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Impeachment of Judge Peck.--Post Ofice Department.

(Dec. 13, 14, 15, 1830.

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late a Senator of this body from the State of Mississippi, peachment, on the part of the House of Representatives,
will go into mourning for one month, by wearing crape on also came in, and took their seats.
the left arm.

Mr. BUCHANAN, one of the managers, rose and saisi,
Mr. KANE, of Illinois, said, that a paper which he had that the managers, on the part of the House of Represen-
presented on the first day of the session, announced to the tatives, were ready to present the replication of that
Senate the decease of his late colleague, Joux McLEAN, House, to the answer and plea of James H. Peck, judge
of Illinois. He died, after a short illness, at his residence, of the District Court of the United States for the district
on the 14th day of October last. Though not a native of of Missouri, to the articles of impeachment exhibited
the State which he represented, he might well be claimed against him by that body. He then read the replication,
as one of the favorite sons of Illinois. He had removed as follows:
there at an early age. There he commenced his career “ The House of Representatives of the United States,
in life; a career of usefulness and distinction, which had having considered the answer and plea of James H. Peck,
fallen to the lot of few in that region of country. In pri- judge of the District Court of the United States for the
vate life, he was remarkable for his benevolence, frank- district of Missouri, to the article of impeachment against
ness, and independence of character. No one in the cir- him, by them exbibited, in the name of themselves, and
cle in which he moved had a larger share of the confidence of all the People of the United States, reply, that the said
and affections of his fellow men. He was by profession a James H. Peck is guilty, in such manner as he stands im-
lawyer, possessed of a vigorous mind, a rapid but easy elo- peached; and that the House of Representatives will be
cution. These qualifications, added to an honesty of pur- ready to prove their charges against him, at such con-
pose, universally accorded to him, raised him to the front venient time and place as shall be appointed for that
rank of his profession; and there sustained him.

As a purpose.” statesman, the people of Illinois would long remember The Court, after some preliminary business, adjourned him as the author of many of the most valued portions of to Monday next, and the Senate till tomorrow. their statute books, and as the acute and able presiding {The notices of this trial, which will be found in the officer over the deliberations of the most numerous branch following pages, embrace only such reports as were given of their Legislature. Mr. McLean bad been twice elected from day to day, through the columns of the National to a seat in the Senate of the United States, and his last Intelligencer, for the public information, and to convey a election was the result of the unanimous vote of the mem- general idea of the merits of the case, and the course and bers of both branches of the General Assembly. In the character of the trial. They are mere sketches, and are to state of things which then existed, no stronger evidence be received as such only. A full report of the trial--the of the general esteem in which he was held by those who testimony and the arguments of the managers and counsel knew him best could well be given. In order to pay a pro- --making a large volume, has been published separately.) per respect to the memory of such a man, Mr. Kane moved the adoption of the following resolution; which was unani

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 14. mously agreed to:

This day was principally consumed in receiving and Resolved, unanimously, That the members of the Senate, referring petitions, and in the consideration of Executive for the purpose of showing a proper respect to the me. business. mory of the Honorable John McLean, deceased, late a The Senate elected the Rev. HENRY VAN DYKE Johns Senator from the State of Illinois, will go into mourning to be their Chaplain for the current session. for one month, by wearing crape on the left arm, On motion of Mr. ELLIS, ot' Mississippi, it was also

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 15. Resolved, unanimously, That, as an additional evidence of respect to the memory of the deceased Senators from

POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT. Mississippi and Illinois, the Senate do now adjourn, to The Senate took up for consideration the following resc. meet on Monday next, at eleven o'clock.

lution, which was yesterday submitted by Mr. CLAYTON:

Resolved, That a committee be appointed to examine Monday, Dec. 13.

and report the present condition of the Post Office De.

partment; in what manner the laws regulating that deIMPEACHMENT OF JUDGE PECK.

partment are administered; the distribution of labor; the A message was received from the House of Represen-number of clerks, and the duties assigned to each; the tatives, announcing the adoption by that House of a repli- number of agents; where and how employed; the comcation to the answer and plea of Judge Peck to the article pensation of contractors; and, generally, the entire manof impeachment exhibited against him by them.

