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Prohibitions on the United States.
$ 153. We next come to the consideration of the prohibitions, and limitations upon the powers of Congress, which are contained in the ninth section of the first article, passing by such, as have been already discussed.
§ 154. The first clause is — The migration or importa'tion of such persons, as any of the States now existing 'shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress, prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and • eight. But a tax or duty may be imposed upon such impor•tation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.'
§ 155. This clause, as is manifest from its language, is designed solely to reserve to the Southern States, for a limited period, the right to import slaves. It is to the honor of America, that she should have set the first example of interdicting and abolishing the slave trade in modern times. It is well known, that it constituted a grievance, of which some of the Colonies complained before the Revolution, that the introduction of slaves was encouraged by the parent country, and prohibitory laws, passed by the Colonies, were negatived by the Crown. It was, doubtless, desirable, that the importation of slaves should have been at once interdicted throughout the Union. But it was indispensable to yield something to the prejudices, wishes, and supposed interests of the South. And it ought to be considered as a great point gained, in favor of humanity, that a period of twenty years should terminate in America, (as it in fact has terminated) a traffic, which has so long and so loudly upbraided the morals, and justice of modern nations.
5 156. The next clause is - The privilege of the writ of 'habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when, in cases
• of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.' In order to understand the exact meaning of the terms here used, recourse must be had to the common law. The writ of habeas corpus, here spoken of, is a writ known to that law, and used in all cases of confinement, or imprisonment of any party, in order to ascertain, whether it is lawful or not. The writ commands the person, who detains the party, to produce his body, with the day and cause of his detention, before the Court or Judge, who issues the writ, to do, submit to, and receive, whatever the Court or Judge shall direct at the hearing. It is hence called the writ of habeas corpus ad subjiciendum; and if the cause of detention is found to be insufficient, or illegal, the party is immediately set at liberty. It is justly, therefore, esteemed the great bulwark of personal liberty, and grantable, as a matter of right, to the party imprisoned. But as it had often, for frivolous reasons of State, been suspended or denied in the parent country to the grievous oppression of the subject, it is made a matter of constitutional right in all cases, except when the public safety may, in cases of rebellion or invasion, require it. The exception is reasonable, since cases of great urgency may arise, in which the suspension may be indispensable for the preservation of the liberties of the country against traitors. and rebels.
157. The next clause is — 'No bill of attainder, or ex 'post facto law, shall be passed.' A bill of attainder, in its technical sense, is an act of the Legislature, convicting a person of some crime, for which it inflicts upon him, without any trial, the punishment of death. If it inflicts a milder punishment, it is usually called a bill of pains and penalties. Such acts are in the highest degree objectionable, and tyrannical, since they deprive the party of any regular trial by jury, and deprive him of his life, liberty, and property, without any legal proof of his guilt. In a republican Government such a proceeding is utterly inconsistent with first principles.
It would be despotism in its worst form, by arming a popular Legislature with the power to destroy at its will its most valuable citizens.
§ 158. To the same class belong ex post facto laws, that is, (in a literal interpretation of the phrase,) laws made after the act is done. In a general sense, all retrospective laws are ex post facto; but the phrase is here used to designate laws to punish, as public offences, acts, which at the time, when they were done, were lawful, or not public crimes, or if crimes, not liable to so severe a punishment. It requires no reasoning to establish the wisdom of a probibition, which puts a fixed restraint upon such harsh legislation.
$ 159. The next clause (not already commented on) is • No money shall 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 shall be published from time to time.' The object of this clause is, to secure regularity, punctuality, fidelity, and responsibility, in the keeping and disbursement of the public money. No money can be drawn from the treasury by any officer, unless under appropriations made by some act of Congress. And a due account of all receipts and expenditures is to be published, that the people may have the means of knowing the nature, extent, and authority of every expenditure.
§ 160. The next clause is — No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States; and no person, holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the con'sent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument,
office, or title of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.' A perfect equality of rights, privileges and rank, being contemplated by the Constitution among all citizens, there is a manifest propriety in prohibiting Congress from creating any titles of nobility. The other prohibition, as to presents, emoluments, offices, and titles from foreign
Governments has, besides the same general object, an important policy, founded on the just jealousy of foreign corruption and undue influence of national officers. It seeks to destroy, in their origin, all the blandishments from foreign favors, and foreign titles, and all the temptations to a departure from official duty from foreign rewards and emoluments. No officer of the United States can without guilt wear honors borrowed from foreign sovereigns, or touch for personal profit foreign treasure.
Prohibitions on the States.
$ 161. Such are the prohibitions upon the Government of the United States. And we next proceed to the prohibitions upon the States, which are not less important in themselves, or less necessary to the security of the Union. They are contained in the tenth section of the first article. $ 162.
The first clause is — No State shall enter into 'any treaty, alliance, or confederation ; grant letters of marque 'or reprisal ; coin money ; emit bills of credit; make any
thing but gold or silver coin a tender in payment of debts ; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impair*ing the obligation of contracts; or grant any title of no• bility.'
The prohibition against a State's entering into any treaty, alliance, or confederation, is indispensable to the preservation of the rights and powers of the National Government. A State might otherwise enter into engagements with foreign Governments, utterly subversive of the policy of the national Government, or injurious to the rights and interests of the other States. One State might enter into a
treaty or alliance with France, and another with England, and another with Spain, and another with Russia ; each in its general objects inconsistent with the other; and, thus, the seeds of discord be spread over the whole Union.
$164. The prohibition to 'grant letters of marque and ' reprisal' stands on the same ground. This power would hazard the peace of the Union upon the passions, resentments, or policy of a single State.
$ 165. The prohibition 'to coin money' is necessary to our domestic interests. The existence of the power in the States would defeat the salutary objects intended by the like power confided to the National Government. It would have a tendency to introduce a base and variable currency, perpetually liable to frauds, and embarrassing to the commercial intercourse of the States.
$ 166. The prohibition to 'emit bills of credit.' Bills of credit are a well known denomination of paper money, issued by the Colonies before the Revolution, and afterwards by the States in a most profuse degree. These bills of credit had no adequate funds appropriated to redeem them; and though on their face they were often declared payable in gold and silver, they were in fact never so paid. The consequence was, that they became the common currency of the country, in a constantly depreciating state, ruinous to the commerce and credit, and disgraceful to the good faith of the country. The evils of the system were of a most aggravated nature, and could not be cured, except by an entire prohibition of any future issues of paper money. And, indeed, the prohibition to coin money would be utterly nugatory, if the States might still issue a paper currency for the same purpose.
$ 167. Connected with this, is the prohibition to make 'any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts. The history of the State laws on this subject, during our colonial existence, as well as since that period, is startling at once to our morals, to our patriotism, and to our