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Clayton is, if we may judge from this highly wrought and almost ridiculous laudation of that Court.
Its character, says he," for purity and justice is immeasurably more exalted than that of any tribunal on earth.”
“The sectional feelings which will often influence the action of the former, [the Senators,] can never enter into the bosom of a judge without disgracing him."
“ The objection, [Mr. Corwin, a Senator from Ohio, had made it,] that five of the nine Judges reside south of Mason and Dixon's line, is unworthy of a statesinan. It is not denied that a man may be as honest, if he live on the one side of the line as on the other." “ The man who can in his heart believe that five judges would decide this question on sectional grounds must be prepared to pronounce them corrupt and unworthy of their stations : an opinion justified by no event of their past lives.” We would say nothing, except for the truth's sake, to disparage the character of the Supreme Court, or at all disturb the praises which Mr. Clayton has seen fit to bestow on the members of it. But it is a fact well known to all who choose to inquire, that the appointments, for the last fifteen or twenty years, have been party appointments; that the incumbents, just alluded to, before their appointment, and it may be to gain that, were warm partisans — more conspicuous for party activity than for eminence in their profession. Nor was the appointing power
** Mr. Duane remained in office, (as Secretary of the Treasury,) until the 23d of September, on which day he was dismissed."
“On that same day, the 23d, Mr. Taney was appointed, and on the 26th, in conformity with the will of the President, he performed the clerical act of affixing his signature to the order for the removal of the deposites, and thus made himself a willing instrument to consummate what the sterner integrity of his predecessor disdained to execute.
The report of the Secretary of the Treasury, [Mr. Taney) in the first paragraph commences with a misstatement of the fact.
If this assertion, (* I have directed ") is regarded in any other than a mere formal sense, it is not true. The Secretary may have been the instrument, the Clerk the automaton, in whose name the order was issued."- Speech of Henry Clay on the removal of the Deposites, in the Serate of the United States, Dec. 26–30, 1833.
* Having maturely considered with those impartial feelings, the reasons of the Secretary, (Mr. Taney.) I am constrained to say, that he has entirely failed to make out his justification." “ The Secretary has entirely mistaken the case." Remarks of John C. Calhoun, in the Senate, on the same subject, January 13, 1834.
“ In what manner and for what purpose, was the present Secretary of the Treasury brought into office? he came into office through a breach in the Constitution, and his very appointment was the means of violating the law and the public faith. He was brought into his present station to be the instrument of executive usurpation." - Speech of Mr. Mc Duffie on the same subject, in the House of Representatives.
confined to them, for there were men less active in party politics — more devoted to their profession, and generally much more distinguished in it- and drawing to themselves a great deal more of the confidence of the country, who could have been found to fill the offices. For no one need try to conceal the fact that the present Supreme Court, on very important questions, does not possess the confidence of the people, in such a degree as a Supreme Court ought, to be most useful. In matters of individual claim, where party and sectional feelings are not at all aroused, their decisions are respected. But such is the case with many State Courts that could be mentioned. We are not among the number of those who believe, as one would be inclined to think Mr. Clayton did, in an entire transformation of character for the better, by an appointment to the Supreme Court. If a man is mean before it, he will be mean after. True, he may mingle less in crowds, he may engage less in matters that interest most men ; his temptation may be less, but, so far as his office goes, he will remain the same being — only a man and having the trials of one.
But Senator Clayton thinks that this question will be decided strictly on constitutional grounds, and that the majority of the Court, who may be the five judges that reside in the slavebolding states and in the midst of a slaveholding population, will not be at all influenced in their judgment on sectional grounds : indeed, he goes so far as to say that he who believes so must be prepared to pronounce them corrupt; and that a man may be as honest on one side of Mason and Dixon's line as on the other. If we could bring ourselves to believe that Senator Clayton really thought this question would be decided as he has represented, or that he had no design of bringing the influence of the Court to bear against the Senator who made the remark, or of attempting himself to conciliate it, we should be led to suppose him a very unobserving and unripe inan, and therefore an unsafe depositary of any power. For
es he not know that the Southern members, the majority, of the Court themselves practise the “system,” and some of them
We do not intend to discuss the propriety or impropriety of removing the deposits. The foregoing extracts, to which many others of a similar purport might be added, are given simply to prove what view was taken of the present Chief-Justice's character by distinguished men, now of both parties. Mr. Taney was nominated to his present office on the death of Chief-Justice Mar, shall, by General Jackson, by whose direction the deposits were removed.
