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III

ADDRESS

DELIVERED IN NEW YORK, N. Y., FEBRUARY 4, 1890

AT THE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION OF THE

FEDERAL JUDICIARY

UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT AND THE SOVEREIGNTY OF

THE PEOPLE

BUT few words remain to be added to those so well spoken by my distinguished brethren in concluding, on the part of the Bar, the expression which this occasion calls for. We have thought it well to mark, in a manner thus significant and conspicuous, the centennial anniversary of our highest and greatest tribunal; to review, so far as the flying hour allows, its eventful and interesting history; to recall some of its memories, cherished and imperishable; and to consider, in the light of a century's experience, what has been, and what is like to be hereafter, its place and its influence as an independent constitutional power in the Federal government of this country.

We cannot forget that in its origin it was an experiment, untried and uncertain. Judicial history has not furnished another example of a court created by an authority superior to legislation and beyond the reach of executive power, clothed with a jurisdiction above the law it was appointed to administer, and charged not merely with the general course of public justice, but with the limitation of the powers of political government and the adjustment of the conflicting claims of sovereign States. The hundred years that now terminate have tested the value of all American institutions. Fortunate as they have been for the most part, it will yet be the judgment of dispassionate history that no other has so completely `justified the faith of its authors, nor fulfilled with such signal success the purpose of its foundation.

What was that purpose? Not the limited original jurisdiction of the Court, dignified and important, but rarely invoked. Not chiefly, even, its ordinary appellate jurisdiction, extensive and beneficent as it is, most desirable, yet perhaps not indispensable. Not for these objects, great though they are, was it placed, nor did it need to be placed, on the singular eminence it occupies. Its principal and largest function was designed to be, as it has been, the defence and preservation of the Constitution that created it as the permanent fundamental law on which our system of government depends.

Had that instrument been left only directory to the Legislature, to be construed and given effect as the exigencies of party or the purposes of the hour might demand; had it been referred to the conflicting de termination of various courts, with no supreme arbiter to correct their mistakes, or to harmonize their disagreements, so that its meaning might depend upon the State or the tribunal in which the question happened to arise, it would speedily have become but the shadow of an authority that had no real existence, fruitful in a discord it was powerless to allay. American experience has made it an axiom in political science that no written constitution of government

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