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OF CONSTITUTIONAL RESTRICTIONS ON THE POWERS OF
WE proceed to consider the extent and effect of certain express constitutional restrictions on the authority of the separate states.
"No state," says the constitution," "shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts; or grant any title of nobility. No state shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws; nor lay any duty on tonnage, keep troops or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay."
Most of these prohibitions would seem to speak for themselves, and not to stand in need of exposition. I shall confine myself to those cases in which the interpretation and extent of some of these restrictions have been made the subject of judicial investigation.
(1.) Bills of credit.
Bills of credit, within the purview of the constitution of Bills of credit the United States, prohibiting the emission of them, are de
a Art. 1. sec. 10.
Ex post facto
clared to mean promissory notes, or bills issued exclusively
(2.) No state can pass any ex post facto law.
In Calder v. Bull, the question on the meaning of an ex post facto law, within the prohibition of the constitution, was extensively discussed.
The legislature of Connecticut had, by a resolution or law, set aside a decree of the court of probates rejecting a will, and directed a new hearing before the court of probates, and the point was, whether that resolution was an ex post facto law prohibited by the constitution of the United States.
It was held, that the words ex post facto laws were technical expressions, and meant every law that made an act done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when
a Billis ads. the State, 2 M Cord's Rep. 12.
b 4 Peters' U. S. Rep. 410.
c 3 Dallas, 386.
done, criminal; or which aggravated a crime, and made it greater than it was when committed; or which changed the punishment, and inflicted a greater punishment than the law annexed to the crime when committed; or which altered the legal rules of evidence, and received less or different testimony than the law required at the time of the commission of the offence, in order to convict the offender. The Supreme Court concluded, that the law or resolution of Connecticut was not within the letter or intention of the prohibition, and was, therefore, lawful. Afterwards, in Fletcher v. Peck," it was observed, that an ex post facto law was one which rendered an act punishable in a manner in which it was not punishable when it was committed. This definition is distinguished for its comprehensive brevity and precision, and it extends to laws passed after the act, and affecting a person by way of punishment of that act, either in his person or estate. Retrospective laws and state laws, devesting vested rights, unless ex post facto, or impairing the obligation of contracts, do not fall within the prohibition contained in the constitution of the United States, however repugnant they may be to the principles of sound legislation.c
(3.) No state can control the exercise of any authority under the federal government.
The state legislatures cannot annul the judgments, nor State courts determine the extent of the jurisdiction, of the courts of the over the fedUnion. This was attempted by the legislature of Pennsylvania, and declared to be inoperative and void by the Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of The United States v. Peters. Such a power, as we have heretofore seen, necessarily resides in the supreme judicial tribunal of
a Strong v. The State, 1 Blackford's Ind. Rep. 193. S. P.
b 6 Cranch, 138.
c Satterlee v. Matthewson, 2 Peters' U. S. Rep. 413.
the nation. It has also been adjudged, that no state court has authority or jurisdiction to enjoin a judgment of the Circuit Court of the United States, or to stay proceedings under it. This was attempted by a state court in Kentucky, and declared to be of no validity by the Supreme Court of the United States, in M'Kim v. Voorhies. No state tribunal can interfere with seizures of property made by revenue officers, under the laws of the United States; or interrupt by process of replevin, injunction, or otherwise, the exercise of the authority of the federal officers; and any intervention of state authority for that purpose is unlawful. This was so declared by the Supreme Court in Slocum v. Mayberry. Nor can a state court issue a mandamus to an officer of the United States. This decision was made in the case of M'Cluny v. Silliman, and it arose in consequence of the Supreme Court in Ohio sustaining a jurisdiction over the register of the land office of the United States in respect to his ministerial acts as register, and claiming a right to award a mandamus to that officer, to compel him to issue a final certificate of purchase. The principle declared by the Supreme Court was, that the official conduct of an officer of the government of the United States can only be controled by the power that created him.
If the officer of the United States who seizes, or the court which awards the process to seize, has jurisdiction of the subject matter, then the inquiry into the validity of the seizure belongs exclusively to the federal courts. But if there be no jurisdiction in the instance in which it is asserted, as if a marshal of the United States, under an execution in favour of the United States against A., should seize the person or property of B., then the state courts have jurisdiction to protect the person and the property so illegally invaded; and it is to be observed, that the jurisdiction of the state court in Rhode Island was admitted by
a 7 Cranch, 279.
e 6 Wheaton, 598.
d Bruen v. Ogden, 6 Halsted, 370.