Page:Democracy in America (Reeve).djvu/181

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ference; and this is effected without difficulty, because in these nations the questions of judicial competency have no connexion with the privileges of the national supremacy. But it was impossible to create an arbiter between a superior court of the Union and the superior court of a separate state, which would not belong to one of these two classes. It was therefore necessary to allow one of these courts to judge its own cause, and to take or to retain cognizance of the point which was contested. To grant this privilege to the different courts of the states, would have been to destroy the sovereignty of the Union de facto, after having established it de jure; for the interpretation of the constitution would soon have restored that portion of independence to the states of which the terms of that act deprived them. The object of the creation of a federal tribunal was to prevent the courts of the states from deciding questions affecting the national interests in their own department, and so to form a uniform body of jurisprudence for the interpretation of the laws of the Union. This end would not have been accomplished if the courts of the several states had been competent to decide upon cases in their separate capacities, from which they were obliged to abstain as federal tribunals. The supreme court of the United States was therefore invested with the right of determining all questions of jurisdiction.[1]

This was a severe blow upon the independence of the states, which was thus restricted not only by the laws, but by the interpretation of them; by one limit which was known, and by another which was dubious; by a rule which was certain, and a rule which was arbitrary. It is true the constitution had laid down the precise limits of the federal supremacy, but whenever this supremacy is contested by one of the states, a federal tribunal decides the question. Nevertheless, the dangers with which the independence of the states was threatened by this mode of proceeding are less serious than they appeared to be. We shall see hereafter that in America the real strength of the country is vested in the provincial

  1. In order to diminish the number of these suits, it was decided that in a great many federal causes, the courts of the states should be empowered to decide conjointly with those of the Union, the losing party having then a right of appeal to the supreme court of the United States. The supreme court of Virginia contested the right of the supreme court of the United States to judge an appeal from its decisions, but unsuccessfully. See Kent's Commentaries, vol. i., pp. 300, 370, et seq.; Story's Commentaries, p. 646; and “The Organic Law of the United States,” vol. i., p. 35.