nagement of the department; and whether further, and At twelve o'clock, the Court of Impeachment for the what, legal provisions may be necessary to secure the protrial of Judge Peck, of Missouri, was opened in due form per administration of its affairs." by proclamation from the Marshal of the District of Co. Mr. WHITE had no objection to the proposed inquiry; lumbia. The Senators were ranged on two sets of but he felt generally indisposed to the raising of special benches, covered with green cloth, to the right and left committees, where the subject matter of a resolution be. of the Chair occupied by the President of the Senate. longed properly to a standing committee. He, therefore,

On motion of Mr. WOODBURY, the Secretary was order-boped that the honorable mover of this resolution would ed to inform the House of Representatives, that the Se- so modify it as to refer it to the Committee on the Post nate had organized itself into a Court of Impeachment for Office and Post Roads, unless he could assign some reathe trial of James H. Peck, judge of the District Court of son for sending it to a special committee. the United States for the district of Missouri, and were Mr. CLAYTON expressed the opinion that this inquiry ready to proceed to the trial; and that seats had been pre- was not necessarily the business of the Post Office Com. pared for the reception and accommodation of the mem- mittee. That committee had arduous and important dubers of the House of Representatives.

ties to perform. The session would be short, and they Shortly after the order was passed the respondent, would probably not have time to attend to any other mat. accompanied by Mr. Wirt and Mr. MEREDITII, his coun- ters than those which ordinarily belonged to them. He sel, appeared at the bar of the Senate. They were con- thought that the importance of the subject now proposed ducted to seats, with a table before them, prepared for required its reference to a special committee.

He did their convenience.

not, therefore, feel inclined to accede to the suggestion of In a few minutes, the managers, to conduct the im-! the Senator from Tennessee.

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Mr. WHITE said he would then move that the resolu- known, that in that and other departments of the Gotion be so modified as to refer it to the Committee on the vernment, they who were the most in the habit of dancing Post Office and Post Roads. There was nothing in it attendance, were the most successful in their applications. which was not proper for reference to the regular com- Rash as this declaration might be considered in him, he mittee. If the whole affairs of the department were to had said it, and he should not retract. Let these departbe examined and considered, the investigation would im- ments be brought to the bar of justice, and tested by part to that committee a fund of information, which would their conduct. If he were one of the majority, he would prove useful to them hereafter.

not withhold an inquiry into the conduct of any officer, Mr. HOLMES hoped that the resolution would not be even from Andrew Jackson down to the humblest menial. so amended. A great deal of labor would have to be He meant in this remark no allusion to the high minded performed by this committee. It would be their duty to and honorable public officers who differed from him in examine the department well; to see how the business in politics. He respected them as much as any gentleman. it was done, and to present the result to the Senate, that A star from the West would shortly appear here. He they might act upon it as circumstances might require, hailed its approach. Mr. Noble then inquired of the Seand the information obtained might go forth to the public cretary, who was the chairman of the Committee on the for their consideration. It had been understood that a Post Office and Post Roads? And, upon being informed new bureau for removals and appointments had been es- by the chair that it was Mr. Grundy, he inquired whether tablished in the Post Office Department; a bureau, which, Mr. BIBB, of Kentucky, was not also a member of that for brevity, might be called the bureau of proscription. committee? [The Chain said not.] Mr. Noble said that It has had a good deal to do: it had done a good deal: its he meant no disrespect by the question. Mr. BIBB was business must be nearly at an end. All had probably the chairman at the last session, and he had thought that been touched by it, whom it could well lay its hands on. he was a member at present. He declared that a rigid It services might now, perhaps, be dispensed with. He committee was required on the present occasion. The also hoped that the time would soon come when the de- sooner the Augean stable was cleansed the better. It partment could pay all the expenditures with the receipts would be better to have a special committee for the purof the year. It appeared that upwards of eighty thousand pose. He referred, as a precedent in point, to a similar dollars had been taken out of the surplus fund to defray investigation into the General Post Office affairs some the expenses. He admitted that this fund had been also years ago, by a special committee, of which that distinheretofore diminished: but he trusted that it might not be guished reformer, the present Secretary of the Treasury, hereafter necessary to apply to it. He was in favor of had been the chairman. He also alluded to that other referring this examination to a special committee, whose chief of reformers, whose late message had shut up the particular attention should be directed to that object. great outlet of the West.

