Powers of the American People
This exerpt from “Powers of the American people, Congress, President, and courts: (according to the evolution of constitutional construction)” by Masuji Miyakawa, was published in 1908 by the Baker & Taylor co. (pp. 346-349) Mr. Miyakawa grasped in 1908 the same essense of what America needs today. [Bonus: Look for Justice Harlan to show up after the jump!]
“Strange to say, the American judges, ever since the organization of the Government, have been the least criticised and least arraigned public officers. On the contrary they have been the most respected and most honored among all the dignitaries of America. We may attribute this strange phenomenon to the fact that the only thing which the American will obey is law and the only thing in which he will know the meaning of obedience is his relation to law. The judges of the United States and of the several States are thoroughly conscious of their exceptional privileges and immunities; also of their correspondingly great responsibilities as the only interpreters of the law, to whom alone the final construction of the law of the land is unreservedly entrusted.
All the American judges realize this. The American people know that the strictest obedience to law is the foundation stone of the strength and permanence of the republic. This has been understood by the American people ever since they founded their country. Departure from this common understanding tends to involve national ruin by creating anarchy. Superficial observers who see but the so called material side of American progress, or those who are devotees of the game of profit, do wrong when they do not appreciate the fundamental proposition that the people are the backbone of progress.
Such superficiality not only fails to grasp the true situation, but also fails to appreciate the true meaning of the beneficent opportunity upon which the Americans build their higher and nobler civilization. The statements recently made that the American people have changed their allegiance from the great principles which they embodied in the Declaration of Independence to the worship of the almighty dollar, and that the American people have changed from their appreciation of the Bible to the worship of the sword are evidence of the fact that their authors are but shallow students of the America of to day.
To illustrate the fallacy of such statements: A few years ago, in Washington, D.C., we happened to enter one of the local churches. We saw among the younger Sunday school scholars a man holding a Bible in his hand, teaching the tidings from God, a man whose duty it was to settle the disputes of men in the business world, a man whose thirty years judgeship in the Supreme Court has just been celebrated as the pride of Kentucky: Mr. Justice Harlan. Some time later in Chicago, we happened to come across a local newspaper that reproduced a speech containing this wonderful remark, “Our country of liberty is not a country only for the white race. Ours is and must be the country of all races,” a speech which was uttered by an American whose legal knowledge it is not necessary for us here to emphasize: Mr. Justice Brewer.
We are impelled by the force of the facts to recall the tradition about the Pilgrim Fathers who claimed the promise of God to Abraham as the sanction of their voyage. Obedient to the divine command they forsook their country. On the morning they were to set sail from the harbor of Delft Haven, the Pilgrim Fathers formed a solemn procession. Reverend Robinson, having a Bible in his hand, then told them that more truth and light were yet to break out of God’s word. “Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred and from thy father’s house into a land that I will show thee and I will make thee a great nation and in thee shall all families and nations of the earth be blessed.” These are but a few examples, and these men are but a few Americans among innumerable others who constitute the America of to day, and who are taking the command of God to Abraham and His promise to the father of the faithful as a pledge vouchsafed unto them and to their children after them.
The Americans do not have to ask God for material treasures. He has already granted them that in abundance. It is theirs to thank Him for the strength to perpetuate their institutions firm as heaven and earth and to bless all peoples and nations with an example of peace, happiness, and prosperity. The quickest way to the brotherhood of man demands, as a necessary organization, therefore, not kings or nobles, but wise magistrates whom the people have elected, and who administer equal laws, which the people have framed.
Realization of that brotherhood is in sight for the Palladium of the Republic is in the courts of law. The statues of the dead and the figures of the living judges on the bench are the ceaseless sources of our gratitude and veneration. To them we owe the vitalization of the Constitutional provisions. It is they by whom the Congressional and Executive acts have been made to breathe and the unformed and immaterial phenomena transformed into the living forces comprising the written and material wealth, progress and prosperity of the United States and the various States.
There is not a blot on our body politic to day that the better element of the people could not remove if they resolved to do so. They will so resolve in good time as they have always done in the past. There is not a defect or deformity in our political administration that they cannot and will not correct by the peaceful expression of their sober convictions and in the legitimate way pointed out by their free institutions.
It would be well always to keep in mind this reserved power of the people so immediately connected with the preservation of their Government. It has been the source of safety in all times past, in peace and in war, and it is to day, and will ever continue to be, the omnipotent power that forbids us to doubt the complete success of free government. The virtue and intelligence of the people are the sure bulwark of safety for a republic.”