Open main menu

Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/332

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

in McCulloch v. Maryland and Juillard v. Greenman are attained by considering the Constitution in its entirety, and interpreting it in a broad spirit calculated to give it effect as an entirety. And in like manner, when the other scale. is uppermost, when it is a question, not of curtailing the national government in the functions of nationality, but of abridging the independence of the several States in the functions of local government, the same spirit should prevail; and unless a breach in the symmetry of the Constitution is clearly intended,in determining which the circumstances attending the adoption of an amendment are significant, the construction should be adopted, as far as possible, which will fit into and fill out the body of the instrument rather than violently disrupt it.

Thus, in considering the force and effect of the Fourteenth Amendment, the mere ordinary import of the words used is not to prevail exclusively; it cannot be disregarded, indeed, but it should be made to a large degree subordinate to the spirit, keeping in view the particular ends designed to be corrected, and the connection with the rest of the Constitution.

The fundamental plan of our scheme of government is the dual sovereignty of the State and of the Nation. Certain fields have been assigned to each, and, without destroying the very framework of the system, neither can be largely encroached upon. The great prevailing idea is that of local self-government coupled with a nationality complete in all things pertaining to the people as a whole. The due administration of its laws, free from control or supervision, was carefully preserved to each State, so long as its laws concerned its internal affairs and government only, and violated none of the fundamental rights specified, beside which may well and properly be classed the right not to be oppressed by arbitrary legislation. But it was never designed that the State administration of justice should be reviewable by the federal courts for the purpose only of correcting errors committed as to matters pertaining to the State, or of enforcing obedience to State laws. Unless, therefore, the intention is plain, no construction should be given that will disturb this fundamental division of powers, and overturn the local independence.

So far from such a construction being required, there seems to be nothing in the language or spirit of the Fourteenth Amendment warranting it; and this is further supported by the history of its