decided: May 28, 1906.
ERROR TO THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS.
[ 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 division of opinion, yet at no time during the progress of the litigation, and by no individual, counsel, or court connected with it, was it suggested that the requiring of such a certificate was evidence of a condition of slavery or prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment.
One thing more: At the close of the civil war, when the problem of the emancipated slaves was before the Nation, it might have left them in a condition of alienage, or established them as wards of the Government like the Indian tribes, and thus retained for the Nation jurisdiction over them, or it might, as it did, give them citizenship. It chose the latter. By the Fourteenth Amendment it made citizens of all born within the limits of the United States and subject to its jurisdiction. By the Fifteenth it prohibited any State from denying the right of suffrage on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude, and by the Thirteenth it forbade slavery or involuntary servitude anywhere within the limits of the land. Whether this was or was not the wiser way to deal with the great problem is not a matter for the courts to
[ 203 U.S. Page 20]
consider. It is for us to accept the decision, which declined to constitute them wards of the Nation or leave them in a condition of alienage where they would be subject to the jurisdiction of Congress, but gave them citizenship, doubtless believing that thereby in the long run their best interests would be subserved, they taking their chances with other citizens in the States where they should make their homes.
For these reasons we think the United States court had no jurisdiction of the wrong charged in the indictment.
The judgments are reversed, and the case remanded with instructions to sustain the demurrer to the indictment.
MR. JUSTICE BROWN concurs in the judgments.
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, with whom concurs MR. JUSTICE DAY, dissenting.*fn1
The plaintiffs in error were indicted with eleven others in the District Court of the United States, Eastern District of Arkansas, for the crime of having knowingly, wilfully and unlawfully conspired to oppress, threaten and intimidate Berry Winn, Dave Hinton, Percy Legg, Joe Mardis, Joe McGill, Dan Shelton, Jim Hall and George Shelton, personks of African descent and citizens of the United States and of Arkansas, in the free exercise and enjoyment of the right and privilege -- alleged to be secured to them respectively by the Constitution and laws of the United States -- of disposing of their labor and services by contract and of performing the terms of such contract without discrimination against them, because of their race or color, and without illegal interference or by violent means.*fn2
[ 203 U.S. Page 21]
The indictment was based primarily upon section 5508 of the Revised Statutes, which provides: "SEC. 5508. If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten or intimidate any citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the
[ 203 U.S. Page 22]
same; or if two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured, they shall be fined not more than five thousand dollars and imprisoned not more than ten years, and shall, moreover, be thereafter ineligible to any office, or place of honor, profit or trust created by the Constitution or laws of the United States."
Other sections of the statutes relating to civil rights, and referred to in the discussion at the bar, although not, perhaps, vital to the decision of the present case, are as follows: "SEC. 1977. All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other." "SEC. 1978. All citizens of the United States shall have the same right, in every State and Territory, as is enjoyed by white citizens thereof to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property." "SEC. 1979. Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
[ 203 U.S. Page 23]
and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress." "SEC. 5510. Every person who, under color of any law statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any inhabitant of any State or Territory to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities, secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such inhabitant being an alien, or by reason of his color or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, or by imprisonment not more than one year, or by both."
A demurrer to the indictment was overruled, and the defendants having pleaded not guilty, they were tried before a jury, and some of them -- the present plaintiffs in error -- were convicted of the crime charged, were each fined one hundred dollars and ordered to be imprisoned for one year and a day. A motion for a new trial having been denied, they have brought the case to this court.
In our consideration of the questions now raised it must be taken, upon this record, as conclusively established by the verdict and judgment --
That certain persons -- the said Berry Winn and others above named with him -- citizens of the United States, and of Arkansas, and of African descent, entered into a contract, whereby they agreed to perform for compensation service and labor in and about the manufacturing business in that State of a private individual;
That those persons, in execution of their contract, entered upon and were actually engaged in performing the work they agreed to do, when the defendants -- the present plaintiffs in error -- knowingly and wilfully conspired to injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate such laborers, solely because of their having made that contract and because of their race and color, in the free exercise of their right to dispose of their labor, and
[ 203 U.S. Page 24]
prevent them from carrying out their contract to render such service and labor;
That, in the prosecution of such conspiracy, the defendants, by violent means, compelled those laborers, simply "because they were colored men and citizens of African descent," to quit their work and abandon the place at which they were performing labor in execution of their contract; and,
That, in consequence of those acts of the defendant conspirators, the laborers referred to were hindered and prevented, solely because of their race and color, from enjoying the right by contract to dispose of their labor upon such terms and to such persons as to them seemed best.