pretty deeply * ; that if they pronounce it constitutional, even in the territories, they do much to strengthen it everywhere, and greatly increase their popularity at the South ; if unconstitutional, they will be called abolitionists there, be rendered odious among the slaveholders, and find it next to impossible, may we not say impossible, to reside among them, as they now
Does he not know, indeed, that to decide it in any way is almost, if not quite, tantamount to giving up their present situations, and, what with most men is deprecated above all things, of losing castė among their slaveholding associates, whose practice they think most gentlemanlike, whose opinions they most value, and for whose society they are best fitted ? This loss of caste or consideration, indeed, the certainty of being made odious, at the South, in the event of entertaining, or of being strongly suspected of entertaining, anti-slavery sentiments, has been too often stated, both by members of Congress, as well as by the members of the large religious bodies, to be unknown to Mr. Clayton. Under these circumstances, when, too, a large portion of the country is slaveholding, is it to be looked for from such men as compose the Supreme Court, that they will decide, without any chance of reversal, that Slavery is unconstitutional anywhere? For if they decide it to be unconstitutional in the territories, they at the same time decide it to be unconstitutional, at least, in all those states which once were territories. Such a decision is only to be expected from men in circumstances very different from those of a majority of the Court — from extraordinary men – from men who are able to discern the truth, according to the highest standard known to man, and who have selfrespect enough to prefer it to every other consideration. To decide, under the circumstances mentioned, that Slavery is unconstitutional anywhere, is only to be looked for from the absolute honesty which led Algernon Sidney, when solicited to do an unworthy act to save his life, to remark, that “when it became necessary for him to do or say falsely even for the high object set before him, he knew it was the will of God that he should die.” A lawyer will not hesitate to pervert the facts or the law to a jury—or court, if he can impose on the latter, to gain his client's cause ; a physician, to tell a dying man that his malady is not a hopeless one ; a tailor or shoemaker, a customer that his coat or his shoes will be ready for him next morning, when he has no expectation, or a very slight one, of complying with his promise. Meantime these inen take up their paper in bank carefully to the very hour, are punctual in the payment of their debts, and their engagements, in all matters out of their profession or calling, may be depended on. These, in common parlance, are called honest men, nor can they be called otherwise without appearing unjust to them. So they are, according to the low and imperfect standard — the “ sliding scale," rather — which they set up for themselves. But even this honesty we do not wish to underrate ; indeed, we would not put below its worth, - for it has some worth, — honesty of any grade. This grade of it - professional, perhaps not higher — is to be found, not only in the Supreme Court, but in other places deemed exalted, and our public affairs are, for the most part, managed by it. For if it were absolute, - such as we have supposed Algernon Sidney possessed ; such as impels us to take up the cross and carry it to the place of an inglorious death, sooner than do or say what we believe to be wrong or false, — we should not have men commissioned to mete out justice to us, who refuse it to multitudes of their fellow-beings - their brothers and sisters, whose earnings through life they take from them; whom, and there posterity, if they have not already sold them, they consign to their heirs, when compelled by death to relinquish their hold ; to whom they carefully deny all opportunity of improving those faculties bestowed on them by God, and which belong to man so plainly that they cannot be made plainer — opportunities, too, which they themselves enjoy without stint, and for which they declare, and justly, too — there can be no equivalent. Nor should we have those judges who send back into slavery, without any reference to its hor. rors, a fellow-man endeavouring to escape from it, or be instrumental, for the sake of the pelf a commission brings with it, in affixing a ruinous fine on one whose humanity might lead him to give what aid he could to the attempt ; thus showing that their love of money is stronger than their love for the race to which they belong.
* It is not long since one of them - Judge McKinley, we think, - advertised the sale of a large number of slaves at public vendue.
But Mr. Clayton seems fully to rely for an equitable decision on the high character of the Supreme Court, which, says he, “ for purity and justice is immeasurably superior to that of any other tribunal on earth.” These, to many, will seem rather odd words in the mouth of an American Senator, who, as the world goes, ought, at least, to be somewhat remarkable for the precision of his statements. They will be likely to look on them as in no small degree extravagant, if not, in the worst sense, hyperbolical. Some, no doubt, will go further, and suppose that the speaker used these words because he knew that he should lose nothing by an unfavorable comparison of other courts with ours, but by his praise of ours he might add greatly to his reputation for patriotism, since nothing, nowadays, contributes more to reputation for this quality, than depreciating what our neighbour has and exalting what we have. Others will wonder that men, eminent above all other men in similar circumstances “for purity and justice,” could, in any manner, consent to be made the instruments of inflicting on a very large portion of the country the curse of Slavery, the most copious fountain of social and individual impurity, and the rankest specimen of injustice under the sun. Indeed, they will think that the very attempt to reconcile Slavery with a Constitution which professes to establish liberty, must unavoidably bewilder the mind, and obscure and pervert its perception of right. They will be amazed that men so “immeasurably” superior in purity and justice could at all hesitate between the law of man, even if it should command us to set up Slavery, and the law of God forbidding it and telling us so reasonably to do to others as we would have them do to us. They may even proceed to say that the Rights of man, of human nature, were incorporated into the Constitution by the Convention, and that this was business proper for the Convention only, and that the judicial power was ordained by that body to enforce those rights, according to the forms of the Constitution, should those rights at any time be invaded ; but that it never was clothed with authority so to interpret that instrument, that wrong should be done to the poorest and the humblest individual, but rather that he should fly to its sacred precincts for protection against all wrongdoers pursuing him for his destruction, and there be reassured that he is a man.
It is not ours, or we do not intend at this time to make it ours, to compose these strifes, nor to pronounce on the honesty, and so forth, of the respective parties mentioned ; but this we will say of some of them, - especially of the English Courts, the King's or Queen's Bench, and of the Admiralty Courts, — that persons standing as high in public estimation, and occupying as close relation to their governments as Senator Clayton did to his, have spoken in very high terms of the