April 2nd, 2012

Magna Carta




Magna Carta

Source: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/translation.html


Magna Carta, 1297:   Widely viewed as one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy. On display in the West Rotunda Gallery at the National Archives. Presented courtesy of David M. Rubenstein.


“The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history . . . It was written in Magna Carta.”

–Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1941 Inaugural address

On June 15, 1215, in a field at Runnymede, King John affixed his seal to Magna Carta. Confronted by 40 rebellious barons, he consented to their demands in order to avert civil war. Just 10 weeks later, Pope Innocent III nullified the agreement, and England plunged into internal war.

Although Magna Carta failed to resolve the conflict between King John and his barons, it was reissued several times after his death. On display at the National Archives, courtesy of David M. Rubenstein, is one of four surviving originals of the 1297 Magna Carta. This version was entered into the official Statute Rolls of England.

Enduring Principles of Liberty

Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. It is concerned with many practical matters and specific grievances relevant to the feudal system under which they lived. The interests of the common man were hardly apparent in the minds of the men who brokered the agreement. But there are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day:

“No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land.”

“To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice.”

Inspiration for Americans

During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution (”no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”) is a direct descendent of Magna Carta’s guarantee of proceedings according to the “law of the land.”


Source for following text:



Magna Carta Translation

[Preamble] Edward by the grace of God King of England, lord of Ireland and duke of Aquitaine sends greetings to all to whom the present letters come. We have inspected the great charter of the lord Henry, late King of England, our father, concerning the liberties of England in these words:

Henry by the grace of God King of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and count of Anjou sends greetings to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, sheriffs, reeves, ministers and all his bailiffs and faithful men inspecting the present charter. Know that we, at the prompting of God and for the health of our soul and the souls of our ancestors and successors, for the glory of holy Church and the improvement of our realm, freely and out of our good will have given and granted to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons and all of our realm these liberties written below to hold in our realm of England in perpetuity.

[1] In the first place we grant to God and confirm by this our present charter for ourselves and our heirs in perpetuity that the English Church is to be free and to have all its rights fully and its liberties entirely. We furthermore grant and give to all the freemen of our realm for ourselves and our heirs in perpetuity the liberties written below to have and to hold to them and their heirs from us and our heirs in perpetuity.

[2] If any of our earls or barons, or anyone else holding from us in chief by military service should die, and should his heir be of full age and owe relief, the heir is to have his inheritance for the ancient relief, namely the heir or heirs of an earl for a whole county £100, the heir or heirs of a baron for a whole barony 100 marks, the heir or heirs of a knight for a whole knight’s fee 100 shillings at most, and he who owes less will give less, according to the ancient custom of (knights’) fees.

[3] If, however, the heir of such a person is under age, his lord is not to have custody of him and his land until he has taken homage from the heir, and after such an heir has been in custody, when he comes of age, namely at twenty-one years old, he is to have his inheritance without relief and without fine, saving that if, whilst under age, he is made a knight, his land will nonetheless remain in the custody of his lords until the aforesaid term.

[4] The keeper of the land of such an heir who is under age is only to take reasonable receipts from the heir’s land and reasonable customs and reasonable services, and this without destruction or waste of men or things. And if we assign custody of any such land to a sheriff or to anyone else who should answer to us for the issues, and such a person should commit destruction or waste, we will take recompense from him and the land will be assigned to two law-worthy and discreet men of that fee who will answer to us or to the person to whom we assign such land for the land’s issues. And if we give or sell to anyone custody of any such land and that person commits destruction or waste, he is to lose custody and the land is to be assigned to two law-worthy and discreet men of that fee who similarly will answer to us as is aforesaid.

[5] The keeper, for as long as he has the custody of the land of such (an heir), is to maintain the houses, parks, fishponds, ponds, mills and other things pertaining to that land from the issues of the same land, and he will restore to the heir, when the heir comes to full age, all his land stocked with ploughs and all other things in at least the same condition as when he received it. All these things are to be observed in the custodies of archbishoprics, bishoprics, abbeys, priories, churches and vacant offices which pertain to us, save that such custodies ought not to be sold.

[6] Heirs are to be married without disparagement.

[7] A widow, after the death of her husband, is immediately and without any difficulty to have her marriage portion and her inheritance, nor is she to pay anything for her dower or her marriage portion or for her inheritance which her husband and she held on the day of her husband’s death, and she shall remain in the chief dwelling place of her husband for forty days after her husband’s death, within which time dower will be assigned her if it has not already been assigned, unless that house is a castle, and if it is a castle which she leaves, then a suitable house will immediately be provided for her in which she may properly dwell until her dower is assigned to her in accordance with what is aforesaid, and in the meantime she is to have her reasonable necessities (estoverium) from the common property. As dower she will be assigned the third part of all the lands of her husband which were his during his lifetime, save when she was dowered with less at the church door. No widow shall be distrained to marry for so long as she wishes to live without a husband, provided that she gives surety that she will not marry without our assent if she holds of us, or without the assent of her lord, if she holds of another.

