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Title: The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation

Editor: Edward Samuel Corwin

Release date: June 20, 2006 [eBook #18637]

Language: English

Credits: E-text prepared by Kevin Handy, Lisa Reigel, John Hagerson, and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team



E-text prepared by Kevin Handy, Lisa Reigel, John Hagerson,
and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team


Transcriber's Note:
[=o] represents the vowel "o" with a macron in this text.
The original editor's comments are enclosed in square brackets [].
Notes unique to this edition are also enclosed in square brackets, but are preceded by the words "Transcriber's Note".
A complete list of all changes made to the text is included at the end of the file.
Variations in spelling were left as in the original.
Page numbers for blank pages, pages consisting entirely of footnotes, and pages in the tables of contents are not visible.




[Pg i]

82d Congress } { Document
2d Session } SENATE { No. 170





Prepared by the Legislative Reference Service, Library of Congress

Edward S. Corwin, Editor


For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office

Washington 25 D.C.—Price $6.25

[Pg ii]


JOINT RESOLUTION To prepare a revised edition of the Annotated Constitution of the United States of America as published in 1938 as Senate Document 232 of the Seventy-fourth Congress.

Whereas the Annotated Constitution of the United States of America published in 1938 as Senate Document 232, Seventy-fourth Congress, has served a very useful purpose by supplying essential information in one volume and at a very reasonable price; and

Whereas Senate Document 232 is no longer available at the Government Printing Office; and

Whereas the reprinting of this document without annotations for the last ten years is now considered appropriate: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Librarian of Congress is hereby authorized and directed to have the Annotated Constitution of the United States of America, published in 1938, revised and extended to include annotations of decisions of the Supreme Court prior to January 1, 1948, construing the several provisions of the Constitution correlated under each separate provision, and to have the said revised document printed at the Government Printing Office. Three thousand copies shall be printed, of which two thousand two hundred copies shall be for the use of the House of Representatives and eight hundred copies for the use of the Senate.

Sec. 2. There is hereby authorized to be appropriated for carrying out the provisions of this Act, with respect to the preparation but not including printing, the sum of $35,000 to remain available until expended.

Approved June 17, 1947.

[Pg iii]


By Honorable Alexander Wiley

Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

To the Members and Committees of the Congress, the Constitution is more than a revered abstraction; it is an everyday companion and counsellor. Into it, the Founding Fathers breathed the spirit of life; through every subsequent generation, that spirit has remained vital.

In more than a century and a half of cataclysmic events, the Constitution has successfully withstood test after test. No crisis—foreign or domestic—has impaired its vitality. The system of checks and balances which it sets up has enabled the growing nation to adapt itself to every need and at the same time to checkrein every bid for arbitrary power.

And meantime America itself has evolved dynamically and dramatically. The humble 13 colonies, carved out of the wilderness in the 18th Century, emerged in the 20th Century as leader of earth—industrial—military—political—economic—psychological. Yet the broad outline of the Supreme Law remains today fundamentally intact.

It is small wonder that W.E. Gladstone described the Constitution as "the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man." He knew, as should we, that the Constitution's words, its phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, and sections still possess a miraculous quality—a mingled flexibility and strength which permits its adaptation to the needs of the hour without sacrifice of its essential character as the basic framework of freedom.

Congress has long recognized how necessary it is to have a handy working guide to this superb charter. It has sought a map, so to speak, of the great historical landmarks of Constitutional jurisprudence—landmarks which mark the oft-times epic battles of clashing legal interpretations. A first step was taken toward meeting this need by publication of Senate Document 12, 63d Congress in 1913. Ten years later, in 1923 another volume was issued, Senate Document 96, 67th Congress, and it was followed in turn by Senate Document 154 of the 68th Congress.

In 1936, Congress authorized a further revision, this time by the Legislative Reference Service. Mr. Wilfred C. Gilbert, now the Assistant Director of the Service, was the editor of this volume which became Senate Document 232, 74th Congress, and he has given counsel throughout the development of the present edition of this volume.

After another decade of significant and far-reaching judicial interpretation, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out Senate Joint Resolution 69 of the 80th Congress calling upon the Librarian of Congress for the preparation of the new work. However, because of the increase in responsibilities of the Legislative Reference Service, it was no longer feasible for it to undertake this additional burden with its regular staff. The Director of the Service, Dr. Ernest S. Griffith, suggested therefore that Dr. Edward S. Corwin be engaged [Pg iv]to head the project with a collaborating staff to be furnished by the Legislative Reference Service.

In my capacity at the time, as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I was delighted to give my approval to this arrangement, for I recognized our particular good fortune in obtaining the services of an acknowledged authority for this highly significant and delicate enterprise.

I should like now to express our thanks and appreciation to Dr. Corwin and to his collaborators from the Service, Dr. Norman J. Small, Assistant Editor, Miss Mary Louise Ramsey, and Dr. Robert J. Harris, for all their prodigious and skilled labors.

Moreover, for their considerable efforts in connection with the detailed legislative and printing arrangements for the publication of this volume, I should like to express appreciation to Mr. Darrell St. Claire, Staff Member for the Senate Rules Committee, as well as Chief Clerk for the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress; and Mr. Julius N. Cahn, previously Executive Assistant to me when I was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and now Counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Initiated in the Republican 80th Congress, the project was undertaken With funds supplied by the succeeding Democratic 81st Congress, while the Democratic 82d Congress extended its coverage to include Supreme Court decisions through June 30, 1952. The document thus represents Congressional nonpartisan activity at its best, as should ever be the case in our fidelity to this great charter.

In the present volume, in addition to the annotations indicating the current state of interpretation, Dr. Corwin has undertaken to supply an historical background to the several lines of reasoning. It is our hope and expectation that this introduction will prove of immense benefit to users in understanding the trends of judicial constitutional interpretation.

It is our further hope that this edition as a whole may serve a still larger purpose—strengthening our understanding of and loyalty to the principles of this republic.

In that way, the Constitution will remain the blueprint for freedom. It will continue as an inspiration for us of this blessed land, and for men and women everywhere; for they look to these shores as the lighthouse of freedom, in a world where the darkness of despotism hangs so heavily.

May 30, 1953.


[Pg v]


For many years the Congress has felt the need for a handy, concise guide to the interpretation of the Constitution. An edition of the Constitution issued in 1913 as Senate Document 12, 63d Congress, took a step in this direction by supplying under each clause, a citation of Supreme Court decisions thereunder. This was obviously of limited usefulness, leaving the reader, as it did, to an examination of cases for any specific information. In 1921 the matter received further consideration. Senate Resolution 151 authorized preparation of a volume to contain the Constitution and its amendments, to January 1, 1923 "with citations to the cases of the Supreme Court of the United States construing its several provisions." This was issued as Senate Document 96 of the 67th Congress, and was followed the next year by a similar volume annotating the cases through the October 1923 Term of the Supreme Court. (Senate Document 154, 68th Congress.) Both of these volumes went somewhat beyond the mere enumeration of cases, carrying under the particular provisions of the Constitution a brief statement of the point involved in the principal cases cited.

Thirteen years of Constitutional developments led Congress in 1936 to authorize a revision of the 1924 volume, and under authority of Senate Concurrent Resolution 35 introduced by Senator Ashurst, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, such a revision was prepared in the Legislative Reference Service and issued as Senate Document 232, 74th Congress.

This volume was, like its predecessors, dedicated to the need felt by Members for a convenient ready-reference manual. However, so extensive and important had been the judicial interpretation of the Constitution in the interim that a very much larger volume was the result.

After another decade, in the course of which many of the earlier interpretations were reviewed and modified, the Senate again moved for a revision of the Annotations. Senate Joint Resolution 69 introduced by the then Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Alexander Wiley, again called upon the Library of Congress to undertake the work. The confidence thus implied was most thoroughly appreciated. To meet his responsibilities, the Librarian called upon Dr. Edward S. Corwin to head the project. The collaborating staff, supplied by the Legislative Reference Service, included Dr. Norman J. Small as assistant editor, Miss Mary Louise Ramsey, and Robert J. Harris.

This time, more than ever, the compilers faced a difficult task in balancing the prime requirement of a thorough and adequate annotation against the very practical desire to keep the results within convenient compass.

Work on the project was delayed until funds were made available. In consequence the annotations have been extended to a somewhat later date, covering decisions of the Supreme Court through June 30, 1952.

Ernest S. Griffith,
Director, Legislative Reference Service.

[Pg vii]


The purpose of this volume is twofold; first, to set forth so far as feasible the currently operative meaning of all provisions of the Constitution of the United States; second, to trace in the case of the most important provisions the course of decision and practice whereby their meaning was arrived at by the Constitution's official interpreters. Naturally, the most important source of material relied upon comprises relevant decisions of the Supreme Court; but acts of Congress and Executive orders and regulations have also been frequently put under requisition. Likewise, proceedings of the Convention which framed the Constitution have been drawn upon at times, as have the views of dissenting Justices and occasionally of writers, when it was thought that they would aid understanding.

That the Constitution has possessed capacity for growth in notable measure is evidenced by the simple fact of its survival and daily functioning in an environment so vastly different from that in which it was ordained and established by the American people. Nor has this capacity resided to any great extent in the provision which the Constitution makes for its own amendment. Far more has it resided in the power of judicial review exercised by the Supreme Court, the product of which, and hence the record of the Court's achievement in adapting the Constitution to changing conditions, is our national Constitutional Law.

Thus is explained the attention that has been given in some of these pages to the development of certain of the broader doctrines which have influenced the Court in its determination of constitutional issues, especially its conception of the nature of the Federal System and of the proper role of governmental power in relation to private rights. On both these great subjects the Court's thinking has altered at times—on a few occasions to such an extent as to transcend Tennyson's idea of the law "broadening from precedent to precedent" and to amount to something strongly resembling a juridical revolution, bloodless but not wordless.

The first volume of Reports which issued from the Court following Marshall's death—11 Peters (1837)—signalizes such a revolution, that is to say, a recasting of fundamental concepts; so does 100 years later, Volume 301 of the United States Reports, in which the National Labor Relations Act [The "Wagner Act"] and the Social Security Act of 1935 were sustained. Another considerable revolution was marked by the Court's acceptance in 1925 of the theory that the word "liberty" in the Fourteenth Amendment rendered the restrictions of the First Amendment upon Congress available also against the States.

In the preparation of this volume constant use has been made of "The Constitution of the United States of America Annotated," which was brought out under the editorship of Mr. W.C. Gilbert in 1938. Its copious listing [Pg viii]of cases has been especially valuable. Its admirable Tables of Contents and Index have furnished a model for those of the present volume. If this model has been approximated the contents of this volume ought to be readily accessible despite its size. The coverage of the volume ends with the cases decided June, 1952.

A personal word or two must be added. The Editor was invited to undertake this project by Dr. Ernest S. Griffith, Director of the Legislative Reference Service of the Library of Congress, and his constant interest in the progress of our labors has been a tremendous source of encouragement. To his able collaborators the Editor will not attempt to express his appreciation—they share with him the credit for such merits as the work possesses and responsibility for its short comings. And I am sure that they join me in thanking Miss Evelyn K. Mayhugh for her skill and devotion in aiding us at every step in our common task.

Edward S. Corwin.

[Pg ix]


It is my purpose in this Introduction to the Constitution of the United States, Annotated to sketch rapidly certain outstanding phases of the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution for the illustration they may afford of the interests, ideas, and contingencies which have from time to time influenced the Court in this still supremely important area of its powers and of the comparable factors which give direction to its work in the same field at the present time.

As employed in this country, Constitutional Law signifies a body of rules resulting from the interpretation by a high court of a written constitutional instrument in the course of disposing of cases in which the validity, in relation to the constitutional instrument, of some act of governmental power, State or national, has been challenged. This function, conveniently labelled "Judicial Review," involves the power and duty on the part of the Court of pronouncing void any such act which does not square with its own reading of the constitutional instrument. Theoretically, therefore, it is a purely juristic product, and as such does not alter the meaning. To those who hold this theory, the Court does not elaborate the instrument, as legislative power might; it elucidates it, bringing forth into the light of day, as it were, what was in the instrument from the first.

In the case of judicial review as exercised by the Supreme Court of the United States in relation to the national Constitution, its preservative character has been at times a theme of enthusiastic encomium, as in the following passage from a speech by the late Chief Justice White, made shortly before he ascended the Bench:

 ... The glory and ornament of our system which distinguishes it from every other government on the face of the earth is that there is a great and mighty power hovering over the Constitution of the land to which has been delegated the awful responsibility of restraining all the coordinate departments of government within the walls of the governmental fabric which our fathers built for our protection and immunity.[1]

At other times the subject has been dealt with less enthusiastically, even skeptically.

One obstacle that the theory encountered very early was the refusal of certain Presidents to regard the Constitution as primarily a source of rules for judicial decision. It was rather, they urged, a broadly discretionary mandate to themselves and to Congress. And pursuing the logic of this position, they contended that while the Court was undoubtedly entitled to read the Constitution independently for the purpose of deciding cases, this very purpose automatically limited the authoritativeness of its readings; and that within their respective jurisdictions President and Congress enjoyed the same correlative independence as the Court did within its jurisdiction. This was, in effect, the position earlier of Jefferson and Jackson, later of Lincoln, and in recent times that of the two Roosevelts.

[Pg x]

Another obstacle has been of the Court's own making. Whether because of the difficulty of amending the Constitution or for cautionary reasons, the Court took the position, as early as 1851, that it would reverse previous decisions on constitutional issues when convinced they were erroneous.[2] An outstanding instance of this nature was the decision in the Legal Tender cases, in 1871, reversing the decision which had been rendered in Hepburn v. Griswold fifteen months earlier;[3] and no less shattering to the prestige of stare decisis in the constitutional field was the Income Tax decision of 1895,[4] in which the Court accepted Mr. Joseph Choate's invitation to "correct a century of error". The "constitutional revolution" of 1937 produced numerous reversals of earlier precedents on the ground of "error", some of them, the late Mr. James M. Beck complained, without "the obsequious respect of a funeral oration".[5] In 1944 Justice Reed cited fourteen cases decided between March 27, 1937 and June 14, 1943 in which one or more prior constitutional decisions were overturned.[6] On the same occasion Justice Roberts expressed the opinion that adjudications of the Court were rapidly gravitating "into the same class as a restricted railroad ticket, good for this day and train only".[7]

Years ago the eminent historian of the Supreme Court, Mr. Charles Warren, had written:

However the Court may interpret the provisions of the Constitution, it is still the Constitution which is the law and not the decision of the Court.[8]

In short, it is "not necessarily so" that the Constitution is preserved in the Court's reading of it.

A third difficulty in the way of the theory that Judicial Review is preservative of the Constitution is confronted when we turn to consider the statistical aspects of the matter. The suggestion that the Constitution of the United States contained in embryo from the beginning the entirety of our national Constitutional Law confronts the will to believe with an altogether impossible test. Compared with the Constitutional Document, with its 7,000 words more or less, the bulk of material requiring to be noticed in the preparation of an annotation of this kind is simply immense. First and last, the Court has probably decided well over 4,000 cases involving questions of constitutional interpretation. In many instances, to be sure, the constitutional issue was disposed of quite briefly. In some instances, on the other hand, the published report of the case runs to more than 200 pages.[9] In the total, it is probable that at least 50,000 pages of the United States Supreme Court Reports are devoted to Constitutional Law topics.

Nor is this the whole story, or indeed the most important part of it. Even more striking is the fact that the vast proportion of cases forming the corpus of national Constitutional Law has stemmed, or has purported to stem, from four or five brief phrases of the Constitutional Document, the power "to regulate ... commerce among the States," impairment of "the obligation of contracts" (now practically dried up as a formal source of constitutional law), deprivation of "liberty or property without due process of law" (which phrase occurs both as a limitation on the National Government and, since 1868, on the States), and out of four or five doctrines which the Constitution [Pg xi]is assumed to embody. The latter are, in truth, the essence of the matter, for it is through these doctrines, and under the cover which they afford, that outside interests, ideas, preconceptions, have found their way into Constitutional Law, have indeed become for better, for worse, its leavening element.

That is to say, the effectiveness of Constitutional Law as a system of restraints on governmental action in the United States, which is its primary raison d'etre, depends for the most part on the effectiveness of these doctrines as they are applied by the Court to that purpose. The doctrines to which I refer are (1) the doctrine or concept of Federalism; (2) the doctrine of the Separation of Powers; (3) the concept of a Government of Laws and not of Men, as opposed especially to indefinite conceptions of presidential power; (4) and the substantive doctrine of Due Process of Law and attendant conceptions of Liberty. What I proposed to do is to take up each of these doctrines or concepts in turn, tell something of their earlier history, and then project against this background a summary account of what has happened to them in recent years in consequence of the impact of war, of economic crisis, and of the political and ideological reaction to the latter during the Administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt.



Federalism in the United States embraces the following elements: (1) as in all federations, the union of several autonomous political entities, or "States," for common purposes; (2) the division of legislative powers between a "National Government," on the one hand, and constituent "States," on the other, which division is governed by the rule that the former is "a government of enumerated powers" while the latter are governments of "residual powers"; (3) the direct operation, for the most part, of each of these centers of government, within its assigned sphere, upon all persons and property within its territorial limits; (4) the provision of each center with the complete apparatus of law enforcement, both executive and judicial; (5) the supremacy of the "National Government" within its assigned sphere over any conflicting assertion of "state" power; (6) dual citizenship.

The third and fourth of the above-listed salient features of the American Federal System are the ones which at the outset marked it off most sharply from all preceding systems, in which the member states generally agreed to obey the mandates of a common government for certain stipulated purposes, but retained to themselves the right of ordaining and enforcing the laws of the union. This, indeed, was the system provided in the Articles of Confederation. The Convention of 1787 was well aware, of course, that if the inanities and futilities of the Confederation were to be avoided in the new system, the latter must incorporate "a coercive principle"; and as Ellsworth of Connecticut expressed it, the only question was whether it should be "a coercion of law, or a coercion of arms," that "coercion which acts only upon delinquent individuals" or that which is applicable to "sovereign bodies, states, in their political capacity."[10] In Judicial Review the former principle was established, albeit [Pg xii]without entirely discarding the latter, as the War between the States was to demonstrate.

The sheer fact of Federalism enters the purview of Constitutional Law, that is, becomes a judicial concept, in consequence of the conflicts which have at times arisen between the idea of State Autonomy ("State Sovereignty") and the principle of National Supremacy. Exaltation of the latter principle, as it is recognized in the Supremacy Clause (Article VI, paragraph 2) of the Constitution, was the very keystone of Chief Justice Marshall's constitutional jurisprudence. It was Marshall's position that the supremacy clause was intended to be applied literally, so that if an unforced reading of the terms in which legislative power was granted to Congress confirmed its right to enact a particular statute, the circumstance that the statute projected national power into a hitherto accustomed field of state power with unavoidable curtailment of the latter was a matter of indifference. State power, as Madison in his early nationalistic days phrased it, was "no criterion of national power," and hence no independent limitation thereof.

Quite different was the outlook of the Court over which Marshall's successor, Taney, presided. That Court took as its point of departure the Tenth Amendment, which reads, "The powers not delegated to the United States by this Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." In construing this provision the Court under Taney sometimes talked as if it regarded all the reserved powers of the States as limiting national power; at other times it talked as if it regarded certain subjects as reserved exclusively to the States, slavery being, of course, the outstanding instance.[11]

But whether following the one line of reasoning or the other, the Taney Court subtly transformed its function, and so that of Judicial Review, in relation to the Federal System. Marshall viewed the Court as primarily an organ of the National Government and of its supremacy. The Court under Taney regarded itself as standing outside of and above both the National Government and the States, and as vested with a quasi-arbitral function between two centers of diverse, but essentially equal, because "sovereign", powers. Thus in Ableman v. Booth, which was decided on the eve of the War between the States, we find Taney himself using this arresting language:

This judicial power was justly regarded as indispensable, not merely to maintain the supremacy of the laws of the United States, but also to guard the States from any encroachment upon their reserved rights by the general government.... So long ... as this Constitution shall endure, this tribunal must exist with it, deciding in the peaceful forms of judicial proceeding, the angry and irritating controversies between sovereignties, which in other countries have been determined by the arbitrament of force.[12]

It is, therefore, the Taney Court, rather than the Marshall Court, which elaborated the concept of Dual Federalism. Marshall's federalism is more aptly termed national federalism; and turning to modern issues, we may say without exaggeration that the broad general constitutional issue between the Court and the Franklin D. Roosevelt program in such cases as Schechter Corp. v. United States and Carter v. Carter Coal Co.[13] was, whether Marshall's [Pg xiii]or Taney's brand of federalism should prevail. More precisely, the issue in these cases was whether Congress' power to regulate commerce must stop short of regulating the employer-employee relationship in industrial production, that having been hitherto regulated by the States. In Justice Sutherland's words in the Carter case:

Much stress is put upon the evils which come from the struggle between employers and employees over the matter of wages, working conditions, the right of collective bargaining, etc., and the resulting strikes, curtailment and irregularity of production and effect on prices; and it is insisted that interstate commerce is greatly affected thereby.... The conclusive answer is that the evils are all local evils over which the Federal Government has no legislative control. The relation of employer and employee is a local relation. At common law, it is one of the domestic relations. The wages are paid for the doing of local work. Working conditions are obviously local conditions. The employees are not engaged in or about commerce, but exclusively in producing a commodity. And the controversies and evils, which it is the object of the act to regulate and minimize, are local controversies and evils affecting local work undertaken to accomplish that local result. Such effect as they may have upon commerce, however extensive it may be, is secondary and indirect. An increase in the greatness of the effect adds to its importance. It does not alter its character.[14]

We all know how this issue was finally resolved. In the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 Congress not only prohibits interstate commerce in goods produced by substandard labor, but it directly forbids, with penalties, the employment of labor in industrial production for interstate commerce on other than certain prescribed terms. And in United States v. Darby[15] this Act was sustained by the Court, in all its sweeping provisions, on the basis of an opinion by Chief Justice Stone which in turn is based on Chief Justice Marshall's famous opinions in McCulloch v. Maryland and Gibbons v. Ogden rendered more than a century and a quarter ago. In short, as a principle capable of delimiting the national legislative power, the concept of Dual Federalism as regards the present Court seems today to be at an end, with consequent aggrandizement of national power.

There is, however, another side to the story. For in one respect even the great Marshall has been in effect overruled in support of enlarged views of national authority. Without essaying a vain task of "tithing mint, anise and cummin," it is fairly accurate to say that throughout the 100 years which lie between Marshall's death and the cases of the 1930's, the conception of the federal relationship which on the whole prevailed with the Court was a competitive conception, one which envisaged the National Government and the States as jealous rivals. To be sure, we occasionally get some striking statements of contrary tendency, as in Justice Bradley's opinion in 1880 for a divided Court in the Siebold Case,[16] where is reflected recognition of certain results of the War between the States; or later in a frequently quoted dictum by Justice McKenna, in Hoke v. United States, in which the Mann White Slave Act was sustained in 1913:

Our dual form of government has its perplexities, State and Nation having different spheres of jurisdiction ... but it must be kept in mind [Pg xiv]that we are one people; and the powers reserved to the states and those conferred on the nation are adapted to be exercised, whether independently or concurrently, to promote the general welfare, material and moral.[17]

The competitive concept is, nevertheless, the one much more generally evident in the outstanding results for American Constitutional Law throughout three-quarters of its history. Of direct pertinence in this connection is the doctrine of tax exemption which converted federalism into a principle of private immunity from taxation, so that, for example, neither government could tax as income the official salaries paid by the other government.[18] This doctrine traces immediately to Marshall's famous judgment in McCulloch v. Maryland,[19] and bespeaks a conception of the federal relationship which regards the National Government and the States as bent on mutual frustration. Today the principle of tax exemption, except so far as Congress may choose to apply it to federal instrumentalities by virtue of its protective powers under the necessary and proper clause, is at an end.

By the cooperative conception of the federal relationship the States and the National Government are regarded as mutually complementary parts of a single governmental mechanism all of whose powers are intended to realize the current purposes of government according to their applicability to the problem in hand. This is the conception on which the recent social and economic legislation professes to rest. It is the conception which the Court invokes throughout its decisions in sustaining the Social Security Act of 1935 and supplementary state legislation. It is the conception which underlies congressional legislation of recent years making certain crimes against the States, like theft, racketeering, kidnapping, crimes also against the National Government whenever the offender extends his activities beyond state boundary lines. The usually cited constitutional justification for such legislation is that which was advanced forty years ago in the above quoted Hoke Case.[20]

It has been argued that the cooperative conception of the federal relationship, especially as it is realized in the policy of federal subventions to the States, tends to break down state initiative and to devitalize state policies. Actually, its effect has often been just the contrary, and for the reason pointed out by Justice Cardozo in Helvering v. Davis,[21] decided in 1937, namely, that the States, competing as they do with one another to attract investors, have not been able to embark separately upon expensive programs of relief and social insurance. Another great objection to Cooperative Federalism is more difficult to meet. This is, that Cooperative Federalism invites further aggrandizement of national power. Unquestionably it does, for when two cooperate, it is the stronger member of the combination who usually calls the tunes. Resting as it does primarily on the superior fiscal resources of the National Government, Cooperative Federalism has been, at least to date, a short expression for a constantly increasing concentration of power at Washington in the stimulation and supervision of local policies.[22]

The last element of the concept of Federalism to demand attention is the doctrine that the National Government is a government of enumerated powers only, and consequently under the necessity at all times of justifying its measures [Pg xv]juridically by pointing to some particular clause or clauses of the Constitution which, when read separately or in combination, may be thought to grant power adequate to such measures. In spite of such recent decisions as that in United States v. Darby, this time-honored doctrine still guides the authoritative interpreters of the Constitution in determining the validity of acts which are passed by Congress in presumed exercise of its powers of domestic legislation—the course of reasoning pursued by the Chief Justice in the Darby Case itself is proof that such is the fact. In the field of foreign relations, on the contrary, the doctrine of enumerated powers has always had a difficult row to hoe, and today may be unqualifiedly asserted to be defunct.

As early as the old case of Penhallow v. Doane, which was decided by the Supreme Court in 1795, certain counsel thought it pertinent to urge the following conception of the War Power:

A formal compact is not essential to the institution of a government. Every nation that governs itself, under what form soever, without any dependence on a foreign power, is a sovereign state. In every society there must be a sovereignty. 1 Dall. Rep. 46, 57. Vatt. B. 1. ch. 1. sec. 4. The powers of war form an inherent characteristic of national sovereignty; and, it is not denied, that Congress possessed those powers....[23]

To be sure, only two of the Justices felt it necessary to comment on this argument, which one of them endorsed, while the other rejected it.

Yet seventy-five years later Justice Bradley incorporated closely kindred doctrine into his concurring opinion in the Legal Tender Cases;[24] and in the years following the Court itself frequently brought the same general outlook to questions affecting the National Government's powers in the field of foreign relations. Thus in the Chinese Exclusion Case, decided in 1889, Justice Field, in asserting the unlimited power of the National Government, and hence of Congress, to exclude aliens from American shores, remarked:

While under our Constitution and form of government the great mass of local matters is controlled by local authorities, the United States, in their relation to foreign countries and their subjects or citizens, are one nation, invested with the powers which belong to independent nations, the exercise of which can be invoked for the maintenance of its absolute independence and security throughout its entire territory.[25]

And four years later the power of the National Government to deport alien residents at the option of Congress was based by Justice Gray on the same general reasoning.[26]

Finally, in 1936, Justice Sutherland, speaking for the Court in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Corporation, with World War I a still recent memory, took over bodily counsel's argument of 140 years earlier, and elevated it to the head of the column of authoritative constitutional doctrine. He said:

A political society cannot endure without a supreme will somewhere. Sovereignty is never held in suspense. When, therefore, the external sovereignty of Great Britain in respect of the colonies ceased, it immediately passed to the Union.... It results that the investment of the Federal government with the powers of external sovereignty did not depend upon the affirmative grants of the Constitution. The powers to declare and wage war, to conclude peace, to make treaties, to maintain diplomatic [Pg xvi]relations with other sovereignties, if they had never been mentioned in the Constitution, would have vested in the Federal government as a necessary concomitant of nationality.[27]

In short, the power of the National Government in the field of international relationship is not simply a complexus of particular enumerated powers; it is an inherent power, one which is attributable to the National Government on the ground solely of its belonging to the American People as a sovereign political entity at International Law. In that field the principle of Federalism no longer holds, if it ever did.[28]


The Separation of Powers

The second great structural principle of American Constitutional Law is supplied by the doctrine of the Separation of Powers. The notion of three distinct functions of government approximating what we today term the legislative, the executive, and the judicial, is set forth in Aristotle's Politics,[29] but it was the celebrated Montesquieu who, by joining the idea to the notion of a "mixed constitution" of "checks and balances", in Book XI of his Spirit of the Laws, brought Aristotle's discovery to the service of the rising libertarianism of the eighteenth century. It was Montesquieu's fundamental contention that "men entrusted with power tend to abuse it". Hence it was desirable to divide the powers of government, first, in order to keep to a minimum the powers lodged in any single organ of government; secondly, in order to be able to oppose organ to organ.

