MVB Senate speech on the federal judiciary, 15 February 1825
Mr. VAN BUREN, of New York, said, that the question immediately before the Senate, was a motion to postpone indefinitely, made on the single ground of want of time to do justice to so important a subject. The wide range of debate which this question had produced, would be more properly considered when the previous question was disposed of. The motion had been divided—it was, in the first instance, to recommit the bill with specific instructions. The division of the question would not prevent the consideration of the instructions proposed, and to recommit it without instructions, would only cause useless delay. It was a question which of the three systems that had been proposed for affording the relief that was asked, should be adopted. The bill on the table, proposes to retain the present system, and extend it to the new states, by increasing the number of the judges of the Supreme Court. Some were of opinion that that system, is not calculated for the time in which we live, and that it is necessary to change it, and substitute one better adapted to the present state of the Union.
Was there any reasonable probability that a bill, having for its object to provide a permanent judicial system for this country, could be prepared and passed in the few remaining days of the session? The season for temporary expedients had passed, and what they did now, must be of a permanent character. The appointment of three new judges would, in the opinion of many, make the Supreme Court too numerous, and by authorizing their appointment, the door would, for a long time to come, be closed against the substitution of any other system.
Mr. V. B. said, for himself, he was prepared to act in regard to the subject; his willingness to postpone, arose from a conviction that there was not sufficient time to do justice to the subject; but if the motion to postpone should not prevail, he hoped the Senate would devote their undivided attention to it, until it was completed. The sense of the Senate would be taken, and if its decision be in favor of postponement, he would cheerfully co-operate with the gentleman from Virginia, in taking the business up at the commencement of the ensuing session, and bestowing the utmost attention upon it. He acknowledged the justice of the claims of the Western states to have a new judicial system established embracing them, or to grant them a fair participation in that which already existed.
Those six states to whom the Circuit system was not yet extended, were not, however, entirely deprived of such courts. These courts were held by District Judges, on whom Congress had conferred the power, whilst in the other states, they were held by the judges of the Supreme Court themselves. There was a disparity certainly, but those were inconveniences that fell far short of those they would suffer, were they deprived of the circuit system altogether. The evil, though serious, was not so imperative as to preclude the least delay, but call on Congress to act on a subject of such importance, under the circumstances in which we stood. If, however, the Senate thought they had time to carry it thro' with proper deliberation, he was willing to go on with it.
Mr. JOHNSON, of Kentucky, was much gratified to hear the justice of the claims of the Western people acknowledged by the gentleman from New York, (Mr. VAN BUREN.)