Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

done, criminal; or which aggravated a crime, and made it greater than it was when committed ; or which changed the punishment, and inflicted a greater punishment than the law annexed to the crime when committed ; or which altered the legal rules of evidence, and received less or different testimony than the law required at the time of the commission of the offence, in order to convict the offender. The Supreme Court concluded, that the law or resolution of Connecticut was not within the letter or intention of the prohibition, and was, therefore, lawful. Afterwards, in Fletcher v. Peck," it was observed, that an ex post facto law was one which rendered an act punishable in a manner in which it was not punishable when it was committed. This definition is distinguished for its comprehensive brevity and precision, and it extends to laws passed after the act, and affecting a person by way of punishment of that act, either in his person or estate. Retrospective laws and state laws, devesting vested rights, unless ex post facto, or impairing the obligation of contracts, do not fall within the prohibition contained in the constitution of the United States, however repugnant they may be to the principles of sound legislation.c

(3.) No state can control the exercise of any authority under the federal government.

The state legislatures cannot annul the judgments, nor Stato courte determine the extent of the jurisdiction, of the courts of the over thoredo Union. This was attempted by the legislature of Pennsylvania, and declared to be inoperative and void by the Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of The United States v. Peters. Such a power, as we have heretofore seen, necessarily resides in the supreme judicial tribunal of

a Strong v. The State, 1 Blackford's Ind. Rep. 193. 8. P.
b 6 Cranch, 138.
c Satterlee v. Matthewson, 2 Peters' U.S. Rep. 413.
d 5 Cranch, 115.
VOL. I.

52

the nation. It has also been adjudged, that no state court has authority or jurisdiction to enjoin a judgment of the Circuit Court of the United States, or to stay proceedings under it. This was attempted by a state court in Kentucky, and declared to be of no validity by the Supreme Court of the United States, in M Kim v. Voorhies. No state tribunal can interfere with seizures of property made by revenue officers, under the laws of the United States ; or interrupt by process of replevin, injunction, or otherwise, the exercise of the authority of the federal officers; and any intervention of state authority for that purpose is unlawful. This was so declared by the Supreme Court in Slocum v. Mayberry. Nor can a state court issue a mandamus to an officer of the United States. This decision was made in the case of M-Cluny v. Silliman, and it arose in consequence of the Supreme Court in Ohio sustaining a jurisdiction over the register of the land office of the United States in respect to his ministerial acts as register, and claiming a right to award a mandamus to that officer, to compel him to issue a final certificate of purchase. The principle declared by the Supreme Court was, that the official conduct of an officer of the government of the United States can only be controled by the power that created him.

If the officer of the United States who seizes, or the court which awards the process to seize, has jurisdiction of the subject matter, then the inquiry into the validity of the seizure belongs exclusively to the federal courts. But if there be no jurisdiction in the instance in which it is asserted, as if a marshal of the United States, under an execution in favour of the United States against A., should seize the person or property of B.,' then the state courts have jurisdiction to protect the person and the property so illegally invaded; and it is to be observed, that the jurisdiction of the state court in Rhode Island was admitted by

a 7 Cranch, 279.
h 2 Wheaton, 1.

C 6 Wheaton, 598.
d Bruen v. Ogden, 6 Halded, 370.

the Supreme Court of the United States in Slocum v. Mayberry, upon that very ground.

