May it be long before the people of the United States shall cease to take a deep and pervading interest in the Fourth of July, as the birthday of our national life, or the event which then occurred shall be subordinated to any other of our national history.
A constitution, in the American sense of the word, is a written instrument by which the fundamental powers of the government are established, limited, and defined, and by which these powers are distributed among several departments, for their more safe and useful exercise, for the benefit of the body politic.
History teaches us, in no mistaken language, how often customs and practices, which were originated without lawful warrant, and opposed to the sound construction of the law, have come to overload and pervert it, as commentators on the text of Holy Scripture have established doctrines wholly at variance with its true spirit.
The Constitution of the United States, like all systems of government which are permanent, had its origin in the history and necessities of the people through whose instrumentality and for whose benefit it was formed.
Of the powers conferred upon the General Government by the Constitution of the United States much the most important are those given to the legislative body.
It is a very great mistake, and a very common one, even for well-read persons, to adopt the idea that the progress of the human race in the science of government, in the arts of civilization and refinement, and in the establishment of morality and religion, has been constantly and steadily towards improvement and perfection.
Of the judicial department of the Government, the Supreme Court is the head and representative, and to it must come for final decision all the great legal questions which may arise under the Constitution, the laws, or the treaties of the United States.
Louisiana commenced her existence as a state under a code of laws differing from all the other states which were founded on the common law, in that its code, a new one, was founded mainly on the Civil Law and the Code Napoleon of France.
The value of a decision as a precedent is very much enhanced by the care with which it has been considered, and if the opinion itself shows that other decisions of the same court, or of other courts upon the same point, have been reviewed and examined, it adds to the value of the decision made on each consideration.
As a general rule, governments are unlimited in their powers. All free governments, perhaps all other governments, are entitled in some shape or other to make laws and to repeal or amend them.
It is a very great mistake, common to counsel, and especially to young counsel, to consider that a decision of any court must necessarily command the respect of another.
No one familiar with the common law of England can read the Constitution of the United States without observing the great desire of the Convention which framed that instrument to make it conform as far as possible with that law.
Custody and guardianship by the parent of his child does not arise under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States and is not dependent on them.
Naturalization is the process by which a citizen, or subject of a foreign nation or kingdom, is made a citizen of the United States. It is evident that the Constitutional Convention thought that it was important that this process should be placed under the exclusive control of the Federal Government and not of the States.
No branch of the law is of more importance to the counsellor, the statesman, or the citizen, than a thorough acquaintance with the Constitution and laws of the Federal Government, as they are administered and as they affect the rights of the people.
The United States being a limited form of government, one of the restrictions to which it is subject is in regard to its power to levy taxes. The States may levy them for a great many purposes for which Congress cannot, because to the States belong all of the powers not delegated to Congress.
The Supreme Court, once in existence, cannot be abolished, because its foundation is not in an act of the legislative department of the Government, but in the Constitution of the United States.