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writers, to indict them as a nuisance, to send them to some Bastile-even though that Bastile should strangely bear the name of Lafayette—all know that every man would have come forward, not to support the opinions of the hour, or the policy of the Government, or the success of the war, but to the rescue of those great principles---free thought and speech—which we hold as rights, too solemn, to be played with by the humours of the hour. If the leaders of that party were now in the United States, and beheld the fate of those pursuing there a similar course, they would return from the study of these institutions on the spot, as travellers of all countries have ever returned-sadder and wiser men.
In a recent publication in support of the Union, Mr. W. H. Channing writes thus: “ But this conscience had been deadened, by the intoxicating influence of worldly prosperity, and boastful pride, with which the sudden expansion of the cotton and sugar interests, had drugged the commercial classes. The slave oligarchy of the South, and the capitalist of the North, the great planters and the great manufacturers, divided as they were on some points of policy, yet brought a concerted power to bear upon public opinion, until the mean law of mercenariness took full possession of political parties. The moral degradation that ensued was awful. * * * The United States were thus presenting to Christendom the spectacle of a nation nobly born, purely bred, rarely privileged, even yet, in
its youth, sinking into decrepitude, and wasting away through political profligacy.”
Here is a startling description of the moral effects of the Union, of the combination of North and South, working out sudden material prosperity, and such moral effects as these, on all the higher attributes of the nation. Let full allowance be made for the warmth of language, and the excitement of feeling, apparent in the terms, let them be reduced to the narrowest facts—still, we cannot believe that men of the highest integrity, bearing a most honoured name, would draw such descriptions, without truth, without reasonable and sufficient foundation for them. Such a condition of affairs, is so difficult to realize in this country, that it becomes necessary to weigh the facts that justify such a picture.
One of the objects of the Union, as stated in the preamble of the Constitution, was to “promote justice.” How it has promoted it, as between the North and South, we shall subsequently examine. At present, let us see its effect on the administration of justice throughout the whole country. This, indeed, is one of the truest tests of any form of government, and probably nothing affects so directly the health of political society, as purity in the administration of justice. It is indeed in the execution of laws, that their excellence practically depends, for they are seldom inherently bad, they never inculcate vice, they become bad from corrupt or ineffective execution; and several of the most
ingenious and well-intended constitutions, are those that have most completely failed.
It was desired by the founders of the Republic, that the judges should occupy a position of dignity and independence. The control of the Federal Government, extends, however, only to the Supreme Court and its branches, the position of which has been maintained to this day, under the terms of the Constitution. The judges of that Court are selected by the President, with the approval of the Senate, virtually for life; their salaries cannot be diminished during tenure of office, and from their decisions there is no appeal. Thus every precaution was taken by the framers of the Constitution, to insure the independence and dignity worthy of so high an office. Placed beyond the reach of party influence, or the control of the populace, the Supreme Court has commanded to this day the respect of the whole people. It might be more correct to say, it had commanded this respect up to a recent date, for Mr. Lincoln has set the example of questioning the force of its decisions, when adverse, and of treating with contempt its writ of Habeas Corpus—the most cherished of all the safeguards of the Anglo-Saxon race ; and this, too, when issued by the Chief Justice, in a State within the Union. And this Court, so eminent up to this period, has not only commanded the respect of the people, but has been presided over by men, whose names are known and honoured, wherever jurisprudence has been studied. With this example before them, and the spirit of the Constitution as a guide, it might have been expected that the various States would follow in the same steps, and secure the same advantages. But the democratic, which has supplanted the republican spirit, and which aims at reducing all things to its own level, appears to have regarded even the judges, as objects of jealousy and distrust. Throughout the States there has been, since the presidency of Jefferson, a constant desire to lower the dignity of justice,-to shackle it—to cheapen it-to shorten the tenure of the office to bring it within the control of political committees, and render it a spoil of party triumph. In succession, the States have abandoned their old rule, of electing the judges through their governments, and have brought them under the direct sway of popular election. Some of the States have reduced their salaries below the usual income of the attorney, and placed these salaries at the hazard of an annual vote. As if election, in the first instance, by committees, had not given sufficient control, these elections are now for short periods, to render dependence more complete. Had it been the object, to reject the teaching of the Constitution, and to tarnish the dignity of justice, no more effectual means could have been taken.
The result may be readily anticipated. Men of eminence are not likely to relinquish their position at the Bar, in order to bring themselves under
such servitude, and to accept an inadequate salary, precarious in its tenure. Men of learning, of reserved habits and independence of mind-those whom other people desire should occupy the seat of justice--are ill suited, and little inclined, to frequent the lobbies of electioneering committee rooms. It follows, that the highest offices in the law are filled, in the Courts of the States, by an inferior class of men. And when the judges are treated with so little regard, it is not to be expected that there will exist any very great reverence for justice.
There is indeed a remarkable irreverence for justice, which seems to pervade all classes of society. On common occasions law and order are maintained as in other countries; but there exists a general belief throughout the popular mind, that whenever so disposed the people may discard the law with impunity. This belief creates a disrespect for courts of justice and for the sanctity of law, to which there seems no exception. Where should we expect greater decorum than in the Senate, amidst the “ patres conscripti” of the Republic ? Yet there, but three years ago, a member of the House of Representatives assaulted a senator when seated at his official desk, taking him unawares, and so assailing him as to endanger life. This occurred in broad daylight, in the open session, and but one of the senators attempted to interfere, to break the deferential respect for vigorous atrocity. In all countries outrages occur, and in