Federalist 80


In Federalist 80, Alexander Hamilton discusses the powers and authority of the federal judicial branch. He states that there are five areas that the federal judiciary should have authority over – cases concerning federal laws, the Constitution, where the federal government is a party, the peace of the nation, and sea-related matters. Throughout the essay, Hamilton is explaining why such powers are needed for the federal judiciary, such as to correct improper actions of the states, solve conflicts and matters between the states, have uniformity in laws for the whole country, and to deal with matters concerning other countries. It is important for the federal courts to handle matters that the states cannot be neutral in, such as land and boundary disputes. Hamilton concludes the essay by stating that the federal convention tried to protect against any possible tyranny of the federal judiciary; however, if any corruption occurs, there are checks and balances between the other branches to keep the federal courts in line.

Federalist 80

Independent Journal
Saturday, June 21, 1788
Alexander Hamilton


To the People of the State of New York:
To JUDGE with accuracy of the proper extent of the federal judicature, it will be necessary to consider, in the first place, what are its proper objects. In order to judge how much power the federal judicial branch should have, it is necessary to first consider what powers the branch should have.
It seems scarcely to admit of controversy, that the judicary authority of the Union ought to extend to these several descriptions of cases: 1st, to all those which arise out of the laws of the United States, passed in pursuance of their just and constitutional powers of legislation; 2d, to all those which concern the execution of the provisions expressly contained in the articles of Union; 3d, to all those in which the United States are a party; 4th, to all those which involve the PEACE of the CONFEDERACY, whether they relate to the intercourse between the United States and foreign nations, or to that between the States themselves; 5th, to all those which originate on the high seas, and are of admiralty admiralty (noun) cases concerning ships or the sea and other navigable waters or maritime maritime (noun) of or pertaining to the sea jurisdiction jurisdiction (noun) power, authority, or control ; and, lastly, to all those in which the State tribunal tribunal (noun) a court of justice cannot be supposed to be impartial impartial (adjective) fair and unbiased unbiased (adjective) not having or showing an unfair tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than other . The judicial branch should have power over the following cases: first, all cases concerning federal laws; second, cases that involve Constitutional issues; third, cases where the federal government is a party; fourth, cases that might disrupt the peace of the nation either domestically or internationally; fifth, cases that deal with sea-related issues; and finally, any cases where the state courts may be unfair.
The first point depends upon this obvious consideration, that there ought always to be a constitutional method of giving efficacy ** efficacy (noun)** the ability to produce a desired or intended result to constitutional provisions. What, for instance, would avail restrictions on the authority of the State legislatures, without some constitutional mode of enforcing the observance of them? The States, by the plan of the convention, are prohibited from doing a variety of things, some of which are incompatible with the interests of the Union, and others with the principles of good government. The imposition ** imposition (noun)** the act of establishing or creating something in an official way of duties on imported articles, and the emission of paper money, are specimens ** specimen (noun)** an example of something such as a product or piece of work, regarded as typical of its class or group of each kind. No man of sense will believe, that such prohibitions would be scrupulously ** scrupulous (adjective)** having or showing strict concern for what one considers right regarded, without some effectual power in the government to restrain or correct the infractionsinfraction (noun) a violation of a law, agreement, or set of rules. of them. This power must either be a direct negative on the State laws, or an authority in the federal courts to overrule such as might be in manifest contraventioncontravention (noun) an action that violates a law, treaty, or other ruling. of the articles of Union. There is no third course that I can imagine. The latter appears to have been thought by the convention preferable to the former, and, I presume, will be most agreeable to the States. There needs to be a way to execute what is in the Constitution. For example, it is useless to have restrictions on the state legislature if there is no way to enforce those restrictions. The members of the Constitutional Convention prohibited states from doing many things, which would benefit the nation as a whole and also reflect good governmental principles. For example, states cannot tax imports or print paper money. It is common sense to know that if the government did not have the power to enforce the restrictions, they would continue to be violated. The only way to prevent this is for there to be a direct veto on state laws or for federal courts to have the power to overrule state laws that conflict with the Constitution. There is no other option I can see. The states would prefer that the federal courts overrule them rather than the federal courts to have a direct veto over them.
