Article 4, Section 3, Clause 2

[Volume 4, Page 556]

Document 6

James Kent, Commentaries 1:360--61


It would seem, from these various congressional regulations of the territories belonging to the United States, that congress have supreme power in the government of them, depending on the exercise of their sound discretion. Neither the District of Columbia, nor a territory, is a state, within the meaning of the constitution, or entitled to claim the privileges secured to the members of the union. This has been so adjudged by the Supreme Court. Nor will a writ of error or appeal lie from a territorial court to the Supreme Court, unless there be a special statute provision for the purpose. There is such a provision as to Florida, and there is a limited provision of that kind as to Arkan-saw and Michigan, extending to cases in which the United States are concerned, and not extending further. If, therefore, the government of the United States should carry into execution the project of colonizing the great valley of the Oregan to the west of the Rocky Mountains, it would afford a subject of grave consideration what would be the future civil and political destiny of that country. It would be a long time before it would be populous enough to be created into one or more independent states; and, in the mean time, upon the doctrine taught by the acts of congress, and even by the judicial decisions of the Supreme Court, the colonists would be in a state of the most complete subordination, and as dependent upon the will of congress as the people of this country would have been upon the king and parliament of Great Britain, if they could have sustained their claim to bind us in all cases whatsoever. Such a state of absolute sovereignty on the [Volume 4, Page 557] one hand, and of absolute dependence on the other, is not at all congenial with the free and independent spirit of our native institutions; and the establishment of distant territorial governments, ruled according to will and pleasure, would have a very natural tendency, as all proconsular governments have had, to abuse and oppression.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 4, Section 3, Clause 2, Document 6
The University of Chicago Press

Kent, James. Commentaries on American Law. 4 vols. New York, 1826--30.