In the United States libertarian application of the principle was originally not too much embarrassed by inherited institutions. In its most dogmatic form the American conception of the Separation of Powers may be summed up in the following propositions: (1) There are three intrinsically distinct functions of government, the legislative, the executive, and the judicial; (2) these distinct functions ought to be exercised respectively by three separately manned departments of government; which, (3) should be constitutionally equal and mutually independent; and finally, (4) a corollary doctrine stated by Locke—the legislature may not delegate its powers.[30]

Prior even to Franklin D. Roosevelt this entire colligation of ideas had been impaired by three developments in national governmental practice: first, the growth of Presidential initiative in legislation; secondly, the delegation by Congress of legislative powers to the President; thirdly, the delegation in many instances of like powers to so-called independent agencies or commissions, in which are merged in greater or less measure the three powers of government of Montesquieu's postulate. Under Roosevelt the first two of these developments were brought to a pitch not formerly approximated, except temporarily during World War I.

The truth is that the practice of delegated legislation is inevitably and inextricably involved with the whole idea of governmental intervention in the economic field, where the conditions to be regulated are of infinite complexity and are constantly undergoing change. Granted such intervention, [Pg xvii]it is simply out of the question to demand that Congress should attempt to impose upon the shifting and complex scene the relatively permanent molds of statutory provision, unqualified by a large degree of administrative discretion. One of the major reasons urged for governmental intervention is furnished by the need for gearing the different parts of the industrial process with one another for a planned result. In wartime this need is freely conceded by all; but its need in economic crisis is conceivably even greater, the results sought being more complex. So in the interest both of unity of design and of flexibility of detail, presidential power today takes increasing toll from both ends of the legislative process—both from the formulation of legislation and from its administration. In other words, as a barrier capable of preventing such fusion of presidential and congressional power, the principle of the Separation of Powers does not appear to have retained much of its original effectiveness; for on only one occasion[31] prior to the disallowance, in Youngstown v. Sawyer,[32] President Truman's seizure in April 1952 of the steel industry has the Court been constrained to condemn, as in conflict with that principle, a congressional delegation of legislative power. Indeed, its application in the field of foreign relations has been virtually terminated by Justice Sutherland's opinion in the Curtiss-Wright Case.[33]

The Youngstown Opinion appears to rest on the proposition that since Congress could have ordered the seizure, e.g., under the necessary and proper clause, the President, in making it on his own, usurped "legislative power" and thereby violated the principle of the Separation of Powers. In referring to this proposition, the Chief Justice (in his dissenting opinion, for himself and Justices Reed and Minton) quoted as follows from a 1915 brief of the then Solicitor General of the United States on this same question:

The function of making laws is peculiar to Congress, and the Executive can not exercise that function to any degree. But this is not to say that all of the subjects concerning which laws might be made are perforce removed from the possibility of Executive influence. The Executive may act upon things and upon men in many relations which have not, though they might have, been actually regulated by Congress.

In other words, just as there are fields which are peculiar to Congress and fields which are peculiar to the Executive, so there are fields which are common to both, in the sense that the Executive may move within them until they shall have been occupied by legislative action. These are not the fields of legislative prerogative, but fields within which the lawmaking power may enter and dominate whenever it chooses. This situation results from the fact that the President is the active agent, not of Congress, but of the Nation.[34]

Or, in more general terms, the fact that one of the three departments may apply its distinctive techniques to a certain subject matter sheds little or no light on the question whether one of the other departments may deal with the same subject matter according to its distinctive techniques. Indeed, were it otherwise, the action of the Court in disallowing President Truman's seizure order would have been of very questionable validity, inasmuch as the President himself conceded that Congress could do so.

[Pg xviii]

The conception of the Separation of Powers doctrine advanced in Youngstown appears to have been an ad hoc discovery for the purpose of disposing of that particular case.

To sum up the argument to this point: War, the Roosevelt-Truman programs, and the doctrines of Constitutional Law on which they rest, and the conception of governmental function which they incorporate, have all tremendously strengthened forces which even earlier were making, slowly, to be sure, but with "the inevitability of gradualness," for the concentration of governmental power in the United States, first in the hands of the National Government; and, secondly, in the hands of the national Executive. In the Constitutional Law which the validation of the Roosevelt program has brought into full being, the two main structural elements of government in the United States in the past, the principle of Dual Federalism and the doctrine of the Separation of Powers, have undergone a radical and enfeebling transformation which war has, naturally, carried still further.


A Government of Laws and Not of Men

The earliest repositories of executive power in this country were the provincial governors. Being the point of tangency and hence of irritation between imperial policy and colonial particularism, these officers incurred a widespread unpopularity that was easily generalized into distrust of their office. So when Jefferson asserted in his Summary View, in 1774, that the King "is no more than the chief officer of the people, appointed by the laws and circumscribed with definite powers, to assist in working the great machine of government,"[35] he voiced a theory of executive power which, impudently as it flouted historical fact, had the support of the draftsmen of the first American constitutions. In most of these instruments the governors were elected annually by the legislative assemblies, were stripped of every prerogative of their predecessors in relation to legislation, and were forced to exercise the powers left them subject to the advice of a council chosen also by the assembly, and from its own members if it so desired. Finally, out of abundant caution the constitution of Virginia decreed that executive powers were to be exercised "according to the laws of" the Commonwealth, and that no power or prerogative was ever to be claimed "by virtue of any law, statute or custom of England." "Executive power", in short, was left entirely to legislative definition and was cut off from all resources of the common law and the precedents of English monarchy.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the earlier tradition of executive power was not to be exorcised so readily. Historically, this tradition traces to the fact that the royal prerogative was residual power, that the monarch was first on the ground, that the other powers of government were off-shoots from monarchical power. Moreover, when our forefathers turned to Roman history, as they intermittently did, it was borne in upon them that dictatorship had at one time been a normal feature of republican institutions.

[Pg xix]

And what history consecrated, doctrine illumined. In Chapter XI of John Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government, from the pages of which much of the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence comes, we read: "Absolute arbitrary power, or governing without settled standing laws, can neither of them consist with the ends of society and government".[36] In Chapter XIV of the same work we are told, nevertheless, that "prerogative" is the power "to act according to discretion without the prescription of the law and sometimes against it"; and that this power belongs to the executive, it being "impossible to foresee and so by laws to provide for all accidents and necessities that may concern the public, or make such laws as will do no harm if they are executed with inflexible rigor." Nor, continues Locke, is this "undoubted prerogative" ever questioned, "for the people are very seldom or never scrupulous or nice in the point" whilst the prerogative "is in any tolerable degree employed for the use it was meant, that is, for the good of the people."[37] A parallel ambivalence pervades both practice and adjudication under the Constitution from the beginning.

The opening clause of Article II of the Constitution reads: "The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America". The primary purpose of this clause, which made its appearance late in the Convention and was never separately passed upon by it, was to settle the question whether the executive branch should be plural or single; a secondary purpose was to give the President a title. There is no hint in the published records that the clause was supposed to add cubits to the succeeding clauses which recite the President's powers and duties in detail.

For all that, the "executive power" clause was invoked as a grant of power in the first Congress to assemble under the Constitution, and outside Congress in 1793. On the former occasion Madison and others advanced the contention that the clause empowered the President to remove without the Senate's consent all executive officers, even those appointed with that consent, and in effect this view prevailed, to be ratified by the Supreme Court 137 years later in the famous Oregon Postmaster Case.[38]

In 1793 the protagonist of "executive power" was Alexander Hamilton, who appealed to the clause in defense of Washington's proclamation of neutrality, issued on the outbreak of war between France and Great Britain. Prompted by Jefferson to take up his pen and "cut him to pieces in face of public," Madison shifted position, and charged Hamilton with endeavoring to smuggle the prerogative of the King of Great Britain into the Constitution via the "executive power" clause.[39] Three years earlier Jefferson had himself written in an official opinion as Secretary of State: [The Executive branch of the government], "possessing the rights of self-government from nature, cannot be controlled in the exercise of them but by a law, passed in the forms of the Constitution".[40]

This time judicial endorsement of the broad conception of the executive power came early. In laying the foundation in Marbury v. Madison for the Court's claim of power to pass on the constitutionality of acts of Congress, Marshall said: "The government of the United States has been emphatically [Pg xx]termed a government of laws and not of men".[41] Two pages along he added these words:

By the constitution of the United States, the President is invested with certain important political powers, in the exercise of which he is to use his own discretion, and is accountable only to his country in his political character, and to his own conscience. To aid him in the performance of these duties, he is authorized to appoint certain officers, who act by his authority and in conformity with his orders.

In such cases, their acts are his acts; and whatever opinion may be entertained of the manner in which executive discretion may be used, still there exists, and can exist, no power to control that discretion. The subjects are political. They respect the nation, not individual rights, and being entrusted to the executive, the decision of the executive is conclusive.[42]

From these words arises the doctrine of Political Questions, an escape clause from the trammels of judicial review for high executive officers in the performance of their discretionary duties. The doctrine was continued, even expanded, by Marshall's successor. In Luther v. Borden,[43] decided in 1849, the Court was invited to review the determination by the President that the existing government of Rhode Island was "republican" in form. It declined the invitation, holding that the decision of Congress and of the President as Congress's delegate was final in the matter, and bound the courts. Otherwise said Chief Justice Taney, the guarantee clause of the Constitution (Article IV, section 4) "is a guarantee of anarchy and not of order". But a year later the same Chief Justice, speaking again for the unanimous Court, did not hesitate to rule that the President's powers as commander-in-chief were purely military in character, those of any top general or top admiral.[44] Hamilton had said the same thing in Federalist No. 69.

Alongside the opinions of the Court of this period, however, stand certain opinions of Attorneys General that yield a less balanced bill of fare. For it is the case that, from the first down to the present year of grace, these family lawyers of the Administration in power have tended to favor expansive conceptions of presidential prerogative. As early as 1831 we find an Attorney-General arguing before the Supreme Court that, in performance of the trust enjoined upon him by the "faithful execution" clause, the President "not only may, but ... is bound to avail himself of every appropriate means not forbidden by law."[45] Especially noteworthy is a series of opinions handed down by Attorney-General Cushing in the course of the years 1853 to 1855. In one of these the Attorney-General laid down the doctrine that a marshal of the United States, when opposed in the execution of his duty by unlawful combinations too powerful to be dealt with by the ordinary processes of a federal court, had authority to summon the entire able-bodied force of his precinct as a posse comitatus, comprising not only bystanders and citizens generally but any and all armed forces,[46] which is precisely the theory upon which Lincoln based his call for volunteers in April, 1861.

Also manifest is the debt of Lincoln's message of July 4, 1861, to these opinions. Here in so many words the President lays claim to "the war power", partly on the ground of his duty to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed", partly in reliance on his powers as Commander-in-Chief, incidentally [Pg xxi]furnishing thereby a formula which has frequently reappeared in opinions of Attorneys-General in recent years. Nor did Lincoln ever relinquish the belief that on the one ground or the other he possessed extraordinary resources of power which Congress lacked and the exercise of which it could not control—an idea in the conscientious pursuit of which his successor came to the verge of utter disaster.

When first confronted with Lincoln's theory in the Prize Cases,[47] in the midst of war, a closely divided Court treated it with abundant indulgence; but in Ex parte Milligan[48] another closely divided Court swung violently to the other direction, adopting the comfortable position that the normal powers of the government were perfectly adequate to any emergency that could possibly arise, and citing the war just "happily terminated" in proof. But once again the principle of equilibrium asserted itself. Five months after Milligan, the same Bench held unanimously in Mississippi v. Johnson[49] that the President is not accountable to any court save that of impeachment either for the nonperformance of his constitutional duties or for the exceeding of his constitutional powers.

This was in the 1866-1867 term of Court. Sixteen years later, in 1882, Justice Samuel Miller gave classic expression to the principle of "a government of laws and not of men" in these words: "No man is so high that he is above the law.... All officers are creatures of the law and are bound to obey it."[50] Eight years later this same great Judge queried whether the President's duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed is "limited to the enforcement of acts of Congress or of treaties according to their express terms," whether it did not also embrace "the rights, duties, and obligations growing out of the Constitution itself ... and all the protection implied by the nature of the government under the Constitution."[51] Then in 1895, in the Debs Case,[52] the Court sustained unanimously the right of the National Executive to go into the federal courts and secure an injunction against striking railway employees who were interfering with interstate commerce, although it was conceded that there was no statutory basis for such action. The opinion of the Court extends the logic of the holding to any widespread public interest.

The great accession to presidential power in recent decades has been accompanied by the breakdown dealt with earlier of the two great structural principles of the American Constitutional System, the doctrine of Dual Federalism and the doctrine of the Separation of Powers. The first exponent of "the New Presidency", as some termed it, was Theodore Roosevelt, who tells us in his Autobiography that the principle which governed him in his exercise of the presidential office was that he had not only a right but a duty "to do anything that the needs of the Nation demanded unless such action was forbidden by the Constitution or by the laws."[53] In his book, Our Chief Magistrate and his Powers, Ex-President Taft warmly protested against the notion that the President has any constitutional warrant to attempt the role of a "Universal Providence."[54] A decade earlier his destined successor, Woodrow Wilson, had avowed the opinion that "the President is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can".[55]

[Pg xxii]

But it is the second Roosevelt who beyond all twentieth-century Presidents succeeded in affixing the stamp both of personality and of crisis upon the Presidency as it exists at this moment. In the solution of the problems of an economic crisis, "a crisis greater than war", he claimed for the National Government in general, and for the President in particular, powers which they had hitherto exercised only on the justification of war. Then when the greatest crisis in the history of our international relations arose, he imparted to the President's diplomatic powers new extension, now without consulting Congress, now with Congress's approval; and when at last we entered World War II, he endowed the precedents of both the War between the States and of World War I with unprecedented scope.[56]

It is timely therefore to inquire whether American Constitutional Law today affords the Court a dependable weapon with which to combat effectively contemporary enlarged conceptions of presidential power. Pertinent in this connection is the aforementioned recent action of the Court in Youngstown v. Sawyer disallowing presidential seizure of the steel industry. The net result of that Case is distinctly favorable to presidential pretensions, in two respects: First, because of the failure of the Court to traverse the President's finding of facts allegedly justifying his action, an omission in accord with the doctrine of Political Questions; secondly, the evident endorsement by a majority of the Court of the doctrine that, as stated in Justice Clark's opinion: "The Constitution does grant to the President extensive authority in times of grave and imperative national emergency".[57] That the Court would have sustained, as against the President's action, a clear-cut manifestation of congressional action to the contrary is, on the other hand, unquestionable. In short, if we are today looking for a check upon the development of executive emergency government, our best reliance is upon the powers of Congress, which can always supply needed gaps in its legislation. The Court can only say "no", and there is no guarantee that in the public interest it would wish to assume this responsibility.


The Concept of Substantive Due Process of Law

A cursory examination of the pages of this volume reveals that fully a quarter of them deal with cases in which the Court has been asked to protect private interests of one kind or another against legislation, most generally state legislation, which is alleged to invade "liberty" or "property" contrary to "due process of law". How is this vast proliferation of cases, and attendant expansion of the Court's constitutional jurisdiction, to be explained? The explanation, in brief, is to be found in the replacement of the original meaning of the due process clause with a meaning of vastly greater scope. Judicial review is always a function, so to speak, of the viable Constitutional Law of a particular period.

From what has been previously said in this Introduction, it clearly appears that the Court's interpretation of the Constitution has involved throughout considerable lawmaking, but in no other instance has its lawmaking been more evident than in its interpretation of the due process clauses, and in no other instance have the state judiciaries contributed so much to the final result. The modern concept of substantive due process is not the achievement of any one American high court; it is the joint achievement of several—in the end, of all.[58]

[Pg xxiii]

The thing which renders the due process clause an important datum of American Constitutional Law is the role it has played first and last in articulating certain theories of private immunity with the Constitutional Document. The first such theory was Locke's conception of the property right as anterior to government and hence as setting a moral limit to its powers.[59] But while Locke's influence is seen to pervade the Declarations and Bills of Rights which often accompanied the revolutionary State Constitutions, yet their promise was early defeated by the overwhelming power of the first state legislatures, especially vis-a-vis the property right. One highly impressive exhibit of early state legislative power is afforded by the ferocious catalogue of legislation directed against the Tories, embracing acts of confiscation, bills of pains and penalties, even acts of attainder. A second exhibit of the same kind is furnished by the flood of paper money laws and other measures of like intent which the widespread debtor class forced through the great majority of the state assemblies in the years following the general collapse of values in 1780.

The most important reaction of the creditor interest to this course of legislation was its energetic part in bringing about the Philadelphia Convention. Closer, however, to our purpose is the leadership taken by the new federal judiciary in asserting the availability against predatory state legislation of extra-constitutional principles sounding in Natural Law. In 1795 Justice Paterson of the new Supreme Court admonished a Pennsylvania jury that to construe a certain state statute in a way to bring it into conflict with plaintiff's property rights would render it void. "Men," said he, "have a sense of property.... The preservation of property ... is a primary object of the social compact".[60] Three years later, Justice Chase proclaimed from the Supreme Bench itself, with characteristic emphasis, his rejection of the idea that state legislative power was absolute unless its authority was "expressly restrained" by the constitution of the State.[61] He too was thinking primarily of the rights of property.

To dicta such as these constantly accrued others of like tenor from various high state courts, the total of which had come to comprise prior to the War between the States an impressive body of coherent doctrine protective of vested rights but claiming little direct support from written constitutional texts. This indeed was its weakness. For the question early obtruded itself, whether judicial review could pretend to operate on a merely moral basis. Both the notion that the Constitution was an emanation from the sovereignty of the people, and the idea that judicial review was but a special aspect of normal judicial function, forbade the suggestion. It necessarily followed that unless judicial protection of the property right against legislative power was to be waived, it must be rested on some clause of the constitutional document; and, inasmuch as the due process clause and the equivalent law of the land clause of certain of the early state constitutions were the only constitutional provisions which specifically mentioned property, they were the ones selected for the purpose.

The absorptive powers of the law of the land clause, the precursor in the original state constitutions of the historically synonymous due process clause, [Pg xxiv]was foreshadowed as early as 1819 in a dictum by Justice William Johnson of the United States Supreme Court:

As to the words from Magna Charta ... after volumes spoken and written with a view to their exposition, the good sense of mankind has at length settled down to this: that they were intended to secure the individual from the arbitrary exercise of the powers of government, unrestrained by the established principles of private rights and distributive justice.[62]

Thirty-eight years later, in 1857, the prophecy of these words was realized in the famous Dred Scott Case,[63] in which Section 8 of the Missouri Compromise, whereby slavery was excluded from the territories, was held void under the Fifth Amendment, not on the ground that the procedure for enforcing it was not due process of law, but because the Court regarded it as unjust to forbid people to take their slaves, or other property, into the territories, the common property of all the States.

Meanwhile, in the previous year (1856) the recently established Court of Appeals of New York had, in the landmark case of Wynehamer v. People,[64] set aside a state-wide prohibition law as comprising, with regard to liquors in existence at the time of its going into effect, an act of destruction of property not within the power of government to perform "even by the forms of due process of law". The term due process of law, in short, simply drops out of the clause, which comes to read "no person shall be deprived of property", period. At the same time Judge Comstock's opinion in the case sharply repudiates all arguments against the statute sounding in Natural Law concepts, fundamental principles of liberty, common reason and natural rights, and so forth. Such theories were subversive of the necessary powers of government. Furthermore, there was "no process of reasoning by which it can be demonstrated that the 'Act for the Prevention of Intemperance, Pauperism and Crime' is void, upon principles and theories outside of the constitution, which will not also, and by an easier induction, bring it in direct conflict with the constitution itself."[65] Thus it was foreshadowed that the law of the land and the due process of law clauses, which were originally inserted in our constitutions to consecrate a specific mode of trial in criminal cases, to wit, the grand jury, petit jury process of the common law, would be transformed into a general restraint upon substantive legislation capable of affecting property rights detrimentally.

It is against this background that the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 must be projected. Applied, as in the Dred Scott and Wynehamer cases, the clause which forbids any State "to deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law" proffered the Court, in implication, a vast new jurisdiction, but this the Court at first manifested the greatest reluctance to enter upon. It did not wish, it protested, to become "a perpetual censor upon all State legislation"; nor did it wish, by enlarged conceptions of the rights protected by the Amendment, to encourage Congress to take over, under the fifth section of the Amendment, the regulation of all civil rights. "The federal equilibrium" had already been sufficiently disturbed by the results of the War between the States and Reconstruction.[66]

[Pg xxv]

But this self-denying ordinance, which never had the support of more than a very narrow majority of the Court, soon began to crumble at the edges. It was a period of immense industrial expansion, and the men who directed this wanted a free hand. In 1878 the American Bar Association was formed from the elite of the American Bar. Organized as it was in the wake of the "barbarous" decision—as one member termed it—in Munn v. Illinois,[67] in which the Supreme Court had held that states were entitled by virtue of their police power to prescribe the charges of "businesses affected with a public interest," the Association, through its more eminent members, became the mouthpiece of a new constitutional philosophy which was compounded in about equal parts from the teachings of the British Manchester School of Political Economy and Herbert Spencer's highly sentimentalized version of the doctrine of evolution, just then becoming the intellectual vogue; plus a "booster"—in the chemical sense—from Sir Henry Maine's Ancient Law, first published in 1861. I refer to Maine's famous dictum that "the movement of the progressive societies has hitherto been a movement from Status to Contract". If hitherto, why not henceforth?[68]

In short, the American people were presented, overnight as it were, with a new doctrine of Natural Law. Encouraged by certain dicta of dissenting Justices of the Supreme Court, a growing procession of high State courts—those of New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Massachusetts, leading the way—now began infiltrating the due process clauses and especially the word "liberty" thereof, of their several State constitutions with the new revelation. The product of these activities was the doctrine of freedom of contract, the substantial purport of which was that any legislation which restricted the liberty of male persons twenty-one years of age, whether they were employers or employees, in the making of business contracts, far from being presumptively constitutional, must be justified by well known facts of which the court was entitled to take judicial notice; otherwise it fell under the ban of the due process clause.[69]

At last, in 1898, the Supreme Court at Washington, following some tentative gestures in that direction, accepted the new dispensation outright. In Smyth v. Ames decided that year, partially overturning Munn v. Illinois, it gave notice of its intention to review in detail the "reasonableness" of railway rates set by State authority and in Holden v. Hardy it ratified, at the same term, the doctrine of freedom of contract.[70] The result of the two holdings for the Court's constitutional jurisdiction is roughly indicated by the fact that whereas it had decided 134 cases under the Amendment during the thirty preceding years, in the ensuing thirteen years it decided 430 such cases.[71]

For more than a generation now the Court became the ultimate guardian, in the name of the Constitutional Document, of the laissez-faire conception of the proper relation of Government to Private Enterprise, a rather inconstant guardian, however, for its fluctuating membership tipped the scales now in favor of Business, now in favor of Government. And today the latter tendency appears to have prevailed. In its decisions early in 1937 sustaining outstanding Roosevelt Administration measures, the Court not only subordinated the freedom of employers to contract to the freedom of employees to organize, but intimated broadly that liberty in some of its phases is much more dependent upon legislative implementation that upon judicial protection.[72]

[Pg xxvi]

In contrast to this withdrawal, however, has been the Court's projection of another segment of "liberty" into new territory. In Gitlow v. New York,[73] decided in 1925, even in sustaining an antisyndicalist statute, the Court adopted arguendo the proposition which it had previously rejected, that "liberty" in Amendment XIV renders available against the States the restraints which Amendment I imposes on Congress. For fifteen years little happened. Then in 1940, the Court supplemented its ruling in the Gitlow Case with the so-called "Clear and Present Danger" rule, an expedient which was designed to divest state enactments restrictive of freedom of speech, of press, of religion, and so forth, of their presumed validity, just as, earlier, statutes restrictive of freedom of contract had been similarly disabled. By certain of the Justices, this result was held to be required by "the preferred position" of some of these freedoms in the hierarchy of constitutional values; an idea to which certain other Justices demurred. The result to date has been a series of holdings the net product of which for our Constitutional Law is at this juncture difficult to estimate; and the recent decision in Dennis v. United States under Amendment I augments the difficulty.[74]

A passing glance will suffice for the operation of the due process clause of Amendment V in the domain of foreign relations and the War Power. The reader has only to consult in these pages such holdings as those in Belmont v. United States, Yakus v. United States, Korematsu v. United States, to be persuaded that even the Constitution is no exception to the maxim, inter arma silent leges.[75]

In short, the substantive doctrine of due process of law does not today support judicial intervention in the field of social and economic legislation in anything like the same measure that it did, first in the States, then through the Supreme Court on the basis of Amendment XIV, in the half century between 1885 and 1935. But this fact does not signify that the clause is not, in both its procedural sense and its broader sense, especially when supplemented by the equal protection clause of Amendment XIV, a still valuable and viable source of judicial protection against parochial despotisms and petty tyrannies. Yet even in this respect, as certain recent decisions have shown, the Court can often act more effectively on the basis of congressional legislation implementing the Amendment than when operating directly on the basis of the Amendment itself.[76]


Considered for the two fundamental subjects of the powers of government and the liberties of individuals, interpretation of the Constitution by the Supreme Court falls into four tolerably distinguishable periods. The first, which reaches to the death of Marshall, is the period of the dominance of the Constitutional Document. The tradition concerning the original establishment of the Constitution was still fresh, and in the person and office of the great Chief Justice the intentions of the framers enjoyed a renewed vitality. This is not to say that Marshall did not have views of his own to advance; nor is it to say that the historicity of a particular theory concerning the Constitution is necessarily a matter of critical concern save to students of history. It is only to say that the theories which Marshall urged in support of his preferences [Pg xxvii]were, in fact, frequently verifiable as theories of the framers of the Constitution.

The second period is a lengthy one, stretching from the accession of Chief Justice Taney in 1835 to, say, 1895. It is the period par excellence of Constitutional Theory. More and more the constitutional text fades into the background, and the testimony of the Federalist, Marshall's sole book of precedents, ceases to be cited. Among the theories which in one way or other received the Court's approval during this period were the notion of Dual Federalism, the doctrine of the Police Power, the taboo on delegation of legislative power, the derived doctrine of Due Process of Law, the conception of liberty as Freedom of Contract, and still others. The sources of some of these doctrines and the nature of the interests benefited by them have been indicated earlier in these pages. Their net result was to put the national law-making power into a strait-jacket so far as the regulation of business was concerned.

