Thomas Jefferson Constitutional Powers Usurped by the Supreme Court

Thomas Jefferson Supreme Court Usurpation of Power (Click to enlarge)

Thomas Jefferson Supreme Court Usurpation of Power (Click to enlarge)

For anyone who doesn’t know the Supreme Court itself in the United States has become Unconstitutional, from ruling things Constitutional that are anything but, to assuming powers not delegated to it by the Federal Constitution, nor intended for it by the Framers. Wake up people! The House of Representatives in Congress are the People’s Power in the Federal Government. The Senate and Senators represent their respective states and the interest of those states. When you let the Executive or Senate Encroach you nullify that Power. The People’s Power: One of the House of Representatives Powers is of the Purse i.e. Funding or Defunding those things the Executive branch puts forth. People you’re letting the Media con you into thinking a government shut down because of funding disputes is a bad thing. The people are the real power in the United States, we are the final arbitrators of the Constitution. If we find the things the Executive, Legislative or Judicial powers of the United States are doing to be Unconstitutional, we can view them as null and void ourselves. We don’t need the Supreme Court to rule them Unconstitutional.  The Constitution begins with:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

It does not say We the Executive, We the Legislature, or We the Judiciary, it says WE THE PEOPLE!

“All power is originally vested in, and consequently derived from, the people. That government is instituted and ought to be exercised for the benefit of the people; which consists in the enjoyment of life and liberty and the right of acquiring property, and generally of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. That the people have an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform or change their government whenever it be found adverse or inadequate to the purpose of its institution.” ~ James Madison; June 8, 1789

 

Article IX of the Constitution says: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Article X says: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

In a letter to Mr. M. M. Coray, under date of October 21, 1823, Thomas Jefferson said:

At the establishment of our Constitution the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the Government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a free hold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors, only passed silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping by little and little the foundations of the Constitution and working its change by construction before any has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm had been visibly employed in consuming its substance.

“Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction. I say the same as to the opinion of those who consider the grant of the treaty-making power as boundless. If it is, then we have no Constitution. If it has bounds, they can be no others than the definitions of the powers which that instrument gives. It specifies and delineates the operations permitted to the Federal Government, and gives all the powers necessary to carry these into execution. Whatever of these enumerated objects is proper for a law. Congress may make the law; whatever is proper to be executed by way of a treaty, the President and Senate may enter into the treaty; whatever is to be done by a judicial sentence, the Judges may pass the sentence. Nothing is more likely than that their enumeration of powers is defective. This is the ordinary case of all human works. Let us then go on perfecting it, by adding, by way of amendment to the Constitution those powers which time and trial show are still wanting.”Thomas Jefferson to Wilson C. Nicholas,Writings of Jefferson, Paul L. Ford Ed., viii. 247. (Monticello, Sep. 1803.)

Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Judge Roane

Popular Forest, September 6, 1819.

Dear Sir,—I had read in the Enquirer, and with great approbation, the pieces signed Hampden, and have read them again with redoubled approbation, in the copies you have been so kind as to send me. I subscribe to every title of them. They contain the true principles of the revolution of 1800, for that was as real a revolution in the principles of our government as that of 1776 was in its form ; not effected indeed by the sword, as that, but by the rational and peaceable instrument of reform, the suffrage of the people. The nation declared its will by dismissing functionaries of one principle, and electing those of another, in the two branches, executive and legislative, submitted to their election. Over the judiciary department, the constitution had deprived them of their control. That, therefore, has continued the reprobated system, and although new matter has been occasionally incorporated into the old, yet the leaven of the old mass seems to assimilate to itself the new, and after twenty years’ confirmation of the federated system by the voice of the nation, declared through the medium of elections, we find the judiciary on every occasion, still driving us into consolidation.