Mr. GRUNDY said that, a a member of the Post Of. Mr. BELL said, that many complaints had been made fice Committee, he ought, perhaps, to be sparing in his concerning the Post Office Department. They had lately remarks on the question before the Senate. Gentlemen been more general than at any other time. He did not were, however, mistaken as to the burthen of business say that they were well founded, but they deserved the which that coinmittee had to perform. They had nothing attention of the Senate. It had been the general practice to do, except what might be specifically imposed upon to refer particular investigations into the manner in which them by the Senate. He was indifferent about the dispo-executive duties of the Government had been performed, sition which might be made of this resolution, but the duty to special committees. He did not know why this pracof the Post Office committee was connected with the bu- tice should be departed from on this occasion. It was siness of that department. It was a duty especially as- proper that this inquiry should go to gentlemen disposed signed to them. They were to ascertain what laws were to make the most thorough investigation. If gentlemen defective, and in what manner they should be amended. were convinced that the complaints were unfounded, they He did not object to the proposed scrutiny; and if it were ought to permit those to make the investigation who were committed to other members, he should cheerfully acqui. impressed with the opinion that an investigation was ne.

He was no fonder of labor than other gentlemen. cessary, because a report from such a committee in favor If the examination were assigned to the Post Office Com- of the Department would be satisfactory to every body. mittee, he, for one, would be willing to engage in it. It was due, therefore, to those who desired the inquiry,

Mr. HOLMES observed that the practice of referring as well as to the Postmaster-General himself, that it should duties of this kind to special committees was not novel. go to a special committee. These reasons induced him It was not unusual in the other House. When there, he to vote against the motion to amend. had been a member of a committee of investigation. The Mr. KING said, that gentlemen seemed to treat this House had given them the power to send for persons and subject as if any member of the Senate were opposed to papers. Some of the heads of Departments had been the inquiry. brought before them. The committee had made a tho. Mr. BELL explained. He assured the gentleman from rough examination, and had discovered some abuses which Alabama that it had not been his intention to make any required correction. A new administration was now in such suggestion, power, and it might be well for the Senate to take a peep Mr. KING considered that the Post Office committee behind the Executive curtain. In the Post Office De- was composed of as honest and as honorable men as any partment great changes have been made; mistakes, errors, other members of the Senate. As to their having too abuses, might have crept in. It was, therefore, proper, much to do, it was notorious that they had little or nothing in order that the subject might undergo a full and tho-to do, until after the Post Office Committee of the House rough examination, that it should be referred to a special of Representatives had made their report. Unless some committee.

effect different from a fair exposition were intended or ex. Hir. NOBLE said that he did not mean to be tedious, pected from this inquiry, he could imagine no reason for but he should tell the truth.

Great complaints had been taking it out of the hands of the standing committee to made against this department. There was Obadiah B. which it properly belonged. Was it proposed to refer Brown-he did not wish to be rough-and there were the the subject to a special committee in order to impress a relations of Richard M. Johnson, of Kentucky, who had belief in the existence of extraordinary complaints and large contracts with that department for carrying the of abuses? He was no apologist for any department. If mail. Worthy anul honorable citizens felt aggrieved at any head of a department had done wrong, let him be the favoritism shown by this department. It was well | brought before a committee; let him be censured, or even



Post Office Department.

[Dec. 16, 1830.


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punished, if punishment was proper. He did not believe was created, did it enter the mind of the President or of that the individual now at the head of the Post Office the Senate that the duties enjoined by this resolution would shrink from any investigation, if it were intimated were to be committed to them. These duties were not to him that it was desired. He had administered that de- of the nature of those which belonged to a standing partment with integrity, skill, and ability: His predeces- committee. It results from the character and object of sor did the

Mr. King hoped the inquiry would be standing committees, that a vast variety of items were referred to the Committee on the Post Office and Post referred to them in the ordinary transaction of the busiRoads.