Was the right or privilege of these laborers thus to dispose of their labor secured to them "by the Constitution or laws of the United States"? If so, then this case is within the very letter of section 5508 of the Revised Statutes, and the judgment should be affirmed if that section be not unconstitutional.
But I need not stop to discuss the constitutionality of section 5508. It is no longer open to question, in this court, that Congress may, by appropriate legislation, protect any right or privilege arising from, created or secured by, or dependent upon, the Constitution or laws of the United States. That is what that section does. It purports to do nothing more. In Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 651, it was distinctly adjudged that section 5508 was a valid exercise of power by Congress. In Logan v. United States, 144 U.S. 263, 286, 293, this court stated that the validity of section 5508 had been sustained in the Yarbrough case, and, speaking by Mr. Justice Gray, said: "In United States v. Reese, 92 U.S. 214, 217, decided at October term, 1875, this court, speaking by Chief Justice Waite, said: 'Rights and immunities created by or dependent upon the Constitution of the United States can be protected by Congress. The form and the manner of the protection may be such as Congress, in the legitimate exercise of its legislative discretion, shall provide. These may be varied to meet the necessities of the particular right to be
[ 203 U.S. Page 25]
protected.'" After referring to prior adjudications the court in the Logan case also unanimously declared: "The whole scope and effect of this series of decisions is that, while certain fundamental rights, recognized and declared, but not granted or created, in some of the Amendments to the Constitution, are thereby guaranteed only against violation or abridgment by the United States, or by the States, as the case may be, and cannot therefore be affirmatively enforced by Congress against unlawful acts of individuals; yet that every right created by, arising under or dependent upon, the Constitution of the United States may be protected and enforced by Congress by such means and in such manner as Congress, in the exercise of the correlative duty of protection, or of the legislative powers conferred upon it by the Constitution, may in its discretion deem most eligible and best adapted to attain the object."
In Motes v. United States, 178 U.S. 458, 462, the language of the court was: "We have seen that by section 5508, of the Revised Statutes it is made an offense against the United States for two or more persons to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten or intimidate any citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States -- the punishment prescribed being a fine of not more than $5,000, imprisonment not more than ten years, and ineligibility to any office or place of honor, profit or trust created by the Constitution or laws of the United States. And by section 5509 it is provided that if in committing the above offense any other felony or misdemeanor be committed, the offender shall suffer such punishment as is attached to such felony or misdemeanor by the laws of the State in which the offense is committed. No question has been made -- indeed none could successfully be made -- as to the constitutionality of these statutory provisions. Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 651; United States v. Waddell, 112 U.S. 76. Referring to those provisions and to the clause of the Constitution giving Congress authority to pass all laws
[ 203 U.S. Page 26]
necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers specifically granted to it, and all other powers vested in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof, this court has said: 'In the exercise of this general power of legislation, Congress may use any means appearing to it most eligible and appropriate, which are adapted to the end to be accomplished, and are consistent with the letter and spirit of the Constitution.' Logan v. United States, 144 U.S. 263, 283."
In view of these decisions it is unnecessary to examine the grounds upon which the constitutionality of section 5508 rests; and I may assume that the power of the National Government, by appropriate legislation, to protect a right created by, derived from or dependent in any degree upon, the Constitution of the United States cannot be disputed.
I come now to the main question -- whether a conspiracy or combination to forcibly prevent citizens of African descent, solely because of their race and color, from disposing of their labor by contract upon such terms as they deem proper and from carrying out such contract, infringes or violates a right or privilege created by, derived from or dependent upon the Constitution of the United States.