As to the second point, it is impossible, by any argument or comment, to make it clearer than it is in itself. If there are such things as political axiomsaxiom (noun) a statement that is regarded as being established, accepted, or self-evidently true , the propriety** propriety (noun)** the details or rules of behavior usually considered to be correct of the judicial power of a government being coextensive with its legislative, may be ranked among the number. The mere necessity of uniformity in the interpretation of the national laws, decides the question. Thirteen independent courts of final jurisdiction over the same causes, arising upon the same laws, is a hydra** hydra (noun)** a many-headed serpent or monster in Greek mythology and each head of which when cut off was replaced by two others. This reference represents the confusion giving 13 different courts final authority over the same laws. in government, from which nothing but contradiction and confusion can proceed. It is hard to make the second point any clearer than it already is. The power of the judicial branch should be equal to the power of the legislative branch. It is important to have uniformity in the interpretation of national laws. If thirteen independent courts had the final say over the same laws, it would be confusing because some laws would contradict each other.
Still less need be said in regard to the third point. Controversies between the nation and its members or citizens, can only be properly referred to the national tribunals. Any other plan would be contrary to reason, to precedentprecedent (noun) an earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide to be considered in subsequent similar circumstances , and to decorumdecorum (noun) dignified respectability of behavior, speech, or dress. Even less needs to be said about the third point. Conflicts between the nation and its citizens can only be handled properly by federal courts. Any other options would be illogical and against previous tradition and decency.
The fourth point rests on this plain propositionproposition (noun) a statement that expresses a judgment or opinion, that the peace of the WHOLE ought not to be left at the disposal of a PART. The Union will undoubtedly be answerable to foreign powers for the conduct of its members. And the responsibility for an injury ought ever to be accompanied with the faculty of preventing it. As the denial or perversionperversion (noun) the alteration of something from its original meaning to a corruption of what was first intended of justice by the sentences of courts, as well as in any other manner, is with reason classed among the just causes of war, it will follow that the federal judiciary ought to have cognizancecognizance (noun) knowledge, awareness, or notice of all causes in which the citizens of other countries are concerned. This is not less essential to the preservation of the public faith, than to the security of the public tranquillity. A distinction may perhaps be imagined between cases arising upon treaties and the laws of nations and those which may stand merely on the footing of the municipal law. The former kind may be supposed proper for the federal jurisdiction, the latter for that of the States. But it is at least problematical, whether an unjust sentence against a foreigner, where the subject of controversy was wholly relative to the lex locilex loci Latin; the law of a place as in where a right was acquired or a liability incurred, would not, if unredressed, be an aggression upon his sovereign, as well as one which violated the stipulationsstipulation (noun) a condition or requirement that is specified or demanded as part of an agreement of a treaty or the general law of nations. And a still greater objection to the distinction would result from the immense immense (adjective) extremely large or great difficulty, if not impossibility, of a practical discriminationdiscrimination (noun) the ability to understand that one thing is different from another thing between the cases of one complexioncomplexion (noun) the general aspect or character of something and those of the other. So great a proportion of the cases in which foreigners are parties, involve national questions, that it is by far most safe and most expedient expedient (adjective) a quick and easy way to solve a problem or do something to refer all those in which they are concerned to the national tribunals. The fourth point comes down to this; no one part of the nation should be able to disrupt the peace of the whole nation. Foreign countries will hold the nation responsible for the actions of its citizens. If the nation is going to be held accountable for the action, it should have the power to prevent that action. This is why the federal judicial branch should handle matters concerning the citizens of other countries. This is equally as important as public faith and the protection of public peace. There is a difference between cases involving federal law and treaties and those involving local laws. The federal laws are for the whole nation and the local laws are just for the states. It would be offensive to a country if an unjust ruling were given to a foreigner, which would violate conditions of a treaty and the general law of nations. Even more concern would result from the great difficulty of differentiating cases of one kind to cases of another kind. Foreigners are in cases that involve national issues a lot of the time, so it would be best for the federal courts to handle their cases.
The power of determining causes between two States, between one State and the citizens of another, and between the citizens of different States, is perhaps not less essential to the peace of the Union than that which has been just examined. History gives us a horrid horrid (adjective) causing horror picture of the dissensionsdissension (noun) strong disagreement and private wars which distracted and desolateddesolate (verb) to make (a place) hopelessly and depressingly empty or bare Germany prior to the institution of the Imperial Chamber by Maximilian, towards the close of the fifteenth century; and informs us, at the same time, of the vast influence of that institution in appeasingappease (verb) to relieve or to satisfy the disorders and establishing the tranquillity of the empire. This was a court invested with authority to decide finally all differences among the members of the Germanic body. The power to handle cases concerning conflict between two states; one state and citizens of a different state, and between citizens of different states are equally essential to the peace of the union as the previously mentioned point. History provides examples of what disagreements and private wars can do. For example, private wars destroyed Germany before the Imperial Chamber by Maximilian restored order to the country toward the end of the fifteenth century. The incredible influence of the Chamber calmed the chaos and established peace in Germany. The Chamber had the ability to decide all differences among the German people.
