The Supreme Court of the United States: Its Foundation, Methods, and Achievements: An Interpretation

By Charles Evans Hughes | Go to book overview

I
INTRODUCTION -- FOUNDATIONS

The Supreme Court of the United States is distinctly American in conception and function, and owes little to prior judicial institutions aside from the Anglo-Saxon tradition of law and judicial processes. In considering the historical background of the Court, it does not aid much to review experiences in other lands.

A Federal judiciary was an essential part of the conception of a national government of a Federal type. Such a government must have its legislature and a court to interpret legislation. State courts would be bound by Federal laws and would have to apply them, but final interpretation of such laws could not be left to a State tribunal, much less to the tribunals of a number of States whose judgments might not agree. The proposed Federal government was of necessity, in view of the existence of the States and of the sentiment which supported them as autonomous within their spheres, to be one of limited powers. To establish such a government was the purpose of a written constitution. The framers of the Constitution intended that the Federal government to be set up should act directly upon the individual citizen and not simply upon the States. This was the essence of its national character. If

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