There is no position which depends on clearer principles than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid.
The powers contained in a constitution…ought to be construed liberally in advancement of the public good.
Constitutions of civil government are not to be framed upon a calculation of existing exigencies, but upon a combination of these with the probable exigencies of ages, according to the natural and tried course of human affairs. Nothing, therefore, can be more fallacious than to infer the extent of any power, proper to be lodged in the national government, from an estimate of its immediate necessities.
The present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banners, bonafide must we combat our political foes – rejecting all changes but through the channel itself provides for amendments.
Good constitutions are formed upon a comparison of the liberty of the individual with the strength of government: If the tone of either be too high, the other will be weakened too much. It is the happiest possible mode of conciliating these objects, to institute one branch peculiarly endowed with sensibility, another with knowledge and firmness. Through the opposition and mutual control of these bodies, the government will reach, in its regular operations, the perfect balance between liberty and power.
Now, mark my words. So long as we are a young and virtuous people, this instrument will bind us together in mutual interests, mutual welfare, and mutual happiness. But when we become old and corrupt, it will bind no longer.
I never expect to see a perfect work from an imperfect man.
It is far more rational to suppose that the courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and the legislature, in order, among other things, to keep the latter within the limits assigned to their authority.
The genius of the people will ill brook the inquisitive and preemptory spirit of excise laws.
Every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.
It is just observation that the people commonly intend the Public Good.
I expect we shall be told, that the Militia of the country is its natural bulwark, and would be at all times equal to the national defence…The facts, which from our own experience forbid a reliance of this kind, are too recent to permit us to be the dupes of such a suggestion.
Little more can reasonably be aimed at with respect to the people at large than to have them properly armed.
It is evident from the state of the country, from the habits of the people, from the experience we have had on the point itself, that it is impracticable to raise any very considerable sums by direct taxation.
“By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
“The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.”
“Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”
The variety of more minute interests, which will necessarily fall under the superintendence of the local administrations . . . cannot be particularized without involving a detail too tedious and uninteresting to compensate for the instruction it might afford.
“A powerful, victorious ally is yet another name for master.”
“Have we not already seen enough of the fallacy and extravagance of those idle theories which have amused us with promises of an exemption from the imperfections, weaknesses and evils incident to society in every shape? Is it not time to awake from the deceitful dream of a golden age, and to adopt as a practical maxim for the direction of our political conduct that we, as well as the other inhabitants of the globe, are yet remote from the happy empire of perfect wisdom and perfect virtue?”