The supremacy of the Federal Government, when operating within its constitutional sphere, over all persons and bodies politic within its territorial limits, is no longer opens to question. That the extent of this federal constitutional sphere of action is to be determined in the last resort by the federal Supreme Court is equally well settled.
The maintenance of this supremacy unimpaired, while at the same time preserving to the States their proper autonomy and independence of action, has, however, been a difficult task; and, so long as the federal form is retained, this task will continue to tax to the utmost the legal and political abilities of our courts and political bodies. With a quite proper motive those who have controlled the public actions of the States, and those who have guided the activities of the United States, have sought for their respective governments the greatest possible constitutional power and independence, and, ...view middle of the document...
The general statement may be made that, since the beginning of our present Government, in no instance has the federal Supreme Court failed to assert the supremacy of the federal power when the States attacked its authority ha3. In 1793 the court upheld its right under the Constitution, as it then stood, to entertain a suit against the State of Georgia brought by a citizen of another State.1 The next year the court clearly intimated that it would disregard a state law in conflict with a federal treaty.2 The supremacy of federal law was again asserted the next year in Penhallow v. Doane,3 and in 1796 in Ware v. Hylton.4 In Calder v. Bull5 the doctrine was definitely asserted, though its application was not found necessary, that a state law in conflict with the federal Constitution would be disregarded. In 1809, in United States v. Peters, 6 this action became necessary and the doctrine was applied, Chief Justice Marshall speaking for the unanimous court, saying: "If the legislatures of the several States may, at will, annul the judgments of the courts of the United States, and destroy the rights acquired under these judgments, the Constitution becomes itself a solemn mockery; and the nation is deprived of the means of enforcing its laws by the instrumentality of its own tribunals. All must deprecate so fatal a result, and the people of Pennsylvania, as well as the citizens of every other State, must feel a deep interest in resisting principles so destructive of the Union and in asserting consequences so fatal to themselves. . . . The State of Pennsylvania can possess no constitutional right to resist the legal process which may be directed in this cause." “It will be readily conceived," the great Chief Justice, concludes, "that the order which this court is enjoined to make by the high obligations of duty and of law, is not made without extreme regret at the necessity which has induced the application. However, it is a solemn duty, and therefore must be performed.
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