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decided: May 28, 1906.



Author: Brewer

[ 203 U.S. Page 14]

 MR. JUSTICE BREWER, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

While the indictment was founded on sections 1977 and 5508, we have quoted other sections to show the scope of the legislation of Congress on the general question involved.

That prior to the three post bellum Amendments to the Constitution the National Government had no jurisdiction over a wrong like that charged in this indictment is conceded; that the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments do not justify the legislation is also beyond dispute, for they, as repeatedly held, are restrictions upon state action, and no action on the part of the State is complained of. Unless, therefor, the Thirteenth Amendment vests in the Nation the jurisdiction claimed the remedy must be sought through

[ 203 U.S. Page 15]

     state action and in state tribunals subject to the supervision of this court by writ of error in proper cases.

In the Slaughter House Cases, 16 Wall. 36, 76, in defining the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several States, this is quoted from the opinion of Mr. Justice Washington in Corfield v. Coryell, 4 Wash. Cir. Ct. 371, 380.

"'The inquiry,' he says, 'is, what are the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several States? We feel no hesitation in confining these expressions to those privileges and immunities which are, in their nature, fundamental; which belong, of right, to the citizens of all free governments; and which have, at all times, been enjoyed by citizens of the several States which compose this union, from the time of their becoming free, independent and sovereign. What these fundamental principles are, it would be more tedious than difficult to enumerate. They may, however, be all comprehended under the following general heads: protection by the Government, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the right to acquire and possess property of every kind, and to pursue and obtain happiness and safety; subject, nevertheless, to such restraints as the Government may prescribe for the general good of the whole.'"

And after referring to other cases this court added (p. 77):

"It would be the vainest show of learning to attempt to prove by citations of authority, that up to the adoption of the recent Amendments no claim or pretence was set up that those rights depended on the Federal Government for their existence or protection, beyond the very few express limitations which the Federal Constitution imposed upon the States -- such, for instance, as the prohibition against ex post facto laws, bills of attainder, and laws impairing the obligation of contracts. But with the exception of these and a few other restrictions, the entire domain of the privileges and immunities of citizens of the States, as above defined, lay within the constitutional and legislative power of the States, and without that of the Federal Government."

[ 203 U.S. Page 16]

     Notwithstanding the adoption of these three Amendments, the National Government still remains one of enumerated powers, and the Tenth Amendment, which reads "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people," is not shorn of its vitality. True the Thirteenth Amendment grants certain specified and additional power to Congress, but any Congressional legislation directed against individual action which was not warranted before the Thirteenth Amendment must find authority in it. And in interpreting the scope of that Amendment it is well to bear in mind the words of Mr. Chief Justice Marshall, in Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 188, which, though spoken more than four score years ago, are still the rule of construction of constitutional provisions:

"As men whose intentions require no concealment, generally employ the words which most directly and aptly express the ideas they intend to convey, the enlightened patriots who framed our Constitution, and the people who adopted it, must be understood to have employed words in their natural sense, and to have intended what they have said."

The Thirteenth Amendment reads:

"SEC. 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

"SEC. 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

The meaning of this is as clear as language can make it. The things denounced are slavery and involuntary servitude, and Congress is given power to enforce that denunciation. All understand by these terms a condition of enforced compulsory service of one to another. While the inciting cause of the Amendment was the emancipation of the colored race, yet it is not an attempt to commit that race to the care of the Nation. It is the denunciation of a condition and not a declaration

[ 203 U.S. Page 17]

     in favor of a particular people.It reaches every race and every individual, and if in any respect it commits one race to the Nation it commits every race and every individual thereof. Slavery or involuntary servitude of the Chinese, of the Italian, of the Anglo-Saxon are as much within its compass as slavery or involuntary servitude of the African. Of this Amendment it was said by Mr. Justice Miller in Slaughter House Cases, 16 Wall. 36, 69, "Its two short sections seem hardly to admit of construction." And again: "To withdraw the mind from the contemplation of this grand yet simple declaration of the personal freedom of all the human race within the jurisdiction of this Government . . . requires an effort, to say the least of it."

A reference to the definitions in the dictionaries of words whose meaning is so thoroughly understood by all seems an affectation, yet in Webster "slavery" is defined as "the state of entire subjection of one person to the will of another." Even the secondary meaning given recognizes the fact of subjection as "one who has lost the power of resistance; one who surrenders himself to any power whatever; as a slave to passion, to lust, to strong drink, to ambition," and "servitude" is by the same authority declared to be "the state of voluntary or compulsory subjection to a master."

It is said, however, that one of the disabilities of slavery, one of the indicia of its existence, was a lack of power to make or perform contracts, and that when these defendants, by intimidation and force, compelled the colored men named in the indictment to desist from performing their contract they to that extent reduced those parties to a condition of slavery, that is, of subjection to the will of defendants, and deprived them of a freeman's power to perform his contract. But every wrong done to an individual by another, acting singly or in concert with others, operates pro tanto to abridge some of the freedom to which the individual is entitled. A freeman has a right to be protected in his person from an assault and battery. He is entitled to hold his property safe from trespass

[ 203 U.S. Page 18]

     or appropriation, but no mere personal assault or trespass or appropriation operates to reduce the individual to a condition of slavery.Indeed, this is conceded by counsel for the Government, for in their brief (after referring to certain decisions of this court) it is said:

"With these decisions, and many others that might be cited, before us, it is vain to contend that the Federal Constitution secures to a citizen of the United States the right to work at a given occupation or particular calling free from injury, oppression, or interference by individual citizens."

"Even though such right be a natural or inalienable right, the duty of protecting the citizen in the enjoyment of such right, free from individual interference, rests alone with the State.

"Unless, therefore, the additional element, to wit, the infliction of an injury upon one individual citizen by another, solely on account of his color, be sufficient ground to redress such injury the individual citizen suffering such injury must be left for redress of his grievance to the state laws."

The logic of this concession points irresistibly to the contention that the Thirteenth Amendment operates only to protect the African race. This is evident from the fact that nowhere in the record does it appear that the parties charged to have been wronged by the defendants had ever been themselves slaves, or were the descendants of slaves. They took no more from the Amendment than any other citizens of the United State. But if, as we have seen, that denounces a condition possible for all races and all individuals, then a like wrong perpetrated by white men upon a Chinese, or by black men upon a white man, or by any men upon any man on account of his race, would come within the jurisdiction of Congress, and that protection of individual rights which prior to the Thirteenth Amendment was unquestionably within the jurisdiction solely of the States, would by virtue of that Amendment be transferred to the Nation, and subject to the legislation of Congress.

[ 203 U.S. Page 19]

     But that it was not the intent of the Amendment to denounce every act done to an individual which was wrong if done to a free man and yet justified in a condition of slavery, and to give authority to Congress to enforce such denunciation, consider the legislation in respect to the Chinese. In slave times in the slave States not infrequently every free Negro was required to carry with him a copy of a judicial decree or other evidence of his right to freedom or be subject to arrest. That was one of the incidents or badges of slavery. By the act of May 5, 1892, Congress required all Chinese laborers within the Limits of the United States to apply for a certificate, and any one who after one year from the passage of the act should be found within the jurisdiction of the United States without such certificate, might be arrested and deported. In Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698, the validity of the Chinese deportation act was presented, elaborately argued, and fully considered by this court. While there was a ...

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