Thomas Jefferson

letter to Charles Hammond — 1821
Category: Judiciary
It has long, however, been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression...that the germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal Judiciary; an irresponsible body, (for impeachment is scarcely a scare-crow) working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped from the States, and the government of all be consolidated into one.

Thomas Jefferson

letter to Judge Spencer Roane — 1819
Category: Judiciary
The Constitution...is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please.

Thomas Jefferson

letter to Edward Livingston — 1825
Category: Judiciary
One single object...[will merit] the endless gratitude of the society: that of restraining the judges from usurping legislation.

Thomas Jefferson

letter to Thomas Ritchie — 1820
Category: Judiciary
A judiciary independent of a king or executive alone, is a good thing; but independence of the will of the nation is a solecism, at least in a republican government.

Thomas Jefferson

letter to Thomas Ritchie — 1820
Category: Judiciary
The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric. They are construing our constitution from a co-ordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone.

Thomas Jefferson

letter to Abigail Adams — 1804
Category: Judiciary
[T]he opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves, in their, own sphere of action, but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.

Thomas Jefferson

commenting on judges' apparel
Category: Judiciary
Jefferson was against any needless official apparel, but if the gown was to carry, he said: "For Heaven's sake discard the monstrous wig which makes the English judges look like rats peeping through bunches of oakum."

Thomas Jefferson

letter to Monsieur A. Coray — 1823
Category: Judiciary
At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping, by little and little, the foundations of the constitution, and working its change by construction, before any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life, if secured against all liability to account.

Thomas Jefferson

letter to Judge Spencer Roane — 1821
Category: Judiciary
The great object of my fear is the federal judiciary. That body, like gravity, ever acting, with noiseless foot, and unalarming advance, gaining ground step by step, and holding what it gains, is ingulfing insidiously the special governments into the jaws of that which feeds them.