Washington, D. C
TO a lawyer the most interesting point in Washington is the old Senate Chamber at the Capitol, for it is there that the Supreme Court of the United States now sits.
De Tocqueville, writing over fifty years ago, declared that the Supreme Court was “placed at the head of all known tribunals, both by the nature of its rights and the class of justiciable parties which it controls.” And one who contemplates the history of the court during the ninety-seven years of its existence, as to the work that it has done, both in moulding the development of the constitution and in adjusting and regulating the conflicting rights of the federal government and the several State sovereignties, will agree with the learned Frenchman.
October Term 1886 has not been lacking in cases of far-reaching importance. It was ushered in by the judgment in Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific R.R. Co. v. Illinois, which prepared the way for the enactment of the Interstate Commerce Law. Whatever the defects of that measure may be, either in its provisions or in the policy which it embodies, the commissioners to whom its execution has been entrusted are men of such a stamp as to give promise that the best result of which it is capable will be derived from the law; indeed, a more judicious selection could hardly have been made, the appointment of Judge Cooley to the long term especially meeting with universal approbation. Following the decision of the Wabash case have come a series of others, involving the power to regulate commerce, among them the Drummers’ Tax Cases, very recently decided, in which Mr. Justice Bradley delivered one of his most masterly opinions.
A case of especial interest to the friends of the Indians in Massachusetts was that of Choctaw Nation v. United States, in which a large sum of money, over two and a half million dollars, was at last recovered by the Choctaws in satisfaction of injuries suffered by them in the execution of the treaty of 1830; and one will hardly read the statesmanlike opinion of Judge Matthews without becoming satisfied of the justice and sound morality of the conclusions reached, even if a more technical consideration of the principles of law applicable to the question may seem to render the result more doubtful. No appropriation was made by the last Congress to pay this judgment.
United States v. Rauscher is noteworthy as involving the much-mooted question of the right to try a person for a crime other than that for which his extradition was secured; the opinion of the court denying the right, under existing treaties, may not be wholly satisfactory as a legal argument, but it must not be forgotten that the question depends rather on political than judicial principles for its proper determination. Indeed, this case and the Choctaw case excellently illustrate how the court is constantly called upon to deal with matters which in all other countries are regarded as not pertaining to the judicial power; and they also show a sound tendency to