ness of the Senate. These were, generally, as much Mr. CLAYTON expressed a hope, that gentlemen as they could attend to. He believed that, if a standwould not suppose that he wished to take this inquiry from ing committee had even taken up any subject like that the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roads, because contemplated by the resolution, a knowledge of it had of any want of confidence in them. He had no such idea. never passed beyond the walls of the room in which they Because he had confidence in that committee, did it follow had deliberated. Duties specifically belonging to a that this special and laborious investigation should be re. standing committee should go to it, as a matter of course; ferred to them! The same argument would apply with but the proposed inquiry was one which was peculiarly equal force against the reference of any other proposition appropriate to a special committee. le did not mean to a special committee. Were not other standing com- to compliment; all the members on this floor stood on mittees composed also of honorable men? The objection, if it were sound, would apply on all occasions. He had an equal footing. His objection was not to the integrity as great confidence as any gentleman in the judgment and lected with a view to this investigation. This was a

of the Post Office committec; but they had not been seability of the Post Office Committee. Yet, on this occasion, he preferred a committee selected by the Senate question of selection; and he should vote for the resoluiitself for this special purpose. In regard to that committee tion as offered by his honorable friend from Delaware. having nothing to do, it was an erroneous idea. Peti

The question on the motion to amend, so as to refer tions and memorials were presented every day, over and the resolution to the Committee on the Post Office and over again, and referred to that committee. They would Post Roads, was taken by yeas and nays, and the vote have to examine and prepare reports on all these. The was 18 Yeas, and 20 Nays, as follows: duty of the proposed special committee would be arduous

YEAS-Messrs. Baker, Benton, Brown, Dickerson, and laborious. The standing comunittee would not have Dudley, Ellis, Grundy, Hendricks, Iredell, Kane, King, time to investigate the whole subject. Gentlemen could Poindexter, Sanford, Smith, of Md., Troup, Tyler, yote for the members of that committee as members of White, Woodbury--18. the special committee, if they pleased; but nothing was

NAYS— Messrs. Barton, Bell, Burnet, Chambers, fairer than that the Senate should select a committee for Chase, Clayton, Foot, Frelinghuysen, Holmes, Johnthemselves.

ston, Knight, Marks, Naudain, Noble, Robbins, Ruggles, Mr. KING said, that the Senate was a small body. Was Seymour, Silshee, Sprague, Willey-20. there a member in it who was not on some committee? If The original resolution, as offered by Mr. CLAYTON, the honorable Senator had no particular objection to the was then adopted. gentlemen composing the Post Office Committee, and, Mr. BELL then moved that a committee of five be apupon lois soul, he did not know who they were--why refer pointed, by ballot, to take charge of the resolution. this resolution to other gentlemen having equally or more Mr. GRUNDY inquired of the Chair what was the arduous duties to perform on other committees?

rule of the Senate in relation to the appointment of comMr. CLAYTON replied, that some of the members of mittees? the Post Office Committee had other arduous duties to The President read the rule, by which it appeared perform also. The gentleman might, however, in the that the power to appoint committees belonged to the selection of a committee, judge for himself, as he should, Chair. That power, however, could be exercised by in this respect.

the Senate, by unanimous consent. Mr. WHITE had not expected, when he had made the Mr. GRUNDY said that would not be given. motion before the Senate, as much debate as had arisen Mr. FOOT asked whether the rule of the Senate could upon the subject. He had listened to it with attention; not be altered or amended? but it had not changed his original views. If the subject- Mr. KING replied, that it could, by giving a day's notice. matter of a resolution applied to a standing committee, Here the conversation ended, and the President anthe general rule was to refer it to that committee. llenounced the appointment of Mr. CLAYTON, Mr. admitted that there were exceptions to the rule; but every GRUNDY, Mr. HOLMES, Mr. WOODBURY, and Mr. object of inquiry in this resolution belonged to the Com-HENDRICKS, as the committee. inittee on the Post Office and Post Roads. There was nothing in it that could take it out of the general rule.

TUURSDAY, DECEMBER 16. Under this impression, he had inade the motion now before the Senate. He could not believe that the Post Office

EXPLANATION. Committee were so much pressed as gentlemen supposed. Mr. NOBLE said, he had understood that, in the reThey had as much leisure as any other committee. They port of his remarks yesterday on the resolution respect. were familiar with the business of the department. iting the Post Office Department, which had appeared in would be injustice to them to suppose that they could de- the Telegraph, he had used language that had been of. sire to suppress any investigation. They would no doubt fensive to some of his friends. He had been reported as give to the subject the fullest and freest examination. If having represented Colonel Richard M. Johnson as an any abuse existed, let it be brought to the notice of the agent to that Department. He had no recollection that Senate and the nation. Ile thought it more proper to he had made such remark. A different report of his refer the resolution to the standing committee, than to a speech had been made in the National Intelligencer. He special committee: but he should acquiesce in whatever had made allusion to some of the friends of that gentledecision the Senate might come to on the subject. man as having contracts with the Department. This he