[8] Neither we nor our bailiffs will seize any land or rent for any debt, as long as the existing chattels of the debtor suffice for the payment of the debt and as long as the debtor is ready to pay the debt, nor will the debtor’s guarantors be distrained for so long as the principal debtor is able to pay the debt; and should the principal debtor default in his payment of the debt, not having the means to repay it, or should he refuse to pay it despite being able to do so, the guarantors will answer for the debt and, if they wish, they are to have the lands and rents of the debtor until they are repaid the debt that previously they paid on behalf of the debtor, unless the principal debtor can show that he is quit in respect to these guarantors.

[9] The city of London is to have all its ancient liberties and customs. Moreover we wish and grant that all other cities and boroughs and vills and the barons of the Cinque Ports and all ports are to have all their liberties and free customs.

[10] No-one is to be distrained to do more service for a knight’s fee or for any other free tenement than is due from it.

[11] Common pleas are not to follow our court but are to be held in a certain fixed place.

[12] Recognisances of novel disseisin and of mort d’ancestor are not to be taken save in their particular counties and in the following way. We or, should we be outside the realm, our chief justiciar, will send our justices once a year to each county, so that, together with the knights of the counties, that may take the aforesaid assizes in the counties; and those assizes which cannot be completed in that visitation of the county by our aforesaid justices assigned to take the said assizes are to be completed elsewhere by the justices in their visitation; and those which cannot be completed by them on account of the difficulty of various articles (of law) are to be referred to our justices of the Bench and completed there.

[13] Assizes of darrein presentment are always to be taken before our justices of the Bench and are to be completed there.

[14] A freeman is not to be amerced for a small offence save in accordance with the manner of the offence, and for a major offence according to its magnitude, saving his sufficiency (salvo contenemento suo), and a merchant likewise, saving his merchandise, and any villain other than one of our own is to be amerced in the same way, saving his necessity (salvo waynagio) should he fall into our mercy, and none of the aforesaid amercements is to be imposed save by the oath of honest and law-worthy men of the neighbourhood. Earls and barons are not to be amerced save by their peers and only in accordance with the manner of their offence.

[15] No town or free man is to be distrained to make bridges or bank works save for those that ought to do so of old and by right.

[16] No bank works of any sort are to be kept up save for those that were in defense in the time of King H(enry II) our grandfather and in the same places and on the same terms as was customary in his time.

[17] No sheriff, constable, coroner or any other of our bailiffs is to hold pleas of our crown.

[18] If anyone holding a lay fee from us should die, and our sheriff or bailiff shows our letters patent containing our summons for a debt that the dead man owed us, our sheriff or bailiff is permitted to attach and enroll all the goods and chattels of the dead man found in lay fee, to the value of the said debt, by view of law-worthy men, so that nothing is to be removed thence until the debt that remains is paid to us, and the remainder is to be released to the executors to discharge the will of the dead man, and if nothing is owed to us from such a person, all the chattels are to pass to the (use of) the dead man, saving to the dead man’s wife and children their reasonable portion.

[19] No constable or his bailiff is to take corn or other chattels from anyone who not themselves of a vill where a castle is built, unless the constable or his bailiff immediately offers money in payment of obtains a respite by the wish of the seller. If the person whose corn or chattels are taken is of such a vill, then the constable or his bailiff is to pay the purchase price within forty days.

[20] No constable is to distrain any knight to give money for castle guard if the knight is willing to do such guard in person or by proxy of any other honest man, should the knight be prevented from doing so by just cause. And if we take or send such a knight into the army, he is to be quit of (castle) guard in accordance with the length of time the we have him in the army for the fee for which he has done service in the army.

[21] No sheriff or bailiff of ours or of anyone else is to take anyone’s horses or carts to make carriage, unless he renders the payment customarily due, namely for a two-horse cart ten pence per day, and for a three-horse cart fourteen pence per day. No demesne cart belonging to any churchman or knight or any other lady (sic) is to be taken by our bailiffs, nor will we or our bailiffs or anyone else take someone else’s timber for a castle or any other of our business save by the will of he to whom the timber belongs.

[22] We shall not hold the lands of those convicted of felony save for a year and a day, whereafter such land is to be restored to the lords of the fees.

[23] All fish weirs (kidelli) on the Thames and the Medway and throughout England are to be entirely dismantled, save on the sea coast.

[24] The writ called ‘praecipe’ is not to be issued to anyone in respect to any free tenement in such a way that a free man might lose his court.

[25] There is to be a single measure for wine throughout our realm, and a single measure for ale, and a single measure for Corn, that is to say the London quarter, and a single breadth for dyed cloth, russets, and haberjects, that is to say two yards within the lists. And it shall be the same for weights as for measures.

