The following quotes make some important points about the principles of
constitutional republican government:
The Constitution was written to be understood by the voters; its words and
phrases were used in their normal and ordinary, as distinguished from technical
meaning; where the intention is clear, there is no room for construction, and
no excuse for interpolation or addition. — Martin v. Hunter's
Lessee, 1 Wheat 304; Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat 419; Brown v.
Maryland, 12 Wheat 419; Craig v. Missouri, 4 Pet 10; Tennessee v.
Whitworth, 117 U.S. 139; Lake County v. Rollins, 130 U.S. 662; Hodges
v. United States, 203 U.S. 1; Edwards v. Cuba R. Co., 268 U.S.
628; The Pocket Veto Case, 279 U.S. 655; (Justice) Story on the Constitution,
5th ed., Sec 451; Cooley's Constitutional Limitations, 2nd ed., p. 61, 70.
It cannot be presumed that any clause in the constitution is intended to be
without effect;... — Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137, 174 (1803).
The Constitution is a written instrument. As such, its meaning does not
alter. That which it meant when it was adopted, it means now. — South
Carolina v. United States, 199 U.S. 437, 448 (1905).
History is clear that the first ten amendments to the Constitution were
adopted to secure certain common law rights of the people, against invasion by
the Federal Government. — Bell v. Hood, 71 F. Supp., 813, 816
(1947) U.S.D.C., So. Dist. CA.
In the United States, Sovereignty resides in the people, who act through the
organs established by the Constitution. — Chisholm v. Georgia, 2
Dall 419, 471; Penhallow v. Doane's Administrators, 3 Dall 54, 93;
McCullock v. Maryland, 4 Wheat 316, 404, 405; Yick Yo Hopkins, 118 U.S.
The necessities which gave birth to the constitution, the controversies
which precede its formation and the conflicts of opinion which were settled by
its adoption, may properly be taken into view for the purposes of tracing to
its source, any particular provision of the constitution, in order thereby, to
be enabled to correctly interpret its meaning. — Pollock v.
Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., 157 U.S. 429, 558.
The values of the Framers of the Constitution must be applied in any case
construing the Constitution. Inferences from the text and history of the
Constitution should be given great weight in discerning the original
understanding and in determining the intentions of those who ratified the
constitution. The precedential value of cases and commentators tends to
increase, therefore, in proportion to their proximity to the adoption of the
Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or any other amendments. — Associated with Powell
v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 547 (1969), but not contained in the opinion.
To disregard such a deliberate choice of words and their natural meaning,
would be a departure from the first principle of constitutional interpretation.
"In expounding the Constitution of the United States," said Chief
Justice Taney in Holmes v. Jennison, 14 U.S. 540, 570-1, "every
word must have its due force and appropriate meaning; for it is evident from
the whole instrument, that, no word was unnecessarily used, or needlessly
added. The many discussions which have taken place upon the construction of the
Constitution, have proved the correctness of this proposition; and shown the
high talent, the caution and the foresight of the illustrious men who framed
it. Every word appears to have been weighed with the utmost deliberation and
its force and effect to have been fully understood. — Wright v.
United States, 302 U.S. 583 (1938).
The language of the Constitution cannot be interpreted safely, except where
reference to common law and to British institutions as they were when the
instrument was framed and adopted. The statesmen and lawyers of the convention
who submitted it to the ratification of conventions of the thirteen states,
were born and brought up in the atmosphere of the common law and thought and
spoke in its vocabulary...when they came to put their conclusions into the form
of fundamental law in a compact draft, they expressed them in terms of common
law, confident that they could be shortly and easily understood. — Ex
Parte Grossman, 267 U.S. 87, 108.
The courts are not bound by mere forms, nor are they to be misled by mere
pretences. They are at liberty — indeed, are under a solemn duty — to
look at the substance of things, whenever they enter upon the inquiry whether
the legislature has transcended the limits of its authority. If therefore, a
statute purporting to have been enacted to protect the public health, the
public morals, or the public safety, has no real or substantial relation to
those objects, or is a palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental
law, it is the duty of thye courts to so adjudge, and thereby give effect to
the Constitution. — Mugler v. Kansas, 123 U.S. 623, 661.