A method of terminating territorial disputes between the states, under the authority of the federal head, was not unattended to, even in the imperfect system by which they have been hithertohitherto (adverb) until now or until the point in time under discussion held together. But there are many other sources, besides interfering claims of boundary, from which bickeringsbickering (noun) an angry, petty dispute or quarrel and animositiesanimosities (noun) a feeling of strong dislike or ill will that tends to display itself in action may spring up among the members of the Union. To some of these we have been witnesses in the course of our past experience. It will readily be conjecturedconjecture (verb) to conclude or suppose from evidence insufficient to ensure reliability that I allude** allude (verb)** to refer casually or indirectly to the fraudulent fraudulent (adjective) characterized by or involving deceit or trickery laws which have been passed in too many of the States. And though the proposed Constitution establishes particular guards against the repetition of those instances which have heretoforeheretofore (adverb) before this time; until now made their appearance, yet it is warrantable warrantable (adjective) to give reason or account for to apprehendapprehend (adverb) to grasp the meaning of or understand that the spirit which produced them will assume new shapes, that could not be foreseenforesee (verb) to see beforehand nor specifically provided against. Whatever practices may have a tendency to disturb the harmony between the States, are proper objects of federal superintendencesuperintendence (noun) the act or process of supervising or oversight and control. Even under the Articles of Confederation, there was a system in order to resolve territorial disputes between the states. Besides territorial conflicts, there are many other conflicts that could produce arguments among the people of the country. We have seen some of these conflicts in our past experiences. It can be easily believed that I am talking about the bad laws which have been passed in too many of the states. Although the Constitution has specific protections against bad laws, it is somewhat likely that the rationale behind these laws will happen again, which will be hard to predict and prohibit. Any matters that might affect the peace between the states are proper matters for the federal government to supervise and control.
It may be esteemedesteem (verb) to consider highly or favorably the basis of the Union, that "the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several States.'' And if it be a just principle that every government OUGHT TO POSSESS THE MEANS OF EXECUTING ITS OWN PROVISIONS BY ITS OWN AUTHORITY, it will follow, that in order to the inviolable inviolable (adjective) prohibiting violation; secure from destruction or violence maintenance of that equality of privileges and immunities to which the citizens of the Union will be entitledentitled (verb) to give a title, right, or claim to something, the national judiciary ought to preside in all cases in which one State or its citizens are opposed to another State or its citizens. To secure the full effect of so fundamental fundamental (adjective) serving as or being an essential part of something a provision against all evasionevasion (noun) an act or instance of escaping or avoiding something and subterfugesubterfuge (noun) the use of tricks especially to hide, avoid, or get something, it is necessary that its construction should be committed to that tribunal which, having no local attachments, will be likely to be impartial between the different States and their citizens, and which, owing its official existence to the Union, will never be likely to feel any bias inauspiciousinauspicious (adjective) not showing or suggesting that future success is likely to the principles on which it is founded. The foundation of the nation is that each citizen should have the same advantages and freedoms as citizens from other states. If it is right that every government should have the authority to determine and enforce their own laws, it makes sense that in order to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens, the federal judiciary should handle all cases where one state or its citizens are in conflict with another state or its citizens. In order to protect such an important power against corruption, it should be given to a court that has no local connections, and will be neutral between different states and their citizens. Therefore, being part of the national government, it is unlikely for the federal court to be unfair to a particular state from which it receives power.
The fifth point will demand little animadversionanimadversion (noun) a critical remark . The most bigotedbigot (noun) a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people or ideas idolizersidolizers (noun) a person who loves and admires something too much of State authority have not thus far shown a disposition to deny the national judiciary the cognizances of maritime causesmaritime causes The term maritime cause of action refers to a lawsuit or arbitration that arises out of an issue on the water or near the water that is related to maritime activities. Maritime causes of action include actions against employers for negligence which resulted in the injury, illness or death of a seaman. Passengers who are hurt on recreational vessels or cruise ships are also entitled to file a maritime cause of action . These so generally depend on the laws of nations, and so commonly affect the rights of foreigners, that they fall within the considerations which are relative to the public peace. The most important part of them are, by the present Confederation, submitted to federal jurisdiction. The fifth point will require little criticism. Even the strongest supporters of state authority have shown no evidence to deny federal courts knowledge of sea-related issues. Sea-related issues are relevant to the public peace because they generally depend on the laws of other countries and affects foreigners in many cases. The most important sea-related cases are already submitted to the federal government.
