The woke social justice warriors, continuing in their flailing fit of Maoist cultural destruction, have recently succeeded in removing the name of Henry Benning from Ft. Benning in Georgia. But the good people of Georgia may want to find a way to honor him once again, for this same Mr. Benning – an honorable, lawyer, judge, and general of the 19th century – in a ruling he wrote during his time on the Georgia Supreme Court, explicated a legal principle that could prove invaluable to the States in their battle with the out-of-control federal government.
In the case of Padelford v. Savannah (1854), he proclaimed that principle – that the State Supreme Courts are not inferior to the federal Supreme Court. He said,
The Supreme Court of Georgia is co-equal and co-ordinate with the Supreme Court of the U. S.; and therefore, the latter cannot give the former an order, or make for it a precedent.
Further on, he expanded somewhat:
But are not the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States to govern this Court, as to the rule of construing the Constitution? They are not, any more than the decisions of that Court are to be governed by the decisions of this.
The Supreme Court of the United States has no jurisdiction over this Court, or over any department of the Government of Georgia. This Court is not a United States Court; and therefore, neither the Government of the United States, nor any department of it, can give this Court an order. It follows, if this be true, that decisions of that Court, are not precedents for this Court.
To prove his statements, he provided a lengthy quotation from Alexander Hamilton, in summary of which he said,
The idea meant to be conveyed here is clearly this: that the General Government has a sphere in which it is supreme, and the State Governments a sphere in which they are supreme; that these spheres intersect each other, and that the space included between the arcs of intersection, is common to both-is a space in which both are equally supreme, and in which there is no rule but one-Qui prior est in tempore potior est in jure.
The same principles have been expressed by Marshall, Chief Justice, since the adoption of the Constitution. In McCulloch vs. Maryland, he says, “In America, the powers of sovereignty are divided between the Government of the Union, and those of the States. They are each sovereign, with respect to the objects committed to it, and neither sovereign, with respect to the objects committed to the other”. (4 Wheat. 410.)
Now, if the General Government, by its Judiciary, can come out of its sphere, into the sphere of a State Government, and ravish a case thence out of the hands of the State Judiciary, the two Governments are not equally supreme within their respective spheres. But they are, by admission of Hamilton and Marshall, equally supreme in their respective spheres; therefore, the former Government cannot do this, with respect to the latter. As well might it be said that England could order a case out of France, from a French into an English Court; or that a State Court could order a case out of the Supreme Court of the United States into it. None but a superior can give an order; none but an inferior is bound to obey one.
The question, when tried by the rule of strict construction, does not admit of a doubt. That rule is, that the General Government has no powers, except such as have been expressly delegated to it; and that the delegations of express power are to be strictly construed.
Now, jurisdiction over State Courts is not expressly given to the General Government, or any department of it.
Therefore, according to this rule, such jurisdiction is not given at all.
To give yet more strength to his position, he then showed that the drafters of the Philadelphia constitution expressly rejected proposals that would have given the federal government the ability to veto State laws:
. . .
Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!
Anathema to the Union!