and the complaint and ferocious magistrates who did their will. The labor injunction is what Lord Tennyson called a "new-old revolution.” It It is the skeleton of the
the Star Chamber drawing about its tattered cerements the banner of a free people and masking its face with a similitude of the republic. The labor injunction is insidious and plausible. It speaks the language of liberty. It disarms criticism because brought into use in times of disorder; and because it avows nothing but salutary purposes. It has put itself upon such a footing that the irrelevant conclusion is drawn
against its enemies that because they are opposed to it they must be opposed to law and order; while those who favor it are the friends of law and order. So that, as in many similar instances, people forget that to overthrow the law to punish a breach of the law is to meet anarchy with anarchy itself. Why should not the lawful way already provided be followed in the punishment of wrong? The spirit which advocates the lawless labor injunction is the same essential spirit which animates the mob. This spirit cannot successfully hide itself behind the high sounding acclaims of law and order. It will be ultimately dragged to the light for every eye to see. When that time shall arrive the fact will be recognized that the same tyrannical purpose which erected the Star Chamber, turned a court of chancery into an engine of lawless power.
Mr. Hallam, who wrote most authoritatively of the English Constitution said that the course of proceeding in the Star Chamber "seems to have nearly resembled that of the chancery." But observe that the same reasoning which supported the Star Chamber fortifies the chancery court to-day in the use of the labor injunction. The Star Chamber was established to secure good government. The chancery court has resorted to the process of injunction to secure good government. The Star Chamber's powers were directed towards preventing riots and unlawful assemblies. The labor injunction of a chancery court is issued to prevent riots and unlawful assemblies. In the Star Chamber there was no indictment. In the chancery court there is no indictment. In the Star
Chamber there were no witnesses, and the evidence was produced in writing and read to the council. So in the chancery court in the trial of contempt for violating the injunction there are no witnesses but the evidence is produced in writing and read to the chancellor. In the Star Chamber there was no trial by jury. In the chancery court there is no trial by jury. In the Star Chamber the council could inflict any punishment short of death, and frequently sentenced objects of its wrath to the pillory, to whipping and to the cutting off of ears. In the chancery court the chancellor may inflict any punishment short of death or imprisonment in the penitentiary, subject to vague limitations arising from inference, and subject to the discretion of a reviewing court. With each embar rassment to arbitrary power the Star Chamber be came emboldened to undertake further usurpation. And with each necessity of monopoly the chancery courts have proceeded to meet the necessity. The Star Chamber finally summoned juries before it for verdicts disagreeable to the government, and fined and imprisoned them. It spread terrorism among those who were called to do constitutional acts. It imposed ruinous fines. It became the chief defence of Charles against assaults upon those usurpations which cost him his life. From the beginning it defied Magna Charta in denying jury-trial, in forcing men to incriminate themselves, or what is scarcely less repugnant to reason, to manifest their innocence. While to-day the chancery courts defy the written constitution of the states and of the federal government in denying jury trials and forcing men to incriminate
themselves or to manifest their innocence. At last with the inhuman punishment administered by it to Prynn, Burton and Bastwick, the people long cultivated by the constitutional lawyers of England procured its abolition. Can the chancery courts of this country expect to escape appropriate discipline when the time shall arrive that the eyes of the people shall see that these courts have habitually over-ridden the laws of the land?
For, be it understood, the chancery court in its inception was a regal invention? Its powers, its practices, its code are of pure consuetudinary growth. It began by interfering, through the king himself, with the administration of the law by the regularly constituted courts. It began weak. It grew strong by silent and gradual encroachment. Its suitors multiplied until the king committed its control to his chancellor. Its decisions have always depended upon the conscience of the chancellor. While pretending to limit itself to subjects not triable in the law courts, or where the law courts afforded an inadequate remedy, it grew to take cognizance of matters which were clearly triable by a jury. There has been serious conflict between the chancery courts and the law courts from the time of Sir Edward Coke to this day. But notwithstanding doubts as to the precise powers of the chancery courts it is perfectly sure that they never had jurisdiction of crimes; or to pass upon torts; or trespasses, except under very limited regulations; and never in short had jurisdiction to pass upon any subject where the law courts furnished an adequate remedy, or where jury trial was a necessitous and consti