Mr. CHAMBERS concurred with the honorable Sena- could not disguise. But it would have been wrong and tor in the general principle which he had laid down; but unjust to represent Colonel Johnson as an agent of the he thought that it had been misapplied on this occasion. Post Office, because he was a member of Congress, and When the Committee on the Post Office and Post Roadsl was prohibited, by law, from accepting any office of

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Dec. 17, 20, 1830.]
Trial of Judge Peck.

(SENATE. that kind. He did not consider that it would be honora- of the common law had no force in our tribunals. He was ble in him to do injustice to his fellow men, whether in aware it might be said, that it was necessary for the courts that House, in the other House, or out of the House, to adopt some principle which would authorize them to whether they differed with him in politics or not. maintain their jurisdiction by punishing for contempts com

mitted within and against it. But the power of punishing FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17.

for contempt was a high criminal power; and, although it

had been exercised by courts of chancery as well as law, it After disposing of several private bills, and the consideration of Executive business, the Senate adjourned forced. He maintained that the power could not legally or


of all others, the most dangerous that could be ento Monday

constitutionally be exercised so as to disfranchise a citizen,

or to deprive him of his liberty and the means of his exMONDAY, DECEMBER 20.

istence. The correct principle, then, was this: the courts TRIAL OF JUDGE PECK.

of the United States had no power to punish for contempt,

further than their own self-preservation required. It was The Senate resolved itself into a Court of Impeach

necessary that they should possess the power to protect ment, for the trial of Judge Peck, of Missouri.

themselves in the administration of justice; to prevent and The House of Representatives, preceded by their man- punish direct outrages upon the court; to prevent the agers, Mr. BUCHANAN, Mr. McDUFFIE, Judge judge from being driven from the bench, the jury from SPENCER, Mr. STORRS, and Mr. WICKLIFFE, came being assaulted, and the regular and fair administration of into the Senate chamber in a body, and having taken justice from being impeded. This power the courts posthe seats prepared for them,

sessed independently of the laws of the United States, or Mr. BUCHANAN rose and said, that the managers on the common law. The right to punish in such cases was the part of the House of Representatives were now pre- inherent. But how far did it extend? What principle of pared to proceed in this trial.

necessity, the tyrant's plea, would justify the exercise of Mr. MEREDITH, one of the counsel for the respon- this power? for nothing but necessity could justify it. dent, desired that the witnesses summoned in his bchalf It could be enforced only so far as to protect the courts in might be called.

the administration of justice; to prevent any obstruction in The Marshal accordingly called over their names. their proceedings. it must be a fagrant outrage in the Some of them did not answer.

face of the court to justify a summary punishment for conMr. MEREDITH observed, that three of the material tempt. If, in such cases, our courts had not the power witnesses for the respondent were not present. We to protect themselves in the discharge of their high funcare, said he, notwithstanding, ready to go to trial, tions, it would be in vain for them to attempt to administer

Mr. McDUFFIE then rose, and opened the case for justice. Certain powers, however, had been imperceptithe prosecution in substance as follows:

