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The Consitutional Interpretation Essay

1536 words - 6 pages

Adopted in 1787, the United States Constitution set the framework for a new nation. Over the course of a decade, the Constitution was continuously amended and encouraged interpretation as enumerated rights left gaps of implied powers for its abiders. In aim of clarifying and refuting opposing arguments, Alexander Hamilton authored a primary source on interpreting the Constitution as he contributed to authoring the Federalist Papers. The Constitutional interpretations of John Jay, John Marshall, and Roger Taney exemplify Alexander Hamilton's adeptness of accurately detailing the relationship among the governmental branches depicted in Federalist 78.
In the essay Federalist 78, Hamilton focused attention on the judiciary branch and its role in the balance of power among the three branches of government. In order to avoid an omnipotent or tyrannical government, the Constitution enforces limits on Congress that protect individual liberties; However in order to offer such protection, the courts must be independent. Hamilton expresses in his essay that the duties of the Courts are to interpret the laws and prevent both the legislative and executive branches from exceeding their granted powers. “The courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and the legislature….The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts.” Additionally, Hamilton clarifies that the while the Constitution is both the fundamental and supreme law, the Courts must also place the will of the people ahead of that of the representatives.
In July of 1793, President Washington issued a request to the United States first Chief-Justice, John Jay, for an advisory opinion on the constitutional status of his Neutrality Proclamation. The Court is neither specifically empowered nor denied by the Constitution to give advisory opinions and thus needed the analysis of Chief-Justice Jay. Through interpreting the given powers of the Constitution, Jay declined the request to issue an opinion by means of expounding on the separation of powers: “Being in certain respects checks upon each other, and our being judges of a court in the last resort, are considerations which afford strong arguments against the propriety of our extrajudicially deciding the questions alluded to.” It was in Jay’s declination that the judiciary’s independence was first established.
While independence of the courts was a factor in achieving balance of power among the governmental branches, Hamilton additionally states that the judicial branch is the weakest and “least dangerous” branch unless, in its independence, it is able to act. “The judiciary... has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution.... It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment.” The courts are thus enabled only by the executive branch to enforce decisions and are...

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