Before the Thirteenth Amendment was adopted the existence of freedom or slavery within any State depended wholly upon the constitution and laws of such State. However abhorrent to many was the thought that human beings of African descent were held as slaves and chattels, no remedy for that state of things as it existed in some of the States could be given by the United States in virtue of any power it possessed prior to the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment. That condition, however, underwent a radical change when that Amendment became a part of the supreme law of the land and as such binding upon all the States and all the people, as well as upon every branch of government, Federal and state. By the Amendment it was ordained that "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for
[ 203 U.S. Page 27]
crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction"; and "Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." Although in words and form prohibitive, yet, in law, by its own force, that Amendment destroyed slavery and all its incidents and badges, and established freedom. It also conferred upon every person within the jurisdiction of the United States (except those legally imprisoned for crime) the right, without discrimination against them on account of their race, to enjoy all the privileges that inhere in freedom. It went further, however, and, by its second section, invested Congress with power, by appropriate legislation, to enforce its provisions. To that end, by direct, primary legislation, Congress may not only prevent the reestablishing of the institution of slavery, pure and simple, but may make it impossible that any of its incidents or badges should exist or be enforced in any State or Territory of the United States. It therefore became competent for Congress, under the Thirteenth Amendment, to make the establishing of slavery, as well as all attempts, whether in the form of a conspiracy or otherwise, to subject anyone to the badges or incidents of slavery offenses against the United States, punishable by fine or imprisonment, or both. And legislation of that character would certainly be appropriate for the protection of whatever rights were given or created by the Amendment. So, legislation making it an offense against the United States to conspire to injure or intimidate a citizen in the free exercise of any right secured by the Constitution is broad enough to embrace a conspiracy of the kind charged in the present indictment. "A right or immunity, whether created by the Constitution or only guaranteed by it, may be protected by Congress." This court so adjudged in Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303, 310, as it had previously adjudged in Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 16 Pet. 539, and in United States v. Reese, 92 U.S. 214. The colored laborers against whom the conspiracy in question was directed
[ 203 U.S. Page 28]
owe their freedom as well as their exemption from the incidents and badges of slavery alone to the Constitution of the United States. Yet it is said that their right to enjoy freedom and to be protected against the badges and incidents of slavery is not secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
It may be also observed that the freedom created and established by the Thirteenth Amendment was further protected against assault when the Fourteenth Amendment became a part of the supreme law of the land; for that Amendment provided that no State shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law. To deprive any person of a privilege inhering in the freedom ordained and established by the Thirteenth Amendment is to deprive him of a privilege inhering in the liberty recognized by the Fourteenth Amendment. It is true that the present case is not one of deprivation by the constitution or laws of the State of the privilege of disposing of one's labor as he deems proper. But it is one of a combination and conspiracy by individuals acting in hostility to rights conferred by the Amendment that ordained and established freedom and conferred upon every person within the jurisdiction of the United States (not held lawfully in custody for crime) the privileges that are fundamental in a state of freedom, and which were violently taken from the laborers in question solely because of their race and color.
Let us see whether these principles do not find abundant support in adjudged cases.
One of the earliest cases arising under the Thirteenth Amendment was that of United States v. Cruikshank, &c., 1 Woods, 308, 318, 320. It became necessary in that case for Mr. Justice Bradly, holding the Circuit Court, to consider the scope and effect of the Thirteenth Amendment and the extent of the power of Congress to enforce its provisions. Referring to the Thirteenth Amendment, that eminent jurist said that "this is not merely a prohibition against the passage
[ 203 U.S. Page 29]
or enforcement of any law inflicting or establishing, slavery or involuntary servitude, but it is a positive declaration that slavery shall not exist. . . . So, undoubtedly, by the Thirteenth Amendment, Congress has power to legislate for the entire eradication of slavery in the United States. This Amendment had an affirmative operation the moment it was adopted. It enfranchised four millions of slaves, if, indeed, they had not previously been enfranchised by the operation of the civil war. Congress, therefore, acquired the power not only to legislate for the eradication of slavery, but the power to give full effect to this bestowment of liberty on these millions of people. All this it essayed to do by the Civil Rights Bill, passed April 9, 1866, 14 Stat. 27, by which it was declared that all persons born in the United States, and not subject to a foreign power (except Indians, not taxed), should be citizens of the United States; and that such citizens, of every race and color, without any regard to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, should have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property, and to full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens, and should be subject to like punishment, pains, and penalties, and to none other, any law, etc., to the contrary notwithstanding. It was supposed that the eradication of slavery and involuntary servitude of every form and description required that the slave should be made a citizen and placed on an entire equality before the law with the white citizen, and, therefore, that Congress had the power, under the Amendment, to declare and effectuate these objects. . . . Conceding this to be true (which I think it is), Congress then had the right to go further and to enforce its declaration by passing laws for the prosecution and punishment of those who should deprive, or attempt to deprive, any person of the rights thus conferred upon them. Without having this power,
[ 203 U.S. Page 30]
Congress could not enforce the Amendment. It cannot be doubted, therefore, that Congress had the power to make it a penal offense to conspire to deprive a person of, or to hinder him in, the exercise and enjoyment of the rights and privileges conferred by the Thirteenth Amendment and the laws thus passed in pursuance thereof. But this power does not authorize Congress to pass laws for punishment of ordinary crimes and offenses against persons of the colored race or any other race. That belongs to the state government alone.All ordinary murders, robberies, assaults, thefts and offenses whatsoever are cognizable only in the state courts, unless, indeed, the State should deny to the class of persons referred to equal protection of the laws. . . . To illustrate: If in a community or neighborhood composed principally of whites, a citizen of African descent, or of the Indian race, not within the exception of the Amendment, should propose to lease and cultivate a farm, and a combination should be formed to expel him and prevent him from the accomplishment of his purpose on account of his race or color, it cannot be doubted that this would be a case within the power of Congress to remedy and redress. It would be a case of interference with the person's exercise of his equal rights as a citizen because of his race. But if that person should be injured in his person or property by any wrongdoer for the mere felonious or wrongful purpose of malice, revenge, hatred or gain, without any design to interfere with his rights of citizenship or equality before the laws, as being a person of a different race and color from the white race, it would be an ordinary crime, punishable by the state laws only."