The third period was that of Judicial Review pure and simple. The Court, as heir to the accumulated doctrines of its predecessors, found itself for the time being in possession of such a variety of instruments of constitutional exegesis that it was often able to achieve almost any result in the field of constitutional interpretation which it considered desirable, and that without flagrant departure from judicial good form. Indeed, it is altogether apparent that the Court was in actual possession and in active exercise of what Justice Holmes once termed "the sovereign prerogative of choice." It was early in this period that Governor Hughes, soon to ascend the Bench, said, without perhaps intending all that his words literally conveyed, "We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is." A decade later it was suggested by an eminent law teacher that attorneys arguing "due process cases" before the Court ought to address the Justices not as "Your Honors" but as "Your Lordships"; and Senator Borah, in the Senate debate on Mr. Hughes' nomination for Chief Justice, in 1930, declared that the Supreme Court had become "economic dictator in the United States". Some of the Justices concurred in these observations, especially Justices Holmes and Brandeis. Asserted the latter, the Court has made itself "a super-legislature" and Justice Holmes could discover "hardly any limit but the sky" to the power claimed by the Court to disallow State acts "which may happen to strike a majority [of its members] as for any reason undesirable".[77]

The fourth period is still with us. It was ushered in by World War I, but its results were consolidated and extended during the 1930's, and have been subsequently still further enlarged and confirmed by World War II and the "cold war". Many of these results have been treated above. Others can be searched out in the pages of this volume. What they sum up to is this: that what was once vaunted as a Constitution of Rights, both State rights and private rights, has been replaced to a great extent by a Constitution of Powers. The Federal System has shifted base in the direction of a consolidated national power; within the National Government itself there has been an increased flow of power in the direction of the President; even judicial enforcement of the Bill of Rights has faltered at times, in the presence of national emergency.

[Pg xxviii]

In this situation judicial review as exercised by the Supreme Court does not cease being an important technique of government under the Constitution, but its field of operation has contracted. The purpose which it serves more and more exclusively is the purpose for which it was originally created to serve, the maintenance of the principle of National Supremacy. But in fact, this is the purpose which it has always served predominantly, even in the era when it was cutting its widest swathe in the field of national legislative policy, the period from 1895 to 1935. Even then there was a multiplicity of state legislatures and only one Congress, so that the legislative grist that found its way to the Court's mill was overwhelmingly of local provenience. And since then several things have happened to confirm this predominance: first, the annexation to Amendment XIV of much of the content of the Federal Bill of Rights; secondly, the extension of national legislative power, especially along the route of the commerce clause, into the field of industrial regulation, with the result of touching state legislative power on many more fronts than ever before; thirdly, the integration of the Nation's industrial life, which has brought to the National Government a major responsibility for the maintenance of a functioning social order.

Forty years ago the late Justice Holmes said:

"I do not think the United States would come to an end if we [the Court] lost our power to declare an Act of Congress void. I do think the Union would be imperiled if we could not make that declaration as to the laws of the several States".[78]

By and large, this still sizes up the situation.

Edward S. Corwin.

January, 1953.

[Pg xxix]


[1] Cong. Record, vol. 23, p. 6516.

[2] The Genessee Chief, 12 How. 443 (1851), overturning The Thomas Jefferson, 10 Wheat. 428 (1825).

[3] Knox v. Lee, 12 Wall. 457 (1871); Hepburn v. Griswold, 8 Wall. 603 (1870).

[4] Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., 157 U.S. 429; Same, 158 U.S. 601.

[5] Cong. Record, vol. 78, p. 5358.

[6] Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649, 665.

[7] Ibid. 669.

[8] The Supreme Court in United States History, III, 470-471 (1922).

[9] The Dartmouth College Case (1819) occupies 197 pages of 4 Wheaton; Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), 240 pages of 9 Wheaton; The Charles River Bridge case (1837), 230 pages of 11 Peters; the Passenger Cases (1849), 290 pages of 7 Howard; the Dred Scott Case (1857), 240 pages of 19 Howard; Ex parte Milligan (1866), 140 pages of 4 Wallace; the first Pollock Case (1895), 325 pages of 157 U.S.; Myers v. United States (1926), 243 pages of 272 U.S.

[10] Max Farrand, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, III, 240-241 (1911).

[11] See Taney's words in 5 How. 504, 573-574 (1847), and 7 How. 283, 465-70 (1849).

[12] 21 How. 506, 520-521 (1859).

[13] 295 U.S. 495 (1935); 298 U.S. 238 (1936).

[14] 298 U.S. 238, 308-309.

[15] 312 U.S. 100 (1941).

[16] 100 U.S. 371.

[17] 227 U.S. 308, 322.

[18] Dobbins v. Commsrs., 16 Pet. 435 (1842); Collector v. Day, 11 Wall. 113. (1870).

[19] 4 Wheat. 316, 431 (1819).

[20] For references and further details, see E.S. Corwin, Court over Constitution, 129-176 (1938).

[21] [Transcriber's Note: Footnote 21 is missing from original text.]

[22] In this connection, see Oklahoma v. Civil Service Comm'n., 330 U.S. 127, 142-145 (1947).

[23] 3 Dall. 54, 74.

[24] 12 Wall. 457, 555 (1871).

[25] 130 U.S. 581, 604.

[26] Fong Yue Ting, 149 U.S. 698 (1893).

[27] 299 U.S. 304, 316-318.

[28] See also University of Illinois v. United States, 289 U.S. 48, 59 (1933). In Lichter v. United States, 334 U.S. 742, 782 (1948), Justice Burton, speaking for the Court, says: "The war powers of Congress and the President are only those which are derived from the Constitution", but he adds: "the primary implication of a war power is that it shall be an effective power to wage war successfully", which looks very like an attempt to duck the doctrine of an inherent war power while appropriating its results.

[29] Welldon (tr.), Book VI, chap. XIV (1888). Jowett and some others propose a different arrangement.

[30] John Locke. The Second Treatise on Civil Government, § 141. For the historical background of this principle, see P.W. Duff and H.E. Whiteside, "Delegata Potestas Non P[=o]test Delegari", Selected Essays on Constitutional Law, IV, 291-316 (1938).

[Pg xxx]

[31] Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan, 293 U.S. 388 (1935); Schechter Corp. v. United States, 295 U.S. 495 (1935).

[32] 343 U.S. 579 (1952).

[33] 299 U.S. 304, 327-329.

[34] 343 U.S. 579, 690.

[35] Andrew C. McLaughlin, A Constitutional History of the United States, 81 (1935).

[36] Locke, op. cit., § 137.

[37] Ibid., § 159-161.

[38] Meyers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52 (1926).

[39] For the famous debate between "Pacificus" (Hamilton) and "Helvidius" (Madison), see E.S. Corwin, The President's Control of Foreign Relations, chap. I (1917).

[40] Writings of Thomas Jefferson, V, 209 (P.L. Ford, ed.; 1895).

[41] 1 Cr. 137, 163 (1803).

[42] Ibid., 165-166.

[43] 7 How. 1.

[44] Fleming v. Page, 9 How. 602 (1850).

[45] United States v. Tingy, 5 Pet. 115, 122.

[46] 6 Op. Atty. Gen. 466 (1854).

[47] 2 Black 635 (1863).

[48] 4 Wall. 2 (1866).

[49] 4 Wall. 475 (1866).

[50] United States v. Lee, 106 U.S. 196, 220.

[51] In Re Neagle, 135 U.S. 1, 64.

[52] 158 U.S. 564.

[53] Autobiography, 388-389 (1913).

[54] Op. cit., 144 (1916).

[55] Constitutional Government in the United States, 70 (1908).

[56] See E.S. Corwin. Total War and the Constitution, 35-77 (1947).

[57] 343 U.S. 579, 662.

[58] See E.S. Corwin. Liberty Against Government, Chaps. III, IV (1948).

[59] "... the supreme power cannot take from any man any part of his property without his consent". Second Treatise, § 138.

[60] Van Home's Lessee v. Dorrance, 2 Dall. 304, 310 (1795).

[61] Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 388-389 (1798). See also Loan Association v. Topeka, 20 Wall. 655 (1875).

[62] Bank of Columbia v. Okely, 4 Wheat. 235, 244.

[63] Scott v. Sandford, 19 How. 393, 450 (1857).

[64] 13 N.Y. 378 (1856).

[65] Ibid. 390-392. The absolute veto of the Court of Appeals in the Wynehamer case was replaced by the Supreme Court, under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, by a more flexible doctrine, which left it open to the State to show reasonable justification for that type of legislation in terms of acknowledged ends of the Police Power, namely, the promotion of the public health, safety and morals. See Mugler v. Kansas, 123 U.S. 623 (1887); and for a transitional case, Bartemeyer v. Iowa, 18 Wall. 129 (1874).

[66] The Slaughter House Cases, 16 Wall. 36, 78-82 (1873). The opinion of the Court was focused principally on the privileges and immunities clause, and the narrow construction given it at this time is still the law of the Court. But Justices Bradley and Swayne pointed out the potentialities of the due process of law clause, and the former's interpretation of it may be fairly regarded as the first step toward the translation by the Court of "liberty" as Freedom on Contract.

[67] 94 U.S. 113 (1876).

[68] Benjamin R. Twiss, Lawyers and the Constitution, How Laissez Faire Came to the Supreme Court, 141-173 (1942).

[69] See especially Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905); and Adkins v. Children's Hospital, 261 U.S. 525 (1923).

[70] 169 U.S. 466; ibid. 366.

[Pg xxxi]

[71] See Charles W. Collins, The Fourteenth Amendment and the States, 188-206 (1912).

[72] Labor Board v. Jones & Laughlin, 301 U.S. 1, 33-34; West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379, 391-392.

[73] 268 U.S. 652, 666; cf. Prudential Ins. Co. v. Cheek, 259 U.S. 530, 543 (1922).

[74] The subject can be pursued in detail in connection with Amendment I, pp. 769-810.

[75] These cases are treated in the text, see Table of Cases.

[76] See Williams v. United States, 341 U.S. 97 (1951).

[77] See: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Collected Legal Papers, 239, 295-296 (1920); Merlo J. Pusey, Charles Evans Hughes, I, 203-206 (1951). Burns Baking Co. v. Bryan, 204 U.S. 504, 534 (1924); Baldwin v. Missouri, 281 U.S. 586, 595 (1930); American Political Science Review, xii, 241 (1918); New York Times, February 12, 1930. It was also during the same period that Judge Andrew A. Bruce of North Dakota wrote: "We are governed by our judges and not by our legislatures.... It is our judges who formulate our public policies and our basic law". The American Judge, 6, 8 (1924). Substantially contemporaneously a well read French critic described our system as Le Gouvernment des Juges (1921); while toward the end of the period Louis B. Boudin published his well known Government by Judiciary (2 vols., 1932).

[78] Collected Legal Papers, 295-296.

[Pg xxxiii]


[For contents in detail, see tables at beginning of each article and amendment]

Prefaces III, V
Editor's forward VII
Editor's introduction IX
Historical note on formation of the Constitution 9
Text of the Constitution (literal print) 17
Text of the amendments (literal print) 37
The Constitution, with annotations 55
The preamble 59
Article I. Legislative Department:  
Section 1. The Congress 71
2. House of Representatives 87
3. Senate 91
4. Elections and meetings 92
4. Elections and meetings 92
5. Legislative proceedings 95
6. Rights of Members 99
7. Bills and resolutions 101
8. Powers of Congress 105
9. Powers denied to Congress 312
10. Powers denied to the States 325
Article II. Executive Department:  
Section 1. The President 377
2. Powers and duties of the President 389
3. Miscellaneous powers and duties of the President 462
4. Impeachment 501
Article III. Judicial Department:  
Section 1. The judges, their terms, and compensation 511
2. Jurisdiction 538
3. Treason 638
Article IV. Federal relations:  
Section 1. Full faith and credit given in each State 647
2. Citizens 686
3. New States and government of Territory, etc. 697
4. Form of State government 704
Article V. Mode of amendment 707
Article VI. Miscellaneous provisions 717
Article VII. Ratification 741
Amendments to the Constitution:  
Amendment 1. Religion, free speech, etc. 753
2. Bearing arms 811
3. Quartering soldiers 815
4. Searches and seizures 819
5. Rights of persons 833
6. Rights of accused in criminal prosecutions 873
7. Civil trials 887
8. Punishment for crime 899
9. Rights retained by the people 907
10. Reserved State powers 911
11. Suits against States 923
12. Election of President, etc. 937
[Pg xxxiv]13. Slavery and involuntary servitude 945
  Section 1. Prohibition of slavery and involuntary servitude 949
  2. Power of Congress 949
14. Rights of citizens 955
  Section 1. Citizenship; due process; equal protection 963
  2. Apportionment of representation 1170
  3. Disqualification of officers 1173
  4. Public debt; claims for loss of slaves 1174
  5. Enforcement 1175
15. Right of citizens to vote 1179
  Section 1. Suffrage not to be abridged for race, color, etc. 1183
  2. Power of Congress 1183
16. Income tax 1187
17. Popular election of Senators 1203
18. Prohibition of intoxicating liquors 1209
  Section 1. Prohibition of intoxicating liquors 1213
  2. Concurrent power to enforce 1213
  3. Time limit on ratification 1213
19. Equal suffrage 1215
20. Commencement of the terms of the President, Vice President, and Members of Congress, etc. 1221
  Section 1. Commencement of terms of President, Vice President, Senators, and Representatives 1225
  2. Meeting of Congress 1225
  3. Death or disqualification of President elect 1225
  4. Congress to provide for case wherein death occurs among those from whom House chooses a President 1225
  5. Date of effect 1226
  6. Time limit on ratificn 1226
21. Repeal of Eighteenth Amendment 1227
  Section 1. Repeal of prohibition 1231
  2. Transportation into States prohibited 1231
  3. Time limit on ratification 1231
22. Presidential Tenure 1235
  Section 1. Restriction on Number of terms 1237
  2. Time limit on ratification 1237
Acts of Congress held unconstitutional in whole or in part by the Supreme Court of the United States 1239
Table of Cases 1257
Index 1337

[Pg 9]



In June 1774, the Virginia and Massachusetts assemblies independently proposed an intercolonial meeting of delegates from the several colonies to restore union and harmony between Great Britain and her American Colonies. Pursuant to these calls there met in Philadelphia in September of that year the first Continental Congress, composed of delegates from 12 colonies. On October 14, 1774, the assembly adopted what has come to be known as the Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress. In that instrument, addressed to His Majesty and to the people of Great Britain, there was embodied a statement of rights and principles, many of which were later to be incorporated in the Declaration of Independence and the Federal Constitution.[a]

This Congress adjourned in October with a recommendation that another Congress be held in Philadelphia the following May. Before its successor met, the battle of Lexington had been fought. In Massachusetts the colonists had organized their own government in defiance of the royal governor and the Crown. Hence, by general necessity and by common consent, the second Continental Congress assumed control of the "Twelve United Colonies", soon to become the "Thirteen United Colonies" by the cooperation of Georgia. It became a de facto government: it called upon the other colonies to assist in the defense of Massachusetts; it issued bills of credit; it took steps to organize a military force, and appointed George Washington commander in chief of the Army.

While the declaration of the causes and necessities of taking up arms of July 6, 1775,[b] expressed a "wish" to see the union between Great Britain and the colonies "restored", sentiment for independence was growing. Finally, on May 15, 1776, Virginia instructed her delegates to the Continental Congress to have that body "declare the united colonies free and independent States."[c] [Pg 10]Accordingly on June 7 a resolution was introduced in Congress declaring the union with Great Britain dissolved, proposing the formation of foreign alliances, and suggesting the drafting of a plan of confederation to be submitted to the respective colonies.[d] Some delegates argued for confederation first and declaration afterwards. This counsel did not prevail. Independence was declared on July 4, 1776; the preparation of a plan of confederation was postponed. It was not until November 17, 1777, that the Congress was able to agree on a form of government which stood some chance of being approved by the separate States. The Articles of Confederation were then submitted to the several States, and on July 9, 1778, were finally approved by a sufficient number to become operative.

Weaknesses inherent in the Articles of Confederation became apparent before the Revolution out of which that instrument was born had been concluded. Even before the thirteenth State (Maryland) conditionally joined the "firm league of friendship" on March 1, 1781, the need for a revenue amendment was widely conceded. Congress under the Articles lacked authority to levy taxes. She could only request the States to contribute their fair share to the common treasury, but the requested amounts were not forthcoming. To remedy this defect, Congress applied to the States for power to lay duties and secure the public debts. Twelve States agreed to such an amendment, but Rhode Island refused her consent, thereby defeating the proposal.

Thus was emphasized a second weakness in the Articles of Confederation, namely, the liberum veto which each State possessed whenever amendments to that instrument were proposed. Not only did all amendments have to be ratified by each of the 13 States, but all important legislation needed the approval of 9 States. With several delegations often absent, one or two States were able to defeat legislative proposals of major importance.

Other imperfections in the Articles of Confederation also proved embarrassing. Congress could, for example, negotiate treaties with foreign powers, but all treaties had to be ratified by the several States. Even when a treaty was approved, Congress lacked authority to secure obedience to its stipulations. Congress could not act directly upon the States or upon individuals. Under such circumstances foreign nations doubted the value of a treaty with the new republic.

Furthermore, Congress had no authority to regulate foreign or interstate commerce. Legislation in this field, subject to unimportant exceptions, was left to the individual States. Disputes between States with common interests in the navigation of certain rivers and bays were inevitable. Discriminatory regulations were followed by reprisals.

Virginia, recognizing the need for an agreement with Maryland respecting the navigation and jurisdiction of the Potomac River, appointed in June 1784, four commissioners to "frame such liberal and equitable regulations concerning the said river as may be mutually advantageous to the two States." Maryland in January 1785 responded to the Virginia resolution by appointing a like [Pg 11]number of commissioners[e] "for the purpose of settling the navigation and jurisdiction over that part of the bay of Chesapeake which lies within the limits of Virginia, and over the rivers Potomac and Pocomoke" with full power on behalf of Maryland "to adjudge and settle the jurisdiction to be exercised by the said States, respectively, over the waters and navigations of the same."[f]

At the invitation of Washington the commissioners met at Mount Vernon, in March 1785, and drafted a compact which, in many of its details relative to the navigation and jurisdiction of the Potomac, is still in force.[g] What is more important, the commissioners submitted to their respective States a report in favor of a convention of all the States "to take into consideration the trade and commerce" of the Confederation. Virginia, in January 1786, advocated such a convention, authorizing its commissioners to meet with those of other States, at a time and place to be agreed on, "to take into consideration the trade of the United States; to examine the relative situations and trade of the said States; to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial regulations may be necessary to their common interest and their permanent harmony; and to report to the several States, such an act relative to this great object, as when unanimously ratified by them, will enable the United States in Congress, effectually to provide for the same."[h]

This proposal for a general trade convention seemingly met with general approval; nine States appointed commissioners. Under the leadership of the Virginia delegation, which included Randolph and Madison, Annapolis was accepted as the place and the first Monday in September 1786 as the time for the convention. The attendance at Annapolis proved disappointing. Only five States—Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York—were represented; delegates from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Rhode Island failed to attend. Because of the small representation, the Annapolis convention did not deem "it advisable to proceed on the business of their mission." After an exchange of views, the Annapolis delegates unanimously submitted to their respective States a report in which they suggested that a convention of representatives from all the States meet at Philadelphia on the second Monday in May 1787 to examine the defects in the existing system of government and formulate "a plan for supplying such defects as may be discovered."[i]

The Virginia legislature acted promptly upon this recommendation and appointed a delegation to go to Philadelphia. Within a few weeks New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Delaware, and Georgia also made appointments. New York and several other States hesitated on the ground that, without the consent of the Continental Congress, the work of the convention would be extra-legal; that Congress alone could propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation. Washington was quite unwilling to attend an irregular [Pg 12]convention. Congressional approval of the proposed convention became, therefore, highly important. After some hesitancy Congress approved the suggestion for a convention at Philadelphia "for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the States render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government and the preservation of the Union."

Thereupon, the remaining States, Rhode Island alone excepted, appointed in due course delegates to the Convention, and Washington accepted membership on the Virginia delegation.

Although scheduled to convene on May 14, 1787, it was not until May 25 that enough delegates were present to proceed with the organization of the Convention. Washington was elected as presiding officer. It was agreed that the sessions were to be strictly secret.

On May 29 Randolph, on behalf of the Virginia delegation, submitted to the convention 15 propositions as a plan of government. Despite the fact that the delegates were limited by their instructions to a revision of the Articles, Virginia had really recommended a new instrument of government. For example, provision was made in the Virginia plan for the separation of the three branches of government; under the Articles executive, legislative, and judicial powers were vested in the Congress. Furthermore the legislature was to consist of two houses rather than one.

On May 30 the Convention went into a committee of the whole to consider the 15 propositions of the Virginia plan seriatim. These discussions continued until June 13, when the Virginia resolutions in amended form were reported out of committee. They provided for proportional representation in both houses. The small States were dissatisfied. Therefore, on June 14 when the Convention was ready to consider the report on the Virginia plan, Paterson of New Jersey requested an adjournment to allow certain delegations more time to prepare a substitute plan. The request was granted, and on the next day Paterson submitted nine resolutions embodying important changes in the Articles of Confederation, but strictly amendatory in nature. Vigorous debate followed. On June 19 the States rejected the New Jersey plan and voted to proceed with a discussion of the Virginia plan. The small States became more and more discontented; there were threats of withdrawal. On July 2 the convention was deadlocked over giving each State an equal vote in the upper house—five States in the affirmative, five in the negative, one divided.[j]

The problem was referred to a committee of 11, there being 1 delegate from each State, to effect a compromise. On July 5 the committee submitted its report, which became the basis for the "great compromise" of the convention. It was recommended that in the upper house each State should have an equal vote, that in the lower branch each State should have one representative for every 40,000 inhabitants, counting three-fifths of the slaves, that money bills should originate in the lower house (not subject to amendment by the upper chamber). When on July 12 the motion of Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania that direct taxation should also be in proportion to representation, was adopted, [Pg 13]a crisis had been successfully surmounted. A compromise spirit began to prevail. The small States were now willing to support a strong national government.

Debates on the Virginia resolutions continued. The 15 original resolutions had been expanded into 23. Since these resolutions were largely declarations of principles, on July 24 a committee of five[k] was selected to draft a detailed constitution embodying the fundamental principles which had thus far been approved. The Convention adjourned from July 26 to August 6 to await the report of its committee of detail. This committee, in preparing its draft of a Constitution, turned for assistance to the State constitutions, to the Articles of Confederation, to the various plans which had been submitted to the Convention and other available material. On the whole the report of the committee conformed to the resolutions adopted by the Convention, though on many clauses the members of the committee left the imprint of their individual and collective judgments. In a few instances the committee avowedly exercised considerable discretion.

From August 6 to September 10 the report of the committee of detail was discussed, section by section, clause by clause. Details were attended to, further compromises were effected. Toward the close of these discussions, on September 8, another committee of five[l] was appointed "to revise the style of and arrange the articles which had been agreed to by the house."

On Wednesday, September 12 the report of the committee of style was ordered printed for the convenience of the delegates. The Convention for 3 days compared this report with the proceedings of the Convention. The Constitution was ordered engrossed on Saturday, September 15.

The Convention met on Monday, September 17, for its final session. Several of the delegates were disappointed in the result. A few deemed the new Constitution a mere makeshift, a series of unfortunate compromises. The advocates of the Constitution, realizing the impending difficulty of obtaining the consent of the States to the new instrument of Government, were anxious to obtain the unanimous support of the delegations from each State. It was feared that many of the delegates would refuse to give their individual assent to the Constitution. Therefore, in order that the action of the convention would appear to be unanimous, Gouverneur Morris devised the formula "Done in Convention, by the unanimous consent of the States present the 17th of September * * * In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names." Thirty-nine of the forty-two delegates present thereupon "subscribed" to the document.[m]

[Pg 14]

The Convention had been called to revise the Articles of Confederation. Instead, it reported to the Continental Congress a new Constitution. Furthermore, while the Articles specified that no amendments should be effective until approved by the legislatures of all the States, the Philadelphia Convention suggested that the new Constitution should supplant the Articles of Confederation when ratified by conventions in nine States. For these reasons, it was feared that the new Constitution might arouse opposition in Congress.

Three members of the Convention—Madison, Gorham, and King—were also Members of Congress. They proceeded at once to New York, where Congress was in session, to placate the expected opposition. Aware of their vanishing authority, Congress on September 28, after some debate, decided to submit the Constitution to the States for action. It made no recommendation for or against adoption.

Two parties soon developed, one in opposition and one in support of the Constitution, and the Constitution was debated, criticized, and expounded clause by clause. Hamilton, Madison, and Jay wrote a series of commentaries, now known as the Federalist Papers, in support of the new instrument of government.[n] The closeness and bitterness of the struggle over ratification and the conferring of additional powers on the central government can scarcely be exaggerated. In some States ratification was effected only after a bitter struggle in the State convention itself.

Delaware, on December 7, 1787, became the first State to ratify the new Constitution, the vote being unanimous. Pennsylvania ratified on December 12, 1787, by a vote of 46 to 23, a vote scarcely indicative of the struggle which had taken place in that State. New Jersey ratified on December 19, 1787, and Georgia on January 2, 1788, the vote in both States being unanimous. Connecticut ratified on January 9, 1788; yeas 128, nays 40. On February 6, 1788, Massachusetts, by a narrow margin of 19 votes in a convention with a membership of 355, endorsed the new Constitution, but recommended that a bill of rights be added to protect the States from Federal encroachment on individual liberties. Maryland ratified on April 28, 1788; yeas 63, nays 11. South Carolina ratified on May 23, 1788; yeas 149, nays 73. On June 21, 1788, by a vote of 57 to 46, New Hampshire became the ninth State to ratify, but like Massachusetts she suggested a bill of rights.

By the terms of the Constitution nine States were sufficient for its establishment among the States so ratifying. The advocates of the new Constitution realized, however, that the new government could not succeed without the addition of New York and Virginia, neither of which had ratified. Madison, Marshall, and Randolph led the struggle for ratification in Virginia. On June 25, 1788, by a narrow margin of 10 votes in a convention of 168 members, that State ratified over the objection of such delegates as George Mason and Patrick Henry. In New York an attempt to attach conditions to ratification almost succeeded. But on July 26, 1788, New York ratified, with a recommendation that a bill of rights be appended. The vote was close—yeas 30, nays 27.

[Pg 15]

Eleven States having thus ratified the Constitution,[o] the Continental Congress—which still functioned at irregular intervals—passed a resolution on September 13, 1788, to put the new Constitution into operation. The first Wednesday of January 1789 was fixed as the day for choosing presidential electors, the first Wednesday of February for the meeting of electors, and the first Wednesday of March (i.e. March 4, 1789) for the opening session of the new Congress. Owing to various delays, Congress was late in assembling, and it was not until April 30, 1789, that George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States.


[a] The colonists, for example, claimed the right "to life, liberty, and property", "the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural-born subjects within the realm of England"; the right to participate in legislative councils; "the great and inestimable privilege of being tried by their peers of the vicinage, according to the course of [the common law of England]"; "the immunities and privileges granted and confirmed to them by royal charters, or secured by their several codes of provincial laws"; "a right peaceably to assemble, consider of their grievances, and petition the king." They further declared that the keeping of a standing army in the colonies in time of peace without the consent of the colony in which the army was kept was "against law"; that it was "indispensably necessary to good government, and rendered essential by the English constitution, that the constituent branches of the legislature be independent of each other"; that certain acts of Parliament in contravention of the foregoing principles were "infringements and violations of the rights of the colonists." (Text in Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union, pp. 1-5.)

[b] Text in Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union, pp. 10-17.

[c] Ibid., pp. 19-20.

[d] Ibid., p. 21.

[e] George Mason, Edmund Randolph, James Madison, and Alexander Henderson were appointed commissioners for Virginia; Thomas Johnson, Thomas Stone, Samuel Chase, and Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer for Maryland.

[f] The text of the resolutions is to be found in 153 U.S. 162-163.

[g] See Wharton v. Wise, 153 U.S. 155 [1894].

[h] Text in Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union, p. 38.

[i] Ibid., pp. 39-43.

[j] The New Hampshire delegation did not arrive until July 23, 1787.

