Inferences, Analogies, and Sophisms

Time and changes in the condition and constitution of society may require occasional and corresponding modifications. One single object, if your provision attains it, will entitle you to the endless gratitude of society, that of restraining judges from usurping legislation. And with no body of men is this restraint more wanting than with the judges of what is commonly called our general government, but what I call our foreign department. They are practicing on the constitution by inferences, analogies, and sophisms, as they would an ordinary law. They do not seem aware that it is not even a constitution, formed by a single authority, and subject to a single superintendence and control, but that it is a compact of many independent powers, every single one of which claims an equal right to understand it, and to require its observance. However strong the cord of compact may be, there is a point of tension at which it will break. A few such doctrinal decisions, as barefaced as that of the Cohens, happening to bear immediately on two or three of the large States, may induce them to join in arresting the march of government, and in arousing the co-States to pay some attention to what is passing, to bring back the compact to its original principles, or to modify it legitimately by the expressed consent of the parties themselves, and not by the usurpation of their created agents. They imagine they can lead us into a consolidate government, while their road leads directly to its dissolution. This member of the government was at first considered as the most harmless and helpless of all its organs. But it has proved that the power of declaring what the law is, ad libitum, by sapping and mining, slyly and without alarm, the foundations of the constitution, can do what open force would not dare to attempt.

Thos. Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 25 March 1825.

Author: Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

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