[26] Henceforth there is to be nothing given for a writ of inquest from the person seeking an inquest of life or member, but such a writ is to be given freely and is not to be denied.

[27] If any persons hold from us at fee farm or in socage or burgage, and hold land from another by knight service, we are not, by virtue of such a fee farm or socage or burgage, to have custody of the heir or their land which pertains to another’s fee, nor are we to have custody of such a fee farm or socage or burgage unless this fee farm owes knight service. We are not to have the custody of an heir or of any land which is held from another by knight service on the pretext of some small serjeanty held from us by service of rendering us knives or arrows or suchlike things.

[28] No bailiff is henceforth to put any man on his open law or on oath simply by virtue of his spoken word, without reliable witnesses being produced for the same.

[29] No freeman is to be taken or imprisoned or disseised of his free tenement or of his liberties or free customs, or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will we go against such a man or send against him save by lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land. To no-one will we sell or deny of delay right or justice.

[30] All merchants, unless they have been previously and publicly forbidden, are to have safe and secure conduct in leaving and coming to England and in staying and going through England both by land and by water to buy and to sell, without any evil exactions, according to the ancient and right customs, save in time of war, and if they should be from a land at war against us and be found in our land at the beginning of the war, they are to be attached without damage to their bodies or goods until it is established by us or our chief justiciar in what way the merchants of our land are treated who at such a time are found in the land that is at war with us, and if our merchants are safe there, the other merchants are to be safe in our land.

[31] If anyone dies holding of any escheat such as the honour of Wallingford, Boulogne, Nottingham, Lancaster or of other escheats which are in our hands and which are baronies, his heir is not to give any other relief or render any other service to us that would not have been rendered to the baron if the barony were still held by a baron, and we shall hold such things in the same way as the baron held them, nor, on account of such a barony or escheat, are we to have the escheat or custody of any of our men unless the man who held the barony or the escheat held elsewhere from us in chief.

[32] No free man is henceforth to give or sell any more of his land to anyone, unless the residue of his land is sufficient to render due service to the lord of the fee as pertains to that fee.

[33] All patrons of abbeys which have charters of the kings of England over advowson or ancient tenure or possession are to have the custody of such abbeys when they fall vacant just as they ought to have and as is declared above.

[34] No-one is to be taken or imprisoned on the appeal of woman for the death of anyone save for the death of that woman’s husband.

[35] No county court is to be held save from month to month, and where the greater term used to be held, so will it be in future, nor will any sheriff or his bailiff make his tourn through the hundred save for twice a year and only in the place that is due and customary, namely once after Easter and again after Michaelmas, and the view of frankpledge is to be taken at the Michaelmas term without exception, in such a way that every man is to have his liberties which he had or used to have in the time of King H(enry II) my grandfather or which he has acquired since. The view of frankpledge is to be taken so that our peace be held and so that the tithing is to be held entire as it used to be, and so that the sheriff does not seek exceptions but remains content with that which the sheriff used to have in taking the view in the time of King H(enry) our grandfather.

[36] Nor is it permitted to anyone to give his land to a religious house in such a way that he receives it back from such a house to hold, nor is it permitted to any religious house to accept the land of anyone in such way that the land is restored to the person from whom it was received to hold. If anyone henceforth gives his land in such a way to any religious house and is convicted of the same, the gift is to be entirely quashed and such land is to revert to the lord of that fee.

[37] Scutage furthermore is to be taken as it used to be in the time of King H(enry) our grandfather, and all liberties and free customs shall be preserved to archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, Templars, Hospitallers, earls, barons and all others, both ecclesiastical and secular persons, just as they formerly had.