In denying the right they [the Supreme Court] usurp [comandeer; take a position of power or importance illegally or by force] of exclusively explaining the constitution, I go further than you do, if I understand rightly your quotation from the Federalist, of an opinion that ” the judiciary is the last resort in relation to the other departments of the government, but not in relation to the rights of the parties to the compact under which the judiciary is derived.” If this opinion be sound, then indeed is our constitution a complete felo de se [one who commits suicide or who dies from the effects of having committed an unlawful malicious act: an act of deliberate self-destruction.]. For intending to establish three departments, co-ordinate and independent, that they might check and balance one another, it has given, according to this opinion, to one of them alone, the right to prescribe rules for the government of the others, and to that one too, which is unelected by, and independent of the nation. For experience has already shown that the impeachment it has provided is not even a scare-crow; that such opinions as the one you combat, sent cautiously out, as you observe also, by detachment, not belonging to the case often, but sought for out of it, as if to rally the public opinion beforehand to their views, and to indicate the line they are to walk in, have been so quietly passed over as never to have excited animadversion, even in a speech of any one of the body entrusted with impeachment. The constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please. It should be remembered, as an axiom of eternal truth in politics, that whatever power in any government is independent, is absolute also ; in theory only, at first, while the spirit of the people is up, but in practice, as fast as that relaxes. Independence can be trusted nowhere but with the people in mass. They are inherently independent of all but moral law. My construction of the constitution is very different from that you quote. It is that each department is truly independent of the others, and has an equal right to decide for itself what is the meaning of the constitution in the cases submitted to its action ; and especially, where it is to act ultimately and without appeal. I will explain myself by examples, which, having occurred while I was in office, are better known to me, and the principles which governed them.

Thomas Jefferson: Confidence in Government (Click to enlarge)

Thomas Jefferson: Confidence in Government; Sedition Act (Click to enlarge)

A legislature had passed the sedition law. The federal courts had subjected certain individuals to its penalties of fine and imprisonment. On coming into office, I released these individuals by the power of pardon committed to executive discretion, which could never be more properly exercised than where citizens were suffering without the authority of law, or, which was equivalent, under a law unauthorized by the constitution, and therefore null. In the case of Marbury and Madison, the federal judges declared that commissions, signed and sealed by the President, were valid, although not delivered. I deemed delivery essential to complete a deed, which, as long as it remains in the hands of the party, is as yet no need, it is in posse [what is possible] only, but not in esse [what is real], and I withheld delivery of the commissions. They cannot issue a mandamus [“writ of mandate” which orders a public agency or governmental body to perform an act required by law when it has neglected or refused to do] to the President or legislature, or to any of their officers. [The constitution controlling the common law in this particular.]

When the British treaty arrived, without any provision against the impressments [recruitment by force] of our seamen, I determined not to ratify it. The Senate thought I should ask their advice. I thought that would be a mockery of them, when I was predetermined against following it, should they advise its ratification. The constitution had made their advice necessary to confirm a treaty, but not to reject it. This has been blamed by some; but I have never doubted its soundness. In the cases of two persons, antenati [ancestors], under exactly similar circumstances, the federal court had determined that one of them (Duane) was not a citizen; the House of Representatives nevertheless determined that the other (Smith, of South Carolina) was a citizen, and admitted him to his seat in their body. Duane was a republican, and Smith a federalist, and these decisions were made during the federal ascendancy.

These are examples of my position, that each of the three departments has equally the right to decide for itself what is its duty under the constitution, without any regard to what the others may have decided for themselves under a similar question. But you intimate a wish that my opinion should be known on this subject. No, dear Sir, I withdraw from all contests of opinion, and resign everything cheerfully to the generation now in place. They are wiser than we were, and their successors will be wiser than they, from the progressive advance of science. Tranquillity is the summum bonum [the highest good] of age. I wish, therefore, to offend no man’s opinion, nor to draw disquieting animadversions [criticism or censure] on my own. While duty required it, I met opposition with a firm and fearless step. But loving mankind in my individual relations with them, I pray to be permitted to depart in their peace; and like the superannuated [old fashioned, out of date] soldier, “quadragenis stipendiis emeritus”[not sure on translation: “After forty serving their terms, retire”] to hang my arms on the post. I have unwisely, I fear, embarked in an enterprise of great public concern, but not to be accomplished within my term, without their liberal and prompt support. A severe illness the last year, and another from which I am just emerged, admonish me that repetitions may be expected, against which a declining frame cannot long bear up. I am anxious, therefore, to get our University so far advanced as may encourage the public to persevere to its final accomplishment. That secured, I shall sing my nunc demittis [the prayer of Simeon in Luke 2:29–32]. I hope your labors will be long continued in the spirit in which they have always been exercised, in maintenance of those principles on which I verily believe the future happiness of our country essentially depends. I salute you with affectionate and great respect.