bly introduced here from the common law courts of EngMr. McDuffie said, that, in opening this case, he should land; our judges and lawyers had been thus imbued with endeavor to reduce to the narrowest limits the preliminary certain principles, which were utterly incompatible with view, which he proposed to take of the principles upon liberty. What was the case of the respondent? He was which he should invoke the judgment of this honorable not in court; he was not in the actual administration of juscourt on the charge set forth in the article of impeachment tice, when the publication of Mr. Lawless was made. He against the respondent now upon his trial. It was unne- claimed the power of protecting his sacred person, like cessary for him to attract the special attention of the court, the King of England, from all scrutiny! The judgment by any exposition of the importance of the case. Every of the court had been rendered six months before the pubmember of this honorable court must be aware of its great lication. The decree had been entered. There was an importance to the respondent himself, and to the country end to the judicial functions of the judge as to that case. at large. He asked that patient attention, in the consider- But some four or five months after judgment rendered, ation of the case, which was indispensable to a correct Judge Peck, from some motive, no doubt having referdecision upon it. He then proceeded to lay down the ence to the public interest, thought proper to come out principles of the constitution and law upon the subject of and publish an extra-judicial opinion in the newspapers: a contempts, and contended that Judge Peck had violated labored argument, prepared after his judicial functions them, and had, in the summary punishment which he had had ceased, to make such an impression upon the land inflicted upon Mr. Lawless, been guilty of an illegal and claimants in Missouri as should correspond with his own. tyrannical usurpation of power. Whatever view the And it was this extra-judicial opinion which he sought to court might take of the powers of the judge, he maintain protect from all scrutiny, by the principles of the common ed that no contempt had been committed. The common law; upon the principle that the king could do no wrong, law of England was utterly unknown to the judicial tribu- and that the judge was, as the representative of the king, nals of the United States. Upon what principle, he de- administering his justice, equally exempt from responsimanded, could it be contended that the English common bility. law, as such, had any force in this country Were it not Was there any thing in this case to justify the exercise that it had been partly adopted in some of the States by of such an extraordinary power, as that assumed by the legislative enactments; had we not been educated in its judge, to commit and suspend Mr. Lawless? Was justice principles; would it occur to any human being in this coun- likely to be impeded, because, by an extra-judicial act of try that it had any existence here? It was utterly absurd the judge himself, his opinion was subjected to public disto say that the common law was in force in the courts of cussion? Suppose the article written by Mr. Lawless to the United States. He granted that, as respected many of have been, what it was not, an atrocious libel, founded in our laws and acts of Congress, especially those which pro- falsehood, an infamous and defamatory libel, where was vided for the organization of our courts, they were cx- the evil? What injury could it have done to the adminispoundled according to the principles and rules of the com- tration of justice? Was it a case of emergency? No, sir, mon law. Where our courts were called upon to decide It would have been an ordinary case of libel, which could cases, they must have rules of proceeding action, and just as well have been punished, through the ordinary he agreed that for these they had wisely and properly re-channel of trial by jury, in two years, as any other libel. sorted to the common law. These were wise rules of ac- Admit the impunity of Judge Peck from scrutiny; suppose tion for cases within the express jurisdiction of the courts. him to have been administering the king's justice, and to But, with regard to crimes and punishments, the principles have been protected from all animadversion; where then


Trial of Judge Peck.

[Dec. 20, 1830.

was the necessity for inflicting punishment by a mode oftending to impede the course of justice, any insult to the
trial which excluded all investigation; without any trial in court or jury, any contempt perpetrated in the face of the
fact: without investigation; without the interposition of a court, by fine and imprisonment. The express grant of
jury? Would any man of sense contend, on these princi- one power was the negation of another. The power
ples, that the judges of the United States had any power, conferred by this act raised a presumption that Congress
any right, to punish any libel, however flagitious, on any had not intended to go further; that the fed al courts
act of the court, after it had been done as a contempt possessed no other or greater authority in relation to con-
Had the people no right to discuss the principles of the tempts. He humbly conceived that the kind of punish-
judges of the Supreme Court of the United States? Had ment indicated by that act, was that by fine and imprison-
a South Carolina editor, for example, no right to examine ment alone. If it were, it would be most extraordinary
the opinion of that court in the case of Cohen, and to produce that the courts should claim the power to punish in any
it as evidence that the judges were the ministers of despot- other way than by fine and imprisonment. Unquestiona-
ism? He demanded of this honorable court, whether there bly, they did not possess any such authority. What argu-
was any unmeasured language of reprobation, in which a ment, then, could justify the respondent? Although Con-
citizen might not indulge towards a court for pronouncing gress had authorized only fine and imprisonment for the
an opinion, and proclaiming principles dangerous to liber- higher grades of contempt, the respondent claimed the
ty, and to the free institutions of his country? Would the power to inflict a greater punishment for the milder
Supreme Court send the Marshal to South Carolina or grades. In any view, whether we regarded the common
Louisiana to bring such an editor before them for con-law, the laws or usages of our own country, or of Eng-
tempt, and to punish him by the summary process of at- land, or the principles of the constitution, our courts and
tachment? From his knowledge of that court, and of the judges could not inflict a greater punishment for contempt
Chief Justice, he had no hesitation in saying that they than fine and imprisonment: they could not inflict disfran-
would unanimously, and with one accord, decide that they chisement: they could not deprive a man of his occupa-
were a court of limited powers; that they did not possess tion, his inheritance, or the means of subsisting his family,
any authority on the subject of contempts, except the in- Such a power was never claimed before by any tribunal
herent power to protect themselves in the administration in the civilized world.
of justice, and to prevent its obstruction. To support his It must be apparent, by this time, that the district court
argument, Mr. McD. adverted to the sedition law, not for of Missouri had no power to punish a citizen of the United
the purpose of exciting any prejudice, or reviving any States for contempt, further than to protect the court in
party feeling, in this honorable court, but as furnishing the actual administration of justice. Even the principles
some analogy for the illustration of the present case. That of the common law conferred no semblance of authority
law was thoroughly understood by every public man in the to punish a contempt against the majesty of a court.
country, It was settled in the public mind to be an usur- What was the principle assumed in regard to contempts by
pation. Every man of understanding considered it to the courts of England? In the case of the King against
have been unconstitutional