All these aforesaid customs and liberties which we have granted to be held in our realm in so far as pertains to us are to be observed by all of our realm, both clergy and laity, in so far as pertains to them in respect to their own men. For this gift and grant of these liberties and of others contained in our charter over the liberties of the forest, the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, knights, fee holders and all of our realm have given us a fifteenth part of all their movable goods. Moreover we grant to them for us and our heirs that neither we nor our heirs will seek anything by which the liberties contained in this charter might be infringed or damaged, and should anything be obtained from anyone against this it is to count for nothing and to be held as nothing. With these witnesses: the lord S(tephen) archbishop of Canterbury, E(ustace) bishop of London, J(ocelin) bishop of Bath, P(eter) bishop of Winchester, H(ugh) bishop of Lincoln, R(ichard) bishop of Salisbury, W. bishop of Rochester, W(illiam) bishop of Worcester, J(ohn) bishop of Ely, H(ugh) bishop of Hereford, R(anulf) bishop of Chichester, W(illiam) bishop of Exeter, the abbot of (Bury) St Edmunds, the abbot of St Albans, the abbot of Battle, the abbot of St Augustine’s Canterbury, the abbot of Evesham, the abbot of Westminster, the abbot of Peterborough, the abbot of Reading, the abbot of Abingdon, the abbot of Malmesbury, the abbot of Winchcombe, the abbot of Hyde (Winchester), the abbot of Chertsey, the abbot of Sherborne, the abbot of Cerne, the abbot of Abbotsbury, the abbot of Milton (Abbas), the abbot of Selby, the abbot of Cirencester, H(ubert) de Burgh the justiciar, H. earl of Chester and Lincoln, W(illiam) earl of Salisbury, W(illiam) earl Warenne, G. de Clare earl of Gloucester and Hertford, W(illiam) de Ferrers earl of Derby, W(illiam) de Mandeville earl of Essex, H(ugh) Bigod earl of Norfolk, W(illiam) earl Aumale, H(umphrey) earl of Hereford, J(ohn) constable of Chester, R(obert) de Ros, R(obert) fitz Walter, R(obert) de Vieuxpont, W(illiam) Brewer, R(ichard) de Montfiquet, P(eter) fitz Herbert, W(illiam) de Aubigné, G. Gresley, F. de Braose, J(ohn) of Monmouth, J(ohn) fitz Alan, H(ugh) de Mortemer, W(illiam) de Beauchamp, W(illiam) de St John, P(eter) de Maulay, Brian de Lisle, Th(omas) of Moulton, R(ichard) de Argentan, G(eoffrey) de Neville, W(illiam) Mauduit, J(ohn) de Baalon and others. Given at Westminster on the eleventh day of February in the ninth year of our reign.

We, holding these aforesaid gifts and grants to be right and welcome, conceed and confirm them for ourselves and our heirs and by the terms of the present (letters) renew them, wishing and granting for ourselves and our heirs that the aforesaid charter is to be firmly and inviably observed in all and each of its articles in perpetuity, including any articles contained in the same charter which by chance have not to date been observed. In testimony of which we have had made these our letters patent. Witnessed by Edward our son, at Westminster on the twelfth day of October in the twenty-fifth year of our reign. (Chancery warranty by John of) Stowe.

Translation by Professor Nicholas Vincent, Copyright Sotheby’s Inc. 2007

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4 Responses to “Magna Carta”

  1. 1
    Freedom Warrior Says:

    Federal government workers sing to President Obama about the Government Services Administration (GSA) “going green,” all paid for by taxpayer dollars. Apr 5, 2012

  2. 2
    Freedom Warrior Says:

    The Southern Avenger Obamacare and the imaginary Constitution

  3. 3
    Richard Noegel Says:

    Georgia’s GOP Congressional District conventions were Saturday the 14th. Here’s some news from the 12th District Convention in Vidalia. We presented two resolutions: one to repeal Section 1021 of the NDAA, and one to End the Fed. Both passed with 95% majorities. We unseated one delegate to Tampa and took that spot for Dr. Paul (one of three) and took one alternate spot for Dr. Paul (also one of three). Here’s what happened:



  4. 4
    David Ronald, Clark, Sovereign, Sui Juris Says:



    Chisholm v. Georgia

    Argued: — Decided:

    Jay, Chief justice.
    The question we are now to decide has been accurately stated, viz., is a State suable by individual citizens of another State?
    It is said that Georgia refuses to appear and answer to the plaintiff in this action because she is a sovereign State, and therefore not liable to such actions. In order to ascertain the merits [p470] of this objection, let us enquire, 1st. In what sense Georgia is a sovereign State. 2nd. Whether suability is incompatible with such sovereignty. 3rd. Whether the Constitution (to which Georgia is a party) authorises such an action against her.
    “Suability” and “suable” are words not in common use, but they concisely and correctly convey the idea annexed to them.
    1st. In determining the sense in which Georgia is a sovereign State, it may be useful to turn our attention to the political situation we were in prior to the Revolution, and to the political rights which emerged from the Revolution. All the country now possessed by the United States was then a part of the dominions appertaining to the Crown of Great Britain. Every acre of land in this country was then held mediately or immediately by grants from that Crown. All the people of this country were then subjects of the King of Great Britain, and owed allegiance to him; and all the civil authority then existing or exercised here, flowed from the head of the British Empire. They were in strict sense fellow subjects, and in a variety of respects one people. When the Revolution commenced, the patriots did not assert that only the same affinity and social connection subsisted between the people of the colonies which subsisted between the people of Gaul, Britain, and Spain while Roman Provinces, viz., only that affinity and social connection which result from the mere circumstance of being governed by the same Prince; different ideas prevailed, and gave occasion to the Congress of 1774 and 1775.
    The Revolution, or rather the Declaration of Independence, found the people already united for general purposes, and at the same time providing for their more domestic concerns by State conventions and other temporary arrangements. From the Crown of Great Britain, the sovereignty of their country passed to the people of it, and it was then not an uncommon opinion that the unappropriated lands, which belonged to that Crown, passed not to the people of the Colony or States within whose limits they were situated, but to the whole people; on whatever principles this opinion rested, it did not give way to the other, and thirteen sovereignties were considered as emerged from the principles of the Revolution, combined with local convenience and considerations; the people nevertheless continued to consider themselves, in a national point of view, as one people; and they continued without interruption to manage their national concerns accordingly; afterwards, in the hurry of the war and in the warmth of mutual confidence, they made a Confederation of the States the basis of a general government. Experience disappointed the expectations they had formed from it, and then the people, in their collective and national capacity, established the present Constitution. It is remarkable [p471] that, in establishing it, the people exercised their own rights, and their own proper sovereignty, and, conscious of the plenitude of it, they declared with becoming dignity, “We the people of the United States, do ordain and establish this Constitution.” Here we see the people acting as sovereigns of the whole country, and, in the language of sovereignty, establishing a Constitution by which it was their will that the State governments should be bound, and to which the State Constitutions should be made to conform. Every State Constitution is a compact made by and between the citizens of a State to govern themselves in a certain manner, and the Constitution of the United States is likewise a compact made by the people of the United States to govern themselves as to general objects in a certain manner. By this great compact however, many prerogatives were transferred to the national government, such as those of making war and peace, contracting alliances, coining money, etc. etc.
    If then it be true that the sovereignty of the nation is in the people of the nation, and the residuary sovereignty of each State in the people of each State, it may be useful to compare these sovereignties with those in Europe, that we may thence be enabled to judge whether all the prerogatives which are allowed to the latter are so essential to the former. There is reason to suspect that some of the difficulties which embarrass the present question arise from inattention to differences which subsist between them.
    It will be sufficient to observe briefly that the sovereignties in Europe, and particularly in England, exist on feudal principles. That system considers the Prince as the sovereign, and the people as his subjects; it regards his person as the object of allegiance, and excludes the idea of his being on an equal footing with a subject, either in a court of justice or elsewhere. That system contemplates him as being the fountain of honor and authority, and from his grace and grant derives all franchises, immunities and privileges; it is easy to perceive that such a sovereign could not be amenable to a court of justice, or subjected to judicial controul and actual constraint. It was of necessity, therefore, that suability became incompatible with such sovereignty. Besides, the Prince having all the Executive powers, the judgment of the courts would, in fact, be only monitory, not mandatory to him, and a capacity to be advised is a distinct thing from a capacity to be sued. The same feudal ideas run through all their jurisprudence, and constantly remind us of the distinction between the Prince and the subject. No such ideas obtain here; at the Revolution, the sovereignty devolved on the people, and they are truly the sovereigns of the country, but they are sovereigns without subjects (unless the African [p472] slaves among us may be so called), and have none to govern but themselves; the citizens of America are equal as fellow citizens, and as joint tenants in the sovereignty.
    From the differences existing between feudal sovereignties and governments founded on compacts, it necessarily follows that their respective prerogatives must differ. Sovereignty is the right to govern; a nation or State sovereign is the person or persons in whom that resides. In Europe, the sovereignty is generally ascribed to the Prince; here, it rests with the people; there, the sovereign actually administers the government; here, never in a single instance; our Governors are the agents of the people, and, at most, stand in the same relation to their sovereign in which regents in Europe stand to their sovereigns. Their Princes have personal powers, dignities, and preeminences; our rulers have none but official; nor do they partake in the sovereignty otherwise, or in any other capacity, than as private citizens.
    2nd. The second object of enquiry now presents itself, viz., whether suability is compatible with State sovereignty.