[k] Rutledge of South Carolina, Randolph of Virginia, Gorham of Massachusetts, Ellsworth of Connecticut, and Wilson of Pennsylvania.

[l] William Samuel Johnson of Connecticut, Alexander Hamilton of New York, Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania, James Madison of Virginia, and Rufus King, of Massachusetts.

[m] At least 65 persons had received appointments as delegates to the Convention; 55 actually attended at different times during the course of the proceedings; 39 signed the document. It has been estimated that generally fewer than 30 delegates attended the daily sessions. For further details respecting the Convention of 1787 see: Elliott, Debates; Farrand, Records of the Constitutional Conventions; Farrand, The Framing of the Constitution; Meigs, Growth of the Constitution.

[n] These commentaries on the Constitution, written during the struggle for ratification, have been frequently cited by the Supreme Court as an authoritative contemporary interpretation of the meaning of its provisions.

[o] North Carolina added her ratification on November 21, 1789; yeas 184, nays 77. Rhode Island did not ratify until May 29, 1790; yeas 34, nays 32.

[Pg 17]




[Pg 19]

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Article. I.

Section. 1. All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section. 2. The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. [Pg 20]The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Section. 3. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.

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No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Section. 4. The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.

Section. 5. Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number [Pg 22]may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.

Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.

Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

Section. 6. The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

Section. 7. All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

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Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

Section. 8. The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

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To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

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To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of Particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;—And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Section. 9. The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.

No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another; nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear or pay Duties in another.

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement [Pg 26]and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Section. 10. No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

Article. II.

Section. 1. The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows

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Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; a quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President.

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The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Section. 2. The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal [Pg 29]Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

Section. 3. He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

Section. 4. The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

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Article. III.

Section. 1. The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

Section. 2. The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;—to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;—to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;—to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;—to Controversies between two or more States;—between a State and Citizens of another State;—between Citizens of different States;—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.

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Section. 3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Article. IV.

Section 1. Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Section 2. The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.

A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.

No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

Section. 3. New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, [Pg 32]without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.

Section. 4. The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

Article. V.

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of it's equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Article. VI.

All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

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This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Article. VII.

The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.

The Word, "the," being interlined between the seventh and eighth Lines of the first Page, The Word "Thirty" being partly written on an Erazure in the fifteenth Line of the first Page, The Words "is tried" being interlined between the thirty second and thirty third Lines of the first Page and the Word "the" being interlined between the forty third and forty fourth Lines of the second Page.

Attest William Jackson Secretary

done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,

Go Washington—Presidt
and deputy from Virginia

New Hampshire {
John Langdon
Nicholas Gilman
[Pg 34]Massachusetts {
Nathaniel Gorham
Rufus King
Connecticut {
Wm: Saml. Johnson
Roger Sherman
New York : : :   Alexander Hamilton
New Jersey {
Wil: Livingston
David Brearley.
Wm.. Paterson.
Jona: Dayton
Pennsylvania {
B Franklin
Thomas Mifflin
Robt Morris
Geo. Clymer
Thos. FitzSimons
Jared Ingersoll
James Wilson
Gouv Morris
Delaware {
Geo: Read
Gunning Bedford
John Dickinson
Richard Bassett
Jaco: Broom
Maryland {
James McHenry
Dan of St Thos. Jenifer
Danl Carroll
Virginia {
John Blair—
James Madison
North Carolina {
Wm.. Blount
Richd. Dobbs Spaight.
Hu Williamson
[Pg 35]South Carolina {
J. Rutledge
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Charles Pinckney
Pierce Butler
Georgia {
William Few
Abr Baldwin

In Convention Monday, September 17th 1787.
The States of

New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, MR. Hamilton from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.


That the preceeding Constitution be laid before the United States in Congress assembled, and that it is the Opinion of this Convention, that it should afterwards be submitted to a Convention of Delegates, chosen in each State by the People thereof, under the Recommendation of its Legislature, for their Assent and Ratification; and that each Convention assenting to, and ratifying the Same, should give Notice thereof to the United States in Congress assembled. Resolved, That it is the Opinion of this Convention, that as soon as the Conventions of nine States shall have ratified this Constitution, the United States in Congress assembled should fix a Day on which Electors should be appointed by the States which shall have ratified the same, and a Day on which the Electors should assemble to vote for the President, and the Time and Place for commencing Proceedings under this Constitution. That after such Publication the Electors should be appointed, and the Senators and Representatives elected: That the Electors should meet on the Day fixed for the Election of the President, and should transmit their [Pg 36]Votes certified, signed, sealed and directed, as the Constitution requires, to the Secretary of the United States in Congress assembled, that the Senators and Representatives should convene at the Time and Place assigned; that the Senators should appoint a President of the Senate, for the sole Purpose of receiving, opening and counting the Votes for President; and, that after he shall be chosen, the Congress, together with the President, should, without Delay, proceed to execute this Constitution.

By the Unanimous Order of the Convention

Go. Washington Presidt

W. Jackson Secretary.

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Amendment [I.][b]

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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Amendment [II.]

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment [III.]

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment [IV.]

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment [V.]

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

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Amendment [VI.]

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment [VII.]

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment [VIII.]

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment [IX.]

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment [X.]

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.

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Amendment [XI.][c]

The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.

Amendment [XII.][d]

The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; [Pg 43]they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;—The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;—The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President—The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. [Pg 44]But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

Amendment XIII.[e]

Section 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.

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

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Amendment XIV.[f]

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the [Pg 46]whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

[Pg 47]

Amendment XV.[g]

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Amendment XVI.[h]

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

[Pg 48]

Amendment [XVII.][i]

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

[Pg 49]

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

Amendment [XVIII.][j]

Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

Sec. 2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

[Pg 50]

Sec. 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

Amendment [XIX.][k]

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

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

Amendment [XX.][l]

Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators [Pg 51]and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

Sec. 2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.

Sec. 3. If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; [Pg 52]and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.

Sec. 4. The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.

Sec. 5. Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.

Sec. 6. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.

[Pg 53]

Amendment [XXI.][m]

Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Sec. 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Sec. 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

[Pg 54]

Amendment [XXII.][n]

Section 1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

Section 2. This Article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.


[a] In Dillon v. Gloss, 256 U.S. 368 [1921], the Supreme Court stated that it would take Judicial notice of the date on which a State ratified a proposed constitutional amendment. Accordingly the Court consulted the State Journals to determine the dates on which each house of the legislature of certain States ratified the 18th Amendment. It, therefore, follows that the date on which the governor approved the ratification, or the date on which the secretary of state of a given State certified the ratification, or the date on which the Secretary of State of the United States received a copy of said certificate, or the date on which he proclaimed that the amendment had been ratified are not controlling. Hence, the ratification date given in the following notes is the date on which the legislature of a given State approved the particular amendment (signature by the speaker or presiding officers of both houses being considered a part of the ratification of the "legislature"). When that date is not available, the date given is that on which it was approved by the governor or certified by the secretary of state of the particular State. In each case such fact has been noted. Except as otherwise indicated information as to ratification is based on data supplied by the Department of State.

[b] Brackets enclosing an amendment number indicate that the number was not specifically assigned in the resolution proposing the amendment. It will be seen, accordingly, that only amendments XIII, XIV, XV and XVI were thus technically ratified by number. The first 10 amendments along with 2 others which failed of ratification were proposed by Congress on September 25, 1789, when they passed the Senate [1 Ann. Cong. (1st Cong., 1st sess.) 90], having previously passed the House on September 24 [Id., 948]. They appear officially in 1 Stat. 97. Ratification was completed on December 15, 1791, when the eleventh State (Virginia) approved these amendments, there being then 14 States in the Union.

The several State legislatures ratified the first 10 amendments to the Constitution (i.e. nos. 3 to 12 of those proposed) on the following dates: New Jersey, November 20, 1789; Maryland, December 19, 1789; North Carolina, December 22, 1789; South Carolina, January 19, 1790; New Hampshire, January 25, 1790; Delaware, January 28, 1790; New York, February 27, 1790; Pennsylvania, March 10, 1790; Rhode Island, June 7, 1790; Vermont, November 3, 1791; Virginia, December 15, 1791. The two amendments which failed of ratification (i.e. nos. 1 and 2 of those proposed) prescribed the ratio of representation to population in the House, and specified that no law varying the compensation of members of Congress should be effective until after an intervening election of Representatives. The first was ratified by 10 States (1 short of the requisite number) and the second by 6 States [2 Doc. Hist. Const., 325-390].

[c] The 11th Amendment was proposed by Congress on March 4, 1794, when it passed the House [4 Ann. Cong. (3d Cong., 1st sess.) 477, 478], having previously passed the Senate on January 14 [Id., 30, 31]. It appears officially in 1 Stat. 402. Ratification was completed on February 7, 1795, when the twelfth State (North Carolina) approved the amendment, there being then 15 States in the Union. Official announcement of ratification was not made until January 8, 1798, when President John Adams in a message to Congress stated that the 11th Amendment had been adopted by three-fourths of the States and that it "may now be deemed to be a part of the Constitution" [1 Mess. and Papers of Pres. 250]. In the interim South Carolina had ratified, and Tennessee had been admitted into the Union as the Sixteenth State.

The several State legislatures ratified the 11th Amendment on the following dates: New York, March 27, 1794; Rhode Island, March 31, 1794; Connecticut, May 8, 1794; New Hampshire, June 16, 1794; Massachusetts, June 26, 1794; Vermont, between October 9 and November 9, 1794; Virginia, November 18, 1794; Georgia, November 29, 1794; Kentucky, December 7, 1794; Maryland, December 26, 1794; Delaware, January 23, 1795; North Carolina, February 7, 1795; South Carolina, December 4, 1797 [State Department, Press Releases, vol. XII, p. 247 (1935)].

[d] The 12th Amendment was proposed by Congress on December 9, 1803, when it passed the House [13 Ann. Cong. (8th Cong., 1st sess.) 775, 776], having previously passed the Senate on December 2 [Id., 209]. It was not signed by the presiding officers of the House and Senate until December 12. It appears officially in 2 Stat. 306. Ratification was probably completed on June 15, 1804, when the legislature of the thirteenth State (New Hampshire) approved the amendment, there being then 17 States in the Union. The Governor of New Hampshire, however, vetoed this act of the legislature on June 20, and the act failed to pass again by two-thirds vote then required by the State constitution. Inasmuch as art. V of the Federal Constitution specifies that amendments shall become effective "when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States or by conventions in three-fourths thereof," it has been generally believed that an approval or veto by a governor is without significance. If the ratification by New Hampshire be deemed ineffective, then the amendment became operative by Tennessee's ratification on July 27, 1804. On September 25, 1804, in a circular letter to the Governors of the several States, Secretary of State Madison declared the amendment ratified by three-fourths of the States.

The several State legislatures ratified the 12th Amendment on the following dates: North Carolina, December 22, 1803; Maryland, December 24, 1803; Kentucky, December 27, 1803; Ohio, between December 5 and December 30, 1803; Virginia, between December 20, 1803 and February 3, 1804; Pennsylvania, January 5, 1804; Vermont, January 30, 1804; New York, February 10, 1804; New Jersey, February 22, 1804; Rhode Island, between February 27 and March 12, 1804; South Carolina, May 15, 1804; Georgia, May 19, 1804; New Hampshire, June 15, 1804; and Tennessee, July 27, 1804. The amendment was rejected by Delaware on January 18, 1804, and by Connecticut at its session begun May 10, 1804.

[e] The 13th Amendment was proposed by Congress on January 31, 1865, when it passed the House [Cong. Globe (38th Cong., 2d sess.) 531], having previously passed the Senate on April 8, 1864 [Id. (38th Cong., 1st sess.) 1490]. It appears officially in 13 Stat. 567 under the date of February 1, 1865. Ratification was completed on December 6, 1865, when the legislature of the twenty-seventh State (Georgia) approved the amendment, there being then 36 States in the Union. On December 18, 1865, Secretary of State Seward certified that the 13th Amendment had become a part of the Constitution [13 Stat. 774].

The several State legislatures ratified the 13th Amendment on the following dates: Illinois, February 1, 1865; Rhode Island, February, 2, 1865; Michigan, February 2, 1865; Maryland, February 3, 1865; New York, February 3, 1865; West Virginia, February 3, 1865; Missouri, February 6, 1865; Maine, February 7, 1865; Kansas, February 7, 1865; Massachusetts, February 7, 1865; Pennsylvania, February 8, 1865; Virginia, February 9, 1865; Ohio, February 10, 1865; Louisiana, February 15 or 16, 1865; Indiana, February 16, 1865; Nevada, February 16, 1865; Minnesota, February 23, 1865; Wisconsin, February 24, 1865; Vermont, March 9, 1865 (date on which it was "approved" by Governor); Tennessee, April 7, 1865; Arkansas, April 14, 1865; Connecticut, May 4, 1865; New Hampshire, June 30, 1865; South Carolina, November 13, 1865; Alabama, December 2, 1865 (date on which it was "approved" by Provisional Governor); North Carolina, December 4, 1865; Georgia, December 6, 1865; Oregon, December 11, 1865; California, December 15, 1865; Florida, December 28, 1865 (Florida again ratified this amendment on June 9, 1868, upon its adoption of a new constitution); Iowa, January 17, 1866; New Jersey, January 23, 1866 (after having rejected the amendment on March 16, 1865); Texas, February 18, 1870; Delaware, February 12, 1901 (after having rejected the amendment on February 8, 1865). The amendment was rejected by Kentucky on February 24, 1865, and by Mississippi on December 2, 1865.

"A thirteenth amendment depriving of United States citizenship any citizen who should accept any title, office, or emolument from a foreign power, was proposed by Congress on May 1, 1810, when it passed the House [21 Ann. Cong. (11th Cong., 2d sess.) 2050], having previously passed the Senate on April 27 [20 Ann. Cong. (11th Cong., 2d sess.) 672]. It appears officially in 2 Stat. 613. It failed of adoption, being ratified by but 12 States up to December 10, 1812 [2 Miscell. Amer. State Papers, 477-479; 2 Doc. Hist. Const. 454-499], there then being 18 in all.

"Another thirteenth amendment, forbidding any future amendment that should empower Congress to interfere with the domestic institutions of any State, was proposed by Congress on March 2, 1861, when it passed the Senate [Cong. Globe (36th Cong., 2d sess.) 1403], having previously passed the House on February 28 [Id., 1285]. It appears officially in 12 Stat. 251. It failed of adoption, being ratified by but three States: Ohio, May 13, 1861 [58 Laws Ohio, 190]; Maryland, January 10, 1862 [Laws Maryland (1861-62) 21]; Illinois, February 14, 1862 [2 Doc. Hist. Const., 518] irregular, because by convention instead of by legislation as authorized by Congress." [Burdick, The Law of the American Constitution, 637.]

[f] The 14th Amendment was proposed by Congress on June 13, 1866, when it passed the House [Cong. Globe (39th Cong., 1st sess.) 3148, 3149], having previously passed the Senate on June 8 [Id., 3042]. It appears officially in 14 Stat. 358 under date of June 16, 1866. Ratification was probably completed on July 9, 1868, when the legislature of the twenty-eighth State (South Carolina or Louisiana) approved the amendment, there being then 37 States in the Union. However, Ohio and New Jersey had prior to that date "withdrawn" their earlier assent to this amendment. Accordingly, Secretary of State Seward on July 20, 1868, certified that the amendment had become a part of the Constitution if the said withdrawals were ineffective [15 Stat. 706-707]. Congress at once (July 21, 1868) passed a joint resolution declaring the amendment a part of the Constitution and directing the Secretary to promulgate it as such. On July 28, 1868, Secretary Seward certified without reservation that the amendment was a part of the Constitution. In the interim, two other States, Alabama on July 13 and Georgia on July 21, 1868, had added their ratifications.

The several State legislatures ratified the 14th Amendment on the following dates: Connecticut, June 30, 1866; New Hampshire, July 7, 1866; Tennessee, July 19, 1866; New Jersey, September 11, 1866 (the New Jersey Legislature on February 20, 1868 "withdrew" its consent to the ratification; the Governor vetoed that bill on March 5, 1868; and it was repassed over his veto on March 24, 1868); Oregon, September 19, 1866 (Oregon "withdrew" its consent on October 15, 1868); Vermont, October 30, 1866; New York, January 10, 1867; Ohio, January 11, 1867 (Ohio "withdrew" its consent on January 15, 1868); Illinois, January 15, 1867; West Virginia, January 16, 1867; Michigan, January 16, 1867; Kansas, January 17, 1867; Minnesota, January 17, 1867; Maine, January 19, 1867; Nevada, January 22, 1867; Indiana, January 23, 1867; Missouri, January 26, 1867 (date on which it was certified by the Missouri secretary of state); Rhode Island, February 7, 1867; Pennsylvania, February 12, 1867; Wisconsin, February 13, 1867 (actually passed February 7, but not signed by legislative officers until February 13); Massachusetts, March 20, 1867; Nebraska, June 15, 1867; Iowa, March 9, 1868; Arkansas, April 6, 1868; Florida, June 9, 1868; North Carolina, July 2, 1868 (after having rejected the amendment on December 13, 1866); Louisiana, July 9, 1868 (after having rejected the amendment on February 6, 1867); South Carolina, July 8, 1868; (after having rejected the amendment on December 20, 1866); Alabama, July 13, 1868 (date on which it was "approved" by the Governor); Georgia, July 21, 1868 (after having rejected the amendment on November 9, 1866—Georgia ratified again on February 2, 1870); Virginia, October 8, 1869 (after having rejected the amendment on January 9, 1867); Mississippi, January 17, 1870; Texas, February 18, 1870 (after having rejected the amendment on October 27, 1866); Delaware, February 12, 1901 (after having rejected the amendment on February 7, 1867). The amendment was rejected (and not subsequently ratified) by Kentucky on January 8, 1807, and by Maryland on March 23, 1867.

[g] The 15th Amendment was proposed by Congress on February 26, 1869, when it passed the Senate [Cong. Globe (40th Cong., 3rd sess.) 1641], having previously passed the House on February 25 [Id. 1563, 1564]. It appears officially in 15 Stat. 346 under date of February 27, 1869. Ratification was probably completed on February 3, 1870, when the legislature of the twenty-eighth State (Iowa) approved the amendment, there being then 37 States in the Union. However, New York had prior to that date "withdrawn" its earlier assent to this amendment. Even if this withdrawal were effective, Nebraska's ratification on February 17, 1870, authorized Secretary of State Fish's certification of March 30, 1870, that the 15th Amendment had become a part of the Constitution [16 Stat 1131].

The several State legislatures ratified the 15th Amendment on the following dates: Nevada, March 1, 1869; West Virginia, March 3, 1869; North Carolina, March 5, 1869; Louisiana, March 5, 1869 (date on which it was "approved" by the Governor); Illinois March 5, 1869; Michigan, March 5, 1869; Wisconsin, March 5, 1869; Maine, March 11, 1869; Massachusetts, March 12, 1869; South Carolina, March 15, 1869; Arkansas, March 15, 1869; Pennsylvania, March 25, 1869; New York, April 14, 1869 (New York "withdrew" its consent to the ratification on January 5, 1870); Indiana, May 14, 1869; Connecticut, May 19, 1869; Florida, June 14, 1869; New Hampshire, July 1, 1869; Virginia, October 8, 1869; Vermont, October 20, 1869; Alabama, November 16, 1869; Missouri, January 7, 1870 (Missouri had ratified the first section of the 15th Amendment on March 1, 1869; it failed to include in its ratification the second section of the amendment); Minnesota, January 13, 1870; Mississippi, January 17, 1870; Rhode Island, January 18, 1870; Kansas, January 19, 1870 (Kansas had by a defectively worded resolution previously ratified this amendment on February 27, 1869); Ohio, January 27, 1870 (after having rejected the amendment on May 4, 1869); Georgia, February 2, 1870; Iowa, February 3, 1870; Nebraska, February 17, 1870; Texas, February 18, 1870; New Jersey, February 15, 1871 (after having rejected the amendment on February 7, 1870); Delaware, February 12, 1901 (date on which approved by Governor; Delaware had previously rejected the amendment on March 18, 1869). The amendment was rejected (and not subsequently ratified) by California, Kentucky, Maryland, Oregon, and Tennessee.

[h] The 16th Amendment was proposed by Congress on July 12, 1909, when it passed the House [44 Cong. Rec. (61st Cong., 1st sess.) 4390, 4440, 4441], having previously passed the Senate on July 5 [Id., 4121]. It appears officially in 36 Stat 184. Ratification was completed on February 3, 1913, when the legislature of the thirty-sixth State (Delaware, Wyoming, or New Mexico) approved the amendment, there being then 48 States in the Union. On February 25, 1913, Secretary of State Knox certified that this amendment had become a part of the Constitution [37 Stat. 1785].

The several State legislatures ratified the 16th Amendment on the following dates: Alabama, August 10, 1909; Kentucky, February 8, 1910; South Carolina, February 19, 1910; Illinois, March 1, 1910; Mississippi, March 7, 1910; Oklahoma, March 10, 1910; Maryland, April 8, 1910; Georgia, August 3, 1910; Texas, August 16, 1910; Ohio, January 19, 1911; Idaho, January 20, 1911; Oregon, January 23, 1911; Washington, January 26, 1911; Montana, January 27, 1911; Indiana, January 30, 1911; California, January 31, 1911; Nevada, January 31, 1911; South Dakota, February 1, 1911; Nebraska, February 9, 1911; North Carolina, February 11, 1911; Colorado, February 15, 1911; North Dakota, February 17, 1911; Michigan, February 23, 1911; Iowa, February 24, 1911; Kansas, March 2, 1911; Missouri, March 16, 1911; Maine, March 31, 1911; Tennessee, April 7, 1911; Arkansas, April 22, 1911 (after having rejected the amendment at the session begun January 9, 1911); Wisconsin, May 16, 1911; New York, July 12, 1911; Arizona, April 3, 1912; Minnesota, June 11, 1912; Louisiana, June 28, 1912; West Virginia, January 31, 1913; Delaware, February 3, 1913; Wyoming, February 3, 1913; New Mexico, February 3, 1913; New Jersey, February 4, 1913; Vermont, February 19, 1913; Massachusetts, March 4, 1913; New Hampshire, March 7, 1913 (after having rejected the amendment on March 2, 1911). The amendment was rejected (and not subsequently ratified) by Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Utah.

[i] The 17th Amendment was proposed by Congress on May 13, 1912, when it passed the House [48 Cong. Rec. (62d Cong., 2d sess.) 6367], having previously passed the Senate on June 12, 1911 [47 Cong. Rec. (62d Cong. 1st sess.) 1925]. It appears officially in 37 Stat. 646. Ratification was completed on April 8, 1913, when the thirty-sixth State (Connecticut) approved the amendment, there being then 48 States in the Union. On May 31, 1913, Secretary of State Bryan certified that it had become a part of the Constitution [38 Stat. 2049].

The several State legislatures ratified the 17th Amendment on the following dates: Massachusetts, May 22, 1912; Arizona, June 3, 1912; Minnesota, June 10, 1912; New York, January 15, 1913; Kansas, January 17, 1913; Oregon, January 23, 1913; North Carolina, January 25, 1913; California, January 28, 1913; Michigan, January 28, 1913; Iowa, January 30, 1913; Montana, January 30, 1913; Idaho, January 31, 1913; West Virginia, February 4, 1913; Colorado, February 5, 1913; Nevada, February 6, 1913; Texas, February 7, 1913; Washington, February 7, 1913; Wyoming, February 8, 1913; Arkansas, February 11, 1913; Illinois, February 13, 1913; North Dakota, February 14, 1913; Wisconsin, February 18, 1913; Indiana, February 19, 1913; New Hampshire, February 19, 1913; Vermont, February 19, 1913; South Dakota, February 19, 1913; Maine, February 20, 1913; Oklahoma, February 24, 1913; Ohio, February 25, 1913; Missouri, March 7, 1913; New Mexico, March 13, 1913; Nebraska, March 14, 1913; New Jersey, March 17, 1913; Tennessee, April 1, 1913; Pennsylvania, April 2, 1913; Connecticut, April 8, 1913; Louisiana, June 5, 1914. The amendment was rejected by Utah on February 26, 1913.

[j] The 18th Amendment was proposed by Congress on December 18, 1917, when it passed the Senate [Cong. Rec. (65th Cong., 2d sess.) 478], having previously passed the House on December 17 [Id., 470]. It appears officially in 40 Stat 1050. Ratification was completed on January 16, 1919, when the thirty-sixth State approved the amendment, there being then 48 States in the Union. On January 29, 1919, Acting Secretary of State Polk certified that this amendment had been adopted by the requisite number of States [40 Stat. 1941]. By its terms this amendment did not became effective until 1 year after ratification.

The several State legislatures ratified the 18th Amendment on the following dates: Mississippi, January 8, 1918; Virginia, January 11, 1918; Kentucky, January 14, 1918; North Dakota, January 28, 1918 (date on which approved by Governor); South Carolina, January 29, 1918; Maryland, February 13, 1918; Montana, February 19, 1918; Texas, March 4, 1918; Delaware, March 18, 1918; South Dakota, March 20, 1918; Massachusetts, April 2, 1918; Arizona, May 24, 1918; Georgia, June 26, 1918; Louisiana, August 9, 1918 (date on which approved by Governor); Florida, November 27, 1918; Michigan, January 2, 1919; Ohio, January 7, 1919; Oklahoma, January 7, 1919; Idaho, January 8, 1919; Maine, January 8, 1919; West Virginia, January 13, 1919; California, January 13, 1919; Tennessee, January 13, 1919; Washington, January 13, 1919; Arkansas, January 14, 1919; Kansas, January 14, 1919; Illinois, January 14, 1919; Indiana, January 14, 1919; Alabama, January 15, 1919; Colorado, January 15, 1919; Iowa, January 15, 1919; New Hampshire, January 15, 1919; Oregon, January 15, 1919; Nebraska, January 16, 1919; North Carolina, January 16, 1919; Utah, January 16, 1919; Missouri, January 16, 1919; Wyoming, January 16, 1919; Minnesota, January 17, 1919; Wisconsin, January 17, 1919; New Mexico, January 20, 1919; Nevada, January 21, 1919; Pennsylvania, February 25, 1919; Connecticut, May 6, 1919; New Jersey, March 9, 1922; New York, January 29, 1919; Vermont, January 29, 1919.

[k] The 19th Amendment was proposed by Congress on June 4, 1919, when it passed the Senate [Cong. Rec. (66th Cong., 1st sess.) 635], having previously passed the House on May 21, [Id., 94]. It appears officially in 41 Stat. 362. Ratification was completed on August 18, 1920, when the thirty-sixth State (Tennessee) approved the amendment, there being then 48 States in the Union. On August 26, 1920, Secretary of State Colby certified that it had become a part of the Constitution [41 Stat. 1823].

The several State legislatures ratified the 19th Amendment on the following dates: Illinois, June 10, 1919 (readopted June 17, 1919); Michigan, June 10, 1919; Wisconsin, June 10, 1919; Kansas, June 16, 1919; New York, June 16, 1919; Ohio, June 16, 1919; Pennsylvania, June 24, 1919; Massachusetts, June 25, 1919; Texas, June 28, 1919; Iowa, July 2, 1919 (date on which approved by Governor); Missouri, July 3, 1919; Arkansas, July 28, 1919; Montana, August 2, 1919 (date on which approved by Governor); Nebraska, August 2, 1919; Minnesota, September 8, 1919; New Hampshire, September 10, 1919 (date on which approved by Governor); Utah, October 2, 1919; California, November 1, 1919; Maine, November 5, 1919; North Dakota, December 1, 1919; South Dakota, December 4, 1919 (date on which certified); Colorado, December 15, 1919 (date on which approved by Governor); Kentucky, January 6, 1920; Rhode Island, January 6, 1920; Oregon, January 13, 1920; Indiana, January 16, 1920; Wyoming, January 27, 1920; Nevada, February 7, 1920; New Jersey, February 9, 1920; Idaho, February 11, 1920; Arizona, February 12, 1920; New Mexico, February 21, 1920 (date on which approved by Governor); Oklahoma, February 28, 1920; West Virginia, March 10, 1920; Washington, March 22, 1920; Tennessee, August 18, 1920; Connecticut, September 14, 1920 (confirmed September 21, 1920); Vermont, February 8, 1921. The amendment was rejected by Georgia on July 24, 1919; by Alabama on September 22, 1919; by South Carolina on January 29, 1920; by Virginia on February 12, 1920; by Maryland on February 24, 1920; by Mississippi on March 29, 1920; by Louisiana on July 1, 1920.

