Respublica v. Cobbett,
Annotate this Case
3 U.S. 467 (1798)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Respublica v. Cobbett, 3 U.S. 3 Dall. 467 467 (1798)
Respublica v. Cobbett
3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 467
The Defendant, being charged as a common libeler before the Chief Justice, was bound by recognizance to be a good behavior, &c. and on a supposition that he had broken the condition, by a continuance of his libelous publications, an action of debt was instituted upon the recognizance in this court. At the time of his entering his appearance, however, he filed a petition, setting forth upon oath that he was an alien, a subject of the King of Great Britain, and praying that the suit might be removed for trial into the circuit court upon the terms prescribed by the 12th section of the Judicial Act. I Vol. Swift's Edit. p. 56. The removal being objected to, a rule to show cause was granted.
The argument embraced two propositions: 1st, whether in any case a state can be compelled, by an alien to prosecute her rights in the circuit court; 2d, whether admitting the general jurisdiction of the circuit court, a state can be so compelled in a case like the present.
I. For the defendant it was urged that the present case came clearly within the Constitutional investment of judicial authority in the federal government, being a case between a state and a subject of a foreign state; Art. III, s. 2, that the 11th section of the Judicial Act, gives the circuit court "original cognizance, concurrent with the courts of the several
states, of all suits of a civil nature at common law or in equity, &c. where an alien is a party;" I Vol. Swift's Edit. p. 55, and that whatever doubt might be raised, whether this original jurisdiction embraced the case of a plaintiff state upon a recognizance, yet the act precludes all doubt when, in the nature of an appellate jurisdiction, it provides by the 12th section for the removal of "a suit (not saying as before, a suit of a "civil nature") commenced in any state court against an alien." The jurisdiction thus expressly recognized by the Constitution and law is founded on the policy of assuring to foreigners an independent and impartial tribunal; a policy more entitled to be respected than the mere dignity of the individual states in the administration of justice. But neither the principle nor the terms of the Constitution will effect the present case, for the principle goes no further than to prevent issuing any compulsory process to render a state amenable at the suit of individuals, and the terms of the amendment, conforming to the principle, provide only that