In a letter to Thomas Ritchie, under date of December 25, 1820, Mr. Jefferson said: “But it is not from this branch of government [the House of Representatives] we have most to fear. Taxes and short elections will keep them right.

“The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working underground to undermine the foundations of our constitutional fabric. They are construing our Constitution from a coordination of a general [federal] and special [local] government to a general and supreme one alone. This will lay all things at their feet, and they are too well versed in English law to forget the maxim, ‘Boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem.’ [‘it is the duty of a good judge to enlarge his jurisdiction.’ It denotes that a good judge’s duty is to amplify the remedies of the law] We shall see if they are bold enough to take the daring strides these five lawyers (judges) have lately taken. Having found from experience that impeachment is an impracticable thing, a mere scarecrow, they consider themselves secure for life; they skulk for responsibility to public opinion, the only remaining hold upon them, under a practice first introduced into England by Lord Mansfield. An opinion is huddled up in conclave (perhaps by a majority of one), delivered as if unanimous, and with the silent acquiescence of lazy or timid associates by a crafty chief judge (Marshall), who sophisticates the law to his mind by the turn of his own reasoning. A judiciary law was once reported by the Attorney General to Congress requiring each judge to deliver his opinion seriatim and openly, and then to give it in writing to the clerk to be entered on the record. A judiciary independent of a king or executive alone is a good thing, but independence of the will of the nation is a solecism, at least in a republican government.”

In a letter to Archibald Thweat. under date of January 19, 1821, Mr. Jefferson further said:

I am sensible of the inroads daily making by the Federal into the jurisdiction of its coordinate associates, the State governments. The legislative and executive branches may sometime err, but elections and dependents will bring them to rights. The judiciary branch is the instrument which, working like gravity, without intermission, is to press us at last into one consolidated mass. Against this I know no one who, equally with Judge Roane himself, possesses the power and the courage to make resistance, and to him I look and have long looked as our strongest bulwark. If Congress fails to shield the States from danger so palpable and so imminent, the States must shield themselves, and meet the invader foot to foot.

In a letter to Mr. C. Hammond, under date of August 18, 1821, Mr. Jefferson declared:

“It has long, however, been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression, that the germ of dissolution of our Federal Government is in the constitution of the Federal judiciary, an irresponsible body, working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little to-day and a little to-morrow, and advancing its noiseless steps like a thief over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped from the States and the government of all be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed, because when all governments, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the check provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the Government from which we separated. It will be as in Europe, where every man must either be pike or gudgeon, hammer or anvil. Our functionaries and theirs are wares from the same workshop, made of the same material and by the same hand. If the States look with apathy on this silent descent of their Government into the gulf which is to swallow all, we have only to weep over the human character formed uncontrollable but by a rod of iron, and the blasphemers of man as incapable of self-government become his true historians.”

In a letter to Colonel Nicholas, under date of December 11, 1821, Mr. Jefferson said:

“I fear, dear sir, we are now in such another crisis, with this difference only, that the judiciary branch is alone and single handed in the present assaults on the Constitution. But its assaults are more sure and deadly as from an agent seemingly passive and unassuming. May you and your contemporaries meet them with the same determination and effect that your father and his did the alien and sedition laws, and preserve inviolate a Constitution which, cherished in all its chastity and purity, will prove in the end a blessing to all the nations of the earth.”

In a letter to William T. Barry, under date of July 2, 1822, Mr. Jefferson said:

“We already see the power installed for life, responsible to no authority, advancing with a noiseless and steady pace to the great object of consolidation. The foundations are already deeply laid by their decisions for the annihilation of constitutional States’ rights and the removal of every check, every counterpoise, to the engulfing power of which themselves are to make a sovereign part. If ever this vast country is brought under a single government, it will be one of the most extensive corruptions, indifferent and incapable of a wholesome care over so wide a spread of surface. This will not be borne, and you will have to choose between reformation and revolution. If I know the spirit of this country, the one or the other is inevitable. Before the canker is become inveterate, before its venom has reached so much of the body politic as to get beyond control, remedy should be applied. Let the future appointment of judges be for four or six years, and renewable by the President and Senate. This will bring their conduct at regular periods under revision and probation, and may keep them in equipoise between the general and special government. We have erred in this point by copying England, where certainly it is a good thing to have the judges independent of the King. But we have omitted to copy their caution, also, which makes a judge removable on the address of both legislative houses. That there should be public functionaries independent of the nation, whatever be their demerit, is a solecism in a republic of the first order of absurdity and inconsistency.”

