The Constitution says, the judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in inferior courts. The Legislature can therefore only organize one Supreme Court, but they may establish as many inferior courts as they shall think proper. The designation made of them by the Constitution is, such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. But why, say gentlemen, fix precisely one Supreme Court, and leave the rest to Legislative discretion? The answer is simple: It results from the nature of things from the existent and probable state of our country. There was no difficulty in deciding that one and only one Supreme Court would be proper or necessary, to which should lie appeals from inferior tribunals. Not so as to these. The United States were advancing in rapid progression. Their population of three millions was soon to become five, then ten, afterwards twenty millions. This was well known, as far as the future can become an object of human comprehension. In this increase of numbers, with a still greater increase of wealth, with the extension of our commerce and the progress of the arts, it was evident that although a great many tribunals would become necessary, it was impossible to determine either on the precise number or the most convenient form. The Convention did not pretend to this prescience; but had they possessed it, would it have been proper to have established, then, all the tribunals necessary for all future times? Would it have been wise to have planted courts among the Chickasaws, the Choctaws, the Cherokees, the Tuscaroras, and God knows how many more, because at some future day the regions over which they roam might be cultivated by polished men? Was it not proper, wise, and necessary, to leave in the discretion of Congress the number and the kind of courts which they might find it proper to establish for the purpose designated by the Constitution? This simple statement of facts — facts of public notoriety — is alone a sufficient comment on, and explanation of, the word on which gentlemen have so much relied. The Convention in framing, the people in adopting, this compact, say the judicial power shall extend to many cases, the original cognizance whereof shall be by the inferior courts; but it is neither necessary, nor even possible, now to determine their number or their form; that essential power, therefore, shall vest in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time, in the progression of time, and according to the indication of circumstances, establish; not provide, or determine, but establish. Not a mere temporary provision, but an establishment.
If, after this, it had said in general terms, that judges should hold their offices during good behaviour, could a doubt have existed on the interpretation of this act, under all its attending circumstances, that the judges of the inferior courts were intended as well as those of the Supreme Court? But did the framers of the Constitution stop here? Is there then nothing more? Did they risk on these grammatical niceties the fate of America? Did they rest here the most important branch of our Government? Little important, indeed, as to foreign danger; but infinitely valuable to our domestic peace, and to personal protection against the oppression of our rulers. No; lest a doubt should be raised, they have carefully connected the judges of both courts in the same sentence; they have said, 'the judges both of the supreme and inferior courts' thus coupling them inseparably together. You may cut the bands, but you can never untie them. With salutary caution they devised this clause to arrest the overbearing temper which they knew belonged to Legislative bodies. They do not say the judges, simply, but the judges of the supreme and inferior courts shall hold their offices during good behaviour.2
hey say, therefore, to the Legislature, you may judge of the propriety, the utility, the necessity, of organizing these courts; but when established, you have done your duty. Anticipating the course of passion in future times, they say to the Legislature, you shall not disgrace yourselves by exhibiting the indecent spectacle of judges established by one Legislature removed by another. We will save you also from yourselves. We say these judges shall hold their offices; and surely, sir, to pretend that they can hold their office after the office is destroyed, is contemptible.