The reasonableness of the agency of the national courts in cases in which the State tribunals cannot be supposed to be impartial, speaks for itself. No man ought certainly to be a judge in his own cause, or in any cause in respect to which he has the least interest or bias. This principle has no inconsiderable weight in designating the federal courts as the proper tribunals for the determination of controversiescontroversy (noun) an argument that involves many people who strongly disagree about something between different States and their citizens. And it ought to have the same operation in regard to some cases between citizens of the same State. Claims to land under grants of different States, founded upon adverse adverse (adjective) bad or unfavorable pretensionspretension (noun) a desire to do something or a claim to be something that is impressive or important of boundary, are of this description. The courts of neither of the granting States could be expected to be unbiased. The laws may have even prejudgedprejudge (verb) to form an opinion about something before you have enough understanding or knowledge the question, and tied the courts down to decisions in favor of the grants of the State to which they belonged. And even where this had not been done, it would be natural that the judges, as men, should feel a strong predilectionpredilection (noun) a natural liking for something to the claims of their own government. Federal courts should have power in cases where state courts cannot be neutral is a good enough reason to give federal courts power. No one should be deciding a case where he has a stake in the outcome or in any case that is related to him or could cause him to be unfair. This rationale explains why it is important to have federal courts as the proper courts for deciding conflict between different states and their citizens. It also should apply to some cases between citizens of the same state. An example of this is different states giving ownership of the same land. Each of the state courts claiming land would not be neutral in this matter. There may even be state laws to force courts to favor their own state’s actions over other parties. Even if there are no laws, the judges, as men, would feel a sense of loyalty to their own state governments.
Having thus laid down and discussed the principles which ought to regulate the constitution of the federal judiciary, we will proceed to test, by these principles, the particular powers of which, according to the plan of the convention, it is to be composed. It is to comprehend "all cases in law and equity arising under the Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority; to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls; to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; to controversies between two or more States; between a State and citizens of another State; between citizens of different States; between citizens of the same State claiming lands and grants of different States; and between a State or the citizens thereof and foreign states, citizens, and subjects.'' This constitutes the entire mass of the judicial authority of the Union. Let us now review it in detail. It is, then, to extend: Having established and discussed the authority that the Constitution would give to the federal judiciary, we will now test these principles to specific powers. The power applies to all cases in law and equity relating to the Constitution; the federal laws; treaties both past and future, including cases affecting ambassadors and other public officials; cases dealing with sea issues; cases where the federal government is a party; and conflicts between states, a state and citizens of another state, citizens of different states, citizens of the same state claiming land in a different state, and between states or their citizens and foreign countries, citizens, and subjects. This includes the entire power of the federal judicial branch. Let us review it now in detail. It is to include:
First. To all cases in law and equity, ARISING UNDER THE CONSTITUTION and THE LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES. This corresponds with the two first classes of causes, which have been enumerated, as proper for the jurisdiction of the United States. It has been asked, what is meant by "cases arising under the Constitution,'' in contradiction from those "arising under the laws of the United States''? The difference has been already explained. All the restrictions upon the authority of the State legislatures furnish examples of it. They are not, for instance, to emitemit (verb) to make paper money; but the interdictioninterdiction (noun) forbid in a usually formal or authoritative manner results from the Constitution, and will have no connection with any law of the United States. Should paper money, notwithstandingnotwithstanding (preposition) despite, be emited, the controversies concerning it would be cases arising under the Constitution and not the laws of the United States, in the ordinary significationsignification (noun) the representation or conveying of meaning of the terms. This may serve as a sample of the whole. First we will deal with cases that relate to the Constitution and federal laws. This is consistent with the first two categories of cases listed earlier as the proper power for the federal government. People have asked about the difference between cases relating to the Constitution and cases relating to federal law. The restrictions on the power of the state legislatures exemplify the difference. For example, states are not supposed to make paper money, which is a prohibition that comes from the Constitution. If states made paper money, the conflict would be related to the Constitution and not federal law.
