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fill extension of our institutions, the reasonable presumption is that the limitations on the exertion of arbitrary power would have been made more rigorous.
After all, these arguments are merely political, and "political reasons have not the requisite certainty to afford rules of judicial interpretation."
Congress has power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution all the powers vested by the Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof. If the end be legitimate and within the scope of the Constitution, then, to accomplish it, Congress may use "all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consist with the letter and spirit of the Constitution."
The grave duty of determining whether an act of Congress does or does not comply with these requirements is only to be discharged by applying the well settled rules which govern the interpretation of fundamental law, unaffected by the theoretical opinions of individuals.
Tested by those rules our conviction is that the imposition of these duties cannot be sustained.
No. 507.—October Term, 1900.
Samuel B. Downes, doing business under ~|
George R. Bidwell.
In error to the Circuit Court
[May 27th 1901.]
I concur in the dissenting opinion of the Chief Justice. The grounds upon which he and Mr. Justice Brewer and Mr. Justice Peckham regard the Foraker act as unconstitutional in the particulars involved in this action meet my entire approval. Those grounds need not be restated, nor is it necessary to re-examine the authorities cited by the Chief Justice. I agree in holding that Porto Rico—at least after the ratification of the treaty with Spain—became a part of the United States within the meaning of the section of the Constitution enumerating the powers of Congress and providing that "all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States."
In view, however, of the importance of the questions in this case, and of the consequences that will follow any conclusion reached by the court, I deem it appropriate—without rediscussing the principal questions presented—to add some observations suggested by certain passages in opinions just delivered in support of the judgment.
In one of those opinions it is said that "the Constitution was created by the people of the United States, as a union of States, to be governed solely by representatives of the States;" also, that "we find the Constitution speaking only to States, except in the territorial clause, which is absolute in its terms, and suggestive of no limitations upon the power of Congress in dealing with them." I am not sure that I correctly interpret these words. But if it is meant, as I assume it is meant, that, with the exception named, the Constitution was ordained by the States, and is addressed to and operates only on the States, I cannot accept that view.
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In Martin v. Hunter, 1 Wheat. 304, 324, 326, 331, this court, speaking by Mr. Justice Story, said that "the Constitution of the United States was ordained and established, not by the States in their sovereign capacities, but emphatically, as the preamble of the Constitution declares, by the People of the United States."
In McCulloch v. State of Maryland, 4 Wheat, 316, 403-406, Chief Justice Marshall, speaking for this court, said: "The Government proceeds directly from the people; is 'ordained and established' in the name of the people; and is declared to be ordained, 'in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity.' The assent of the States, in their sovereign capacity, is implied in calling a Convention, and thus submitting that instrument to the people. But the people were at perfect liberty to accept or reject it; and their act was final. It required not the affirmance, and could not be negatived, by the State governments. The Constitution, when thus adopted, was of complete obligation, and bound the State sovereignties. . . The Government of the Union, then, (whatever may be the influence of this fact on the case,) is, emphatically, and truly, a government of the people. In form and substance it emanates from them. Its powers are granted by them, and are to be exercised directly on them and for their benefit. This Government is acknowledged by all to be one of enumerated powers. . . It is the Government of all; its powers are delegated by all; it represents all, and acts for all."
Although the States are constituent parts of the United States, the Government rests upon the authority of the people of the United States, and not on that of the States. Chief Justice Marshall, delivering the unanimous judgment of this court in Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheat, 264, 413, said: "That the United States form for many, and for most important purposes, a single nation, has not yet been denied. In war, we are one people. In making peace, we are one people. In many other respects, the American people are one; and the government which is alone capable of controlling and managing their interests is the Government of the Union. It is their Government, and in that character they have no other. America has chosen to be, in many respects and to many purposes, a nation; and for all these purposes her Government is complete; to all these objects it is competent. The people have declared that in the exercise of all powers given for those objects, it is supreme. It can, then, in effecting these objects, legitimately control all individuals or governments within the American territory."