[l] The 20th Amendment was proposed by Congress on March 2, 1932, when it passed the Senate [Cong. Rec. (72d Cong., 1st sess.) 5086], having previously passed the House on March 1 [Id., 5027]. It appears officially in 47 Stat. 745. Ratification was completed on January 23, 1933, when the thirty-sixth State approved the amendment, there being then 48 States in the Union. On February 6, 1933, Secretary of State Stimson certified that it had become a part of the Constitution [47 Stat. 2569].

The several State legislatures ratified the 20th Amendment on the following dates: Virginia, March 4, 1932; New York, March 11, 1932; Mississippi, March 16, 1932; Arkansas, March 17, 1932; Kentucky, March 17, 1932; New Jersey, March 21, 1932; South Carolina, March 25, 1932; Michigan, March 31, 1932; Maine, April 1, 1932; Rhode Island, April 14, 1932; Illinois, April 21, 1932; Louisiana, June 22, 1932; West Virginia, July 30, 1932; Pennsylvania, August 11, 1932; Indiana, August 15, 1932; Texas, September 7, 1932; Alabama, September 13, 1932; California, January 4, 1933; North Carolina, January 5, 1933; North Dakota, January 9, 1933; Minnesota, January 12, 1933; Arizona, January 13, 1933; Montana, January 13, 1933; Nebraska, January 13, 1933; Oklahoma, January 13, 1933; Kansas, January 16, 1933; Oregon, January 16, 1933; Delaware, January 19, 1933; Washington, January 19, 1933; Wyoming, January 19, 1933; Iowa, January 20, 1933; South Dakota, January 20, 1933; Tennessee, January 20, 1933; Idaho, January 21, 1933; New Mexico, January 21, 1933; Georgia, January 23, 1933; Missouri, January 23, 1933; Ohio, January 23, 1933; Utah, January 23, 1933; Colorado, January 24, 1933; Massachusetts, January 24, 1933; Wisconsin, January 24, 1933; Nevada, January 26, 1933; Connecticut, January 27, 1933; New Hampshire, January 31, 1933; Vermont, February 2, 1933; Maryland, March 24, 1933; Florida, April 26, 1933.

A proposed amendment which would authorize Congress to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under 18 years of age was passed by Congress on June 2, 1924. This proposal at the time it was submitted to the States was referred to as "the proposed 20th Amendment." It appears officially in 43 Stat. 670.

The status of this proposed amendment is a matter of conflicting opinion. The Kentucky Court of Appeals in Wise v. Chandler (270 Ky. 1 [1937]) has held that it is no longer open to ratification because: (1) Rejected by more than one-fourth of the States; (2) a State may not reject and then subsequently ratify, at least when more than one-fourth of the States are on record as rejecting; and (3) more than a reasonable time has elapsed since it was submitted to the States in 1924. The Kansas Supreme Court in Coleman v. Miller (146 Kan. 390 [1937]) came to the opposite conclusion.

On October 1, 1937, 27 States had ratified the proposed amendment. Of these States 10 had previously rejected the amendment on one or more occasions. At least 26 different States have at one time rejected the amendment.

[m] The 21st Amendment was proposed by Congress on February 20, 1933, when it passed the House [Cong. Rec. (72d Cong., 2d sess.) 4516], having previously passed the Senate on February 16 [Id., 4231]. It appears officially in 47 Stat. 1625. Ratification was completed on December 5, 1933, when the thirty-sixth State (Utah) approved the amendment, there being then 48 States in the Union. On December 5, 1933, Acting Secretary of State Phillips certified that it had been adopted by the requisite number of States [48 Stat. 1749].

The several State conventions ratified the 21st Amendment on the following dates: Michigan, April 10, 1933; Wisconsin, April 25, 1933; Rhode Island, May 8, 1933; Wyoming, May 25, 1933; New Jersey, June 1, 1933; Delaware, June 24, 1933; Indiana, June 26, 1933; Massachusetts, June 26, 1933; New York, June 27, 1933; Illinois, July 10, 1933; Iowa, July 10, 1933; Connecticut, July 11, 1933; New Hampshire, July 11, 1933; California, July 24, 1933; West Virginia, July 25, 1933; Arkansas, August 1, 1933; Oregon, August 7, 1933; Alabama, August 8, 1933; Tennessee, August 11, 1933; Missouri, August 29, 1933; Arizona, September 5, 1933; Nevada, September 5, 1933; Vermont, September 23, 1933; Colorado, September 26, 1933; Washington, October 3, 1933; Minnesota, October 10, 1933; Idaho, October 17, 1933; Maryland, October 18, 1933; Virginia, October 25, 1933; New Mexico, November 2, 1933; Florida, November 14, 1933; Texas, November 24, 1933; Kentucky, November 27, 1933; Ohio, December 5, 1933; Pennsylvania, December 5, 1933; Utah, December 5, 1933; Maine, December 6, 1933; Montana, August 6, 1934. The amendment was rejected by a convention in the State of South Carolina, on December 4, 1933. The electorate of the State of North Carolina voted against holding a convention at a general election held on November 7, 1933.

[n] The twenty-second Amendment was proposed by Congress on March 24, 1947, having passed the House on March 21, 1947 [Cong. Rec. (80th Cong., 1st sess.) 2392] and having previously passed the Senate on March 12, 1947 [Id. 1978]. It appears officially in 61 Stat. 959. Ratification was completed on February 27, 1951, when the thirty-sixth State (Minnesota) approved the amendment; there being then 48 States in the Union. On March 1, 1951, Jess Larson, Administrator of General Services, certified that it had been adopted by the requisite number of States [16 F.R. 2019].

A total of 41 State legislatures ratified the Twenty-second Amendment on the following dates: Maine, March 31, 1947; Michigan, March 31, 1947; Iowa, April 1, 1947; Kansas, April 1, 1947; New Hampshire, April 1, 1947; Delaware, April 2, 1947; Illinois, April 3, 1947; Oregon, April 3, 1947; Colorado, April 12, 1947; California, April 15, 1947; New Jersey, April 15, 1947; Vermont, April 15, 1947; Ohio, April 16, 1947; Wisconsin; April 16, 1947; Pennsylvania, April 29, 1947; Connecticut, May 21, 1947; Missouri, May 22, 1947; Nebraska, May 23, 1947; Virginia, January 28, 1948; Mississippi, February 12, 1948; New York, March 9, 1948; South Dakota, January 21, 1949; North Dakota, February 25, 1949; Louisiana, May 17, 1950; Montana, January 25, 1951; Indiana, January 29, 1951; Idaho, January 30, 1951; New Mexico, February 12, 1951; Wyoming, February 12, 1951; Arkansas, February 15, 1951; Georgia, February 17, 1951; Tennessee, February 20, 1951; Texas, February 22, 1951; Utah, February 26, 1951; Nevada, February 26, 1951; Minnesota, February 27, 1951; North Carolina, February 28, 1951; South Carolina, March 13, 1951; Maryland, March 14, 1951; Florida, April 16, 1951; and Alabama, May 4, 1951.

[Pg 55]


[Pg 57]


[Pg 59]


The Preamble

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Purpose and Effect of the Preamble

Although the preamble is not a source of power for any department of the Federal Government,[1] the Supreme Court has often referred to it as evidence of the origin, scope, and purpose of the Constitution. "Its true office" wrote Joseph Story in his Commentaries, "is to expound the nature and extent and application of the powers actually conferred by the Constitution, and not substantively to create them. For example, the preamble declares one object to be, 'to provide for the common defense.' No one can doubt that this does not enlarge the powers of Congress to pass any measures which they deem useful for the common defence. But suppose the terms of a given power admit of two constructions, the one more restrictive, the other more liberal, and each of them is consistent with the words, but is, and ought to be, governed by the intent of the power; if one could promote and the other defeat the common defence, ought not the former, upon the soundest principles of interpretation, to be adopted?"[2] Moreover, the preamble bears witness to the fact that the Constitution emanated from the people, and was not the act of sovereign and independent States,[3] and that it was made for, and is binding only in, the United States of America.[4] In the Dred Scott case,[5] Chief Justice Taney declared that: "The words 'people of the United States' and 'citizens' are synonymous terms, and mean the same thing. They both describe the political body who, according to our republican institutions, form the sovereignty, and who hold the power [Pg 60]and conduct the Government through their representatives. They are what we familiarly call the 'sovereign people,' and every citizen is one of this people, and a constituent member of this sovereignty."[6]


[1] Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11, 22 (1905).

[2] 1 Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, § 462.

[3] McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 403 (1819); Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dall. 419, 470 (1793); Martin v. Hunter, Wheat. 304, 324 (1816).

[4] Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244, 251 (1901); In re Ross, 140 U.S. 453, 464 (1891).

[5] 19 How. 393 (1857).

[6] Ibid. 404.

[Pg 61]



[Pg 63]

[Pg 71]


Article I

Section 1. All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Doctrine of Enumerated Powers

Two important doctrines of Constitutional Law—that the Federal Government is one of enumerated powers and that legislative power may not be delegated—are derived in part from this section. The classical statement of the former is that by Chief Justice Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland: "This government is acknowledged by all, to be one of enumerated powers. The principle, that it can exercise only the powers granted to it, would seem too apparent, to have required to be enforced by all those arguments, which its enlightened friends, while it was depending before the people, found it necessary to urge; that principle is now universally admitted."[1] That, however, "the executive power" is not confined to the items of it which are enumerated in article II was asserted early in the history of the Constitution by Madison and Hamilton alike and is today the doctrine of the Court;[2] and a similar latitudinarian conception of "the judicial power of the United States" was voiced in Justice Brewer's opinion for the Court in Kansas v. Colorado.[3] But even when confined to "the legislative powers herein granted," the doctrine is severely strained by Marshall's conception of some of these as set forth in his McCulloch v. Maryland opinion: This asserts that "the sword and the purse, all the external relations, and no inconsiderable portion of the industry of the nation, are intrusted to its government";[4] he characterizes "the power of making war," of "levying taxes," and of "regulating commerce" as "great, substantive and independent powers";[5] and the power conferred by the "necessary and proper" clause embraces, he declares, "all [legislative] means which are appropriate" to carry out "the legitimate ends" of the Constitution, unless forbidden by "the letter and spirit of the Constitution."[6] Nine years later, Marshall introduced what Story in his Commentaries labels the concept of "resulting powers," those which "rather be a result from the whole mass of the powers of the National Government, [Pg 72]and from the nature of political society, than a consequence or incident of the powers specially enumerated."[7] Story's reference is to Marshall's opinion in American Insurance Company v. Canter,[8] where the latter says, that "the Constitution confers absolutely on the government of the Union, the powers of making war, and of making treaties; consequently, that government possesses the power of acquiring territory, either by conquest or by treaty."[9] And from the power to acquire territory, he continues, arises as "the inevitable consequence" the right to govern it.[10] Subsequently, powers have been repeatedly ascribed to the National Government by the Court on grounds which ill accord with the doctrine of enumerated powers: the power to legislate in effectuation of the "rights expressly given, and duties expressly enjoined" by the Constitution;[11] the power to impart to the paper currency of the Government the quality of legal tender in the payment of debts;[12] the power to acquire territory by discovery;[13] the power to legislate for the Indian tribes wherever situated in the United States;[14] the power to exclude and deport aliens;[15] and to require that those who are admitted be registered and fingerprinted;[16] and finally the complete powers of sovereignty, both those of war and peace, in the conduct of foreign relations. In the words of Justice Sutherland in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation,[17] decided in 1936: "The broad statement that the federal government can exercise no powers except those specifically enumerated in the Constitution, and such implied powers as are necessary and proper to carry into effect the enumerated powers, is categorically true only in respect of our internal affairs. In that field, the primary purpose of the Constitution was to carve from the general mass of legislative powers then possessed by the states such portions as it was thought desirable to vest in the federal government, leaving those not included in the enumeration still in the states.... That this doctrine applies only to powers which the states had, is self evident. And since the states severally never possessed international powers, such powers could not have been carved from the mass of state powers but obviously were transmitted to the United States from some other source.... A political society cannot endure without a supreme will somewhere. Sovereignty is never held in suspense. When, therefore, the external sovereignty of Great Britain in respect of the colonies ceased, it immediately passed to the Union.... It results that the investment of the federal government with the powers of external sovereignty did not depend upon the affirmative grants of the Constitution. The powers to declare and wage war, to conclude peace, to make treaties, to maintain diplomatic relations with other sovereignties, if they had never been mentioned in the Constitution, would have vested in the federal government as necessary concomitants of nationality."[18] Yet for the most part, these holdings do not, as Justice Sutherland suggests, directly affect "the internal affairs" of the nation; they touch [Pg 73]principally its peripheral relations, as it were. The most serious inroads on the doctrine of enumerated powers are, in fact, those which have taken place under cover of the doctrine—the vast expansion in recent years of national legislative power in the regulation of commerce among the States and in the expenditure of the national revenues; and verbally at least Marshall laid the ground for these developments in some of the phraseology above quoted from his opinion in McCulloch v. Maryland.

Nondelegability of Legislative Power


At least three distinct ideas have contributed to the development of the principle that legislative power cannot be delegated. One is the doctrine of separation of powers: Why go to the trouble of separating the three powers of government if they can straightway remerge on their own motion? The second is the concept of due process of law, which precludes the transfer of regulatory functions to private persons. Lastly, there is the maxim of agency "Delegata potestas non potest delegari," which John Locke borrowed and formulated as a dogma of political science.[19] In Hampton Jr. & Co. v. United States,[20] Chief Justice Taft offered the following explanation of the origin and limitations of this idea as a postulate of constitutional law: "The well-known maxim 'Delegata potestas non potest delegari,' applicable to the law of agency in the general and common law, is well understood and has had wider application in the construction of our [Pg 74]Federal and State Constitutions than it has in private law. The Federal Constitution and State Constitutions of this country divide the governmental power into three branches. * * * in carrying out that constitutional division * * * it is a breach of the National fundamental law if Congress gives up its legislative power and transfers it to the President, or to the Judicial branch, or if by law it attempts to invest itself or its members with either executive power or judicial power. This is not to say that the three branches are not co-ordinate parts of one government and that each in the field of its duties may not invoke the action of the two other branches in so far as the action invoked shall not be an assumption of the constitutional field of action of another branch. In determining what it may do in seeking assistance from another branch, the extent and character of that assistance must be fixed according to common sense and the inherent necessities of the governmental co-ordination."[21]


Yielding to "common sense and the inherent necessities of governmental co-ordination" the Court has sustained numerous statutes granting in the total vast powers to administrative or executive agencies. Two different theories, both enunciated during the Chief Justiceship of John Marshall, have been utilized to justify these results. First in importance is the theory that another department may be empowered to "fill up the details" of a statute.[22] The second is that Congress may legislate contingently, leaving to others the task of ascertaining the facts which bring its declared policy into operation.[23]


The pioneer case which recognized the right of Congress to lodge in another department the power to "fill up the details" of a statute arose out of the authority given to federal courts to establish rules of practice, provided such rules were not repugnant to the laws of the United States. Chief Justice Marshall overruled the objection that this constituted an invalid delegation of legislative power, saying: "It will not be contended, that Congress can delegate to the courts, or to any other tribunals, powers which are strictly and exclusively legislative. But Congress may certainly delegate to others, powers which the legislature may rightfully exercise itself. * * * The line has not been exactly drawn which separates those important subjects, which must be entirely regulated by the legislature itself, from those of less interest, in which a general provision may be made, and [Pg 75]power given to those who are to act under such general provisions, to fill up the details."[24]


Before another agency can "fill up the details," Congress must enact something to be thus supplemented. In the current idiom, the lawmakers must first adopt a policy or set up an "intelligible standard" to which administrative action must conform.[25] But the Court has taken a generous view of what constitutes a policy or standard. Although it has said that "procedural safeguards cannot validate an unconstitutional delegation,"[26] the nature of the proceedings appears to be one of the elements weighed in determining whether a specific delegation is constitutional.[27] In cases where the delegated power is exercised by orders directed to particular persons after notice and hearing, with findings of fact and of law based upon the record made in the hearing, the Court has ruled that such general terms as "public interest,"[28] "public convenience, interest, or necessity,"[29] or "excessive profits,"[30] were sufficient to satisfy constitutional requirements. But in two cases arising under the National Industrial Recovery Act, a policy declaration of comparable generality was held insufficient for the promulgation of rules applicable to all persons engaged in a designated activity, without the procedural safeguards which surround the issuance of individual orders.[31] By subsequent decisions, somewhat more elaborate, but still very broad, standards have been deemed adequate for various price fixing measures.[32] In a recent case,[33] the Court sustained a statute which, without any explicit standards whatever, authorized the Federal Home Loan Bank Board to make rules and regulations for the supervision of Federal Savings and Loan Associations. That decision was influenced by the fact that the corporation was chartered by federal law as well as by the peculiar problems involved in the supervision of financial institutions. The Court was at pains to make clear that this decision would not necessarily govern the disposition of dissimilar cases.[34]


After Wayman v. Southard, nearly three quarters of a century elapsed before the Court had occasion to approve the delegation to an executive officer of power to issue regulations for the administration of a statute. In 1897 it sustained the authority granted to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to designate the "marks, brands and stamps" to be affixed to packages of oleomargarine.[35] Soon thereafter it upheld an act which directed the Secretary of the Treasury to promulgate minimum standards of quality and purity for tea imported into the United States.[36] It has approved the delegation to executive or administrative officials of authority to make rules governing the use of forest reservations;[37] permitting reasonable variations and tolerances in the marking of food packages to disclose their contents;[38] designating tobacco markets at which grading of tobacco would be compulsory;[39] establishing priorities for the transportation of freight during a period of emergency;[40] prescribing price schedules for the distribution of milk;[41] or for all commodities[42] and for rental housing[43] in time of war; regulating wages and prices in the production and distribution of coal;[44] imposing a curfew to protect military resources in designated areas from espionage and sabotage;[45] providing for the appointment of receivers or conservators for Federal Savings and Loan Associations;[46] allotting marketing quotas for tobacco;[47] and prescribing methods of accounting for carriers in interstate commerce.[48]


The now familiar pattern of regulation of important segments of the economy by boards or commissions which combine in varying proportions the functions of all three departments of government was first established by the States in the field of railroad rate regulation. Discovering that direct action was impracticable, the State legislatures created commissions to deal with the problem. One of the pioneers in this development was Minnesota, whose Supreme Court justified the practice in an opinion which, with the implied[49] and later the explicit,[50] endorsement of the Supreme Court, practically settled the law on this point: "If such a power is to be exercised at all, it can only be satisfactorily done by a board or commission, constantly in session, whose time is exclusively given to the subject, and who, after investigation of the facts, can fix rates with reference to the peculiar circumstances of each road, and each particular kind of business, and who can change or modify these rates to suit the ever-varying conditions of traffic."[51] Contemporaneously Congress created the Interstate Commerce Commission to regulate the rates and practices of railroads with respect to interstate commerce. Although the Supreme Court has never had occasion to render a direct decision on the delegation of rate-making power to the Commission, it has repeatedly affirmed rate orders issued by that agency.[52] Likewise it has sustained the power of the Secretary of War to order the removal or alteration of bridges which unreasonably obstructed navigation over navigable waters;[53] the power of the Federal Reserve Board to authorize national banks to act as fiduciaries;[54] the authority of the Secretary of Labor to deport aliens of certain enumerated classes, if after hearing he found such aliens to be "undesirable residents";[55] the responsibility of the Interstate Commerce Commission to approve railroad consolidations found to be in the "public interest";[56] and the powers of the Federal Radio Commission[57] and the Federal Communications Commission[58] to license broadcasting stations as "public convenience, interest and necessity" may require. The terms, however, in which a statute delegates authority to an administrative agent are subject to judicial review; and in a recent case the Court disallowed an order of the Secretary of Agriculture proporting resting on § 8 of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937[59] as ultra vires.[60]


Although in a few early cases the Supreme Court enforced statutes which gave legal effect to local customs of miners with respect to mining claims on public lands,[61] and to standards adopted by railroads for equipment on railroad cars,[62] it held, in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States,[63] and Carter v. Carter Coal Company[64] that private trade groups could not be empowered to issue binding rules concerning methods of competition or wages and hours of labor. On the other hand, statutes providing that restrictions upon the production or marketing of agricultural commodities shall become operative only upon a favorable vote by a prescribed majority of the persons affected have been upheld.[65] The position of the Court is that such a requirement does not involve any delegation of legislative authority, since Congress has merely placed a restriction upon its own regulation by withholding its operation in a given case unless it is approved upon a referendum.[66]


An entirely different problem arises when, instead of directing another department of government to apply a general statute to individual cases, or to supplement it by detailed regulation, Congress commands that a previously enacted statute be revived, suspended or modified, or that a new rule be put into operation, upon the finding of certain facts by an executive or administrative officer. Since the delegated function in such cases is not that of "filling up the details" of a statute, authority for it must be sought elsewhere than in Wayman v. Southard and its progeny. It is to be found in an even earlier case—The Brig Aurora[67]—where the revival of a law upon the issuance of a Presidential proclamation was upheld in 1813. After previous restraints on British shipping had lapsed, Congress passed a new law stating that those restrictions should be renewed in the event the President found and proclaimed that France had abandoned certain practices which violated the neutral commerce of the United States. To the objection that this was an invalid delegation of legislative power, the Court answered briefly that "we can see no sufficient reason, why the legislature should not exercise its discretion in reviving the act of March 1st, 1809, either expressly or conditionally, as their judgment should direct."[68]


This point was raised again in Field v. Clark,[69] where the Tariff Act of 1890 was assailed as unconstitutional because it directed the President to suspend the free importation of enumerated commodities "for such time as he shall deem just" if he found that other countries imposed upon agricultural or other products of the United States duties or other exactions which "he may deem to be reciprocally unequal and unjust." In sustaining this statute the Court relied heavily upon two factors: (1) legislative precedents which demonstrated that "in the judgment of the legislative branch of the government, it is often desirable, if not essential, * * *, to invest the President with large discretion in matters arising out of the execution of statutes relating to trade and commerce with other nations";[70] (2) that the act "did not, in any real sense, invest the President with the power of legislation. * * * Congress itself prescribed, in advance, the duties to be levied, * * *, while the suspension lasted. Nothing involving the expediency or the just operation of such legislation was left to the determination of the President. * * * He had no discretion in the premises except in respect to the duration of the suspension so ordered."[71] By similar reasoning, the Court sustained the flexible provisions of the Tariff Act of 1922 whereby duties were increased or decreased to reflect differences in cost of production at [Pg 80]home and abroad, as such differences were ascertained and proclaimed by the President.[72]


That the delegation of discretion in dealing with foreign relations stands upon a different footing than the transfer of authority to regulate domestic concerns was clearly indicated in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp.[73] There the Court upheld the Joint Resolution of Congress which made it unlawful to sell arms to certain warring countries "if the President finds that the prohibition of the sale of arms and munitions of war in the United States to those countries now engaged in armed conflict in the Chaco may contribute to the reestablishment of peace * * *, and if * * *, he makes proclamation to that effect, * * *" Said Justice Sutherland for the Court: "It is important to bear in mind that we are here dealing not alone with an authority vested in the President by an exertion of legislative power, but with such an authority plus the very delicate, plenary and exclusive power of the President as the sole organ of the Federal Government in the field of international relations—* * *, Congressional legislation which is to be made effective through negotiation and inquiry within the international field must often accord to the President a degree of discretion and freedom from statutory restriction which would not be admissible were domestic affairs alone involved."[74]


Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan[75] was the first case in which the President had been authorized to put into effect by proclamation, a new and independent rule pertaining to internal affairs. One section of the National Industrial Recovery Act authorized the President to forbid the shipment in interstate commerce of oil produced or withdrawn from storage in violation of State law. Apart from the [Pg 81]purposes broadly stated in the first section—economic recovery and conservation of natural resources—the measure contained no standard or statement of policy by which the President should be guided in determining whether or when to issue the order. Nor did it require him to make any findings of fact to disclose the basis of his action. By a vote of eight-to-one the Court held the delegation invalid. The only case in which the power of an administrative official to modify a rule enacted by Congress relating to domestic affairs has been sustained is Opp Cotton Mills v. Administrator.[76] That case involved the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act which authorized the appointment of Industry Advisory Committees to investigate conditions in particular industries, with notice and opportunity to be heard afforded to interested parties. Upon consideration of factors enumerated in the law and upon finding that the conditions specified in the law were fulfilled, such Committees were empowered to recommend and the Administrator to adopt, higher minimum wage rates for particular industries. Emphasizing the procedure which the agency was directed to follow and the fact that it would be impossible for Congress to prescribe specific minimum wages for particular industries,[77] a unanimous court sustained the law on the ground that the sole function of the Administrator was to put into effect the definite policy adopted by the legislators.


Occupying a midway station between legislation which deals with foreign affairs and purely domestic legislation is what may be termed "emergency statutes." These are largely the outgrowth of the two World Wars. Thus on December 16, 1950, President Truman issued a proclamation declaring "the existence of a national emergency," and by so doing "activated" more than sixty statutes or parts thereof which by their terms apply to or during "a condition of emergency" or "in time of war or national emergency," etc. Most of these specifically leave it to the President to determine the question of emergency, and the White House assumption seems to be that they all do so. Many of the provisions thus activated delegate powers of greater or less importance to the President himself or remove statutory restrictions thereon.[78]


If Congress so provides, violations of valid administrative regulations may be punished as crimes.[79] But the penalties must be provided in the statute itself; additional punishment cannot be imposed by administrative action.[80] In an early case, the Court held that a section prescribing penalties for any violation of a statute did not warrant a prosecution for wilful disobedience of regulations authorized by, and lawfully issued pursuant to, the act.[81] Without disavowing this general proposition, the Court, in 1944, upheld a suspension order issued by the OPA whereby a dealer in fuel oil who had violated rationing regulations was forbidden to receive or deal on that commodity.[82] Although such an order was not explicitly authorized by statute, it was sustained as being a reasonable measure for effecting a fair allocation of fuel oil, rather than as a means of punishment for an offender. In another OPA case, the Court ruled that in a criminal prosecution, a price regulation was subject to the same rule of strict construction as a statute, and that omissions from, or indefiniteness in, such a regulation, could not be cured by the Administrator's interpretation thereof.[83]

Congressional Investigations


No provision of the Constitution expressly authorized either house of Congress to make investigations and exact testimony to the end that it may exercise its legislative function effectively and advisedly. But such a power had been frequently exercised by the British Parliament and by the Assemblies of the American Colonies prior to the adoption of the Constitution.[84] It was asserted by the House of Representatives as early as 1792 when it appointed a committee to investigate the disaster to General St. Clair and his army in the Northwest and empowered it to "call for such persons, papers, and records, as may be necessary to assist their inquiries."[85]


For many years the investigating function of Congress was limited to inquiries into the administration of the Executive Department or of instrumentalities of the Government. Until the administration of Andrew Jackson this power was not seriously challenged.[86] During the controversy over renewal of the charter of the Bank of the United[Pg 83] States, John Quincy Adams contended that an unlimited inquiry into the operations of the bank would be beyond the power of the House.[87] Four years later the legislative power of investigation was challenged by the President. A committee appointed by the House of Representatives "with power to send for persons and papers, and with instructions to inquire into the condition of the various executive departments, the ability and integrity with which they have been conducted, * * *"[88] called upon the President and the heads of departments for lists of persons appointed without the consent of the Senate and the amounts paid to them. Resentful of this attempt "to invade the just rights of the Executive Departments" the President refused to comply and the majority of the committee acquiesced.[89] Nevertheless Congressional investigations of Executive Departments have continued to the present day. Shortly before the Civil War, contempt proceedings against a witness who refused to testify in an investigation of John Brown's raid upon the arsenal at Harper's Ferry occasioned a thorough consideration by the Senate of the basis of this power. After a protracted debate, which cut sharply across sectional and party lines, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to imprison the contumacious witness.[90] Notwithstanding this firmly established legislative practice the Supreme Court took a narrow view of the power in the case of Kilbourn v. Thompson.[91] It held that the House of Representatives had overstepped its jurisdiction when it instituted an investigation of losses suffered by the United States as a creditor of Jay Cooke and Company, whose estate was being administered in bankruptcy by a federal court. But nearly half a century later, in McGrain v. Daugherty,[92] it ratified in sweeping terms, the power of Congress to inquire into the administration of an executive department and to sift charges of malfeasance in such administration.


