« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
Legislature had granted a patent which a subsequent Legislature had repealed. Again Marshall pronounced the judgment of the court which established the doctrine that under the Constitution the States are prohibited from passing laws impairing the obligation of contracts, and that the power of the court was sufficient to protect even an individual against the injustice of a State.
This principle was again invoked in the celebrated Dartmouth College case, the opinion in which, to quote the language of one of the present justices of the Supreme Court, “contributed as much as any he ever delivered to the great reputation of Chief Justice Marshall,” and settled the doctrine that a charter of a private as distinguished from a public corporation is a contract within the protection of the Federal Constitution, so that it has ever since been recognized as a "canon of American jurisprudence, whose doctrines,” in the language of Chief Justice Waite,“ have become so imbedded in the jurisprudence of the United States as to make them, to all intents and purposes, a part of the Constitution itself.” The facts were these: A charter had been granted by the crown to Dartmouth College in 1769, placing its govern- . ment in the hands of a board of trustees, and providing for their succession; and on the faith of this charter the college had been privately endowed. In 1816 the Legislature of New Hampshire attempted to amend the charter and change its form of government; but the trustees of the college refused to accept the acts, and recourse was had to the State courts, where judgment was given against them, and appeal was taken to the Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. Webster and Mr. Hopkinson appeared for the college; and Mr. Wirt, then AttorneyGeneral of the United States, and Mr. Holmes appeared on the other side. The principal arguments were made by Mr. Wirt and Mr. Webster. The latter had argued the case in the court below, and was familiar with the whole controversy. He was a graduate of the college, and his devotion to his Alma Mater led him to exert all his powers in her defense. His argument was considered one of the most masterly efforts of his professional life. Towards its close he was overcome by emotion, and paused to recover his composure. Looking at Chief Justice Marshall, he said in those deep tones which so often thrilled the hearts of an audience, “I know not how others may feel; but, for myself, when I see my Alma Mater surrounded, like Cæsar in the Senate House, by those who are reiterating stab upon stab, I would not for this right hand have her turn to me and say, ' Et tu quoque, mi fili."" The importance of this decision is well stated
” by one of the eulogists of Marshall, who says: “The case of Dartmouth College is the bulwark of our incorporated institutions for public education, and of those chartered endowments for diffusive public charity which are not only the ornaments but among the strongest defenses of a nation. It raises them above the reach of party and occasional prejudice, and gives assurance to the hope that the men who now live may be associated with the men who are to live hereafter, by works consecrated to exalt and rufine the people, and destined, if they endure, to unite successive generations by the elevating sentiment of high national character.” It is not without interest to add that our own Alma Mater invoked successfully the doctrine of this great case for the protection of her chartered rights against legislative action by the State of Maine nearly seventy years ago, when the State attempted to change the constitution of its boards, and to exercise
a direct influence in the management of its affairs; and it is not less interesting to know that the friend and associate of Marshall for more than twenty years on the Supreme Bench - the learned author of the “ Commentaries on the Constitution,” Judge Story - delivered the opinion in this case which restored Bowdoin College to its ancient charter and privileges.
The case of Cohens v. The State of Virginia presented the important question whether the Supreme Court could exercise jurisdiction where one of the parties was a State and the other a citizen of the same State, and whether in the exercise of its jurisdiction it could revise the judgment of a State court on a question arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States. The court held that it had jurisdiction over both questions, and in the course of his opinion the Chief Justice used the following memorable language: “It [the Supreme Court] is authorized to decide all cases of every description arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States. From this general grant of jurisdiction no exception is made of those cases in which a State may be a party. When we consider the situation of the government of the Union and of a State in relation to each other, the nature
a of our Constitution, the subordination of the State governments to that Constitution, the great purpose for which jurisdiction over all cases arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States is confided to the judicial department, are we at liberty to insert in this general grant an exception of those cases in which a State may be a party? Will the spirit of the Constitution justify this attempt to control its words? We think it will not.
1 This case will be found reported at length in Sumner's Reports, vol. 1, pp. 276–318.
We think a case arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States is cognizable in the courts of the Union, whoever may be the parties to that case. The laws must be executed by individuals acting within the several States. If these individuals may be exposed to penalties, and if the courts of the Union cannot correct the judgments by which these penalties may be enforced, the course of the government may be at any time arrested by the will of one of its members. Each member will possess a veto on the will of the whole."
In 1807 Chief Justice Marshall presided over the trial of Aaron Burr, in the Circuit Court of the United States in the city of Richmond, Virginia, on an indictment for the crime of high treason in levying war against the United States. Burr had been Vice-President of the United States, and had come within one vote of being elected President; and his successful competitor was then President. IIe had killed Hamilton in a duel in July, 1804, and was bitterly hated by the Federalists for causing the death of their great leader. These and other acts had brought him into disrepute; and his restless ambition was seeking new fields for its exercise, and he thought he had found it in an expedition which he set on foot against the Spanish possessions lying to the south of the United States.
In 1805 he made preparations for the invasion and conquest of Mexico, and contracted for the construction, on the Obio River, of a number of transports for the expedition, a part of which assembled at Blennerhassett's Island in the State of Virginia, where the main depot of supplies and stores was established. At this point a force of some thirty or forty armed men assembled as the nucleus of his future army; but further operations were arrested by a
proclamation of the President, denouncing the scheme and ordering the arrest of all participants. Burr, among others, was arrested and brought to Richmond for trial, and was defended by distinguished counsel, including the late Attorney-General, Randolph, and Luther Martin, of Maryland. The trial attracted a large number of citizens, not only from Virginia, but from other States, and aroused throughout the country great interest and excitement. William Wirt was employed on a special retainer of President Jefferson to aid the government prosecutor at the trial; and the pressure of public opinion was exerted to obtain a conviction, which it was said the “people of America demanded.” Although Burr was tried before a man who was a special friend of Hamilton, the scales of justice were beld with an absolutely even hand. The framers of the Constitution, remembering the judicial murders which had been committed in England under the law of constructive treason, had wisely provided in the Constitution that "treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies giving them aid and comfort,” and further provided “that no person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act or on confession in open court.” The questions to be decided were whether the assembling of a few armed men at Blennerhassett's Island constituted a “levying of war” against the United States, and as to the proof of the overt act alleged. On these questions the Chief Justice charged the jury as follows: “An assemblage to constitute an actual levying of war should be an assemblage with such force as to justify the opinion that they met for the purpose. Why is an assemblage absolutely required ? Is it not to judge, in some measure,