In reference to the doctrine that the Constitution was established by and for the States as distinct political organizations, Mr. Webster said: "The Constitution itself in its very front refutes that. It declares that it is ordained and established by the People of the United States. So far from saying that it is established by the governments of the several States, it does not even say that it is established by the people of the several States. But it pronounces that it was established by the people of the United States in the aggregate. Doubtless, the people of the several States, taken collectively, constitute the people of the United States. But it is in this their collective capacity, it is as all the people of the United States, that they established the Constitution."
In view of the adjudications of this court, I cannot assent to the proposition, whether it be announced in express words or by implication, that the National Government is a government of or by the States in union, and that the prohibitions and limitations of the Constitution are addressed only to the States. That is but another form of saying that like the government created by the Articles of Confederation, the present government is a mere league of States, held together by compact between themselves; whereas, as this court has often declared, it is a government created by the People of the United > States, with enumerated powers, and supreme over States and individuals, with respect to certain objects, throughout the entire territory over which its jurisdiction extends. If the National Government is, in any sense, a compact, it is a compact between the People of the United States among themselves as constituting in the aggregate the political community by whom the National Government was established. The Constitution speaks not simply to the States in their organized capacities, but to all peoples, whether of States or territories, who are subject to the authority of the United States. Martin v. Hunter, 1 Wheat. 327.
In the opinion to which I am referring it is also said that the "practical interpretation put by Congress upon the Constitution has been long continued and uniform to the effect that the Constitution is applicable to territories acquired by purchase or conquest only when and so far as Congress shall so direct;" that while all power of government may be abused, the same may be said of the power of the Government "under the Constitution as well as outside of it;" that "if it once be conceded that we are at liberty to acquire foreign territory, a presumption arises that our power with respect to such territories is the same power which other nations have been accustomed to exercise with respect to territories acquired by them;" that "the liberality of Congress in legislating the Constitution into all our contiguous territories has undoubtedly fostered the impression that it went there by its own force, but there is nothing in the Constitution itself, and little in the interpretation put upon it, to confirm that impression;" that as the States could only delegate to Congress such powers as they themselves possessed, and as they had no power to acquire new territory, and therefore none to delegate in that connection, the logical inference is that "if Congress had power to acquire new territory, which is conceded, that power was not hampered by the constitutional provisions;" that if "we assume that the territorial clause of the Constitution was not intended to be restricted to such territory as the United States then possessed, there is nothing in the Constitution to indicate that the power of Congress in dealing with them was intended to be restricted by any of the other provisions;" and that "the executive and legislative departments of the Government have for more than a century interpreted this silence as precluding the idea that the Constitution attached to these territories as soon as acquired."
These are words of weighty import. They involve consequences of the most momentous character. I take leave to say that if the principles thus announced should ever receive the sanction of a majority of this court, a radical and mischievous change in our system of government will be the result. We will, in that event, pass from the era of constitutional liberty guarded and protected by a written constitution into an era of legislative absolutism.
Although from the foundation of the Government this court has held steadily to the view that the Government of the United States was one of enumerated powers, and that no one of its branches, nor all of its branches combined, could constitutionally exercise powers not granted, or which were not necessarily implied from those expressly granted, Martinv. Hunter, 1 Wheat. 326, 331, we are now informed that Congress possesses powers outside of the Constitution, and may deal with new territory, acquired by treaty or conquest, in the same manner as other nations have been accustomed to act with respect to territories acquired by them. In my opinion, Congress has no existence and can exercise no authority outside of the Constitution. Still less is it true that Congress can deal with new territories just as other nations have done or may do with their new territories. This nation is under the control of a written constitution, the supreme law of the land and the only source of the powers which our Government, or any branch or officer of it, may exert at any time or at any place. Monarchical and despotic governments, unrestrained by written constitutions, may do with newly acquired territories what this Government may not do consistently with our fundamental law. To say otherwise is to concede that Congress may, by action taken outside of the Constitution, engraft upon our republican institutions a colonial system such as exists under monarchical governments. Surely such a result was never contemplated by the fathers of the Constitution. If that instrument had contained a word suggesting the possibility of a result of that character it would never have been adopted by the People of the United States. The idea that this country may acquire territories anywhere upon the earth, by conquest or treaty, and hold them as mere colonies or provinces—the people inhabiting them to enjoy only such rights as Congress choses to accord to them—is wholly inconsist