Beginning with the resolution adopted by the House of Representatives in 1827 which vested its Committee on Manufactures "with the power to send for persons and papers with a view to ascertain and report to this House such facts as may be useful to guide the judgment of this House in relation to a revision of the tariff duties on imported goods,"[93] the two Houses have asserted the right to inquire into private [Pg 84]affairs when necessary to enlighten their judgment on proposed legislation. In Kilbourn v. Thompson,[94] the Court denied the right of Congress to pry into private affairs. Again, in Interstate Commerce Commission v. Brimson,[95] in sustaining a statute authorizing the Courts to use their process to compel witnesses to give testimony sought by the Commission for the enforcement of the act, the Court warned that, "neither branch of the legislative department, still less any merely administrative body, established by Congress, possesses, or can be invested with, a general power of making inquiry into the private affairs of the citizen."[96] Finally, however, in McGrain v. Daugherty,[97] the power of either House "to compel a private individual to appear before it or one of its committees and give testimony needed to enable it efficiently to exercise a legislative function belonging to it under the Constitution, * * *"[98] was judicially recognized and approved.


In the absence of any showing that legislation was contemplated as a result of the inquiry undertaken in Kilbourn v. Thompson, the Supreme Court concluded that the purpose was an improper one—to pry into matters with which the judiciary alone was empowered to deal.[99] Subsequent cases have given the legislature the benefit of a presumption that its object is legitimate. In re Chapman[100] established the proposition that to make an investigation lawful "it was certainly not necessary that the resolutions should declare in advance what the Senate meditated doing when the investigation was concluded."[101] Similarly, in McGrain v. Daugherty, the investigation was presumed to have been undertaken in good faith to aid the Senate in legislating.[102] Going one step further in Sinclair v. United States,[103] which on its facts presented a close parallel to the Kilbourn Case, the Court affirmed the right of the Senate to carry on its investigation of fraudulent leases of government property after suit for the recovery thereof had been instituted. The president of the lessee corporation had refused to testify on the ground that the questions related to his private affairs and to matters cognizable only in the courts wherein they were pending and that the committee avowedly had departed from any inquiry in aid of legislation. The Senate prudently had directed the investigating committee to ascertain what, if any, other or additional legislation may be advisable. Conceding "that Congress is without [Pg 85]authority to compel disclosures for the purpose of aiding the prosecution of pending suits," the Court declared that the authority "to require pertinent disclosures in aid of its own constitutional power is not abridged because the information sought to be elicited may also be of use in such suits."[104]


When either House exercises a judicial function, as in judging of elections or determining whether a member should be expelled, it is clearly entitled to compel the attendance of witnesses to disclose the facts upon which its action must be based. Thus the Court held that since a House had a right to expel a member for any offense which it deemed incompatible with his trust and duty as a member, it was entitled to investigate such conduct and to summon private individuals to give testimony concerning it.[105] The decision in Barry v. United States ex rel. Cunningham[106] sanctioned the exercise of a similar power in investigating a Senatorial election.



Explicit judicial recognition of the right of either House of Congress to commit for contempt a witness who ignores its summons or refuses to answer its inquiries dates from McGrain v. Daugherty. But the principle there applied had its roots in an early case, Anderson v. Dunn,[107] which affirmed in broad terms the right of either branch of the legislature to attach and punish a person other than a member for contempt of its authority—in that case an attempt to bribe one of its members. The right to punish a contumacious witness was conceded in Marshall v. Gordon,[108] although the Court there held that the implied power to deal with contempt did not extend to the arrest of a person who published matter defamatory of the House. Both Anderson v. Dunn and Marshall v. Gordon emphasized that the power to punish for contempt rests upon the right of self-preservation; that is, in the words of Chief Justice White, "the right to prevent acts which in and of themselves inherently obstruct or prevent the discharge of legislative duty or the refusal to do that which there is inherent legislative power to compel in order that legislative functions may be performed."[109] Whence it was argued, in Jurney v. MacCracken[110] that the Senate had no power to punish a witness who, [Pg 86]having been commanded to produce papers, destroyed them after service of the subpoena, because the "power to punish for contempt may never be exerted, in the case of a private citizen, solely qua punishment. * * * the power to punish ceases as soon as the obstruction has been removed, or its removal has become impossible; * * *" The Court confirmed the power to punish for a past contempt as an appropriate means for vindicating "the established and essential privilege of requiring the production of evidence."[111]

Criminal Prosecutions

Under the rule laid down by Anderson v. Dunn, imprisonment for contempt of one of the Houses of Congress could not extend beyond the adjournment of the body which ordered it.[112] This limitation seriously impaired the efficacy of such sanction. Accordingly, in 1857 Congress found it necessary to provide criminal penalties for recalcitrant witnesses, in order to make its power to compel testimony more effective. The Supreme Court held that the purpose of this statute was merely to supplement the power of contempt by providing additional punishment, and overruled all constitutional objections to it saying: "We grant that Congress could not divest itself, or either of its Houses, of the essential and inherent power to punish for contempt, in cases to which the power of either House properly extended; but, because Congress, by the act of 1857, sought to aid each of the Houses in the discharge of its constitutional functions, it does not follow that any delegation of the power in each to punish for contempt was involved; * * *."[113] In a prosecution for wilful failure of a person to produce records within her custody and control pursuant to a lawful subpoena issued by a committee of the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court ruled that the presence of a quorum of the committee at the time of the return of the subpoena was not an essential element of the offense.[114] Previously the Court had held that a prosecution could not be maintained under a general perjury statute for false testimony given before a Congressional committee unless a quorum of the committee was present when the evidence was given.[115]

[Pg 87]

Section 2. Clause 1. The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

Clause 2. No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of the State in which he shall be chosen.

Qualifications of Members of Congress


Although the qualifications of electors of Members of Congress are defined by State law,[116] the right to vote for such Representatives is derived from the Federal Constitution.[117] Unlike the rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, this privilege is secured against the actions of individuals as well as of the States.[118] It embraces the right to cast a ballot and to have it counted honestly.[119] Where a primary election is made by law an integral part of the procedure of choice or where the choice of a representative is in fact controlled by the primary, the Constitution safeguards the rights of qualified electors to participate therein.[120] Congress may protect this right by appropriate legislation.[121] In prosecutions instituted under section 19 of the Criminal Code,[122] the Court had held that failure to count ballots lawfully cast,[123] or dilution of their value by stuffing the ballot box with fraudulent ballots[124] constitutes a denial of the constitutional right to elect Representatives in Congress. But the bribery of voters, although within reach of Congressional power under other clauses of the Constitution, is not deemed to be an interference with the rights guaranteed by this section to other qualified voters.[125]


The principal disputes which have arisen under these sections have related to the time as of which members-elect must fulfill the conditions of eligibility, and whether additional requirements may be imposed by federal or State law. Although on two occasions when it refused to seat persons who were ineligible when they sought to take the oath of office, the Senate indicated that eligibility must exist at the time of election, it is now established in both Houses that it is sufficient if the requirements are met when the oath is administered. Thus persons elected to either House before attaining the required age or term of citizenship have been admitted as soon as they became qualified.[126]


Writing in The Federalist[127] with reference to the election of Members of Congress, Hamilton expressed the opinion that "the qualifications of persons who may * * * be chosen * * * are defined and fixed in the Constitution and are unalterable by the legislature." The question remained academic until the Civil War, when Congress passed a law requiring its members to take an oath that they had never been disloyal to the Federal Government. In subsequent contests over the seating of men charged with disloyalty, the right of Congress to establish by law other qualifications for its members than those contained in the Constitution was sharply challenged. Nevertheless, both the House and Senate, relying on this act, did refuse to seat several persons.[128] At this time the principal argument against the statute was that all persons were eligible for the office of Representative unless the Constitution made them ineligible. In Burton v. United States,[129] the argument was given a new twist. A law providing that a Senator or Representative convicted of unlawfully receiving money for services rendered before a government department should be "rendered forever thereafter incapable of holding any office of honor, trust or profit under the Government of the United States," was assailed as an unconstitutional interference with the authority of each House to judge the qualifications of, or to expel, one of its own members. The Court construed the statute not to affect the offender's tenure as a Senator, and left undecided the power of Congress to impose additional qualifications (or disqualifications).[130] In exercising the power granted by section 5 to judge the qualifications of its own [Pg 89]members, each House has asserted the power to inquire into the conduct of a member-elect prior to his election. In 1900 the House of Representatives refused to seat a person who practiced polygamy,[131] and in 1928 the Senate voted to exclude a Senator-elect on the ground that his acceptance of large campaign contributions from persons who were subject to regulation by a State Administrative Commission of which he had been Chairman were "contrary to sound public policy" and tainted his credentials with fraud and corruption.[132]


A State may not add to the qualifications prescribed by the Constitution for members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Asserting this principle, the House in 1807 seated a member whose election was contested on the ground that he had not been twelve months a resident of the district from which elected as required by State law. No attempt was made to ascertain whether these requirements were met because the State law was deemed to be unconstitutional.[133] Both the House and Senate have seated members elected during their term of office as State judges, despite the provision of State constitutions purporting to bar the election of judges to any other office under the State or the United States during such term.[134]

Clause 3. [Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons].[135] The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law [Pg 90]direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.


While section 2 expressly provides for an enumeration of persons, Congress has repeatedly directed an enumeration not only of the free persons in the States, but also of those in the territories, and has required all persons over eighteen years of age to answer an ever-lengthening list of inquiries concerning their personal and economic affairs. This extended scope of the census has received the implied approval of the Supreme Court;[136] it is one of the methods whereby the national legislature exercises its inherent power to obtain the information necessary for intelligent legislative action. Although taking an enlarged view of its power in making the enumeration of persons called for by this section, Congress has not always complied with its positive mandate to reapportion representatives among the States after the census is taken. It failed to make such a reapportionment after the census of 1920, being unable to reach agreement for allotting representation without further increasing the size of the House. Ultimately, by the act of June 18, 1929,[137] it provided that the membership of the House of Representatives should henceforth be restricted to 435 members, to be distributed among the States by the so-called "method of major fractions" which had been earlier employed in the apportionment of 1911.

Clause 4. When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

Clause 5. The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

[Pg 91]

Section 3. Clause 1. [The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one vote].

Clause 2. Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; [and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies].[138]

Clause 3. No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

Clause 4. The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

Clause 5. The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.

Clause 6. The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

[Pg 92]

Clause 7. Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States; but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Section 4. Clause 1. The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

Federal Legislation Under This Clause

Not until 1842 did Congress undertake to exercise the power to regulate the "times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives." In that year it passed a law requiring the election of Representatives by districts.[139] Prior to that time some of the States had sought to increase their influence by electing all of their Representatives on a general ticket. The frequent deadlocks between the two Houses of State legislatures with respect to the election of Senators prompted Congress to pass a further act in 1866, which compelled the two bodies to meet in joint session on a specified day, and to meet everyday thereafter and vote for a Senator until one was elected.[140] The first comprehensive federal statute dealing with elections was adopted in 1870. Under the Enforcement Act of 1870 and kindred measures,[141] false registration, bribery, voting without legal right, making false returns of votes cast, interference in any manner with officers of election, and the neglect by any such officer of any duty required of him by State of federal law, were made federal offenses. Provision was made for the appointment by federal judges of persons to attend at places of registration and at elections with authority to challenge any person proposing to register or vote unlawfully, to witness the counting of votes, and to identify by their signatures the registration of voters and election tally sheets. After twenty-four years experience Congress repealed those portions of the Reconstruction legislation which dealt specifically with elections, but left in effect those dealing generally with Civil Rights.[142] As seen earlier, those sections have been invoked for the prosecution of election offenses which interfere with the rights of voters guaranteed by the second section of this article. The election laws, of the Reconstruction period were held invalid in part as applied to municipal elections,[143] [Pg 93]but were found to be a constitutional exercise of the authority conferred by this section with respect to the election of members of Congress.[144]


While requiring the election of Representatives by districts, Congress has left it to the States to define the areas from which members should be chosen. This has occasioned a number of disputes concerning the validity of action taken by the States. In Ohio ex rel. Davis v. Hildebrant,[145] a requirement that a redistricting law be submitted to a popular referendum was challenged and sustained. After the reapportionment made pursuant to the 1930 census, deadlocks between the Governor and legislature in several States, produced a series of cases in which the right of the Governor to veto a reapportionment bill was questioned. Contrasting this function with other duties committed to State legislatures by the Constitution, the Court decided that it was legislative in character and hence subject to gubernatorial veto to the same extent as ordinary legislation under the terms of the State constitution.[146]


The Reapportionment Act of 1929[147] omitted a requirement contained in the 1911 law[148] that Congressional districts be "composed of a contiguous and compact territory, * * * containing as nearly as practicable an equal number of inhabitants." Since the earlier act was not repealed it was argued that the mandate concerning compactness, contiguity and equality of population of districts was still controlling. The Supreme Court rejected this view.[149] In Colegrove v. Green,[150] the Illinois Apportionment law, which created districts now having glaringly unequal populations, was attacked as unconstitutional on the ground that it denied to voters in the more populous districts the full right to vote and to the equal protection of the laws. The Court dismissed the complaint, three Justices asserting that the issue was not justiciable, and a fourth that the case was one in which [Pg 94]the Court should decline to exercise jurisdiction.[151] Justice Black, dissenting in an opinion in which Justices Douglas and Murphy joined, argued: "While the Constitution contains no express provision requiring that Congressional election districts established by the States must contain approximately equal populations, the constitutionally guaranteed right to vote and the right to have one's vote counted clearly imply the policy that State election systems, no matter what their form, should be designed to give approximately equal weight of each vote case. * * * legislation which must inevitably bring about glaringly unequal representation in the Congress in favor of special classes and groups should be invalidated, 'whether accomplished ingeniously or ingenuously'."[152]


Congress can by law protect the voter from personal violence or intimidation and the election itself from corruption and fraud.[153] To accomplish these ends it may adopt the statutes of the States and enforce them by its own sanctions.[154] It may punish a State election officer for violating his duty under a State law governing Congressional elections.[155] It may also punish federal officers and employees who solicit or receive contributions to procure the nomination of a particular candidate in a State primary election.[156] At one time the Court held that Congress had no power, at least prior to the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment, to limit the expenditures made to procure a primary nomination to the United States Senate,[157] but this decision has been greatly weakened, and the right of the National Government to regulate primary elections conducted under State law for the nomination of Members of Congress has been squarely recognized where such primary is made by State law "an integral part of the procedure of choice, or where in fact the primary effectively controls the choice,..."[158]

[Pg 95]

Clause 2. [The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by law appoint a different Day].

Section 5. Clause 1. Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.

Clause 2. Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.

Clause 3. Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.

Clause 4. Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

Powers and Duties of the Houses


Each House, in judging of elections under this clause acts as a judicial tribunal, with like power to compel attendance of witnesses. In the exercise of its discretion, it may issue a warrant for the arrest of a witness to procure his testimony, without previous subpoena, if there is good reason to believe that otherwise such witness would not be forthcoming.[159] It may punish perjury committed in testifying before a notary public upon a contested election.[160] The power to judge elections extends to an investigation of expenditures made to influence nominations at a primary election.[161] Refusal to permit a person presenting credentials in due form to take the oath of office does not oust the jurisdiction of the Senate to inquire into the legality of the election.[162] [Pg 96]Nor does such refusal unlawfully deprive the State which elected such person of its equal suffrage in the Senate.[163]


For many years the view prevailed in the House of Representatives that it was necessary for a majority of the members to vote on any proposition submitted to the House in order to satisfy the constitutional requirement for a quorum. It was a common practice for the opposition to break a quorum by refusing to vote. This was changed in 1890, by a ruling made by Speaker Reed, and later embodied in Rule XV of the House, that members present in the chamber but not voting would be counted in determining the presence of a quorum.[164] The Supreme Court upheld this rule in United States v. Ballin,[165] saying that the capacity of the House to transact business is "created by the mere presence of a majority," and that since the Constitution does not prescribe any method for determining the presence of such majority "it is therefore within the competency of the House to prescribe any method which shall be reasonably certain to ascertain the fact."[166] The rules of the Senate provide for the ascertainment of a quorum only by a roll call,[167] but in a few cases it has held that if a quorum is present, a proposition can be determined by the vote of a lesser number of members.[168]


In the exercise of their constitutional power to determine their rules of proceedings the Houses of Congress may not "ignore constitutional restraints or violate fundamental rights, and there should be a reasonable relation between the mode or method of proceeding established by the rule and the result which is sought to be attained. But within these limitations all matters of method are open to the determination of the House, * * * The power to make rules is not one which once exercised is exhausted. It is a continuous power, always subject to be exercised by the House, and within the limitations suggested, absolute and beyond the challenge of any other body or [Pg 97]tribunal."[169] Where a rule affects private rights, the construction thereof becomes a judicial question. In United States v. Smith,[170] the Court held that the Senate's attempt to reconsider its confirmation of a person nominated by the President as Chairman of the Federal Power Commission was not warranted by its rules, and did not deprive the appointee of his title to the office. In Christoffel v. United States[171] a sharply divided Court upset a conviction for perjury in the district courts of one who had denied under oath before a House Committee any affiliation with Communism. The reversal was based on the ground that inasmuch as a quorum of the Committee, while present at the outset, was not present at the time of the alleged perjury, testimony before it was not before a "competent tribunal" within the sense of the District of Columbia Code.[172] Four Justices, speaking by Justice Jackson dissented, arguing that under the rules and practices of the House, "a quorum once established is presumed to continue unless and until a point of no quorum is raised" and that the Court was, in effect, invalidating this rule, thereby invalidating at the same time the rule of self-limitation observed by courts "where such an issue is tendered."[173]


Congress has authority to make it an offense against the United States for a Member, during his continuance in office, to receive compensation for services before a government department in relation to proceedings in which the United States is interested. Such a statute does not interfere with the legitimate authority of the Senate or House over its own Members.[174] In upholding the power of the Senate to investigate charges that some Senators had been speculating in sugar stocks during the consideration of a tariff bill, the Supreme Court asserted that "the right to expel extends to all cases where the offence is such as in the judgment of the Senate is inconsistent with the trust and duty of a Member."[175] It cited with apparent approval the action [Pg 98]of the Senate in expelling William Blount in 1797 for attempting to seduce an American agent among the Indians from his duty and for negotiating for services in behalf of the British Government among the Indians—conduct which was not a "statutable offense" and which was not committed in his official character, nor during the session of Congress nor at the seat of government.


The object of the clause requiring the keeping of a Journal is "to insure publicity to the proceedings of the legislature, and a correspondent responsibility of the members to their respective constituents."[176] When the Journal of either House is put in evidence for the purpose of determining whether the yeas and nays, were ordered, and what the vote was on any particular question, the Journal must be presumed to show the truth, and a statement therein that a quorum was present, though not disclosed by the yeas and nays, is final.[177] But when an enrolled bill, which has been signed by the Speaker of the House and by the President of the Senate, in open session, receives the approval of the President and is deposited in the Department of State, its authentication as a bill that has passed Congress is complete and unimpeachable, and it is not competent to show from the Journals of either House that an act so authenticated, approved, and deposited, in fact omitted one section actually passed by both Houses of Congress.[178]

[Pg 99]

Section 6. Clause 1. The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

Compensation, Immunities and Disabilities of Members


A Member of Congress who receives his certificate of admission, and is seated, allowed to vote, and serve on committees, is prima facie entitled to the seat and salary, even though the House subsequently declares his seat vacant. The one who contested the election and was subsequently chosen to fill the vacancy is entitled to salary only from the time the compensation of such "predecessor" has ceased.[179]


This clause is practically obsolete. It applies only to arrests in civil suits, which were still common in this country at the time the Constitution was adopted.[180] It does not apply to service of process in either civil[181] or criminal cases.[182] Nor does it apply to arrest in any criminal case. The phrase "treason, felony or breach of the peace" is interpreted to withdraw all criminal offenses from the operation of the privilege.[183]


The protection of this clause is not limited to words spoken in debate, but is applicable to written reports, to resolutions offered, to the act of voting and to all things generally done in a session of the House by one of its members in relation to the business before it.[184] In Kilbourn v. Thompson[185] the Supreme Court quoted with approval the following excerpt from the opinion of Chief Justice Parsons in the early Massachusetts of Coffin v. Coffin,[186] giving a broad scope to the immunity of legislators: "'These privileges are thus secured, not with the intention of protecting the members against prosecutions for [Pg 100]their own benefit, but to support the rights of the people, by enabling their representatives to execute the functions of their office without fear of prosecutions, civil or criminal. I, therefore, think that the article ought not to be construed strictly, but liberally, that the full design of it may be answered. I will not confine it to delivering an opinion, uttering a speech, or haranguing in debate, but will extend it to the giving of a vote, to the making of a written report, and to every other act resulting from the nature and in the execution of the office. And I would define the article as securing to every member exemption from prosecution for everything said or done by him as a representative, in the exercise of the functions of that office, without inquiring whether the exercise was regular, according to the rules of the House, or irregular and against their rules. I do not confine the member to his place in the House; and I am satisfied that there are cases in which he is entitled to this privilege when not within the walls of the representatives' chamber.'"[187] Accordingly the Court ruled that Members of the House of Representatives were not liable to a suit for false imprisonment by reason of their initiation and prosecution of the legislative proceedings under which plaintiff was arrested.[188] Nor does the claim of an unworthy purpose destroy the privilege. "Legislators are immune from deterrents to the uninhibited discharge of their legislative duty, not for their private indulgence but for the public good. One must not expect uncommon courage even in legislators".[189]

Clause 2. No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during [Pg 101]such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.


According to legislative precedents, visitors to academies, regents, directors and trustees of public institutions, and members of temporary commissions who receive no compensation as such, are not officers within the constitutional inhibition of section 6.[190] Government contractors and federal officers who resign before presenting their credentials may be seated as Members of Congress.[191] In 1909, after having increased the salary of the Secretary of State,[192] Congress reduced it to the former figure so that a Member of the Senate at the time the increase was voted would be eligible for that office.[193] The first clause again became a subject of discussion in 1937, when Justice Black was appointed to the Supreme Court in face of the fact that Congress had recently improved the financial position of Justices retiring at seventy and the term for which Mr. Black had been elected to the Senate from Alabama in 1932 had still some time to run. The appointment was defended by the argument that inasmuch as Mr. Black was only fifty-one years old at the time and so would be ineligible for the "increased emolument" for nineteen years, it was not as to him an increased emolument.[194]

Section 7. Clause 1. All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Clause 2. Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who [Pg 102]shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.



Only bills to levy taxes in the strict sense of the word are comprehended by the phrase "all bills for raising revenue"; bills for other purposes, which incidentally create revenue, are not included.[195] An act providing a national currency secured by a pledge of bonds of the United States, which, "in the furtherance of that object, and also to meet the expenses attending the execution of the act," imposed a tax on the circulating notes of national banks was held not to be a revenue measure which must originate in the House of Representatives.[196] Neither was a bill which provided that the District of Columbia should raise by taxation and pay to designated railroad companies a specified sum for the elimination of grade crossings and the construction of a union railway station.[197] The substitution of a corporation tax for an inheritance tax,[198] and the addition of a section imposing an excise tax upon the use of foreign built pleasure yachts,[199] have been held to be within the Senate's constitutional power to propose amendments.


The President is not restricted to signing a bill on a day when Congress is in session.[200] He may sign within ten days (Sundays excepted) after the bill is presented to him, even if that period extends beyond the date of the final adjournment of Congress.[201] His duty in case of approval of a measure is merely to sign it. He need not write on the bill the word "approved" nor the date. If no date appears on the face of the roll, the Court may ascertain the fact by resort to any source of information capable of furnishing a satisfactory answer.[202] A bill becomes law on the date of its approval by the President.[203] When no time is fixed by the act it is effective from the date of its approval,[204] which usually is taken to be the first moment of the day, fractions of a day being disregarded.[205]


If Congress adjourns within ten days (Sundays excepted) of the presentation of a bill to the President, the return of the bill is prevented within the meaning of this clause. Consequently it does not become law if the President does not sign it, but succumbs to what in Congressional parlance is called a "pocket veto."[206] But a brief recess by the House in which a bill originated, while the Congress is still in session, does not prevent the return of a bill by delivery to one of the officers of the House who has implied authority to receive it.[207] The two-thirds vote of each House required to pass a bill over a veto means two-thirds of a quorum.[208] After a bill becomes law the President has no authority to repeal it. Asserting this truism, the Supreme Court held in The Confiscation Cases,[209] that the immunity proclamation issued by the President in 1868 did not require reversal of a decree condemning property which had been seized under the Confiscation Act of 1862.[210]

[Pg 104]

Clause 3. Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.


The sweeping nature of this obviously ill-considered provision is emphasized by the single exception specified to its operation. Actually, it was impossible from the first to give it any such scope. Otherwise the intermediate stages of the legislative process would have been bogged down hopelessly, not to mention other highly undesirable results. In a report rendered by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1897 it was shown that the word "necessary" in the clause had come in practice to refer "to the necessity occasioned by the requirement of other provisions of the Constitution, whereby every exercise of 'legislative powers' involves the concurrence of the two Houses"; or more briefly, "necessary" here means necessary if an "order, resolution, or vote" is to have the force of law. Such resolutions have come to be termed "joint resolutions" and stand on a level with "bills," which if "enacted" become Statutes. But "votes" taken in either House preliminary to the final passage of legislation need not be submitted to the President, nor resolutions passed by the Houses concurrently with a view to expressing an opinion or to devising a common program of action (e.g., the concurrent resolutions by which during the fight over Reconstruction the Southern States were excluded from representation in the House and Senate, the Joint Committee on Reconstruction containing members from both Houses was created, etc.), or to directing the expenditure of money appropriated to the use of the two Houses.[211] Within recent years the concurrent resolution has been put to a new use—the termination of powers delegated to the Chief Executive, or the disapproval of particular exercises of power by him. Most of the important legislation enacted for the prosecution of World War II provided that the powers granted to the President should come to an end upon adoption of concurrent resolutions to that effect.[212] Similarly, measures authorizing the President to reorganize executive agencies have provided that a Reorganization Plan promulgated by him should be reported by Congress and should not become effective if one[213] or both[214] Houses adopted a resolution disapproving it. Also, [Pg 105]it was settled as early as 1789 that resolutions of Congress proposing amendments to the Constitution need not be submitted to the President, the Bill of Rights having been referred to the States without being laid before President Washington for his approval—a procedure which the Court ratified in due course.[215]

Section 8. The Congress shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.

The Taxing-Spending Power


By the terms of the Constitution, the power of Congress to levy taxes is subject to but one exception and two qualifications. Articles exported from any State may not be taxed at all. Direct taxes must be levied by the rule of apportionment and indirect taxes by the rule of uniformity. The Court has emphasized the sweeping character of this power by saying from time to time that it "reaches every subject,"[216] that it is "exhaustive"[217] or that it "embraces every conceivable power of taxation."[218] Despite these generalizations, the power has been at times substantially curtailed by judicial decision with respect to the subject matter of taxation, the manner in which taxes are imposed, and the objects for which they may be levied.