In the case of the United States v. Barney," the district judge of Maryland carried to a great extent the exemption from state control of officers or persons in the service of the United States, and employed in the transportation of the mail. He held, that an innkeeper had no lien on the horses which he had red, and which were employed in the transportation of the mail. The act of Congress of March, 1790, prohibited all wilful obstruction of the passage of the mail ; and a claim for debt would not justify the stopping of the mail, or the means necessary to transport it, either upon principles of common law, or upon the statute. The judge stated, in this case, that even a stolen horse found in the mail stage could not be seized ; nor could the driver, being in debt, or having committed an offence, be arrested, in such a way as to obstruct the passage of the mail. But, in a subsequent case in the Circuit Court of Pennsylvania, it was held, that the act of Congress was not to be so construed as to endanger the public peace and safety. The carrier of the mail, driving through a populous city with dangerous rapidity, and contrary to a municipal ordinance, may be stopped, and the mail temporarily detained by an officer of the city. So, if the officer had a warrant against a felon in the stage, or if the driver should commit murder in the street, and then place himself on the mail stage box, he would not be protected from arrest, though a temporary stoppage of the mail might be the consequence. The public safety in the one case, is of more moment than the public inconvenience which it might produce in the other.

But while all interference on the part of the state authorities with the exercise of the lawful powers of the national government, has been, in most cases, denied, there is one case in which any control by the federal over the state courts, other than by means of the established appellate juisdiction, has equally been prevented. In Diggs and Keith v. Wolcott, it was decided generally, that a court of the United States could not enjoin proceedings in a state court; and a decree of the Circuit Court of the United States for the district of Connecticut was reversed, because it had enjoined the parties from proceeding at law in a state court. So, in Ex parte Cabrera, it was declared, that the Circuit Courts of the United States could not interfere with the jurisdiction of the courts of a state. These decisions are not to be contested; and yet the district judge of the northern district of New-York, in the spring of 1823, in the case of Lansing and Thayer v. The North River Steam-Boat Company, enjoined the defendants from seeking in the state courts, under the acts of the state legislature, the remedies which those acts gave them. This would appear to have been an assumption of the power of control over the jurisdiction of the state courts, in hostility to the doctrine of the Supreme Court of the United States. In the case of Kennedy v. Earl of Cassillis, an injunction had been unwarily granted in the English Court of Chancery, to restrain a party from proceeding in a suit in the Court of Sessions in Scotland, where the parties were domiciled. It was admitted, that the Court of Sessions was a court of competent jurisdiction, and an independent foreign tribunal, though subject to an appeal, like the Court of Chancery, to the House of Lords. If the Court of Chancery could in that way restrain proceedings in the Court of Sessions, the Sessions might equally enjoin proceedings in Chancery, and thus stop all proceedings in either court. Lord Eldon said, he never meant to go further with the injunction, than the property in England; and he, on motion, dissolved it in toto.

a 3 Hall's Law Journal, 128.

United States v. Hart, 1 Peters' Cir. Rep. 390.

a 4 Cranch, 179. 61 Washington's Cir. Reports, 232. c 2 Svanst. 330.

No stato can

(4.) No state can pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts.

We come next to a prohibition of great moment, and affecting extensively and deeply the legislative authority of mappirithe the states. There is no prohibitory clause in the constitu- contracts. tion, which has given rise to more various and able discussion, or more protracted litigation, than that which denies to any state the right to pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts. I shall endeavour to give a full and accurate view of the judicial decisions defining and enforcing this prohibition.

The case of Fletcher v. Peck,a first brought this prohibitory clause into direct discussion. The legislature of Georgia, by an act of 7th of January, 1795, authorized the sale of a large tract of wild land, and a grant was made by letters patent in pursuance of the act, to a number of individuals, under the name of the Georgia Company. Fletcher held a deed from Peck for a part of this land, under a title derived from the patent ; and in the deed Peck had covenanted, that the state of Georgia was lawfully seized when the act was passed, and had good right to sell, and that the letters patent were lawfully issued, and the title has not since been legally impaired. The action was for breach of covenant; and the breach assigned was, that the letters patent were void, for, that the legislature of Georgia by act of 13th February, 1796, declared the preceding act to be null and void, as being founded in fraud and corruption. One of the questions presented to the Supreme Court upon the case was, whether the legislature of Georgia could constitutionally repeal the act of 1795, and rescind the sale made under it.

a o Cranch, 87.

« AnteriorContinuar »