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title:“Luther Martin: Address No. II”
authors:Luther Martin
date written:1788-3-21

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 7:58 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Feb. 21, 2024, 5:29 p.m. UTC

Martin, Luther. "Luther Martin: Address No. II." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 16. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 1986. 452-53. Print.

Luther Martin: Address No. II (March 21, 1788)

In the recognition which the Landholder professes to make "of what occurred to my advantage," he equally deals in the arts of misrepresentation, as while he was "only the record of the bad," and I am equally obliged, from a regard to truth, to disclaim his pretended approbation as his avowed censure.
He declares, that I originated the clause which enacts, that "this Constitution, and the laws of the United States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution or the laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding. " To place this matter in a proper point of view, it will be necessary to state, that as the propositions were reported by the committee of the whole house, a power was given to the general government to negative the laws passed by the state legislatures-a power which I considered as totally inadmissible;- in substitution of this, I proposed the following clause, which you will find very materially different from the clause adopted by the Constitution, "that the legislative acts of the United States, made by virtue and in pursuance of the articles of the union, and all treaties made and ratified under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the respective states, so far as those acts or treaties shall relate to the said states, or their citizens; and that the judiciaries of the several states shall be bound thereby in their decisions, any thing in the respective laws of the individualstates to the contrary notwithstanding."
When this clause was introduced, it was not established that inferior continental courts should be appointed for trial of all questions arising on treaties and on the laws of the general government, and it was my wish and hope that every question of that kind would have been determined, in the first instance, in the courts of the respective states; had this been the case, the propriety and the necessity that treaties duly made and ratified, and the laws of the general government should be binding on the state judiciaries, which were to decide upon them, must be evident to every capacity, while, at the same time, if such treaties or laws were inconsistent with our constitution and bill of rights, the judiciaries of this state would be bound to reject the first and abide by the last; since in the form I introduced the clause, notwithstanding treaties and the laws of the general government were intended to be superior to the laws of our state government, where they should be opposed to each other, yet that they were not proposed, nor meant to be superior to our constitution and bill of rights. It was afterwards altered and amended (if it can be called an amendment) to the form in which it stands in the system now published, and, as inferior continental, and not state, courts are originally to decide on those questions, it is now worse than useless; for being so altered as to render the treaties and laws made under the general government superior to our constitution, if the system is adopted, it will amount to a total and unconditional surrender to that government, by the citizens of this state, of every right and privilege secured to them by our constitution, and an express compact and stipulation with the general government, that it may, at its discretion, make laws in direct violation of those rights: But on this subject I shall enlarge in a future number.
That I "voted an appeal should lay to the supreme judiciary of the United States, for the correction of all errors both in law and fact," in rendering judgment, is most true; and it is equally true that if it had been so ordained by the Constitution, the supreme judiciary would only have had an appellate jurisdiction, of the same nature with that possessed by our high court of appeals, and could not in any respect intermeddle with any fact decided by a jury; but as the clause now stands, an appeal being given in general terms from the inferior courts, both as to law and fact, it not only doth, but was avowedly intended to give a power very different from what our court of appeals, or any court of appeals in the United States or in England enjoys-a power of the most dangerous and alarming nature, that of setting at nought the verdict of a jury, and having the same facts which they had determined, without any regard or respect to their determination, examined and ultimately decided by the judges themselves; and that by judges immediately appointed by the government.
But the Landholder also says, that "I agreed to the clause that declares nine states to be sufficient to put the government in motion."-
I cannot take to myself the merit even of this, without too great a sacrifice of truth.
It was proposed that if seven states agreed, that should be sufficient; by a rule of convention in filling up blanks, if different numbers were men

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