Illinois Staats-Zeitung -- April 29, 1871United States Constitution.
Editorial:- Supreme Court and Paper-Money.
Last year the Supreme Court, then consisting of eight judges, gave a decision regarding the forced course ("Zwangskurs") of paper money. The court decided by five votes to three that the pegged course should have no retroactive effect in regard to payments or promises of payments made before its introduction(in other words that older contracts were to be fulfilled in gold.)
This decision made a great deal of difference in the budgets of railroad companies, towns, etc...many hoped that in one way or the other the Supreme Court might be prevailed upon to reverse its decision. How they might have contributed to such an outcome will probably always remain a secret, but the fact remains that such a reversal has taken place thanks to the nomination of two judges who as attorneys for the two biggest railroad companies of the East had the greatest possible interest in such a reversal.
The two judges are Strong and Bradley. Their nomination(thanks to the fact that meanwhile Grier had dropped out) brought the membership of the Supreme Court to nine.2
None of the judges who participated in the former decision changed his mind. But the decision was reversed nonetheless by a vote of 5 to 4.
We disagreed with the first decision....however, that a Supreme Court decision once made should be reversed in such a way and by such means as in this case.....
If the question was only (Sic!) one of common ethics, of social or political attitude, the reversal of a former opinion through a later one would only mean that judges, too, stand under the influence of the views of their age-Nobody will ask of the Supreme Court that, because it decided in 1858 that Negroes are not to be regarded as human beings but only as chattel, it must today uphold the validity of this decision. But such is not the present case. Here the question is one of a simple application of Constitutional law in judging a bill under circumstances that should exclude all vague moral feelings or inclinations. In such a case it is more important that a decision once given, even if it appears doubtful to many, should be maintained than that a new, possibly more popular decision is rendered.3
The Constitution lets no limit to the membership of the Supreme Court, and if the ruling party only needs to nominate a few judges in order to make the minority a majority and to have former decisions reversed, then the Supreme Court ceases to be a tribunal of arbitration above the parties...
All such things the present decision of the Supreme Court makes appear as possibilities-may they never change from theoretical possibilities into practical probabilities.
I F 6, I J
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