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MVB Senate remarks on the judiciary, 18 January 1828

Mr. VAN BUREN said that it was with reluctance that He differed with his friend from Tennessee, especially on a subject on which the experience of that gentleman was so much greater that his own, and still more in relation to a matter in which the new States had not received their share of benefit. It was proposed by this bill to place the States admitted into the Union, since the year 1789, upon a better footing than the others. It was his opinion that it could not be done in justice; neither was it possible to effect a system such as the gentleman contemplated. On a former occasion he had obtained the opinions of gentlemen from all the States in the Union, and there were no two that agreed; which would serve to show the difficulty, if not impossibility of any such plan. Congress could not pass any such law without interfering in some way. Therefore, the law was formed so as to take a middle course. It was impossible to give up all the power of the Federal Courts without involving the country in confusion. That power ought to be limited to the utmost; but it ought to exist. This act, if passed, would enjoin upon the United States to conform to the laws of the States, not only as they were, but as they might prove to be. The object of the law of ’89 was to preserve the rights of persons coming into court—so far that act went. But it could not be expedient to submit that the laws, which each State might pass from time to time, should govern the Federal Courts. If Congress gave up the law of the United States to the different States, they ought to know what system they agree to, and not, by doing so, subject the jurisprudence of the country to everlasting change and uncertainty. He would suppose a case. A suit might be pending between an individual and the United States, and during the pendency of the cause the State Legislature might pass an act interfering with its decision, and calculated to stop proceedings until the next Session of Congress. Such interferences would overturn the rights of the Federal Courts. He was the last person who would give to the Federal Judiciary rights to which it was not entitled. He was, on the contrary, as much convinced as any man, that more danger to the powers of the States had been exhibited in the “signs of the times,” during the last six years, than ever before. But he would sustain nothing that would go to overturn the legal and legitimate power of the Government, which ought to be guarded and preserved.

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Source: Register of Debates
Collection: N/A
Series: Series 5 (1 January 1825-3 March 1829)