    Suability, by whom? Not a subject, for in this country, there are none; not an inferior, for all the citizens being as to civil rights perfectly equal, there is not, in that respect, one citizen inferior to another. It is agreed that one free citizen may sue another, the obvious dictates of justice, and the purposes of society demanding it. It is agreed that one free citizen may sue any number on whom process can be conveniently executed; nay, in certain cases, one citizen may sue forty thousand; for where a corporation is sued, all the members of it are actually sued, though not personally sued. In this city there are forty odd thousand free citizens, all of whom may be collectively sued by any individual citizen. In the State of Delaware, there are fifty odd thousand free citizens, and what reason can be assigned why a free citizen who has demands against them should not prosecute them? Can the difference between forty odd thousand and fifty odd thousand make any distinction as to right? Is it not as easy, and as convenient to the public and parties, to serve a summons on the Governor and Attorney General of Delaware as on the Mayor or other Officers of the Corporation of Philadelphia? Will it be said that the fifty odd thousand citizens in Delaware, being associated under a State government, stand in a rank so superior to the forty odd thousand of Philadelphia, associated under their charter, that, although it may become the latter to meet an individual on an equal footing in a court of justice, yet that such a procedure would not comport with the dignity of the former? In this land of equal liberty, shall forty odd thousand in one place be compellable to do justice, and yet fifty odd thousand in [p473] another place be privileged to do justice only as they may think proper? Such objections would not correspond with the equal rights we claim, with the equality we profess to admire and maintain, and with that popular sovereignty in which every citizen partakes. Grant that the Governor of Delaware holds an office of superior rank to the Mayor of Philadelphia; they are both nevertheless the officers of the people; and however more exalted the one may be than the other, yet, in the opinion of those who dislike aristocracy, that circumstance cannot be a good reason for impeding the course of justice.
    If there be any such incompatibility as is pretended, whence does it arise? In what does it consist? There is at least one strong undeniable fact against this incompatibility, and that is this — any one State in the Union may sue another State, in this Court, that is, all the people of one State may sue all the people of another State. It is plain then that a State may be sued, and hence it plainly follows that suability and State sovereignty are not incompatible. As one State may sue another State in this Court, it is plain that no degradation to a State is thought to accompany her appearance in this Court. It is not therefore to an appearance in this Court that the objection points. To what does it point? It points to an appearance at the suit of one or more citizens. But why it should be more incompatible that all the people of a State should be sued by one citizen than by one hundred thousand, I cannot perceive, the process in both cases being alike and the consequences of a judgment alike. Nor can I observe any greater inconveniences in the one case than in the other, except what may arise from the feelings of those who may regard a lesser number in an inferior light. But if any reliance be made on this inferiority as an objection, at least one half of its force is done away by this fact, viz., that it is conceded that a State may appear in this Court as plaintiff against a single citizen as defendant; and the truth is that the State of Georgia is at this moment prosecuting an action in this Court against two citizens of South Carolina. [*]
    The only remnant of objection, therefore, that remains is that the State is not bound to appear and answer as a defendant at the suit of an individual; but why it is unreasonable that she should be so bound is hard to conjecture. That rule is said to be a bad one which does not work both ways; the citizens of Georgia are content with a right of suing citizens of other States, but are not content that citizens of other States should have a right to sue them.
    Let us now proceed to enquire whether Georgia has not, by being a party to the National Compact, consented to be suable by individual citizens of another State. This enquiry naturally leads our attention, 1st., to the design of the Constitution; 2nd., to the letter and express declaration in it. [p474]
    Prior to the date of the Constitution, the people had not any national tribunal to which they could resort for justice; the distribution of justice was then confined to State judicatories, in whose institution and organization the people of the other States had no participation, and over whom they had not the least control. There was then no general court of appellate jurisdiction by whom the errors of State courts, affecting either the nation at large or the citizens of any other State, could be revised and corrected. Each State was obliged to acquiesce in the measure of justice which another State might yield to her or to her citizens, and that even in cases where State considerations were not always favorable to the most exact measure. There was danger that, from this source, animosities would in time result, and as the transition from animosities to hostilities was frequent in the history of independent States, a common tribunal for the termination of controversies became desirable from motives both of justice and of policy.
    Prior also to that period, the United States had, by taking a place among the nations of the earth, become amenable to the laws of nations, and it was their interest as well as their duty to provide that those laws should be respected and obeyed; in their national character and capacity, the United States were responsible to foreign nations for the conduct of each State relative to the laws of nations and the performance of treaties, and there the inexpediency of referring all such questions to State courts, and particularly to the courts of delinquent States, became apparent. While all the States were bound to protect each and the citizens of each, it was highly proper and reasonable that they should be in a capacity not only to cause justice to be done to each and the citizens of each, but also to cause justice to be done by each and the citizens of each, and that not by violence and force, but in a stable, sedate, and regular course of judicial procedure.
    These were among the evils against which it was proper for the nation — that is, the people — of all the United States to provide by a national judiciary, to be instituted by the whole nation and to be responsible to the whole nation.
    Let us now turn to the Constitution. The people therein declare that their design in establishing it comprehended six objects. 1st. To form a more perfect union. 2nd. To establish justice. 3rd. To ensure domestic tranquillity. 4th. To provide for the common defence. 5th. To promote the general welfare. 6th. To secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity. It would be pleasing and useful to consider and trace the relations which each of these objects bears to the others, [p475] and to show that they collectively comprise everything requisite, with the blessing of Divine Providence, to render a people prosperous and happy. On the present occasion, such disquisitions would be unseasonable because foreign to the subject immediately under consideration.