In recent years the Supreme Court has restored to Congress the power to tax most of the subject matter which had previously been withdrawn from its reach by judicial decision. The holding of Evans v. Gore[219] and Miles v. Graham[220] that the inclusion of the salaries received by federal judges in measuring the liability for a nondiscriminatory income tax violated the constitutional mandate that the compensation of such judges should not be diminished during their [Pg 106]continuance in office was repudiated in O'Malley v. Woodrough.[221] The specific ruling of Collector v. Day[222] that the salary of a State officer is immune to federal income taxation also has been overruled.[223] But the principle underlying that decision—that Congress may not lay a tax which would impair the sovereignty of the States—is still recognized as retaining some vitality.


Collector v. Day was decided in 1871 while the country was still in the throes of reconstruction. As noted by Chief Justice Stone in a footnote to his opinion in Helvering v. Gerhardt,[224] the Court had not then determined how far the Civil War amendments had broadened the federal power at the expense of the States; the fact that the taxing power had recently been used with destructive effect upon notes issued by State banks[225] suggested the possibility of similar attacks upon the existence of the States themselves. Two years later the Court took the logical further step of holding that the federal income tax could not be imposed on income received by a municipal corporation from its investments.[226] A far-reaching extension of private immunity was granted in Pollock v. Farmers Loan and Trust Co.,[227] where interest received by a private investor on State or municipal bonds was held to be exempt from federal taxation. As the apprehensions of this era subsided, the doctrine of these cases was pushed into the background. It never received the same wide application as did McCulloch v. Maryland[228] in curbing the power of the States to tax operations or instrumentalities of the Federal Government. Only once since the turn of the century has the national taxing power been further narrowed in the name of Dual Federalism. In 1931 the Court held that a federal excise tax was inapplicable to the manufacture and sale to a municipal corporation of equipment for its police force.[229] Justices Stone and Brandeis dissented from this decision and it is doubtful whether it would be followed today.


Within a decade after the Pollock decision the retreat from Collector v. Day began. In 1903, a succession tax upon a bequest to a municipality for public purposes was upheld on the ground that the [Pg 107]tax was payable out of the estate before distribution to the legatee. Looking to form and not to substance, in disregard of the mandate of Brown v. Maryland,[230] a closely divided Court declined to "regard it as a tax upon the municipality, though it might operate incidentally to reduce the bequest by the amount of the tax."[231] When South Carolina embarked upon the business of dispensing alcoholic beverages, its agents were held to be subject to the national internal revenue tax, the ground of the holding being that in 1787 such a business was not regarded as one of the ordinary functions of government.[232] Another decision marking a clear departure from the logic of Collector v. Day was Flint v. Stone Tracy Company,[233] where the Court sustained an act of Congress taxing the privilege of doing business as a corporation, the tax being measured by the income. The argument that the tax imposed an unconstitutional burden on the exercise by a State of its reserved power to create corporate franchises was rejected, partly in consideration of the principle of national supremacy, and partly on the ground that the corporate franchises were private property. This case also qualified Pollock v. Farmers Loan and Trust Company to the extent of allowing interest on State bonds to be included in measuring the tax on the corporation. Subsequent cases have sustained an estate tax on the net estate of a decedent, including State bonds;[234] excise taxes on the transportation of merchandise in performance of a contract to sell and deliver it to a county;[235] on the importation of scientific apparatus by a State university;[236] on admissions to athletic contests sponsored by a State institution, the net proceeds of which were used to further its educational program;[237] and on admissions to recreational facilities operated on a nonprofit basis by a municipal corporation.[238] Income derived by independent engineering contractors from the performance of State functions;[239] the compensation of trustees appointed to manage a street railway taken over and operated by a State;[240] profits derived from the sale of State bonds;[241] or from oil produced by lessees of State lands;[242] have all been held to be subject to federal taxation despite a possible economic burden on the State.


Although there have been sharp differences of opinion among members of the Supreme Court in recent cases dealing with the tax immunity of State functions and instrumentalities, it has been stated that "all agree that not all of the former immunity is gone."[243] Twice the Court has made an effort to express its new point of view in a statement of general principles by which the right to such immunity shall be determined. However, the failure to muster a majority in concurrence with any single opinion in the more recent of these cases leaves the question very much in doubt. In Helvering v. Gerhardt,[244] where, without overruling Collector v. Day, it narrowed the immunity of salaries of State officers and federal income taxation, the Court announced "* * *, two guiding principles of limitation for holding the tax immunity of State instrumentalities to its proper function. The one, dependent upon the nature of the function being performed by the State or in its behalf, excludes from the immunity activities thought not to be essential to the preservation of State governments even though the tax be collected from the State treasury. * * * The other principle, exemplified by those cases where the tax laid upon individuals affects the State only as the burden is passed on to it by the taxpayer, forbids recognition of the immunity when the burden on the State is so speculative and uncertain that if allowed it would restrict the federal taxing power without affording any corresponding tangible protection to the State government; even though the function be thought important enough to demand immunity from a tax upon the State itself, it is not necessarily protected from a tax which well may be substantially or entirely absorbed by private persons."[245]


The second attempt to formulate a general doctrine was made in New York v. United States,[246] where, on review of a judgment affirming the right of the United States to tax the sale of mineral waters taken from property owned and operated by the State of New York, the Court was asked to and did reconsider the right of Congress to tax business enterprises carried on by the States. Justice Frankfurter, speaking for himself and Justice Rutledge, made the question of discrimination vel non against State activities the test of the validity of such a tax. They found "no restriction upon Congress to include the [Pg 109]States in levying a tax exacted equally from private persons upon the same subject matter."[247] In a concurring opinion in which Justices Reed, Murphy, and Burton joined, Chief Justice Stone rejected the criterion of discrimination. He repeated what he had said in an earlier case to the effect that "'* * * the limitation upon the taxing power of each, so far as it affects the other, must receive a practical construction which permits both to function with the minimum of interference each with the other; and that limitation cannot be so varied or extended as seriously to impair either the taxing power of the government imposing the tax * * * or the appropriate exercise of the functions of the government affected by it.'"[248] Justices Douglas and Black dissented in an opinion written by the former on the ground that the decision disregarded the Tenth Amendment, placed "the sovereign States on the same plane as private citizens," and made them "pay the Federal Government for the privilege of exercising powers of sovereignty guaranteed them by the Constitution."[249] In the most recent case dealing with State immunity the Court sustained the tax on the second ground mentioned in Helvering v. Gerhardt—that the burden of the tax was borne by private persons—and did not consider whether the function was one which the Federal Government might have taxed if the municipality had borne the burden of the exaction.[250]


Whether a tax is to be apportioned among the States according to the census taken pursuant to article I, section 2, or imposed uniformly throughout the United States depends upon its classification as direct or indirect.[251] The rule of uniformity for indirect taxes is easy to obey. It exacts only that the subject matter of a levy be taxed at the same rate wherever found in the United States; or, as it is sometimes phrased, the uniformity required is "geographical," not "intrinsic."[252] The clause accordingly places no obstacle in the way of legislative classification for the purpose of taxation, nor in the way of what is called progressive taxation.[253] A taxing statute does not fail of the prescribed uniformity because its operation and incidence may be affected by differences in State laws.[254] A federal estate tax law which permitted a deduction for a like tax paid to a State was not rendered invalid by the fact that one State levied no such tax.[255] The term "United States" in this clause refers only to the States of the Union, the District of Columbia, and incorporated territories. Congress is not bound by the rule of uniformity in framing tax measures for unincorporated territories.[256] Indeed, in Binns v. United States,[257] the Court sustained license taxes imposed by Congress but applicable [Pg 110]only in Alaska, where the proceeds, although paid into the general fund of the Treasury, did not in fact equal the total cost of maintaining the territorial government.


Regulation by Taxation

The discretion of Congress in selecting the objectives of taxation has also been held at times to be subject to limitations implied from the nature of the Federal System. Apart from matters which Congress is authorized to regulate, the national taxing power, it has been said, "reaches only existing subjects."[258] Congress may tax any activity actually carried on, regardless of whether it is permitted or prohibited by the laws of the United States[259] or by those of a State.[260] But so-called federal "licenses," so far as they relate to trade within State limits, merely express "the purpose of the government not to interfere * * * with the trade nominally licensed, if the required taxes are paid." Whether the "licensed" trade shall be permitted at all is a question for decision by the State.[261] This, nevertheless, does not signify that Congress may not often regulate to some extent a business within a State in order the more effectively to tax it. Under the necessary and proper clause, Congress may do this very thing. Not only has the Court sustained regulations concerning the packaging of taxed articles such as tobacco[262] and oleomargarine,[263] ostensibly designed to prevent fraud in the collection of the tax; it has also upheld measures taxing drugs[264] and firearms[265] which prescribed rigorous restrictions under which such articles could be sold or transferred, and imposed heavy penalties upon persons dealing with them in any other way. These regulations were sustained as conducive to the efficient collection of the tax though they clearly transcended in some respects this ground of justification.

[Pg 111] Extermination by Taxation

A problem of a different order is presented where the tax itself has the effect of suppressing an activity or where it is coupled with regulations which clearly have no possible relation to the collection of the tax. Where a tax is imposed unconditionally, so that no other purpose appears on the face of the statute, the Court has refused to inquire into the motives of the lawmakers and has sustained the tax despite its prohibitive proportions.[266] In the language of a recent opinion: "It is beyond serious question that a tax does not cease to be valid merely because it regulates, discourages, or even definitely deters the activities taxed. * * * The principle applies even though the revenue obtained is obviously negligible, * * *, or the revenue purpose of the tax may be secondary, * * * Nor does a tax statute necessarily fall because it touches on activities which Congress might not otherwise regulate. As was pointed out in Magnano Co. v. Hamilton, 292 U.S. 40, 47 (1934): 'From the beginning of our government, the courts have sustained taxes although imposed with the collateral intent of effecting ulterior ends which, considered apart, were beyond the constitutional power of the lawmakers to realize by legislation directly addressed to their accomplishment.'"[267] But where the tax is conditional, and may be avoided by compliance with regulations set out in the statute, the validity of the measure is determined by the power of Congress to regulate the subject matter. If the regulations are within the competence of Congress, apart from its power to tax, the exaction is sustained as an appropriate sanction for making them effective;[268] otherwise it is invalid.[269] During the Prohibition Era, Congress levied a heavy tax upon liquor dealers who operated in violation of State law. In United States v. Constantine[270] the Court held that this tax was unenforceable after the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, since the National Government had no power to impose an additional penalty for infractions of State law.

[Pg 112] The Protective Tariff

The earliest examples of taxes levied with a view to promoting desired economic objectives in addition to raising revenue were, of course, import duties. The second statute adopted by the first Congress was a tariff act which recited that "it is necessary for the support of government, for the discharge of the debts of the United States, and the encouragement and protection of manufactures, that duties be laid on goods, wares and merchandise imported."[271] After being debated for nearly a century and a half, the constitutionality of protective tariffs was finally settled by the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court in Hampton and Company v. United States,[272] where Chief Justice Taft wrote: "The second objection to § 315 is that the declared plan of Congress, either expressly or by clear implication, formulates its rule to guide the President and his advisory Tariff Commission as one directed to a tariff system of protection that will avoid damaging competition to the country's industries by the importation of goods from other countries at too low a rate to equalize foreign and domestic competition in the markets of the United States. It is contended that the only power of Congress in the levying of customs duties is to create revenue, and that it is unconstitutional to frame the customs duties with any other view than that of revenue raising. * * * In this first Congress sat many members of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. This Court has repeatedly laid down the principle that a contemporaneous legislative exposition of the Constitution when the founders of our Government and framers of our Constitution were actively participating in public affairs, long acquiesced in, fixes the construction to be given its provisions. * * * The enactment and enforcement of a number of customs revenue laws drawn with a motive of maintaining a system of protection, since the revenue law of 1789, are matters of history. * * * Whatever we may think of the wisdom of a protection policy, we can not hold it unconstitutional. So long as the motive of Congress and the effect of its legislative action are to secure revenue for the benefit of the general government, the existence of other motives in the selection of the subject of taxes cannot invalidate Congressional action."[273]


The grant of power to "provide * * * for the general welfare" raises a two-fold question: How may Congress provide for "the general welfare" and what is "the general welfare" which it is authorized to promote? The first half of this question was answered by Thomas Jefferson in his Opinion on the Bank as follows: "* * * the laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose [Pg 113]for which the power is to be exercised. They [Congress] are not to lay taxes ad libitum for any purpose they please; but only to pay the debts or provide for the welfare of the Union. In like manner, they are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose."[274] The clause, in short, is not an independent grant of power, but a qualification of the taxing power. Although a broader view has been occasionally asserted,[275] Congress has not acted upon it and the Courts have had no occasion to adjudicate the point.

Hamilton v. Madison

With respect to the meaning of "the general welfare" the pages of The Federalist itself disclose a sharp divergence of views between its two principal authors. Hamilton adopted the literal, broad meaning of the clause;[276] Madison contended that the powers of taxation and appropriation of the proposed government should be regarded as merely instrumental to its remaining powers, in other words, as little more than a power of self-support.[277] From an early date Congress has acted upon the interpretation espoused by Hamilton. Appropriations for subsidies[278] and for an ever increasing variety of "internal improvements"[279] constructed by the Federal Government, had their beginnings in the administrations of Washington and Jefferson.[280] Since 1914, federal grants-in-aid,—sums of money apportioned among the States for particular uses, often conditioned upon the duplication of the sums by the recipient State, and upon observance of stipulated restrictions as to its use—have become commonplace.[281]

Triumph of the Hamiltonian Theory

The scope of the national spending power was brought before the Supreme Court at least five times prior to 1936, but the Court disposed [Pg 114]of four of them without construing the "general welfare" clause. In the Pacific Railway Cases[282] and Smith v. Kansas City Title and Trust Company,[283] it affirmed the power of Congress to construct internal improvements, and to charter and purchase the capital stock of federal land banks, by reference to the powers of the National Government over commerce, the post roads and fiscal operations, and to its war powers. Decisions on the merits were withheld in two other cases—Massachusetts v. Mellon and Frothingham v. Mellon[284]—on the ground that neither a State nor an individual citizen is entitled to a remedy in the courts against an unconstitutional appropriation of national funds. In United States v. Gettysburg Electric Railway Co.,[285] however, the Court had invoked "the great power of taxation to be exercised for the common defence and the general welfare,"[286] to sustain the right of the Federal Government to acquire land within a State for use as a national park. Finally, in United States v. Butler,[287] the Court gave its unqualified endorsement to Hamilton's views on the taxing power. Wrote Justice Roberts for the Court: "Since the foundation of the Nation sharp differences of opinion have persisted as to the true interpretation of the phrase. Madison asserted it amounted to no more than a reference to the other powers enumerated in the subsequent clauses of the same section; that, as the United States is a government of limited and enumerated powers, the grant of power to tax and spend for the general national welfare must be confined to the enumerated legislative fields committed to the Congress. In this view the phrase is mere tautology, for taxation and appropriation are or may be necessary incidents of the exercise of any of the enumerated legislative powers. Hamilton, on the other hand, maintained the clause confers a power separate and distinct from those later enumerated, is not restricted in meaning by the grant of them, and Congress consequently has a substantive power to tax and to appropriate, limited only by the requirement that it shall be exercised to provide for the general welfare of the United States. Each contention has had the support of those whose views are entitled to weight. This court had noticed the question, but has never found it necessary to decide which is the true construction. Justice Story, in his Commentaries, espouses the Hamiltonian position. We shall not review the writings of public men and commentators or discuss the legislative practice. Study of all these leads us to conclude that the reading advocated by Justice Story is the correct one. While, therefore, the power to tax is not unlimited, its confines are set in the clause which confers it, and not in those of § 8 which bestow and define the legislative powers of the Congress. It results that the power of Congress to authorize expenditure [Pg 115]of public moneys for public purposes is not limited by the direct grants of legislative power found in the Constitution."[288]

The Security Act Cases

Although holding that the spending power is not limited by the specific grants of power contained in article I, section 8, the Court found, nevertheless, that it was qualified by the Tenth Amendment, and on this ground ruled in the Butler case that Congress could not use moneys raised by taxation to "purchase compliance" with regulations "of matters of State concern with respect to which Congress has no authority to interfere."[289] Within little more than a year this decision was reduced to narrow proportions by Steward Machine Co. v. Davis,[290] which sustained the tax imposed on employers to provide unemployment benefits, and the credit allowed for similar taxes paid to a State. To the argument that the tax and credit in combination were "weapons of coercion, destroying or impairing the autonomy of the States," the Court replied that relief of unemployment was a legitimate object of federal expenditure under the "general welfare" clause; that the Social Security Act represented a legitimate attempt to solve the problem by the cooperation of State and Federal Governments; that the credit allowed for State taxes bore a reasonable relation "to the fiscal need subserved by the tax in its normal operation,"[291] since State unemployment compensation payments would relieve the burden for direct relief borne by the national treasury. The Court reserved judgment as to the validity of a tax "if it is laid upon the condition that a State may escape its operation through the adoption of a statute unrelated in subject matter to activities fairly within the scope of national policy and power."[292]

[Pg 116] Earmarked Funds

The appropriation of the proceeds of a tax to a specific use does not affect the validity of the exaction, if the general welfare is advanced and no other constitutional provision is violated. Thus a processing tax on coconut oil was sustained despite the fact that the tax collected upon oil of Philippine production was segregated and paid into the Philippine Treasury.[293] In Helvering v. Davis,[294] the excise tax on employers, the proceeds of which were not earmarked in any way, although intended to provide funds for payments to retired workers, was upheld under the "general welfare" clause, the Tenth Amendment being found to be inapplicable.

Conditional Grants-in-Aid

In the Steward Machine Company case, it was a taxpayer who complained of the invasion of the State sovereignty and the Court put great emphasis on the fact that the State was a willing partner in the plan of cooperation embodied in the Social Security Act.[295] A decade later the right of Congress to impose conditions upon grants-in-aid over the objection of a State was squarely presented in Oklahoma v. United States Civil Service Commission.[296] The State objected to the enforcement of a provision of the Hatch Act,[297] whereby its right to receive federal highway funds would be diminished in consequence of its failure to remove from office a member of the State Highway Commission found to have taken an active part in party politics while in office. Although it found that the State had created a legal right which entitled it to an adjudication of its objection, the Court denied the relief sought on the ground that, "While the United States is not concerned with, and has no power to regulate local political activities as such of State officials, it does have power to fix the terms upon which its money allotments to State shall be disbursed. * * * The end sought by Congress through the Hatch Act is better public service by requiring those who administer funds for national needs to abstain from active political partisanship. So even though the action taken by Congress does have effect upon certain activities within the State, it has never been thought that such effect made the federal act invalid."[298]

"Debts of the United States"

The power to pay the debts of the United States is broad enough to include claims of citizens arising on obligations of right and justice.[299] The Court sustained an act of Congress which set apart for the use [Pg 117]of the Philippine Islands, the revenue from a processing tax on coconut oil of Philippine production, as being in pursuance of a moral obligation to protect and promote the welfare of the people of the Islands.[300] Curiously enough, this power was first invoked to assist the United States to collect a debt due to it. In United States v. Fisher[301] the Supreme Court sustained a statute which gave the Federal Government priority in the distribution of the estates of its insolvent debtors. The debtor in that case was the endorser of a foreign bill of exchange which apparently had been purchased by the United States. Invoking the "necessary and proper" clause, Chief Justice Marshall deduced the power to collect a debt from the power to pay its obligations by the following reasoning: "The government is to pay the debt of the Union, and must be authorized to use the means which appear to itself most eligible to effect that object. It has, consequently, a right to make remittances by bills or otherwise, and to take those precautions which will render the transaction safe."[302]

Clause 2. The Congress shall have Power * * * To borrow Money on the credit of the United States.

The Borrowing Power

The original draft of the Constitution reported to the convention by its Committee of Detail empowered Congress "To borrow money and emit bills on the credit of the United States."[303] When this section was reached in the debates, Gouverneur Morris moved to strike out the clause "and emit bills on the credit of the United States." Madison suggested that it might be sufficient "to prohibit the making them a tender." After a spirited exchange of views on the subject of paper money the convention voted, nine States to two, to delete the words "and emit bills."[304] Nevertheless, in 1870, the Court relied in part upon this clause in holding that Congress had authority to issue treasury notes and to make them legal tender in satisfaction of antecedent debts.[305] When it borrows money "on the credit of the United States" Congress creates a binding obligation to pay the debt as stipulated and cannot thereafter vary the terms of its agreement. A law purporting to abrogate a clause in government bonds calling for payment in gold coin was held to contravene this clause, although the creditor was denied a remedy in the absence of a showing of actual damage.[306]

[Pg 118]

Clause 3. The Congress shall have power * * * To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.

Purpose of the Clause

This clause serves a two-fold purpose: it is the direct source of the most important powers which the National Government exercises in time of peace: and, except for the due process of law clause of Amendment XIV, it is the most important limitation imposed by the Constitution on the exercise of State power. The latter, or restrictive, operation of the clause was long the more important one from the point of view of Constitutional Law. Of the approximately 1400 cases which reached the Supreme Court under the clause prior to 1900, the overwhelming proportion stemmed from State legislation.[307] It resulted that, with an important exception to be noted in a moment, the guiding lines in construction of the clause were initially laid down from the point of view of its operation as a curb on State power, rather than of its operation as a source of national power; and the consequence of this was that the word "commerce," as designating the thing to be protected against State interference, came to dominate the clause, while the word "regulate" remained in the background.

Definition of Terms: Gibbons v. Ogden


The etymology of the word, "cum merce (with merchandise)" carries the primary meaning of traffic—i.e., "to buy and sell goods; to trade" (Webster's International). This narrow conception was replaced in the great leading case of Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1 (1824), by a much broader one, on which interpretation of the clause has been patterned ever since. The case arose out of a series of acts of the legislature of New York, passed between the years 1798 and 1811, which conferred upon Livingston and Fulton the exclusive right to navigate the waters of that State with steam-propelled vessels. Gibbons challenged the monopoly by sending from Elizabethtown, New Jersey, into the Hudson in the State of New York two steam vessels which had been licensed and enrolled to engage in the coasting trade under an act passed by Congress in 1793. Counsel for Ogden (an assignee of Livingston and Fulton) argued that since Gibbons' [Pg 119]vessels carried only passengers between New Jersey and New York, they were not engaged in traffic and hence not in "commerce" in the sense of the Constitution. This argument Chief Justice Marshall answered as follows: "The subject to be regulated is commerce; * * * The counsel for the appellee would limit it to traffic, to buying and selling, or the interchange of commodities, and do not admit that it comprehends navigation. This would restrict a general term, applicable to many objects, to one of its significations. Commerce, undoubtedly, is traffic, but it is something more—it is intercourse."[308] The term, therefore, included navigation—a conclusion which Marshall supported by appeal to general understanding, to the prohibition in article I, § 9, against any preference being given "'* * * by any regulation of commerce or revenue, to the ports of one State over those of another,'" and to the admitted and demonstrated power of Congress to impose embargoes.[309]


Later in his opinion Marshall qualified the word "intercourse" with the word "commercial."[310] Today "commerce" in the sense of the Constitution, and hence "interstate commerce" when it is carried on across State lines, covers every species of movement of persons and things, whether for profit or not;[311] every species of communication, [Pg 120]every species of transmission of intelligence, whether for commercial purposes or otherwise;[312] every species of commercial negotiation which, as shown "by the established course of the business," will involve sooner or later an act of transportation of persons or things, or the flow of services or power across State lines.[313]

From time to time the Court has said that certain things were not interstate commerce, such as mining or manufacturing undertaken "with the intent" that the product shall be transported to other States;[314] insurance transactions when carried on across State lines;[315] exhibitions of baseball between professional teams which travel from State to State;[316] the making of contracts for the insertion of advertisements in periodicals in another State;[317] contracts for personal services to be rendered in another State.[318] Recent decisions either overturn or cast doubt on most if not all of these holdings. By one of these the gathering of news by a press association and its transmission to client newspapers is termed interstate commerce.[319] By another the activities of a Group Health Association which serves only its own members are held to be "trade" within the protection of the Sherman Act and hence capable, if extended, of becoming interstate commerce.[320] By a third the business of insurance when transacted between an insurer and an insured in different States is interstate commerce.[321]


In the majority of the above cases the commerce clause was involved solely as a limitation on the powers of the States. But when the clause is treated as a source of national power it is, of course, read in association with the power of Congress "* * * To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, * * *,"[322] with the result that, as is pointed out later, "interstate commerce" has come in recent years practically to connote both those operations which precede as well as those which follow commercial intercourse itself, provided such operations are deemed by the Court to be capable of "affecting" such intercourse.[323]


In Cohens v. Virginia, decided in 1821, Marshall had asserted, "for all commercial purposes we are one nation."[324] In Gibbons v. Ogden, however, he conceded that the phrase commerce "among the several States" was "not one which would probably have been selected to indicate the completely interior traffic of a State"; and added: "The genius and character of the whole government seem to be, that its action is to be applied to all external concerns of the nation, and to those internal concerns which affect the States generally; but not those which are completely within a particular State, which do not [Pg 122]affect other States, and with which it is not necessary to interfere, for the purpose of executing some of the general powers of the government."[325]

This recognition of an "exclusively internal" commerce of a State ("intrastate commerce" today) appears at times to have been regarded as implying the existence of an area of State power which Congress was not entitled constitutionally to enter.[326] This inference overlooked the fact that, in consequence of its powers under the necessary and proper clause, Congress can, as Marshall indicates in the words above quoted, interfere with the completely internal concerns of a State "for the purpose of executing its general powers," one of which is its power over foreign and interstate commerce. It is today established doctrine that "no form of State activity can constitutionally thwart the regulatory power granted by the commerce clause to Congress."[327]

And while the word "among" serves to demark "the completely internal" commerce of a State from that which "extends to or affects" other States, it also serves, as Marshall further pointed out, to emphasize the fact that "the power of Congress does not stop at the jurisdictional lines of the several States," but "must be exercised whenever [wherever?] the subject exists. * * * Commerce among the States must, of necessity, be commerce [within?] the States. * * * The power of Congress, then, whatever it may be, must be exercised within the territorial jurisdiction of the several States."[328]

[Pg 123] "REGULATE"

Elucidating this word in his opinion for the Court in Gibbons v. Ogden, Chief Justice Marshall said: "We are now arrived at the inquiry—What is this power? It is the power to regulate; that is, to prescribe the rule by which commerce is to be governed. This power, like all others vested in Congress, is complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations, other than are prescribed in the Constitution. These are expressed in plain terms, and do not affect the questions which arise in this case, or which have been discussed at the bar. If, as has always been understood, the sovereignty of Congress, though limited to specified objects, is plenary as to those objects, the power over commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, is vested in Congress as absolutely as it would be in a single government, having in its constitution the same restrictions on the exercise of the power as are found in the Constitution of the United States. The wisdom and the discretion of Congress, their identity with the people, and the influence which their constituents possess at elections, are, in this, as in many other instances, as that, for example, of declaring war, the sole restraints on which they have relied, to secure them from its abuse. They are the restraints on which the people must often rely solely, in all representative governments."[329]


There are certain later judicial dicta which urge or suggest that Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce restrictively is less than its analogous power over foreign commerce, the argument being that whereas the latter is a branch of the nation's unlimited power over foreign relations, the former was conferred upon the National Government primarily in order to protect freedom of commerce from State interference. The four dissenting Justices in the Lottery Case (decided in 1903) endorsed this view in the following words: "It is argued that the power to regulate commerce among the several States is the same as the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the Indian tribes. But is its scope the same? * * *, the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and the power to regulate interstate commerce, are to be taken diverso intuitu, for the latter was intended to secure equality and freedom in commercial intercourse as between the States, not to permit the creation of impediments to such intercourse; while the former clothes Congress with that power over international commerce, pertaining to a sovereign nation in its intercourse with foreign nations, and subject, generally speaking, to no implied or reserved power in the States. The laws which would be necessary and proper in the one case, would not be necessary or proper in the other. * * * But that does not [Pg 124]challenge the legislative power of a sovereign nation to exclude foreign persons or commodities, or place an embargo, perhaps not permanent, upon foreign ships or manufactures. * * * The same view must be taken as to commerce with Indian tribes. There is no reservation of police powers or any other to a foreign nation or to an Indian tribe, and the scope of the power is not the same as that over interstate commerce."[330]