This was followed by the Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3, 20, 22, in which the court passed upon the constitutionality of an act of Congress providing for the full and equal enjoyment by every race, equally, of the accommodations, advantages and facilities of theatres and public conveyances, and other places of public amusement; and in which the court also considered the scope and effect of the Thirteenth Amendment. In that case the court, speaking by Mr. Justice Bradley -- who,
[ 203 U.S. Page 31]
as we have seen, delivered the judgment in the case just cited -- said: "By its own unaided force and effect it abolished slavery, and established universal freedom. Still, legislation may be necessary and proper to meet all the various cases and circumstances to be affected by it, and to prescribe proper modes of redress for its violation in letter or spirit. And such legislation may be primary and direct in its character; for the Amendment is not a mere prohibition of state laws establishing or upholding slavery, but an absolute declaration that slavery or involuntary servitude shall not exist in any part of the United States. It is true, that slavery cannot exist without law, any more than property in lands and goods can exist without law; and, therefore, the Thirteenth Amendment may be regarded as nullifying all state laws which establish or uphold slavery. But it has a reflex character also, establishing and decreeing universal civil and political freedom throughout the United States; and it is assumed that the power vested in Congress to enforce the article by appropriate legislation clothes Congress with power to pass all laws necessary and proper for abolishing all badges and incidents of slavery in the United States. . . . The long existence of African slavery in this country gave us very distinct notions of what it was, and what were its necessary incidents. Compulsory service of the slave for the benefit of the master, restraint of his movements except by the master's will, disability to hold property, to make contracts, to have a standing in court, to be a witness against a white person, and such like burdens and incapacities, were the inseparable incidents of the institution. Severer punishments for crimes were imposed on the slave than on free persons guilty of the same offenses. . . . We must not forget that the province and scope of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments are different; the former simply abolished slavery; the latter prohibited the States from abridging the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; from depriving them of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, and
[ 203 U.S. Page 32]
from denying to any the equal protection of the laws.The Amendments are different, and the powers of Congress under them are different. What Congress has power to do under one, it may not have power to do under the other. Under the Thirteenth Amendment it has only to do with slavery and its incidents. Under the Fourteenth Amendment it has power to counteract and render nugatory all state laws and proceedings which have the effect to abridge any of the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, or to deprive them of life, liberty or property without due process of law, or to deny to any of them the equal protection of the laws.Under the Thirteenth Amendment, the legislation, so far as necessary or proper to eradicate all forms and incidents of slavery and involuntary servitude, may be direct and primary, operating upon the acts of individuals, whether sanctioned by state legislation or not; under the Fourteenth, as we have already shown, it must necessarily be, and can only be, corrective in its character, addressed to counteract and afford relief against state regulations or proceedings."
I participated in the decision of the Civil Rights Cases, but was not able to concur with my brethren in holding the act there involved to be beyond the power of Congress. But I stood with the court in the declaration that the Thirteenth Amendment not only established and decreed universal civil and political freedom throughout this land, but abolished the incidents or badges of slavery, among which, as the court declared, was the disability, based merely on race discrimination, to hold property, to make contracts, to have a standing in court, and to be a witness against a white person.
One of the important aspects in the present discussion of the Civil Rights Cases, is that the court there proceeded distinctly upon the ground that although the constitution and statutes of a State may not be repugnant to the Thirteenth Amendment, nevertheless, Congress, by legislation of a direct and primary character, may, in order to enforce the Amendment, reach and punish individuals whose acts are in hostility
[ 203 U.S. Page 33]
to rights and privileges derived from or secured by or dependent upon that Amendment.
