Thomas Jefferson, Judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy

Thomas Jefferson, The Dangers of the JudiciaryYou seem … to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions;  a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.

Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so.  They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps.  Their maxim is “boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem,” and their power the more dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control.

The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots.

It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves.

If the legislature fails to pass laws for a census, for paying the judges and other officers of government, for establishing a militia, for naturalization as prescribed by the Constitution, or if they fail to meet in congress, the judges cannot issue their mandamus to them ;  if the President fails to supply the place of a judge, to appoint other civil or military officers, to issue requisite commissions, the judges cannot force him. …

The Constitution, in keeping three departments distinct and independent, restrains the authority of the judges to judiciary organs, as it does the executive and legislative to executive and legislative organs.

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Charles Jarvis, (28 September 1820).

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