Brown v Walker 3-23-1896

United States Supreme Court
Brown v. Walker

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA.

No. 765.

Argued January 23, 1896.–Decided March 23, 1896.

[Brown v. Walker, 161 U.S. 591 (1896).]

(Excerpted)

…Mr. Justice Brown, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court….

“…As the object of the first eight amendments to the Constitution was to incorporate into the fundamental law of the land certain principles of natural  justice which had become permanently fixed in the jurisprudence of the mother country, the construction given to those principles by the English courts is cogent evidence of what they were designed to secure and of the limitations that should be put upon them. This is but another application of the familiar rule that where one State adopts the laws of another, it is also presumed to adopt the known and settled construction of those laws by the courts of the State from which they are taken….”

“…There is no such restriction, however, upon the applicability of Federal statutes. The Sixth Article of the Constitution declares that “this Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding….”

– U.S. Supreme Court Justice Henry B. Brown.

“The abuses and perversions of sound principles which would creep into the law by yielding to arguments like these–to what is supposed to be necessary for the public good–cannot be better stated than it was by the late Justice Bradley in Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 635. Said the learned justice:

“Illegitimate and unconstitutional practices get their first footing in that way, namely, by silent approaches and slight deviations from legal modes of procedure. This can only be obviated by adhering to the rule that constitutional provisions for the security of person and property should be liberally construed. A close and literal construction deprives them of half their efficacy, and leads to gradual depreciation of the right, as if it consisted more in sound than substance. It is the duty of courts to be watchful for the constitutional rights of the citizens, and against any stealthy encroachments thereon. Their motto should be obsta principiis.”

“And the same great and learned justice adds:

“The freedom of thought, of speech, and of the press; the right to bear arms; exemption from military dictation; security of the person and of the home; the right to speedy and public trial by jury; protection against oppressive bail and cruel punishment, are, together with exemption from self-crimination, the essential and inseparable features of English liberty. Each one of these features had been involved in the struggle above referred to in England within the century and a half immediately preceding the adoption of the Constitution, and the contests were fresh in the memories and traditions of the people at that time….”

– U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field, in dissent.

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The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms shall NOT be infringed.

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