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Benjamin Franklin Butler to MVB, 24 October 1857

My dear Sir, 

I return your pencil with some leads to match. Cowen had none in boxes. He says that yr. pencil is of home manufacture, and that the boxes with leads are English & all too small. The box cost only 12 1/2 cents so I return 25. 

I have not yet been able to get our good Federal President's inaugural. In the <globe> enclosed you will find an extract from his recent letter to the New Haven Memorialists, which I have compared with the letter as published in extenso. The extract contains all that he says on the point, and it would have been infinitely delightful to Marshall & Story to see how meekly the Executive, speaking of constitutional provisions and of legislative acts, takes the meaning of the one, and gives up the validity of the other from the lips and ^at the nod,^ of the oracle. In his inaugural he promised to do as much knowing, doubtless, in what way it would speak. 

I send, also, the Tribune pamphlet in the Dred Scott case. If you look at the New York Report, at the end, you will see that Judge Foot, <though> he very properly condemns the expression of opinions in points not <necessit> called for by the case as viewed & disposed of in respect of jurisdiction, yet, he also adopts the Federal notion, that the Supreme Court is the authoritative interpreter, in all cases, of the Federal Constitution. He brings up, however, with the Virginia Resolutions of 1798, and thus proposes to get out of the dilemma. Jackson's distinction in the Bk. Veto message of July 10th. 1832, is a much easier & safer remedy. The Protest of 1834 only vindicates the authority & independence of the Executive Department; in the matter of removals from office; that I have often heard the old chief expound & enlarge on the other question as briefly discussed in the Bk. veto. He had very clear and discriminating views in respect to it. 

In the case of Kendall 12 Peters 524, you will find some dis a full discussion by Mr. Key, and some ^remarks^ by me, in our respective arguments, as to the meaning of the words "all cases" &c &c as and in the 2d section of the 3d article of the Constitution. This argument, by the way is one of the two ^only^ which I wrote out for the Reporter during my <discussion> with the Government. 

In 14 Peters, 497, (published in 1840, so that you must have it) Mr. Decatur's case was distinguished from that of Kendall, and the mandamus refused. See Ch. J. Taney, in pages 575 to 577.

I can get Jefferson's works, 9 vols, in cloth for $16.25, but will look farther. 

I shall long remember the pleasant visit of October 1857, at Lindenwald and hope, should we live till Spring, to resume here some of the many interesting topics broached during my [ . . . ] with you. 

Remember me, very kindly, to all your household, & believe me as ever, faithfully 


B.F. Butler

Please tell <Kelly> and Eddy, that their chestnuts came to a great market. I found 4 of my younger grandchildren (Crosby's) at my house, on my arrival. They & 3 others, all shared in them. 

B.F. Butler 


Buchanan and Supreme Court &c &c 


Source: DLC Library of Congress
Collection: MVB Papers (DLC)
Series: Series 14 (1 January 1849-24 July 1862; undated)