These views were explicitly referred to and reaffirmed in the recent case of Clyatt v. United States, 197 U.S. 207. That was an indictment against a single individual for having unlawfully and knowingly returned, forcibly and against their will, two persons from Florida to Georgia, to be held in the latter State in a condition of peonage, in violation of the statutes of the United States, (Rev. Stat. 1900, 5526). A person arbitrarily or forcibly held against his will for the purpose of compelling him to render personal services in discharge of a debt, is in a condition of peonage. It was not claimed in that case that peonage was sanctioned by or could be maintained under the constitution or laws either of Florida or Georgia. The argument there on behalf of the accused was, in part, that the Thirteenth Amendment was directed solely against the States and their laws, and that its provisions could not be made applicable to individuals whose illegal conduct was not authorized, permitted or sanctioned by some act, resolution, order, regulation or usage of the State. That argument was rejected by every member of this court, and we all agreed that Congress had power, under the Thirteenth Amendment, not only to forbid the existence of peonage, but to make it an offense against the United States for any person to hold, arrest, return or cause to be held, arrested or returned, or who in any manner aided in the arrest or return of another person, to a condition of peonage. After quoting the above sentences from the opinion in the Civil Rights Cases, Mr. Justice Brewer, speaking for the court, said (p. 218): "Other authorities to the same effect might be cited. It is not open to doubt that Congress may enforce the Thirteenth Amendment by direct legislation, punishing the holding of a person in slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime. In the exercise of that power Congress has enacted these sections denouncing peonage, and punishing one who holds another in that condition of involuntary servitude.
[ 203 U.S. Page 34]
This legislation is not limited to the Territories or other parts of the strictly National domain, but is operative in the States and wherever the sovereignty of the United States extends. We entertain no doubt of the validity of this legislation, or its applicability to the case of any person holding another in a state of peonage, and this whether there be municipal ordinance or state law sanctioning such holding. It operates directly on every citizen of the republic, wherever his residence may be." The Clyatt case proceeded upon the ground that, although the Constitution and laws of the State might be in perfect harmony with the Thirteenth Amendment, yet the compulsory holding of one individual by another individual for the purpose of compelling the former by personal service to discharge his indebtedness to the latter created a condition of involuntary servitude or peonage, was in derogation of the freedom established by that Amendment, and, therefore, could be reached and punished by the Nation. Is it consistent with the principle upon which that case rests to say that an organized body of individuals who forcibly prevent free citizens, solely because of their race, from making a living in a legitimate way, do not infringe any right secured by the National Constitution, and may not be reached or punished by the Nation? One who is shut up by superior or overpowering force, constantly present and threatening, from earning his living in a lawful way of his own choosing, is as much in a condition of involuntary servitude as if he were forcibly held in a condition of peonage. In each case his will is enslaved, because illegally subjected, by a combination that he cannot resist, to the will of others in respect of matters which a freeman is entitled to control in such way as to him seems best. It would seem impossible, under former decisions, to sustain the view that a combination or conspiracy of individuals, albeit acting without the sanction of the State, may not be reached and punished by the United States, if the combination and conspiracy has for its object, by force, to prevent or burden the free exercise or enjoyment
[ 203 U.S. Page 35]
of a right or privilege created or secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
The only way in which the present case can be taken out of section 5508 is to hold that a combination or conspiracy of individuals to prevent citizens of African descent, because of their race, from freely disposing of their labor by contract, does not infringe or violate any right or privilege secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. But such a proposition, I submit, is inadmissible, if regard be had to former decisions. As we have seen, this court has held that the Thirteenth Amendment, by its own force, without the aid of legislation, not only conferred freedom upon every person (not legally held in custody for crime) within the jurisdiction of the United States, but the right and privilege of being free from the badges or incidents of slavery. And it has declared that one of the insuperable incidents of slavery, as it existed at the time of the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment, was the disability of those in slavery to make contracts. It has also adjudged -- no member of this court holding to the contrary -- that any attempt to subject citizens to the incidents or badges of slavery could be made an offense against the United States. If the Thirteenth Amendment established freedom, and conferred, without the aid of legislation, the right to be free from the badges and incidents of slavery, and if the disability to make or enforce contracts for one's personal services was a badge of slavery, as it existed when the Thirteenth Amendment was adopted, how is it possible to say that the combination or conspiracy charged in the present indictment, and conclusively established by the verdict and judgment, was not in hostility to rights secured by the Constitution?