    It may be asked, what is the precise sense and latitude in which the words “to establish justice,” as here used, are to be understood? The answer to this question will result from the provisions made in the Constitution on this head. They are specified in the second section of the third article, where it is ordained that the judicial power of the United States shall extend to ten descriptions of cases, viz., 1st. To all cases arising under this Constitution, because the meaning, construction, and operation of a compact ought always to be ascertained by all the parties, or by authority derived only from one of them. 2nd. To all cases arising under the laws of the United States, because, as such laws, constitutionally made, are obligatory on each State, the measure of obligation and obedience ought not to be decided and fixed by the party from whom they are due, but by a tribunal deriving authority from both the parties. 3rd. To all cases arising under treaties made by their authority; because, as treaties are compacts made by, and obligatory on, the whole nation, their operation ought not to be affected or regulated by the local laws or courts of a part of the nation. 4th. To all cases affecting Ambassadors, or other public Ministers and Consuls, because, as these are officers of foreign nations whom this nation are bound to protect and treat according to the laws of nations, cases affecting them ought only to be cognizable by national authority. 5th. To all cases of Admiralty and Maritime jurisdiction, because, as the seas are the joint property of nations, whose right and privileges relative thereto are regulated by the law of nations and treaties, such cases necessarily belong to national jurisdiction. 6th. To controversies to which the United States shall be a party, because, in cases in which the whole people are interested, it would not be equal or wise to let any one State decide and measure out the justice due to others. 7th. To controversies between two or more States, because domestic tranquillity requires that the contentions of States should be peaceably terminated by a common judicatory, and, because, in a free country, justice ought not to depend on the will of either of the litigants. 8th. To controversies between a State and citizens of another State, because in case a State (that is, all the citizens of it) has demands against some citizens of another State, it is better that she should prosecute their demands in a national court than in a court of the State to which those citizens belong, the danger of irritation and criminations arising from apprehensions and [p476] suspicions of partiality being thereby obviated. Because, in cases where some citizens of one State have demands against all the citizens of another State, the cause of liberty and the rights of men forbid that the latter should be the sole judges of the justice due to the latter, and true Republican government requires that free and equal citizens should have free, fair, and equal justice. 9th. To controversies between citizens of the same State, claiming lands under grants of different States, because, as the rights of the two States to grant the land are drawn into question, neither of the two States ought to decide the controversy. 10th. To controversies between a State or the citizens thereof and foreign states, citizens or subjects, because, as every nation is responsible for the conduct of its citizens towards other nations, all questions touching the justice due to foreign nations or people ought to be ascertained by, and depend on, national authority. Even this cursory view of the judicial powers of the United States leaves the mind strongly impressed with the importance of them to the preservation of the tranquillity, the equal sovereignty, and the equal right of the people.
    The question now before us renders it necessary to pay particular attention to that part of the second section which extends the judicial power “to controversies between a State and citizens of another State.” It is contended that this ought to be construed to reach none of these controversies excepting those in which a State may be plaintiff. The ordinary rules for construction will easily decide whether those words are to be understood in that limited sense.
    This extension of power is remedial, because it is to settle controversies. It is therefore to be construed liberally. It is politic, wise, and good that not only the controversies in which a State is plaintiff, but also those in which a State is defendant, should be settled; both cases therefore are within the reason of the remedy, and ought to be so adjudged unless the obvious, plain, and literal sense of the words forbid it. If we attend to the words, we find them to be express, positive, free from ambiguity, and without room for such implied expressions: “The judicial power of the United States shall extend to controversies between a State and citizens of another State.” If the Constitution really meant to extend these powers only to those controversies in which a State might be plaintiff, to the exclusion of those in which citizens had demands against a State, it is inconceivable that it should have attempted to convey that meaning in words not only so incompetent, but also repugnant to it; if it meant to exclude a certain class of these controversies, why were they not expressly excepted; on the contrary, not even an intimation of such intention appears in [p477] any part of the Constitution. It cannot be pretended that, where citizens urge and insist upon demands against a State, which the State refuses to admit and comply with, that there is no controversy between them. If it is a controversy between them, then it clearly falls not only within the spirit, but the very words, of the Constitution. What is it to the cause of justice, and how can it effect the definition of the word “controversy?;” whether the demands which cause the dispute are made by a State against citizens of another State or by the latter against the former? When power is thus extended to a controversy, it necessarily, as to all judicial purposes, is also extended to those between whom it subsists.
    The exception contended for would contradict and do violence to the great and leading principles of a free and equal national government, one of the great objects of which is to ensure justice to all — to the few against the many as well as to the many against the few. It would be strange indeed that the joint and equal sovereigns of this country should, in the very Constitution by which they professed to establish justice, so far deviate from the plain path of equality and impartiality as to give to the collective citizens of one State a right of suing individual citizens of another State, and yet deny to those citizens a right of suing them. We find the same general and comprehensive manner of expressing the same ideas in a subsequent clause in which the Constitution ordains that,
    in all cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be a party, the Supreme court shall have original jurisdiction.