In a letter to Judge Johnson, under the date of March 4, 1823, Mr. Jefferson said:

“I can not lay down my pen without recurring to one of the subjects of my former letter, for in truth there is no danger I apprehend so much as the consolidation of our Government by the noiseless and therefore unalarming instrumentality of the Supreme Court. * * * For in truth there is at this time more hostility to the Federal judiciary than any other organ of the Government.”

In a letter to Edward Livingston, under date of March 25, 1825, Mr. Jefferson wrote:

“Time and changes in the condition and constitution of society may require occasional and corresponding modifications. One single object, if your provision attains it, will entitle you to the endless gratitude of society, that of restraining judges from usurping legislation. And with no body of men is this restraint more wanting than with the judges of what is commonly called our General [Federal] Government, but what I call our foreign department. They are practicing on the Constitution by inferences, analogies, and sophisms [a fallacious argument, especially one used deliberately to deceive] as they would an ordinary law. They do not seem aware that it is not even a Constitution formed by a single authority, and subject to a single superintendence and control, but that it is a compact of many independent powers every single one of which claims an equal right to understand it and to require its observance. However strong the cord of compact may be, there is a point of tension at which it will break. A few such doctrinal decisions as barefaced as that of the Cohens happening to bear immediately on two or three of the large States may induce them to join in arresting the march of Government and in arousing the co-States to pay some attention to what is passing to bring bark the compact to its original principles or to modify it legitimately by the expressed consent of the parties themselves, and not by the usurpation of their created agents. They imagine they can lead us into a consolidate government, while their road leads directly to dissolution. This member of the Government was at first considered as the most harmless and helpless of all its organs, but it has proved that the power of declaring what the law is ad libitum [“at pleasure” or at the discretion of the performer] by sapping and mining slyly and without alarm the foundations of the Constitution can do what open force would not dare to attempt.”

These opinions and warnings of Jefferson are very pertinent at this time. The pity is that all have not paid heed to them for the past half a century. Now, let us see what another great expounder of the Constitution has said. In a speech at Fort Hill, July 26, 1831, Mr. Calhoun said:

“No one has been so hardy as to assert that Congress or the President ought to have the right or to deny that if vested finally and exclusively in either, the consequences which I have stated would not necessarily follow; but its advocates have been reconciled to the doctrine on the supposition that there is one department of the General Government which, from its peculiar organization, affords an independent tribunal through which the Government may exercise the high authority which is the subject of consideration with perfect safety to all. I yield, I trust, so few in my attachment to the judiciary department. I am fully sensible of its importance and would maintain it to the fullest extent in its constitutional powers and independence, but it is impossible for me to believe that it was ever intended by the Constitution that it should exercise the power in question, or that it is competent to do so, and if it were it would be a safe depository of the power. Its powers are judicial and not political, and are expressly confined by the Constitution to all cases in law and equity arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and the treaties made or which shall be made under its authority, and which I have high authority in asserting excludes political questions and comprehends those only where there are parties amenable to the process of the court.”

Governor Pingree, of Michigan, expressed himself in these words:

* * * I consider government by injunction, unless stopped, the beginning of the end of liberty. Tyranny on the bench is as objectionable as tyranny on the throne. It is even more dangerous, because judges claim immunity from criticism, and foolish people acquiesce in their claims. To enjoin people from assembling peaceably to discuss their wrongs is a violation of first principles. * * * (Railroad Trainmen’s Journal for September, 1897, p. 832.)

Sources: The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia: A Comprehensive Collection of the Views of Thomas Jefferson by Thomas Jefferson
The Life and Writings of Thomas Jefferson Including all his most important public utterances on Public Questions by Samuel Eagle Forman
Hearing Before the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives by House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary

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2 thoughts on “Thomas Jefferson Constitutional Powers Usurped by the Supreme Court

  1. Pingback: James Madison Amendments to the Constitution 1789 | The Patriot Brotherhood From Sea to Shining Sea

  2. Pingback: James Madison Regarding Religious Duty & Religious Liberty | The Patriot Brotherhood From Sea to Shining Sea

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