I have already said that the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment against state action inconsistent with due process of law is neither more nor less than the freedom established by the Thirteenth Amendment. This, I think, cannot be doubted. In Allgeyer v. Louisiana, 165 U.S. 578, 589,
[ 203 U.S. Page 36]
we said that such liberty "means not only the right of the citizen to be free from the mere physical restraint of his person, as by incarceration, but the term is deemed to embrace the right of the citizen to be free in the enjoyment of all his faculties; to be free to use them in all lawful ways; to live and work when he will; to earn his livelihood by any lawful calling; to pursue any livelihood or avocation, and for that purpose to enter into all contracts which may be proper, necessary and essential to the carrying out to a successful conclusion the purposes above mentioned." All these rights, as this court adjudged in the Allgeyer case, are embraced in the liberty which the Fourteenth Amendment protects against hostile state action, when such state action is wanting in due process of law. They are rights essential in the freedom conferred by the Thirteenth Amendment. If, for instance, a person is prevented, because of his race, from living and working where and for whom he will, or from earning his livelihood by any lawful calling that he may elect to pursue, then he is hindered in the exercise of rights and privileges secured to freemen by the Constitution of the United States. If secured by the Constitution of the United States, then, unquestionably, rights of that class are embraced by such legislation as that found in section 5508.
The opinion of the court, it may be observed, does not, in words, adjudge section 5508 to be unconstitutional. But if its scope and effect are not wholly misapprehended by me, the court does adjudge that Congress cannot make it an offense against the United States for individuals to combine or conspire to prevent, even by force, citizens of African descent, solely because of their race, from earning a living. Such is the import and practical effect of the present decision, although the court has heretofore unanimously held that the right to earn one's living in all legal ways, and to make lawful contracts in reference thereto, is a vital point of the freedom established by the Constitution, and although it has been held, time and again, that Congress may, by appropriate
[ 203 U.S. Page 37]
legislation, grant, protect and enforce any right, derived from, secured or created by, or dependent upon that instrument. These general principles, it is to be regretted, are now modified, so as to deny to millions of citizen-laborers of African descent, derving their freedom from the Nation, the right to appeal for National protection against lawless combinations of individuals who seek, by force, and solely because of the race of such laborers, to deprive them of the freedom established by the Constitution of the United States, so far as that freedom involves the right of such citizens, without discrimination against them because of their race, to earn a living in all lawful ways, and to dispose of their labor by contract. I cannot assent to an interpretation of the Constitution which denies National protection to vast numbers of our people in respect of rights derived by them from the Nation. The interpretation now placed on the Thirteenth Amendment is, I think, entirely too narrow and is hostile to the freedom established by the supreme law of the land. It goes far towards neutralizing many declarations made as to the object of the recent Amendments of the Constitution, a common purpose of which, this court has said, was to secure to a people theretofore in servitude, the free enjoyment, without discrimination merely on account of their race, of the essential rights that appertain to American citizenship and to freedom. United States v. Reese, 92 U.S. 214, 217; United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 555; Ex parte Virginia, 100 U.S. 339, 345; Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303, 306; Neal v. Delaware, 103 U.S. 370, 386; Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3, 23.
The objections urged to the view taken by the court are not met by the suggestion that this court may revise the final judgment of the state court, if it should deny to the complaining party a right secured by the Federal Constitution; for the revisory power of this court would be of no avail to the complaining party if it be true, as seems now to be adjudged, that a conspiracy to deprive colored citizens, solely because of
[ 203 U.S. Page 38]
their race, of the right to earn a living in a lawful way, infringes no right secured to them by the Federal Constitution.
As the Nation has destroyed both slavery and involuntary servitude everywhere within the jurisdiction of the United States and invested Congress with power, by appropriate legislation, to protect the freedom thus established against all the badges and incidents of slavery as it once existed; as the disability to make valid contracts for one's services was, as this court has said, an inseparable incident of the institution of slavery which the Thirteenth Amendment destroyed; and as a combination or conspiracy to prevent citizens of African descent, solely because of their race, from making and performing such contracts, is thus in hostility to the rights and privileges that inhere in the freedom established by that Amendment, I am of opinion that the case is within section 5508, and that the judgment should be affirmed.
For these reasons, I dissent from the opinion and judgment of the court.
STATEMENT OF CASE FOOTNOTES
1 Not the plaintiff in error.