    Did it mean here party plaintiff? If that only was meant, it would have been easy to have found words to express it. Words are to be understood in their ordinary and common acceptation, and the word “party” being in common usage, applicable both to plaintiff and defendant, we cannot limit it to one of them in the present case. We find the Legislature of the United States expressing themselves in the like general and comprehensive manner; they speak in the thirteenth section of the judicial Act, of controversies where a State is a party, and as they do not impliedly or expressly apply that term to either of the litigants in particular, we are to understand them as speaking of both. In the same section, they distinguish the cases where Ambassadors are plaintiffs from those in which Ambassadors are defendants, and make different provisions respecting those cases; and it is not unnatural to suppose that they would in like manner have distinguished between cases where a State was plaintiff and where a State was defendant if they had intended to make any difference between them, or if they had apprehended that the Constitution had made any difference between them. [p478]
    I perceive, and therefore candor urges me to mention, a circumstance which seems to favor the opposite side of the question. It is this: the same section of the Constitution which extends the judicial power to controversies “between a State and the citizens of another State” does also extend that power to controversies to which the United States are a party. Now it may be said, if the word party comprehends both plaintiff and defendant, it follows that the United States may be sued by any citizen between whom and them there may be a controversy. This appears to me to be fair reasoning, but the same principles of candour which urge me to mention this objection also urge me to suggest an important difference between the two cases. It is this: in all cases of actions against States or individual citizens, the national courts are supported in all their legal and constitutional proceedings and judgments by the arm of the executive power of the United States; but in cases of actions against the United States, there is no power which the courts can call to their aid. From this distinction, important conclusions are deducible, and they place the case of a State, and the case of the United States, in very different points of view.
    I wish the state of society was so far improved, and the science of government advanced to such a degree of perfection, as that the whole nation could, in the peaceable course of law, be compelled to do justice, and be sued by individual citizens. Whether that is or is not now the case ought not to be thus collaterally and incidentally decided. I leave it a question.
    As this opinion, though deliberately formed, has been hastily reduced to writing between the intervals of the daily adjournments, and while my mind was occupied and wearied by the business of the day, I fear it is less concise and connected than it might otherwise have been. I have made no references to cases, because I know of none that are not distinguishable from this case; nor does it appear to me necessary to show that the sentiments of the best writers on government and the rights of men harmonize with the principles which direct my judgment on the present question. The acts of the former Congresses, and the acts of many of the State Conventions, are replete with similar ideas, and, to the honor of the United States, it may be observed that in no other country are subjects of this kind better, if so well, understood. The attention and attachment of the Constitution to the equal rights of the people are discernable in almost every sentence of it, and it is to be regretted that the provision in it which we have been considering has not in every instance received the approbation and acquiescence which it merits. Georgia has in strong language advocated the cause of republican equality, and there is reason to [p479] hope that the people of that State will yet perceive that it would not have been consistent with that equality to have exempted the body of her citizens from that suability which they are at this moment exercising against citizens of another State.
    For my own part, I am convinced that the sense in which I understand and have explained the words “controversies between States and citizens of another State” is the true sense. The extension of the judiciary power of the United States to such controversies appears to me to be wise, because it is honest and because it is useful. It is honest because it provides for doing justice without respect of persons, and, by securing individual citizens as well as States in their respective rights, performs the promise which every free government makes to every free citizen of equal justice and protection. It is useful because it is honest; because it leaves not even the most obscure and friendless citizen without means of obtaining justice from a neighbouring State; because it obviates occasions of quarrels between States on account of the claims of their respective citizens; because it recognizes and strongly rests on this great moral truth that justice is the same whether due from one man or a million, or from a million to one man; because it teaches and greatly appreciates the value of our free republican national government, which places all our citizens on an equal footing, and enables each and every of them to obtain justice without any danger of being overborne by the weight and number of their opponents; and because it brings into action and enforces this great and glorious principle — that the people are the sovereign of this country, and consequently that fellow citizens and joint sovereigns cannot be degraded by appearing with each other in their own courts to have their controversies determined. The people have reason to prize and rejoice in such valuable privileges, and they ought not to forget that nothing but the free course of constitutional law and government can ensure the continuance and enjoyment of them.
    For the reasons before given, I am clearly of opinion that a State is suable by citizens of another State; but left I should be understood in a latitude beyond my meaning, I think it necessary to subjoin this caution, viz., that such suability may nevertheless not extend to all the demands and to every kind of action; there may be exceptions. For instance, I am far from being prepared to say that an individual may sue a State on bills of credit issued before the Constitution was established, and which were issued and received on the faith of the State, and at a time when no ideas or expectations of judicial interposition were entertained or contemplated.
    The following order was made:
    By The court. It is ordered that the plaintiff in this cause do file his declaration on or before the first day of March next.
    Ordered that certified copies of the said declaration be served on the Governor and Attorney General of the State of Georgia, on or before the first day of June next.
    Ordered that, unless the said State shall either in due form appear, or show cause to the contrary in this Court, by the first day of next Term, judgment by default shall be entered against the said State. [*]
    * Georgia v. Brailsford, et al., ante.
    * In February Term, 1794, judgment was rendered for the plaintiff, and a Writ of Enquiry awarded. The Writ, however, was not sued out and executed, so that this cause, and all the other suits against States, were swept at once from the Records of the Court by the amendment to the Federal Constitution, agreeably to the unanimous determination of the judges, in Hollingsworth et al. v. Virginia, argued at February Term, 1798.

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