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Article 3, Section 2, Clause 1



Document 15

Federal Farmer, no. 15

18 Jan. 1788Storing 2.8.185

The business of the judicial department is, properly speaking, judicial in part, in part executive, done by judges and juries, by certain recording and executive officers, as clerks, sheriffs, etc. they are all properly limbs, or parts, of the judicial courts, and have it in charge, faithfully to decide upon, and execute the laws, in judicial cases, between the public and individuals, between man and man. The recording and executive officers, in this department, may well enough be formed by legislative acts, from time to time: but the offices, the situation, the powers and duties of judges and juries, are too important, as they respect the political system, as well as the administration of justice, not to be fixed on general principles by the constitution. It is true, the laws are made by the legislature; but the judges and juries, in their interpretations, and in directing the execution of them, have a very extensive influence for preserving or destroying liberty, and for changing the nature of the government. It is an observation of an approved writer, that judicial power is of such a nature, that when we have ascertained and fixed its limits, with all the caution and precision we can, it will yet be formidable, somewhat arbitrary and despotic--that is, after all our cares, we must leave a vast deal to the discretion and interpretation--to the wisdom, integrity, and politics of the judges--These men, such is the state even of the best laws, may do wrong, perhaps, in a thousand cases, sometimes with, and sometimes without design, yet it may be impracticable to convict them of misconduct. These considerations shew, how cautious a free people ought to be in forming this, as well as the other branches of their government, especially when connected with other considerations equally deserving of notice and attention. When the legislature makes a bad law, or the first executive magistrates usurp upon the rights of the people, they discover the evil much sooner, than the abuses of power in the judicial department; the proceedings of which are far more intricate, complex, and out of their immediate view. A bad law immediately excites a general alarm; a bad judicial determination, though not less pernicious in its consequences, is immediately felt, probably, by a single individual only, and noticed only by his neighbours, and a few spectators in the court. In this country, we have been always jealous of the legislature, and especially the executive; but not always of the judiciary: but very few men attentively consider the essential parts of it, and its proceedings, as they tend to support or to destroy free government: only a few professional men are in a situation properly to do this; and it is often alledged, that instances have not frequently occurred, in which they have been found very alert watchmen in the cause of liberty, or in the cause of democratic republics. Add to these considerations, that particular circumstances exist at this time to increase our inattention to limiting properly the judicial powers, we may fairly conclude, we are more in danger of sowing the seeds of arbitrary government in this department than in any other. In the unsettled state of things in this country, for several years past, it has been thought, that our popular legislatures have, sometimes, departed from the line of strict justice, while the law courts have shewn a disposition more punctually to keep to it. We are not sufficiently attentive to the circumstances, that the measures of popular legislatures naturally settle down in time, and gradually approach a mild and just medium; while the rigid systems of the law courts naturally become more severe and arbitrary, if not carefully tempered and guarded by the constitution, and by laws, from time to time. It is true, much has been written and said about some of these courts lately, in some of the states; but all has been about their fees, &c. and but very little to the purposes, as to their influence upon the freedom of the government.


The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 3, Section 2, Clause 1, Document 15
http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/a3_2_1s15.html
The University of Chicago Press

Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Complete Anti-Federalist. 7 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

Easy to print version.


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