. And yet it was a mitigation Almon, which was no case at all, a mere extra-judicial of the common law of England. It exploded the mon- opinion of Chief Justice Wilmot, found among his papers strous heresy, that the greater the truth the greater would after his deatlı, all the principles laid down in it were the be the libel. But it was deemed unconstitutional. Con principles of unmitigated judicial despotism. This ingegress were condemned not for having passed an act which nious and artful tissue assumed, that the judges of Eng. mitigated the principles of the common law of England, land, deriving their authority from the King of England, but because they had no authority to pass any law restrict. and administering the King's justice, were an emanation ing the liberty of speech or of the press; because they had of his power, and that the same principle which protected conferred on the federal courts a power to punish for the character and person of the King, as sacred, protected contempt any man who might utter or publish what they those of his judges in like manner. This opinion was gomig!t deem a libel. Was not this a grievance? The law ing the whole. The judges, sitting in the seat of the had been repealed: it had become universally odious. And King, could not be called to account for denying the writ now, the President, the Senate, and House of Represen- of habeas corpus, or refusing to grant it, without making tatives, together, did not possess the power which Judge the King violate his coronation oath! This miserable tis. Peck, representing the King of England, and administer- tue of sophistry and falsehood was used to justify the puning his justice, claimed, of punishing a citizen for con- ishment of a fair and manly publication on the law of hatempt, in daring to question the infallibility of his opinion. beas corpus as a contempt! God forbid that any man in Whence did be derive a power which did not belong to this country should say that the opinions of judges were the united functionaries of this Government? Under the not a fair subject of animadversion, or that the proceed. sedition law, the citizen accused of a libel was entitled to ings of this honorable body were not also open for discusa trial by jury, and to give the truth in eviilence.

sion. No man, according to this doctrine, had a right to By its repeal, the people of the United States had de- publish any thing, true or false, ncerning any public cided that the President, Senate, and Ilouse of Represen- functionary, disparaging him, his character, or opinions. tatives could not subject a citizen even to trial by a jury for This principle of the English courts, a district judge of the most defamatory libel. But here, in this case, the the United States has had the bollness to advance to jusjudge undertakes, not by the interposition of a jury, but tify his judicial tyranny. Could this be law? Any publiof his own will, to punish for a contempt imagined by cation against a private citizen was prima facie a libel: it himself, which nobody else would have noticed or view. was the private individual that ought to be protected from ed as a contempt. Without law, this honorable judge calumny. The same immunity did not belong to the pubclaimed a power to punish, much greater than that which lic functionary. What might properly be punished for was possessed by every other branch of the Government being said against a private citizen, it would be justifiable united. He claimed a power to make the law, and punish to say against a public functionary. There was hardly under it, at the same moment. This was the most infa- any thing, true or false, that ought not. with impunity, to mous and tyrannical of the whole tissue of usurpations. be allowed to be published against a public man, rather We had analogics in the acts of Congress bearing on this than run the hazard of restricting the liberty of discus

By the judicial act of 1789, the federal courts have sion. By the irreversible decision of the people of the the power to punish for contempts committed during the United States upon the sedition law, it had been decided progress of a trial of any cause depending in court. In that you cannot punish any thing said against a public carrying this law into effect, they might punish any act officer. A decision so unanimous as that was did not ex

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