James Iredell (5 October 1751 – 20 October 1799) was one of the original Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was appointed by President George Washington and served from 1790 until his death in 1799.
North Carolina's Debates, in Convention, on the adoption of the Federal Constitution (1787)
Reported in The Debates, Resolutions, and other Proceedings, in Convention, on the adoption of the Federal Constitution, as recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia, on the 17th of September, 1787 (1830), edited by Jonathan Elliot.
- The power of impeachment is given by this Constitution, to bring great offenders to punishment. It is calculated to bring them to punishment for crimes which it is not easy to describe, but which every one must be convinced is a high crime and misdemeanor against the government.
- July 28, 1788, p. 107.
- It would be not only useless, but dangerous, to enumerate a number of rights which are not intended to be given up; because it would be implying, in the strongest manner, that every right not included in the exception might be impaired by the government without usurption; and it would be impossible to enumerate every one. Let any one make what collection or enumeration of rights he pleases, I will immediately mention twenty or thirty more rights not contained in it.
- July 28, 1788, p. 150.
- Had Congress undertaken to guarantee religious freedom, or any particular species of it, they would then have had a pretense to interfere in a subject they have nothing to do with. Each state, so far as the clause in question does not interfere, must be left to the operation of its own principles.
- July 30, 1788, p. 172.
- [Congress] certainly [has] no authority to interfere in the establishment of any religion whatsoever...Is there any power given to Congress in matters of religion? Can they pass a single act to impair our religious liberties? If they could, it would be a just cause of alarm...If any future Congress should pass an act concerning the religion of the country, it would be an act which they are not authorized to pass, by the Constitution, and which the people would not obey.
- How is it possible to exclude any set of men, without taking away that principle of religious freedom which we ourselves so warmly contend for? ... It is never to be supposed that the people of America will trust their dearest rights to persons who have no religion at all, or a religion materially different from their own...Let religion be permitted to take its own course; the divine author of our religion never wished for its support by worldly authority.
- I think the Christian religion is a Divine institution; and I pray to God that I may never forget the precepts of His religion or suffer the appearance of an inconsistency in my principle and practice.
- Prudence, indeed will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
- If they were punishable for exercising their own judgment, and not that of their constituents, no man who regarded his reputation would accept the office either of a Senator or President. Whatever mistake a man may make, he ought not to be punished for it, nor his posterity rendered infamous. But if a man be a villain, and wilfully abuses his trust, he is to be held up as a public offender, and ignominiously punished.
- A public officer ought not to act from a principle of fear. Were he punishable for want of judgment, he would be continually in dread. But when he knows that nothing but real guilt can disgrace him, he may do his duty firmly if he be an honest man, and if he be not, a just fear of disgrace, may perhaps, as to the public, have nearly the effect of an intrinsic principle of virtue. According to these principles, I suppose the only instances in which the President would be liable to impeachment, would be where he had received a bribe, or had acted from some corrupt motive or other.