Constitutional provisions for the security of person and property should be
liberally construed. It is the duty of the courts to be watchful of
constitutional rights against any stealthy encroachments thereon. — Boyd
v. U.S., 116 U.S. 635.
It cannot be assumed that the framers of the constitution and the people who
adopted it, did not intend that which is the plain import of the language used.
When the language of the constitution is positive and free of all ambiguity,
all courts are not at liberty, by a resort to the refinements of legal
learning, to restrict its obvious meaning to avoid the hardships of particular
cases. We must accept the constitution as it reads when its language is
unambiguous, for it is the mandate of the sovereign power. — Cook vs.
Iverson, 122, N.M. 251.
Where the words of a constitution are unambiguous and in their commonly
received sense lead to a reasonable conclusion, it should be read according to
the natural and most obvious import of the framers, without resorting to subtle
and forced construction for the purpose of limiting or extending its operation.
— A State Ex Rel. Torryson v. Grey, 21 Nev. 378, 32 P. 190.
If the legislature clearly misinterprets a constitutional provision, the
frequent repitition of the wrong will not create a right. — Amos v.
Mosley, 74 Fla. 555; 77 So. 619.
A long and uniform sanction by law revisers and lawmakers, of a legislative
assertion and exercise of power, is entitled to a great weight in construing an
ambiguous or doubtful provision, but is entitled to no weight if the statute in
question is in conflict with the plain meaning of the constitutional provision.
— Kingsley v. Merril, 122 Wis. 185; 99 NW 1044.
Economic necessity cannot justify a disregard of cardinal constitutional
guarantee. — Riley v. Carter, 165 Okal. 262; 25 P. 2d 666; 79 ALR
Disobedience or evasion of a constitutional mandate may not be tolerated,
even though such disobedience may, at least temporarily, promote in some
respects the best interests of the public. — State v. Board of
Examiners, 274 N.Y. 367; 9 NE 2d 12; 112 ALR 660.
When any court violates the clean and unambiguous language of the
Constitution, a fraud is perpetrated and no one is bound to obey it. —
(See 16 Ma. Jur. 2d 177, 178) State v. Sutton, 63 Minn. 147, 65 NW 262,
30 L.R.A. 630 Am. St. 459.
I cannot subscribe to the omnipotence of a state legislature,
or that it is absolute and without control; although its authority
should not be expressly restrained by the Constitution, or
fundamental law, of the state. The nature, and ends of
legislative power will limit the exercise of it. This
fundamental principle flows from the very nature of our free
Republican governments, that no man should be compelled to do what the
laws do not require, nor to refrain from acts which the laws permit.
There are acts which the Federal, or State, Legislature cannot do, without
exceeding their authority. There are certain vital principles in our
free Republican governments, which will determine and overrule an
apparent and flagrant abuse of legislative power; as to authorize
manifest injustice by positive law; or to take away that security for
personal liberty, or private property, for the protection whereof
the government was established. An Act of the legislature (for I cannot call it
a law) contrary to the great first principles of the social
compact, cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative
authority. The obligation of a law in governments established on express
compact, and on republican principles, must be determined by the
nature of the power, on which it is founded. A few instances will
suffice to explain what I mean. A law that punishes a citizen for an
innocent action, or, in other words, for an act, which, when done, was
in violation of no existing law; a law that destroys, or impairs, the
lawful private contracts of citizens; a law that makes a man a judge
in his own cause; or a law that takes property from A and gives it
to B. It is against all reason and justice for a people to intrust a
Legislature with such powers; and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they
have done it. The genius, the nature and the spirit, of
our State Government, amount to a prohibition of such acts of
legislation; and the general principles of law and reason forbid them. The
legislature may enjoin, permit, forbid, and punish; they may declare new
crimes, and establish rules of conduct for all its citizens in
future cases; they may command what is right, and prohibit
what is wrong; but they cannot change innocence into guilt; or
punish innocence as a crime; or violate the right of an
antecedent lawful private contract; or the right of private
property. To maintain that our Federal, or State, Legislature possesses
such powers, if they had not been expressly restrained, would, in
my opinion, be a political heresy altogether inadmissible in our free
republican governments. — Opinion of Justice Chase in Calder v.
Bull, 3 Dallas 386-389 (1798).