University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Jensen, Merrill (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut

B. Commentaries on the convention, 10 January-10 March,   pp. 568-593

Page 572

gaining greater emoluments during his continuance in office, and
when there is nothing of any great importance in his power solely,
I think no man of considerable discernment can have fears from this
quarter unless he has also very weak nerves.
The judicial powers, at first view, seemed to me the most excep-
tionable-but I believe it will always be admitted that the judicial
powers of every state must be coextensive with the legislative-and
I cannot find that the legislative powers proposed in this Constitution
are extended to any objects in which the nation are not immediately
or mediately concerned. The general laws of bankruptcy appear to
be necessary both for creditors and debtors, and it appears reasonable,
when conformed to in one state, they should be effectual to secure the
debtor throughout the Union. Those acts may and often do affect the
rights of citizens of different states, to guard which the powers of
particular states do not extend. It is therefore proper that those
should be regulated by someI authority extending over all. The
same apply in cases of captures and a variety of other cases. Per-
haps, however, it may be questioned whether an appeal will lie from
a state court to the Supreme Federal Court or from the inferior federal
court only. If that is the case, the jurisdiction is concurrent and in
the election of the plaintiff to which [court] he will apply. If the
right is proper to be granted, the guards against abuse must be by
laws to regulate the exercise of the right.
Trial by jury is said to be taken away. No such inference can be
drawn from the Constitution. All civil [cases] were never tried by
jury in this country or in Great Britain. Admiralty causes, ecclesiasti-
cal, and chancery cases are of that number. The mode of ascertaining
the fact will be pointed out by law, and we cannot suppose Congress
to divest themselves of all good sense as well as honesty so as to adopt
measures totally repugnant to the habits and feelings of the people
as the objection supposes. It appears to me that few men will at
this time of day reject the idea of coercion as necessary to a good
government. The existence of those principles of pure virtue in the
members of the community, which are necessary on the ground of 'the
objectors, is not at this time generally believed and the want of it is
the principal, if not the only, reason, why government is necessary.
This is a 'powerful motive to induce men to consent to be governed,
but this consent would be of little avail unless a coercive power to
compel obedience was not also granted; and I think it must appear
much more eligible to carry home the punishment of the offense to
the person of the transgressor by legal decrees, than to exercise the
power of the sword against states and communities and involve the
innocent and guilty in one indiscriminate scene of distress. But this

Go up to Top of Page