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CONFEDERATIONS.                                 2 S3
dent, may be resisted and examined ; and the laws passed by
congress are subject to the same ordeal. The mighty efficacy
of the single clause that " no state shall pass any law impair-
ing the obligation of contracts"—which brings before the
court the question what are contracts, and whether a law im-
pairs their obligation—has been already adverted to. This is
one of the great checks on arbitrary state law against indi-
viduals. Again, the court has, in controversies between two
or more states, such as those relating to ownership of lands,
boundaries, and the like, a jurisdiction which may be called
arbitral, answering to that of austragalinstanze in Germany,
which have been there rather desired than established. Thus
the court is the moderating power of the constitution, and
while it has no might, and may be opposed by might, it has
been able to carry its decisions into practice. They have
been respected and received, with scarcely an exception, by
an influential profession, which admits the force of precedent
but demands reasons, as well as by the intelligence of the
country. We cannot help believing that the supreme court
has saved the country from infinite evils, and that to break it
down would be to dissolve Jtlie union.
Two presidents, Jefferson and Jackson, held that each de-
partment of the government possessed the right of indepen-
dent interpretation within its own sphere. Thus there would
be three interpreting powers instead of one, and every oppo-
site party through its chief, when successful in raising him to
power, could nullify in practice the enactments of prior holders
of power. Thus also congress, if they overcame a veto,
would make the law for supreme court and president, nay, the
latter might in some cases disregard the vetp. Such a view
finds no support in the constitution, any more than in sound
reason. The president is bound by oath to support the con-
stitution as it has been interpreted by the court; acting only
on new cases independently until they shall be submitted to
the supreme tribunal, just as judges in the states and members
of state legislatures, when they take the same oath, take it
with reference to the constitution interpreted by that same