It has also been asked, what need of the word "equity?" What equitable causes can grow out of the Constitution and laws of the United States? There is hardly a subject of litigationlitigation (noun) to make something the subject of lawsuit between individuals, which may not involve those ingredients of FRAUD, ACCIDENT, TRUST, or HARDSHIP, which would renderrender (verb) to cause something to be in a specified condition the matter an object of equitable rather than of legal jurisdiction, as the distinction is known and established in several of the States. It is the peculiar province, for instance, of a court of equity to relieve against what are called hard bargains: these are contracts in which, though there may have been no direct fraud or deceitdeceit (noun) dishonest behavior, sufficient to invalidate them in a court of law, yet there may have been some undue undue (adjective) more than is reasonable or necessary and unconscionable advantage taken of the necessities or misfortunes of one of the parties, which a court of equity would not tolerate. In such cases, where foreigners were concerned on either side, it would be impossible for the federal judicatories to do justice without an equitable as well as a legal jurisdiction. Agreements to conveyconvey (verb) to change the ownership of property from one person to another lands claimed under the grants of different States, may afford another example of the necessity of an equitable jurisdiction in the federal courts. This reasoning may not be so palpable palpable (adjective) easily perceptible or noticeable in those States where the formal and technical distinction between LAW and EQUITY is not maintained, as in this State, where it is exemplified by every day's practice. People also ask why is fairness needed and how does it affect the Constitution and federal laws? Most cases involve injury and deceit, which would call for fairness rather than legal solutions. For example, it is the specific responsibility of a neutral court to provide assistance against hard bargains, which are contracts that are not explicitly deceitful, but have enough unfairness or unacceptable advantages in them to cancel the contracts in court due to the need or bad luck of one of the parties. In these cases where foreigners could be one of the parties, it is impossible for federal courts to provide justice without neutrality and legal authority. Another example is the agreement to transfer land under the authority of different states. This logic may be difficult for states that do not maintain the difference between law and neutrality, such as this state where our everyday actions show the difference.
The judiciary authority of the Union is to extend: Federal judiciary authority should be applied to:
Second. To treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, and to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls. These belong to the fourth class of the enumerated cases, as they have an evident connection with the preservation of the national peace. Federal treaties, both past and present, and cases affecting ambassadors and other public officials. These belong to the fourth category of cases listed above, as they relate to the protection of national peace.
Third. To cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction. These form, altogether, the fifth of the enumerated classes of causes proper for the cognizance of the national courts. To sea-related cases. These relate to the fifth category of cases that are proper for federal courts to have awareness of.
Fourth. To controversies to which the United States shall be a party. These constitute the third of those classes. To conflicts where the federal government is a party. These make up the third category of those cases.
Fifth. To controversies between two or more States; between a State and citizens of another State; between citizens of different States. These belong to the fourth of those classes, and partake, in some measure, of the nature of the last. To conflicts between two or more states, a state and citizens of another state, and between citizens of different states. These types of cases belong to the fourth category and also relate to the last category of cases where the federal judiciary should have power.
Sixth. To cases between the citizens of the same State, CLAIMING LANDS UNDER GRANTS OF DIFFERENT STATES. These fall within the last class, and ARE THE ONLY INSTANCES IN WHICH THE PROPOSED CONSTITUTION DIRECTLY CONTEMPLATES THE COGNIZANCE OF DISPUTES BETWEEN THE CITIZENS OF THE SAME STATE. To cases between citizens of the same state that claim lands under the authority of different states. These are in the last category and are the only time the Constitution acknowledges conflicts between citizens of the same state.
Seventh. To cases between a State and the citizens thereof, and foreign States, citizens, or subjects. These have been already explained to belong to the fourth of the enumerated classes, and have been shown to be, in a peculiar manner, the proper subjects of the national judicature. To cases between a state and its citizens, and foreign countries and its citizens. These cases have already been explained to belong to the fourth category of cases and have been shown to be the proper power of the federal judiciary.
From this review of the particular powers of the federal judiciary, as marked out in the Constitution, it appears that they are all conformable to the principles which ought to have governed the structure of that department, and which were necessary to the perfection of the system. If some partial inconviences should appear to be connected with the incorporation of any of them into the plan, it ought to be recollected that the national legislature will have ample ample (adjective) having or providing enough or more than enough of what is needed authority to make such EXCEPTIONS, and to prescribe such regulations as will be calculated to obviateobviate (verb) to make something no longer necessary or to prevent or avoid something or remove these inconveniences. The possibility of particular mischiefs can never be viewed, by a wellinformed mind, as a solid objection to a general principle, which is calculated to avoid general mischiefs and to obtain general advantages. From reviewing the specific powers of the federal judiciary, as stated by the Constitution, it seems that all the powers obey the principles that relate to a judicial branch of government and to principles necessary for a good government. If there should be any problems connected with the inclusion of any of the powers, the federal legislatures can make regulations to prevent or remove these problems. The threat of specific misconduct is not sufficient enough to reject general principles, which are intended to avoid misconduct and obtain overall advantages.
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