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Cobbett's Letter. 105
"Names do but amuse me, I lived for eight years under the Republican government of Pennsylvania, and I declare that, I believe that to be the most corrupt and tyrannical government the world ever knew. I was several weeks at Harrisburgh during the sessions of the legislature, and upon my honour I believe that there was more personal corruption, more bribery, in the persons, in the legislature, and in office, more of this during the one session of the Legislature, than has ever taken place in Whitehall and Saint Stephens during the ten or twenty years that I have ever known them; added to which, were the lowness, the dirtiness of the villany; the vulgarity; the disregard of all sense of morality and of honour, making the whole thing so disgusting as to drive an Englishman half mad at the thought of ever seeing his country subject to such rulers. Oh Sir! I must forget the votes of the legislature bought by losing a game at cards at the tavern—I must forget the great game which the Bank of Philadelphia lost in that room of borrowed light, in the centre of the tavern, when the card-playing was going on, both day and night, Sundays not ex-; cepted, during the whole of the Sessions for the purposes of bribery—I must forget the betting-banks of Pennsylvania—I must forget the court-house at Harrisburgh, &c."
But Harrisburgh, where the annual sessions of the Pennsylvanian Legislature is held, forms no exception in this particular. The same mal-practices—the same recklessness and disregard of publie decency may be found to exist at the capitals of many of the other States, which generally constitutes the head-quarters of the numerous band of jobbers, speculators, political quacks, and gamblers— idlers, and watchers—the parasites and hangers-on of those in power—the men of every kind of chancework, with the retainers, and long list of needy dependants, who, with unerring instinct, crowd around the public offices, seeking each favourable moment to improve their fortunes at the public expense. But this is a perfectly legitimate pursuit, if not a laudable and praiseworthy occupation in America; assumed by a large proportion of the population, and sustained by the concurrent sanction of the entire, who insist on the principle of continued change, as an essential and commendatory part of their republican system.
It will scarcely be considered within our province, in endeavouring to afford some just estimate of American society and guard the emigrant from the numerous shoals and quicksands that, everywhere surround him on his arrival in the country, to enter upon an analysis of the many and admitted evils that grow out of this state of internal legislation, though it were impossible to remain for three months in any part of the United States—to mix in the daily business intercourse of the country without feeling them on every side, in the insecurity that is every where given to property, as well as to per^ / sonal liberty, and the general inefficiency of th laws for any useful, or beneficial purpose. For oil
AMERICAN JUDICATORY. 107
own part, we candidly state from our personal experience, that we should as soon live under the most intolerant of European despotisms, where we might at least hope to be freed from the venality, the corruption, and inherent vice, that marks the daily and hourly progress of American legislation, and the uncertain dispensation of its laws—believing as we do, that the despotism of one man, is at all times more supportable, more easily bearable, than the uncontrolled tyranny and oppression of the many.
Of an equal importance with the enactment of just and wholesome laws, is their due and proper administration. It were of little moment how far the legislature may have avoided, or fulfilled its obligations to the nation, if the laws that are passed for the protection of every man's home, his fireside—the liberty which is his inherent right, are set at nought, either by the incompetency of the judges to whose exposition these laws are confided— the partizan feelings that are known to exist amongst all grades of American society, or the venality, or moral turpitude with which the American judicatory has been so often and deliberately charged. To the hands of the judges is confided the highest trust a nation can confer; whilst no adequate means have been taken to ensure their stability and independence, or removal from those every day temptations to which their needy and restricted means has so unwisely exposed them.
The judicial power in the .United States, unlike to almost any other country, is divided under two distinct and separate responsibilities, between the Federal, and the States' Governments, each possessing separate and distinct authority within the same jurisdiction.
Under 3rd article, 1st section, of the Federal constitution, such power is vested in one Supreme Court, and such other inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time, order and establish. The judges both of the supreme and inferior courts, hold their office during good behaviour, and at stated times, receive for their services a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.
The judicial power of the several States, comprises whatever of authority that is not expressly delegated by the constitution to the Federal Government; and extends its entire and absolute controul over the property and persons of the citizens of each State respectively; as well, as of all other parties being, or residing within their limit:—to subjects of other governments, as also to citizens of neighbouring States, who are equally amenable to their municipal and statutory laws, who may sue and be sued in their local courts, as in the courts of the United States, for debt, or the fulfilment of any contract made, or entered into without their territory, as within the strict limit of their jurisdiction.
The judges of the United States, as well as those of the several states, or commonwealths, maybe said to form a co-ordinate part of the government of the*;
INCAPACITY OF THE JUDGES. 109
country, and to exercise an unlimited influence over its destinies and welfare: their decisions when not appealed from, constituting the laws of their respective States, until altered by some subsequent legislative enactment. Their mode of appointment and term of office is as varied and uncertain, as is the popular will, under which their several constitutions are framed, and in many instances quite as exceptionable.
There can indeed be but one prevailing opinion, even in America, as to the general incapacity and unsoundness of its judicatory—the glaring incom petency of the men to whose legal exposition and presiding care, is confided the property—the liberties, even unto life, of every citizen. Elevated to the high and responsible situation which they occupy, either from their known political bias— their recorded prejudices—their partisan feelings on some leading question of local, or domestic policy, with their general subserviency to those in power, without reference to peculiar fitness or talent, they, in nine cases out of ten, owe their elevation to their eminently possessing the very opposite of those qualities, that of all others should recommend them to the judicial seat. No man of any character in the United States will accept the appointment; no awyer of eminence, or acknowledged abilities, undertake the office for the limited pecuniary prospects it affords. There is here but slender inducement for talent to exert itself—nothing to stimulate ambition, or excite an emulation to the attainment of that proficiency, so necessary to the due and pro