486 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI constitution that Mississippi courts first confronted the issue of whether, and to what extent, Mississippi’s courts could declare acts of the legislature to violate the Constitution. The Mississippi Supreme Court declared unconstitutional an act of the legislature that regulated debt collections and litigation. The Court declared the act unconstitutional as violating clauses in the United States and Mississippi Constitutions that prohibit the impairment of contractual obligations. In response, the General Assembly called before it the judge in whose court the case originated, Richard Stockton, Jr., who appeared and testified before the legislature regarding the justification for the Court’s decision. Although various reports were circulated in the General Assembly condemning the Supreme Court, in the end the General Assembly responded with the passage of a statute that required the Court’s opinion to be written and, in certain circumstances, submitted to the Governor. Courts Under the Constitution of 1832 As might be expected of a nascent state in a young country, Mississippi grew and changed considerably in the fifteen years after its first constitution. Geographically, political power had shifted from the western area of the State between the Pearl and Mississippi rivers into the interior part of the state. Mississippi voters chose overwhelmingly in 1831 to hold a constitutional convention, although because the 1817 constitution provided no other means of amendment it is debatable as to how much change was desired. Scholars disagree regarding the severity of the changes from the constitution of 1817 to that of 1832. Much of the text remained unchanged, and the drafters entitled their document the “Revised Constitution.” Events leading up to the constitutional convention signaled that changes were coming to the court system. Delegates to the convention were elected by the citizens of the state and, therefore, campaigned. Pre-convention campaigning and debate indicated that, for one thing, the system of having judges act as both trial judges and Supreme Court judges would be ended. Furthermore, at least one source reveals that, at the time, prospective convention delegates agreed that judges should have life tenure. However, the procedure for choosing judges—as to which the 1817 constitution was largely silent—was hotly debated. One faction, represented primarily by the long- established population near the Mississippi River and led by future governor John A. Quitman of Adams County, wanted the current system, whereby judges were chosen by the General Assembly, to stay in place. Quitman and those of like mind, as a compromise, would have been agreeable to allowing the governor to appoint judges with the approval of the Senate. The opposing faction, mainly the newer residents in the interior of the state who were heavily influenced by the thinking of Andrew Jackson, wanted all judges to be elected. A smaller, compromise-minded group would have Supreme Court justices chosen by the governor and all lower-court judges elected. The convention convened on January 10, 1832. The delegates were assigned to committees charged with the articles of the constitution, including a committee charged with drafting the section establishing the judiciary, chaired by Quitman. Something of a battle between the generations appears to have occurred, for while the older men held most of the chairmanships, most of the delegates were younger men from the interior part of the state. On Quitman’s committee, the majority prevailed against him, and the committee submitted a proposal to the overall convention calling for an elected judiciary. In the end, the new constitution provided for a High Court of Errors and Appeals consisting of three judges, each elected from a different district of the state. According to one source, the Mississippi Constitution of 1832 presented the first example in history of a state providing for the popular election of its judges. Like its predecessor, the 1817 constitution, the constitution of 1832 was never presented to the people of Mississippi for a vote but was declared in effect by the convention. Even after its adoption, opposition to an elected judiciary continued. Opposition proved unsuccessful, and in February, 1833, the legislature met to pass the laws that would effectuate the provisions of the new constitution, including the establishment of the High Court of Errors and Appeals. The statutes required that the opinions of the court be in writing and required the court to convene in Jackson. The judges were to elect one of their number to serve as the presiding judge. The Assembly also established the three districts from which the judges would be elected: a southern district, an eastern district, and a western district. The former delegates to the 1832 constitutional convention who opposed an elected judiciary fared better in the elections themselves than they did in preventing them. All three judges elected to the high court—Cotesworth P. Smith of Wilkinson County, Daniel W. Wright of Monroe County, and William L. Sharkey of Warren County—had opposed the idea of electing judges at the convention. The judges chose William Sharkey to serve as the presiding judge. Mississippi grew rapidly, and in 1839, for the first time, the high court districts were arranged into a northern district, a central district, and a southern district—similar to the arrangement in place today. The very next year the legislature rearranged the three districts, although the northern, central, and southern district plan remained intact. Too many counties had been