Ex parte Garland

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Ex parte Garland
by Stephen Johnson Field
714553Ex parte Garland — SyllabusStephen Johnson Field
Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

71 U.S. 333

Ex parte Garland

ON the 2d of July, 1862, Congress, by 'An act to prescribe an oath of office, and for other purposes,' [1] enacted:

'That hereafter every person elected or appointed to any office of honor or profit under the government of the United States, either in the civil, military, or naval departments of the public service, excepting the President of the United States, shall, before entering upon the duties of such office, take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation:

"I, A. B., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I have never voluntarily borne arms against the United States since I have been a citizen thereof; that I have voluntarily given no aid, countenance, counsel, or encouragement to persons engaged in armed hostility thereto; that I have neither sought nor accepted, not attempted to exercise the functions of any office whatever, under any authority or pretended authority in hostility to the United States; that I have not yielded a voluntary support to any pretended government, authority, power, or constitution with the United States, hostile or inimical thereto. And I do further swear (or affirm) that, to the best of my knowledge and ability, I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God;' &c.

'Any person who shall falsely take the said oath shall be guilty of perjury; and, on conviction, in addition to the penalties now prescribed for that offence, shall be deprived of his office, and rendered incapable forever after of holding any office or place under the United States.'

On the 24th of January, 1865, [2] Congress passed a supplementary act extending these provisions so as to embrace attorneys and counsellors of the courts of the United States. It is as follows:

'No person, after the date of this act, shall be admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States, or at any time after the fourth of March next, shall be admitted to the bar of any Circuit or District Court of the United States, or of the Court of Claims, as an attorney or counsellor of such court, or shall be allowed to appear and be heard in any such court, by virtue of any previous admission, or any special power of attorney, unless he shall have first taken and subscribed the oath prescribed in 'An act to prescribe an oath of office and for other purposes,' approved July 2d, 1862. And any person who shall falsely take the said oath shall be guilty of perjury, and, on conviction,' &c.

By the Judiciary Act of 1789, the Supreme Court has power to make rules and decide upon the qualifications of attorneys.

At the December Term of 1860, A. H. Garland, Esquire, was admitted as an attorney and counsellor of the court, and took and subscribed the oath then required. The second rule, as it then existed, was as follows:'It shall be requisite to the admission of attorneys and counsellors to practise in this court, that they shall have been such for three years past in the Supreme Courts of the States to which they respectively belong, and that their private and professional character shall appear to be fair.

'They shall respectively take the following oath or affirmation, viz.:

"I, A. B., do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I will demean myself as an attorney and counsellor of this court, uprightly, and according to law, and that I will support the Constitution of the United States."

There was then no other qualification for attorneys in this court than such as are named in this rule.

In March, 1865, this rule was changed by the addition of a clause requiring an oath, in conformity with the act of Congress.

At the same term at which he was admitted, Mr. Garland appeared, and presented printed argument in several cases in which he was counsel. His name continued on the roll of attorneys from then to the present time; but the late Rebellion intervened, and all business in which he was concerned at the time of his admission remained undisposed of. In some of the cases alluded to fees were paid, and in others they were partially paid. Having taken part in the Rebellion against the United States, by being in the Congress of the so-called Confederate States, from May, 1861, until the final surrender of the forces of such Confederate States first in the lower house, and afterwards in the Senate of that body, as the representative of the State of Arkansas, of which he was a citizen-Mr. Garland could not take the oath prescribed by the acts of Congress before mentioned, and the rule of the court of March, 1865.

The State, in May, 1861, passed an ordinance of secession, purporting to withdraw herself from the Union; and afterwards, in the same year, by another ordinance, attached herself to the so-called Confederate States.

In July, 1865, Mr. Garland received from the President a pardon, by which the chief magistrate, reciting that Mr. Garland, 'by taking part in the late Rebellion against the government, had made himself liable to heavy pains and penalties,' &c., did thereby

'Grant to the said A. H. Garland a FULL PARDON AND AMNESTY for all offences by him committed, arising from participation, direct or implied, in the said Rebellion, conditioned as follows: This pardon to begin and take effect from the day on which the said A. H. Garland shall take the oath prescribed in the proclamation of the President, dated May 29th, 1865; and to be void and of no effect if the said A. H. Garland shall hereafter at any time acquire any property whatever in slaves, or make use of slave labor; and that he first pay all costs which may have accrued in any proceedings hitherto instituted against his person or property. And upon the further condition that the said A. H. Garland shall notify the Secretary of State in writing that he has received and accepted the foregoing pardon.'

The oath required was taken by Mr. Garland and annexed to the pardon. It was to the purport that he would thenceforth 'faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and the union of the States thereunder; and that he would in like manner abide by and faithfully support all laws and proclamations which had been made during the existing Rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves.'

Mr. Garland now produced this pardon, and by petition filed in court asked permission to continue to practise as an attorney and counsellor of the court, without taking the oath required by the act of January 24th, 1865, and the rule of the court. He rested his application principally upon two grounds:

1st. That the act of January 24th, 1865, so far as it affected his status in the court, was unconstitutional and void; and,

2d. That, if the act were constitutional, he was released from compliance with its provisions by the pardon of the President.

Messrs. Reverdy Johnson and M. H. Carpenter, for the petitioner, Mr. Garland, who had filed a brief of his own presenting fully his case.

I. In discussing the constitutionality of any law of Congress, the real question is, would the act accomplish a result which the Constitution forbids? If so, no matter what may be the form of the act, it is unconstitutional.

This court, in Green v. Biddle, 3 McCracken v. Hayward, [3] has held, that although the States may legislate at pleasure upon remedies merely, yet if the practical effect of such legislation, in a given case, be to burden the right of a creditor unreasonably, or withdraw the debtor's property from the reach of the creditor, then such law is unconstitutional, as impairing the obligations of the contract. In Bronson v. Kinzie, C. J. Taney says:


  1. 12 Stat. at Large, 502.
  2. 13 Stat. at Large, 424.
  3. 2 Id. 608.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).

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