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Jensen, Merrill; Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J. (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Pennsylvania
(1976)

B. The Dissent of the Minority of the Convention,   pp. 617-640


Page 634

III. PENNSYLVANIA CONVENTION
an absolute confirmation of the power of aristocratical influence in
the courts of justice; for the common people will not be able to con-
tend or struggle against it.
Trial by jury in criminal cases may also be excluded by declaring
that the libeler, for instance, shall be liable to an action of debt for
a specified sum, thus evading the common law prosecution by indict-
ment and trial by jury. And the common course of proceeding against
a ship for breach of revenue laws by information (which will be
classed among civil causes) will at the civil law be within the resort
of a court, where no jury intervenes. Besides, the benefit of jury
trial, in cases of a criminal nature, which cannot be evaded, will be
rendered of little value, by calling the accused to answer far from
home; there being no provision that the trial be by a jury of the neigh-
borhood or country. Thus an inhabitant of Pittsburgh, on a charge
of crime committed on the banks of the Ohio, may be obliged to
defend himself at the side of the Delaware, and so vice versa. To con-
clude this head, we observe that the judges of the courts of Congress
would not be independent, as they are not debarred from holdinrg other
offices during the pleasure of the president and senate, and as they
may derive their support in part from fees alterable by the legislature.
The next consideration that the constitution presents is the undue
and dangerous mixture of the powers of government: the same body
possessing legislative, executive, and judicial powers. The senate is
a constituent branch of the legislature, it has judicial power in judg-
ing on impeachments, and in this case unites in some mea;ure the
characters of judge and party, as all of the principal officers are ap-
pointed by the president general, with the concurrence of the senate
and therefore they derive their offices in part from the senate. This
may bias the judgments of the senators, and tend to screen great
delinquents from punishment. And the senate has, moreover, various
and great executive powers, viz.; in concurrence with the president
general, they form treaties with foreign nations, that may control and
abrogate the constitutions and laws of the several states. Indeed, there
is no power, privilege, or liberty of the state governments, or of the peo-
ple, but what may be affected by virtue of this power. For all treaties,
made by them, are to be the "supreme law of the land; any thing in
the constitution or laws of any state, to the contrary notwithstanding."
And this great power may be exercised by the president and 10
senators (being two-thirds of 14 which is a quorum of that body).
What an inducement would this offer to the ministers of foreign
powers to compass by bribery such concessions as could not otherwise
be obtained. It is the unvaried usage of all free states, whenever
treaties interfere with the positive laws of the land, to make the in-
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