Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

the judicial interpretation of this clause of the Constitution being that the President has not the power to suspend the privilege of the writ, and that it can only be done by Congress. The power of the President is limited to executing the laws; he has no power to suspend them. The latter, so far as it exists, is a legislative function, and by the Constitution belongs to Congress. We may add, that a suspension of the privilege of the writ, does not suspend the writ itself; the writ issues as a matter of course: on its return the court decides whether the applicant is entitled to proceed further

Attainder.

206. No bill of attainder or ea post facto law shall be passed.

207. The English Parliament possess the power of inflicting death upon a person, and confiscating his property by a special act, without allowing him an opportunity to defend himself before a judicial tribunal. Such special act is called a bill of attainder. In passing it Parliament may disregard the rules of evidence and the principles of justice, and condemn a man to death from mere political rancor, hatred, or suspicion. In favorable times such a power is not likely to be exercised; in bad times it is sure to be abused. Congress are, therefore, prohibited from passing a bill of attainder.

Ec Post Facto Laws.

208. By an ex post facto law is meant a law that makes an act done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when done, criminal; or which aggravates a crime, and makes it greater than when it was committed; or which changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment than the law annexed to the crime when committed; or which alters the legal rules of evidence, and receives less or different testimony than the law required at the time of the commission of the offence, in order to convict the offender; or subjects an individual to a pecuniary penalty for an act which, when done, involved no responsibility, or if it deprives him of any valuable right—such as the right to follow a lawful calling— for acts not punishable when committed, or not punishable in that mode, the law will be ea post facto and void.

209. Ec post facto laws relate to penal and criminal proceedings, which impose penalties or forfeitures, and not to civil proceedings, which affect private rights retrospectively. And a law that mitigates the character or punishment of a crime already committed,

does not fall within the prohibition of the Constitution, such law being in favor of the citizen, and molli

fying, in his behalf, the rigor of the criminal law.

i

[ocr errors]

Capitation Taa. 210. We have elsewhere seen that no capitation or other direct tax can be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration which the Constitution directs to be taken (sec. 135 et seq.), and it is unnecessary, therefore, to recur to the subject again.

Tazes on Exports prohibited.

211. No tax or duty can be laid on articles exported from any state, and this for the obvious reason that such a tax would bear unequally. If a tax, for instance, could be laid on all tobacco exported, then the states producing and exporting tobacco would bear exclusively a portion of the public burthen which ought to be divided among all the states. By imposing a heavy tax upon any single article of export, the states not exporting such article might remain exempt from contributing their just share of the public taxes. Indeed, if Congress were not altogether prohibited from laying taxes on exports, they might derive the whole revenue of the government from the exports of particular states. Hence the propriety of the prohibition.

No Preference to be given to the Ports of one State over those of another.

212. No preference can be given, by any regulation of commerce or revenue, to the ports of one state over those of another; nor can vessels bound to or from one state, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties in another.

213. The object of this clause is to prevent advantages being granted to one state at the expense of others; and also to prevent that system of commercial regulation by which, before the Revolution, vessels sailing from the colonies for Europe were compelled to proceed first to Great Britain, and sail from some British port. The power thus to interrupt voyages for the benefit of particular states is properly denied to Congress.

Appropriations. 214. No money can be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money must be published from time to time. 215. Two checks are here provided against an

improper use of the public money. In the first place, before money can be drawn from the Treasury by the President or any officer of the government, a specific appropriation must be made by Congress. In the second place, a statement of the receipts and expenditures of all public money must be published from time to time, and Congress are thus made responsible to the people for any extravagance in the public expenditures. Not even the creditors of the government can be paid out of the Treasury, without Congress first making an appropriation for that purpose. Their only remedy is an application to Congress, as they can neither sue the United States nor have a lien on the public property which may happen to be in their possession. But now, by the act of Feb. 24, 1855, claims against the United States, and counter claims, are determined by a court of claims, from whose decision, in certain cases, an appeal lies to the Supreme Court.

Titles of Nobility, doc.

216. No title of nobility can be granted by the United States; and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them can, without the consent of Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.

217. Titles of nobility are incompatible with that

s

« AnteriorContinuar »