Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Liberty, Part XV

Nathaniel Chipman, from Principles of Government, a Treatise on Free Institutions, Including the Constitution of the United States:

“[W]e have before seen, that in a free government, an absolute, uncontrolled, and unlimited power is not committed to any one of its organs, and that it does not actually subsist in the British legislature, for whom it is so strenuously claimed. Certainly such power does not belong to the legislature of every state. It is not vested in the legislature of the United States, nor in that of any state in the union. Each is limited by the constitution from which it derives its power. The constitution is the supreme law established by the people, the ultimate supreme power in every free country; a law which the legislature is bound to obey in all its acts. Every act not warranted by the constitution is void, and with us is so decided by the courts of law. So far we may, with propriety, apply the definition to the law of the constitution, the fundamental law, that it is a rule of political conduct prescribed by the supreme power in the state; but it wholly fails, when applied to the derivative, to the municipal law. The positive laws enacted by the legislature, are prescribed by a competent authority instituted and limited by the supreme political power.”

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