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worthy of honor, than that which holds its office by a life tenure and administers impartial justice, without respect of persons, to the people of Massachusetts.
Such a court the people of Massachusetts have no wish to change for an elective judiciary, holding office by a short tenure. In their opinion, evinced in their practice, this all-important branch of the government ought to be removed, as far as possible, beyond the reach of political influences; but it is surely the grossest of errors to speak of the tribunals of the United States as being generally tainted with party, or to represent the law, in the main, as having ceased to be respected and enforced. Taking a comprehensive view of the subject, and not drawing sweeping inferences from exceptional occurrences, it may be safely said that the law of the land is ably, cheaply, and impartially administered in the United States, and implicitly obeyed. On a few questions, not half a dozen in number since the organization of the government, and those partaking of a political character, the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, like the questions to which they refer, have divided public opinion. But there is surely no tribunal in the world, which, like that court has, since the foundation of the government, not only efficiently performed the ordinary functions of a tribunal of the last resort, to the general satisfaction of the country, but
which sits in judgment on the courts and legislatures of sovereign States, on acts of Congress itself, and pronounces the law to a confederation coextensive with Europe. I know of no such protection, under any other government, against unconstitutional legislation; if, indeed, any legislation can be called unconstitutional, where Parliament, alike in theory and practice, is omnipotent.
With respect to the partisan character of our courts, inferred from the manner in which the judges are appointed, the judges of the United States Courts, which are the tribunals specifically reflected on, are appointed in the same manner and hold their offices by the same tenure, as the English judges of the courts of common law. They are appointed for life, by the executive power, no doubt from the dominant party of the day, and this equally in both countries. The presiding magistrate of the other branch of English jurisprudence, — the Lord Chancellor, — is displaced with every change in politics. In seventy-one years, since the adoption of the Federal Constitution, there have been but four chief justices of the United States, and the fourth is still on the bench. In thirty-three years there have been, I believe, nine appointments of a Lord Chancellor, on as many changes of the ministry, and seven different individuals have filled the office, of whom five are living. As a member of the Cabinet, and Speaker of the House of Lords, he is necessarily deep in all the political controversies of the day, and his vast official influence and patronage, generally administered on political grounds, are felt throughout church and state. The Chief Justice of England is usually a member of the House of Lords, sometimes a member of the Cabinet. As a necessary consequence, on all questions of a political nature, the Court is open to the same suspicion of partisanship as in the United States, and for a much stronger reason, inasmuch as our judges can never be members of the Cabinet or of Congress. During a considerable part of his career, Lord Mansfield was engaged in an embittered political warfare with the Earl of Chatham, in the House of Lords. All the resources of the English language were exhausted by Junius, in desolating and unpunished party libels on the Chief Justice of England; and when the capital of the British Empire lay for six days at the mercy of Lord George Gordon's mob, its fury was concentrated against the same venerable magistrate.
The jurisprudence of this country strikes its roots deep into that of England. Her courts, her magistrates, her whole judicial system, are regarded by the profession in America with respect and affection. But if, beginning at a period coeval with the settlement of America, we run down the line of the chancellors and chief justices, from Lord Bacon and Sir Edward Coke to the close of the last century, it will, in scarce any
generation, be found free from the record of personal, official, and political infirmities, from which an unfriendly censor might have drawn inferences hostile to the integrity of the tribunals of England, if not to the soundness of her public sentiment. But he would have erred. The character of governments and of in. stitutions is not to be judged of from individual men or exceptional occurrences, but must be gathered from a large experience, from general results, from the testimony of ages. A thousand years, and a revolution in almost every century, have been necessary to build up the constitutional fabric of England to its present proportions and strength. Let her not play the uncharitable censor, if portions of our newly constructed state machinery are sometimes heard to grate and jar.
With respect to the great two-edged sword, with which Justice smites the unfaithful public servant, the present Lord Chancellor (late Chief Justice) of England, observes, of the acquittal of Lord Melville, in 1806, that “it showed that Impeachment can no longer be relied upon for the conviction of state offences, and can only be considered as a test of party strength ;” while of the standard of professional literature, the same venerable magistrate, who unites the vigor of youth to the experience and authority of fourscore years, remarks, with a candor, it is true, not very flattering to the United States, in the form of the expression, that down to the end of the reign of George the Third (A. D. 1820), “ England was excelled by contemporary juridical authors, not only in France, Italy, and Germany, but even America." I will only add, that, of the very great number of judges of our Federal and State Courts, — although frugal salaries, short terms of office, and the elective tenure may sometimes have called incompetent men to the bench, — it is not within my recollection, that a single individual has been suspected even of pecuniary corruption.
Next in importance to the integrity of the courts, in a well-governed state, is the honesty of the legislature. A remarkable instance of wholesale corruption, in one of the new States of the West, consisting of the alleged bribery of a considerable number of the members of the legislature, by a distribution of Railroad bonds, is quoted by Lord Grey, as a specimen of the corruption which has infected the legislation both of Congress and of the States, and as showing “ the state of things which has arisen in that country.” It was a very discreditable occurrence certainly, (if truly reported, and of that I know nothing,) illustrative I hcpe, not of “a state of things,” which has arisen in America, but of the degree to which large bodies of men, of whom better things might have been expected, may sometimes become so infected, when the mania of speculation is epidemic, that principle, prudence, and common