And twelve years later Chief Justice White, speaking for the Court, expressed the same view, as follows: "In the argument reference is made to decisions of this court dealing with the subject of the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce, but the very postulate upon which the authority of Congress to absolutely prohibit foreign importations as expounded by the decisions of this court rests is the broad distinction which exists between the two powers and therefore the cases cited and many more which might be cited announcing the principles which they uphold have obviously no relation to the question in hand."[331]

But dicta to the contrary are much more numerous and span a far longer period of time. Thus Chief Justice Taney wrote in 1847: "The power to regulate commerce among the several States is granted to Congress in the same clause, and by the same words, as the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and is coextensive with it."[332] And nearly fifty years later Justice Field, speaking for the Court, said: "The power to regulate commerce among the several States was granted to Congress in terms as absolute as is the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations."[333] Today it is firmly established doctrine that the power to regulate commerce, whether with foreign nations or among the several States comprises the power to restrain or prohibit it at all times for the welfare of the public, provided only the specific limitations imposed upon Congress's powers, as by the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment, are not transgressed.[334]

Nor does the power to regulate commerce stop with, nor in fact is it most commonly exercised in, measures designed to outlaw some branch of commerce. In the words of the Court: It is the power to provide by appropriate legislation for its "protection and advancement";[335] to adopt measures "to promote its growth and insure its safety";[336] "to foster, protect, control and restrain, [commerce]."[337] [Pg 125]This protective power has, moreover, two dimensions. In the first place, it includes the power to reach and remove every conceivable obstacle to or restriction upon interstate and foreign commerce from whatever source arising, whether it results from unfavorable conditions within the States or from State legislative policy, like the monopoly involved in Gibbons v. Ogden; or from both combined. In the second place, it extends—as does also the power to restrain commerce—to the instruments and agents by which commerce is carried on; nor are such instruments and agents confined to those which were known or in use when the Constitution was adopted.[338]


The applicability of Congress's power to the agents and instruments of commerce is implied in Marshall's opinion in Gibbons v. Ogden,[339] where the waters of the State of New York in their quality as highways of interstate and foreign transportation are held to be governed by the overruling power of Congress. Likewise, the same opinion recognizes that in "the progress of things," new and other instruments of commerce will make their appearance. When the Licensing Act of 1793 was passed, the only craft to which it could apply were sailing vessels, but it and the power by which it was enacted were, Marshall asserted, indifferent to the "principle" by which vessels were moved. Its provisions therefore reached steam vessels as well. A little over half a century later the principle embodied in this holding was given its classic expression in the opinion of Chief Justice Waite in the case of the Pensacola Telegraph Co. v. Western Union Co.,[340] a case closely paralleling Gibbons v. Ogden in other respects also. The passage alluded to reads as follows: "The powers thus granted are not confined to the instrumentalities of commerce, or the postal service known or in use when the Constitution was adopted, but they keep pace with the progress of the country, and adapt themselves to the new developments of times and circumstances. They extend from the horse with its rider to the stage-coach, from the sailing-vessel to the steamboat, from the coach and the steamboat to the railroad, and from the railroad to the telegraph, as these new agencies are successively brought into use to meet the demands of increasing population and wealth. They were intended for the government of the business to which they relate, at all times and under all circumstances. As they were intrusted to the general government for the good of the nation, it is not only the right, but the duty, of Congress to see to it that intercourse among the States and the transmission of intelligence are not obstructed or unnecessarily encumbered by State legislation."[341] The Radio Act of 1927 whereby "all forms of interstate and foreign radio transmissions within the United States, [Pg 126]its Territories and possessions" were brought under national control, affords another illustration. Thanks to the foregoing doctrine the measure met no serious constitutional challenge either on the floors of Congress or in the Courts.[342]

Congressional Regulation of Waterways


In the case of Pennsylvania v. Wheeling & Belmont Bridge Co.,[343] decided in 1852, the Court, on the application of the complaining State, acting as representative of the interests of its citizens, granted an injunction requiring that a bridge, erected over the Ohio under a charter from the State of Virginia, either be altered so as to admit of free navigation of the river, or else be entirely abated. The decision was justified by the Court on the basis both of the commerce clause and of a compact between Virginia and Kentucky, whereby both these States had agreed to keep the Ohio River "free and common to the citizens of the United States." The injunction was promptly rendered inoperative by an act of Congress declaring the bridge to be "a lawful structure" and requiring all vessels navigating the Ohio to be so regulated as not to interfere with it.[344] This act the Court sustained as within Congress's power under the commerce clause, saying: "So far, * * *, as this bridge created an obstruction to the [Pg 127]free navigation of the river, in view of the previous acts of Congress, they [the said acts] are to be regarded as modified by this subsequent legislation; and, although it still may be an obstruction in fact, [it] is not so in the contemplation of law. * * * That body [Congress] having in the exercise of this power, regulated the navigation consistent with its preservation and continuation, the authority to maintain it would seem to be complete. That authority combines the concurrent powers of both governments, State and federal, which, if not sufficient, certainly none can be found in our system of government."[345] In short, it is Congress and not the Court which is authorized by the Constitution to regulate commerce.

The law and doctrine of the earlier cases with respect to the fostering and protection of navigation are well summed up in the following frequently cited passage from the Court's opinion in Gilman v. Philadelphia,[346] decided in 1866. "Commerce includes navigation. The power to regulate commerce comprehends the control for that purpose, and to the extent necessary, of all the navigable waters of the United States which are accessible from a State other than those in which they lie. For this purpose they are the public property of the nation, and subject to all requisite legislation by Congress. This necessarily includes the power to keep them open and free from any obstruction to their navigation, interposed by the States or otherwise; to remove such obstructions when they exist; and to provide, by such sanctions as they may deem proper, against the occurrence of the evil and for the punishment of offenders. For these purposes, Congress possesses all the powers which existed in the States before the adoption of the national Constitution, and which have always existed in the Parliament in England."[347]

Thus Congress was within its powers in vesting the Secretary of War with power to determine whether a structure of any nature in or over a navigable stream is an obstruction to navigation and to order its abatement if he so finds.[348] Nor is the United States required to compensate the owners of such structures for their loss, since they were always subject to the servitude represented by Congress's powers over commerce; and the same is true of the property of riparian owners [Pg 128]which is damaged.[349] And while it was formerly held that lands adjoining nonnavigable streams were not subject to the above mentioned servitude,[350] this rule has been impaired by recent decisions;[351] and at any rate it would not apply as to a stream which had been rendered navigable by improvements.[352]

In exercising its power to foster and protect navigation Congress legislates primarily on things external to the act of navigation. But that act itself and the instruments by which it is accomplished are also subject to Congress's power if and when they enter into or form a part of "commerce among the several States." When does this happen? Words quoted above from the Court's opinion in the Gilman case answered this question to some extent; but the decisive answer to it was returned five years later in the case of The "Daniel Ball."[353] Here the question at issue was whether an act of Congress, passed in 1838 and amended in 1852, which required that steam vessels engaged in transporting passengers or merchandise upon the "bays, lakes, rivers, or other navigable waters of the United States," applied to the case of a vessel which navigated only the waters of the Grand River, a stream which lies entirely in the State of Michigan. Argued counsel for the vessel: "The navigable rivers of the United States pass through States, they form their boundary lines, they are not in any one State, nor the exclusive property of any one, but are common to all. To make waters navigable waters of the United States, some other incident must attach to them besides the territorial and the capability for public use. This term contrasts with domestic waters of the United States, and implies, not simply that the waters are public and within the Union, but that they have attached to them some circumstance that brings them within the scope of the sovereignty of [Pg 129]the United States as defined by the Constitution." Then as a sort of reductio ad absurdum counsel added: "* * * if merely because a stream is a highway it becomes a navigable water of the United States, in a sense that attaches to it and to the vessels trading upon it the regulating control of Congress, then every highway must be regarded as a highway of the United States, and the vehicles upon it must be subject to the same control. But this will not be asserted on the part of the Government."[354] The Court answered: "In this case it is admitted that the steamer was engaged in shipping and transporting down Grand River, goods destined and marked for other States than Michigan, and in receiving and transporting up the river goods brought within the State from without its limits; * * * So far as she was employed in transporting goods destined for other States, or goods brought from without the limits of Michigan and destined to places within that State, she was engaged in commerce between the States, and however limited that commerce may have been, she was, so far as it went, subject to the legislation of Congress. She was employed as an instrument of that commerce; for whenever a commodity has begun to move as an article of trade from one State to another, commerce in that commodity between the States has commenced."[355] Turning then to counsel's reductio ad absurdum, the Court added: "We answer that the present case relates to transportation on the navigable waters of the United States, and we are not called upon to express an opinion upon the power of Congress over interstate commerce when carried on by land transportation. And we answer further, that we are unable to draw any clear and distinct line between the authority of Congress to regulate an agency employed in commerce between the States, when the agency extends through two or more States, and when it is confined in its action entirely within the limits of a single State. If its authority does not extend to an agency in such commerce, when that agency is confined within the limits of a State, its entire authority over interstate commerce may be defeated. Several agencies combining, each taking up the commodity transported at the boundary line at one end of a State, and leaving it at the boundary line at the other end, the Federal jurisdiction would be entirely ousted, and the constitutional provision would become a dead letter."[356] In short, it was admitted inferentially, that the principle of the decision would apply to land transportation; but the actual demonstration of the fact still awaited some years.[357] See infra.


As a consequence, in part, of its power to forbid or remove obstructions to navigation in the navigable waters of the United States, Congress has acquired the right to develop hydroelectric power, and the ancillary right to sell it to all takers. By a long-standing doctrine of Constitutional Law the States possess dominion over the beds of all navigable streams within their borders,[358] but on account of the servitude which Congress's power to regulate commerce imposes upon such streams, they are practically unable, without the assent of Congress, to utilize their prerogative for power development purposes. Sensing, no doubt, that controlling power to this end must be attributed to some government in the United States and that "in such matters there can be no divided empire,"[359] the Court held, in 1913, in United States v. Chandler-Dunbar Co.,[360] that in constructing works for the improvement of the navigability of a stream, Congress was entitled, as a part of a general plan, to authorize the lease or sale of such excess water power as might result from the conservation of the flow of the stream. "If the primary purpose is legitimate," it said, "we can see no sound objection to leasing any excess of power over the needs of the government. The practice is not unusual in respect to similar public works constructed by State governments."[361]

[Pg 131] Congress's Jurisdiction Over Navigable Streams Today

Since the Chandler-Dunbar case the Court has come, in effect, to hold that it will sustain any act of Congress which purports to be for the improvement of navigation whatever other purposes it may also embody; nor does the stream involved have to be one which is "navigable in its natural state." Such, at least, seems to be the algebraic sum of its holdings in Arizona v. California,[362] decided in 1931, and in the United States v. Appalachian Electric Power Co.,[363] decided in 1940. In the former the Court, speaking through Justice Brandeis, said that it was not free to inquire into the motives "which induced members of Congress to enact the Boulder Canyon Project Act," adding: "As the river is navigable and the means which the Act provides are not unrelated to the control of navigation, * * *, the erection and maintenance of such dam and reservoir are clearly within the powers conferred upon Congress. Whether the particular structures proposed are reasonably necessary, is not for this Court to determine. * * * And the fact that purposes other than navigation will also be served could not invalidate the exercise of the authority conferred, even if those other purposes would not alone have justified an exercise of congressional power."[364] And in the Appalachian Electric Power case, the Court, abandoning previous holdings which had laid down the doctrine that to be subject to Congress's power to regulate commerce a stream must be "navigable in fact," said: "A waterway, otherwise suitable for navigation, is not barred from that classification merely because artificial aids must make the highway suitable for use before commercial navigation may be undertaken," provided there must be a "balance between cost and need at a time when the improvement would be useful. * * * Nor is it necessary that the improvements should be actually completed or even authorized. The power of Congress over commerce is not to be hampered because of the necessity for reasonable improvements to make an interstate waterway available for traffic. * * * Nor is it necessary for navigability that the use should be continuous. * * * Even absence of use over long periods of years, because of changed conditions, * * * does not affect the navigability of rivers in the constitutional sense."[365]

Purposes for Which Power May be Exercised

Furthermore, the Court defined the purposes for which Congress may regulate navigation in the broadest terms, as follows: "It cannot [Pg 132]properly be said that the constitutional power of the United States over its waters is limited to control for navigation. * * * That authority is as broad as the needs of commerce. * * * Flood protection, watershed development, recovery of the cost of improvements through utilization of power are likewise parts of commerce control."[366] These views the Court has since reiterated.[367] Nor is it by virtue of Congress's power over navigation alone that the National Government may develop super-power. Its war powers and power of expenditure in furtherance of the common defense and the general welfare supplement its powers over commerce in this respect.[368]

Congressional Regulation of Land Transportation


The acquisition and settlement of California stimulated Congress some years before the Civil War to authorize surveys of possible routes for railway lines to the Pacific; but it was not until 1862, in the midst of war, with its menace of a general dissolution of the Union, that more decisive action was taken. That year Congress voted aid in the construction of a line from Missouri River to the Pacific; and four years later it chartered the Union Pacific Company.[369] First and last, litigation growing out of this type of legislation has resulted in the establishment in judicial decision of the following propositions: First, that Congress may provide highways for interstate transportation (earlier, as well as today, this result might have followed from Congress's power of spending, independently of the commerce clause, as well as from its war and postal powers, which were also invoked by the Court in this connection); second, that it may charter private corporations for the purpose of doing the same thing; third, that it may vest such corporations with the power of eminent domain in the States; and fourth, that it may exempt their franchises from State taxation.[370]


Congress began regulating the railroads of the country in a more positive sense in 1866. By the so-called Garfield Act of that year "every railroad company in the United States, whose road is operated by steam," was authorized by Congress "* * * to connect with [Pg 133]roads of other States so as to form continuous lines for the transportation of passengers, freight, troops, governmental supplies, and mails, to their destination";[371] while by an act passed on July 24 of the same year it was ordered, "in the interest of commerce and the convenient transmission of intelligence * * * by the government of the United States and its citizens, that the erection of telegraph lines shall, so far as State interference is concerned, be free to all who will submit to the conditions imposed by Congress, and that corporations organized under the laws of one State for constructing and operating telegraph lines shall not be excluded by another from prosecuting their business within its jurisdiction, if they accept the terms proposed by the National Government for this national privilege."[372]

Another act of the same period provided that "no railroad company within the United States whose road forms any part of a line of road over which cattle, sheep, swine, or other animals are conveyed from one State to another, or the owners or masters of steam, sailing, or other vessels carrying or transporting cattle, sheep, swine, or other animals from one State to another, shall confine the same in cars, boats, or vessels of any description, for a longer period than twenty-eight consecutive hours, without unloading the same for rest, water, and feeding, for a period of at least five consecutive hours, unless prevented from so unloading by storm or other accidental causes."[373]


On account of the large element of "fixed charges" which enters into the setting of rates by railway companies, competition between lines for new business was from the first very sharp, and resulted in many evils which, in the early 70's, led in the Middle West to the enactment by the State legislatures of the so-called "Granger Laws"; and in the famous "Granger Cases," headed by Munn v. Illinois,[374] the Court at first sustained this legislation, in relation to both the commerce clause and the due process of law clause of Amendment XIV. The principal circumstance, however, which shaped the Court's attitude toward the "Granger Laws" had, by a decade later, disappeared, the fact, namely, that originally the railroad business was largely in local hands. In consequence, first, of the panic of 1873, and then of the panic of 1885, hundreds of these small lines went [Pg 134]into bankruptcy, from which they emerged consolidated into great interstate systems. The result for the Court's interpretation of the commerce clause was determinative. In the case of Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific R. Co. v. Illinois,[375] decided in 1886, it was ruled that a State may not regulate charges for the carriage even within its own boundaries of goods brought from without the State or destined to points outside it; that in this respect Congress's power over interstate commerce was exclusive. The following year, Congress, responding to a widespread public demand, passed the original Interstate Commerce Act.[376]

By this measure a commission of five was created with authority to pass upon the "reasonableness" of all charges by railroads for the transportation of goods or persons in interstate commerce and to order the discontinuance of all such charges as it found to be "unreasonable," or otherwise violative of the provisions of the act. In Interstate Commerce Commission v. Brimson,[377] decided in 1894, the validity of the Commission as a means "necessary and proper" for the enforcement of Congress's power to regulate commerce among the States was sustained, as well as its right to enter the courts of the United States in order to secure process for the execution of its orders. Later decisions of the Court, however, including one in which the act was construed not to give the Commission power to set reasonable maximum rates in substitution for those found by it to be unreasonable, disappointed earlier expectations.[378]

The history of the Commission as an effective instrument of government dates from the Hepburn Act of 1906[379] which was followed four years later by the Mann-Elkins Act.[380] By the former the Commission was explicitly endowed with the power, after a full hearing on a complaint made to it, "to determine and prescribe just and reasonable" maximum rates. By the latter it was further authorized to set such rates on its own initiative, and without waiting for a complaint; while any increase of rates by a carrier was made subject to suspension by the Commission until its approval could be obtained. At the same time, the Commission's jurisdiction was extended to telegraphs, telephones and cables.[381]


The powers of the Commission, which has been gradually increased to a body of eleven, are today largely defined in the Transportation Act of February 28, 1920. By that act they were extended not only to all "railroads," comprehensively defined, but also to the following additional categories of "'common carriers' * * * all pipeline companies; telegraph, telephone, and cable companies operating by wire or wireless [See note 3 above]; express companies; sleeping-car companies; and all persons, natural or artificial, engaged in such transportation or transmission as aforesaid as common carriers for hire." The jurisdiction of the Commission covers not only the characteristic activities of such carriers in commerce among the States, but also the issuance of securities by them, and all consolidations of existing companies, or lines. Furthermore, for the first time, the Commission was put under the injunction, in exercising its control over rates and charges, to "give due consideration, among other things, to the transportation needs of the country and the necessity (under honest, efficient and economical management of existing transportation facilities) of enlarging such facilities in order to provide the people of the United States with adequate transportation."[382] Railway rate control itself, which was originally entered upon by the National Government exclusively from the point of view of restraint, has thus been assimilated to the idea of "fostering and promoting" transportation.

Two types of constitutional questions have presented themselves under the legislation just passed in review: 1. Those arising out of the safeguards which the Bill of Rights throws about property rights; 2. Those arising out of the intermingling of the interstate and intrastate operations of the same carriers, and the resulting tangency of State with national power. Only the latter are considered at this point.


Section 1 of the act of 1887 contains the proviso "that the provisions of this act shall not apply to 'transportation' wholly within the State." Section 3 of the act prohibits "any common carrier subject to the provisions" of the act from giving "any unreasonable preference or advantage" to any person, firm, or locality. In the Shreveport Case,[383] decided in 1914, the Commission, reading § 3 independently of § 1, had ordered several Texas lines to increase certain of their rates [Pg 136]between points in Texas till they should approximate rates already approved by the Commission to adjoining points in Louisiana. The latter rates, being interstate, were admittedly subject to the Commission. The local rates were as clearly within the normal jurisdiction of the State, and had in fact been set by the Texas Railway Commission. The Court found that the Interstate Commerce Commission had not exceeded its statutory powers. The constitutional objection to the Commission's action was stated thus: "That Congress is impotent to control the intrastate charges of an interstate carrier even to the extent necessary to prevent injurious discrimination against interstate traffic." This objection the Court met, as follows: "Wherever the interstate and intrastate transactions of carriers are so related that the government of the one involves the control of the other, it is Congress, and not the State, that is entitled to prescribe the final and dominant rule, for otherwise Congress would be denied the exercise of its constitutional authority and the State, and not the Nation, would be supreme in the national field."[384] This, the Court continued, "is not to say that Congress possesses the authority to regulate the internal commerce of a State as such, but that it does possess the power to foster and protect interstate commerce, and to take all measures necessary or appropriate to that end, although intrastate transactions of interstate carriers may thereby be controlled."[385]


The power of the Commission under § 3 of the act of 1887, as interpreted in the Shreveport Case, was greatly enlarged by § 416 of the act of 1920, which authorizes the Commission to remove "any undue, unreasonable, or unjust discrimination against interstate or foreign commerce." Thus, commerce as a whole, instead of specific firms or localities, is made the beneficiary of the restriction. In the Wisconsin R.R. Comm. v. Chicago, B. & Q.R.R. Co.,[386] the Court held that this section sustained the Interstate Commerce Commission in annulling intrastate passenger rates which it found to be unduly low, in comparison with rates which the Commission had established for interstate travel, and so tending to thwart, in deference to a [Pg 137]merely local interest, the general purpose of the act to maintain an efficient transport service for the benefit of the country at large.[387]


In the Pipe Line Cases, decided in 1914,[388] the Court affirmed the power of Congress to regulate the transportation of oil and gas in pipe lines from one State to another and held that this power applies to such transportation even though the oil (or gas) in question was the property of the owner of the lines.[389] Thirteen years later, in 1927, the Court ruled that an order by a State commission fixing rates on electric current generated within the State and sold to a distributor in another State was invalid as imposing a burden on interstate commerce, thus holding impliedly that Congress' power to regulate the transmission of electric current from one State to another carried with it the power to regulate the price of such electricity.[390] Proceeding on this implication Congress, in the Federal Power Act of 1935,[391] conferred upon the Federal Power Commission the power to govern the wholesale distribution of electricity in interstate commerce; and three years later vested in the same body like power over natural gas moving in interstate commerce.[392] In Federal Power Commission v. Natural Gas Pipeline Company,[393] the power of the Commission to set the prices at which [Pg 138]gas, originating in one State and transported into another, should be sold to distributors wholesale in the latter State, was sustained by the Court in the following terms: "The argument that the provisions of the statute applied in this case are unconstitutional on their face is without merit. The sale of natural gas originating in the State and its transportation and delivery to distributors in any other State constitutes interstate commerce, which is subject to regulation by Congress. * * * It is no objection to the exercise of the power of Congress that it is attended by the same incidents which attend the exercise of the police power of a State. The authority of Congress to regulate the prices of commodities in interstate commerce is at least as great under the Fifth Amendment as is that of the States under the Fourteenth to regulate the prices of commodities in intrastate commerce."[394]

Other acts regulative of interstate commerce and communication which belong to this period are the Federal Communications Act of 1934, which regulates, through the Federal Communications Commission,[395] "interstate and foreign communication by wire and radio"; the Federal Motor Carrier Act of 1935, which, through the Interstate Commerce Commission, governs the transportation of persons and property by motor vehicle common carriers;[396] the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, enacted for the purpose of bringing under the control of a central agency, called "the Civil Aeronautics Authority" (functioning through the Civil Aeronautics Administrator and the Civil Aeronautics Board) all phases of airborne commerce, foreign and [Pg 139]interstate.[397] None of these measures have provoked challenge to the power of Congress to enact them.


In the course of the years 1903 to 1908 Congress enacted a series of such measures which were notable both on account of their immediate purpose and as marking the entry of the National Government into the field of labor legislation. The Safety Appliance Act of 1893,[398] which applied only to cars and locomotives engaged in moving interstate traffic, was amended in 1903 to embrace "all trains, locomotives, tenders, cars," etc., "used on any railway engaged in interstate commerce * * * and to all other locomotives * * * cars," etc., "used in connection therewith."[399] In Southern Railway Company v. United States,[400] the validity of this extension of the act was challenged. The Court sustained the measure as being within Congress's power, saying: "* * * this is so, not because Congress possesses any power to regulate intrastate commerce as such, but because its power to regulate interstate commerce is plenary and competently may be exerted to secure the safety of the persons and property transported therein and of those who are employed in such transportation, no matter what may be the source of the dangers which threaten it. That is to say, it is no objection to such an exertion of this power that the dangers intended to be avoided arise, in whole or in part, out of matters connected with intrastate commerce."[401]

Four years later the Hours of Service Act of 1907[402] was passed, requiring, as a safety measure, that carriers engaged in the transportation of passengers or property by railroad in interstate or foreign commerce should not work their employees for longer periods than those prescribed by the Act. In sustaining this legislation the Court, speaking through Justice Hughes, said: "The fundamental question here is whether a restriction upon the hours of labor of employés who are connected with the movement of trains in interstate transportation [Pg 140]is comprehended within this sphere of authorized legislation. This question admits of but one answer. The length of hours of service has direct relation to the efficiency of the human agencies upon which protection of life and property necessarily depends. * * * In its power suitably to provide for the safety of the employés and travelers, Congress was not limited to the enactment of laws relating to mechanical appliances, but it was also competent to consider, and to endeavor to reduce, the dangers incident to the strain of excessive hours of duty on the part of engineers, conductors, train dispatchers, telegraphers, and other persons embraced within the class defined by the act."[403]

But by far the most notable of these safety measures were the Federal Employers Liability Acts of 1906 and 1908,[404] the second of which merely reenacted the first with certain "unconstitutional" features eliminated. What the amended act does, in short, is to modify, in the case of injuries incurred by the employees of interstate carriers while engaged in interstate commerce, the defenses that had hitherto been available to the carriers at common law. The principal argument against the acts was that the commerce clause afforded no basis for an attempt to regulate the relation of master and servant, which had heretofore in all cases fallen to the reserved powers of the States; that indeed the rules of common law modified or abrogated by the act existed solely under State authority, and had always been enforced, in the main, in the courts of the States.[405] Countering this argument, the Court, speaking by Justice Van Devanter, quoted the following passage from the brief of the Solicitor-General: "Interstate commerce—if not always, at any rate when the commerce is transportation—is an act. Congress, of course, can do anything which, in the exercise by itself of a fair discretion, may be deemed appropriate to save the act of interstate commerce from prevention or interruption, or to make that act more secure, more reliable or more efficient. The act of interstate commerce is done by the labor of men and with the help of things; and these men and things are the agents and instruments of the commerce. If the agents or instruments are destroyed while they are doing the act, commerce is stopped; if the agents or instruments are interrupted, commerce is interrupted; if the agents or instruments are not of the right kind or quality, commerce in consequence becomes slow or costly or unsafe or otherwise inefficient; and if the conditions under which the agents or instruments do the work of commerce are wrong or disadvantageous, those bad conditions may and often will prevent or interrupt the act of commerce or make it less expeditious, less reliable, less economical and less secure. Therefore, Congress may legislate about the agents and instruments of [Pg 141]interstate commerce, and about the conditions under which those agents and instruments perform the work of interstate commerce, whenever such legislation bears, or in the exercise of a fair legislative discretion can be deemed to bear, upon the reliability or promptness or economy or security or utility of the interstate commerce act."[406]

The Adair Case

But while the idea expressed here that the human agents of commerce, in the sense of transportation, are instrumentalities of it, and so, in that capacity, within the protective power of Congress, signalized the entrance of Congress into the field of labor legislation, the Court was not at the time prepared to give the idea any considerable scope. Pertinent in this connection is the case of Adair v. United States,[407] which was decided between the two Employers' Liability Cases. Here was involved the validity of § 10 of the "Erdman Act" of 1898,[408] by which it was made a misdemeanor for a carrier or agent thereof to require of an employee, as a condition of employment, that he should not become or remain a member of a trade union, or to threaten him with loss of employment if he should become or remain a member. This proviso the Court held not to be a regulation of commerce, there being no connection between an employee's membership in a labor organization and the carrying on of interstate commerce. Twenty-two years later, however, in 1930, the Court conceded that the connection between interstate commerce and union membership was a real and substantial one, and on that ground sustained the power of Congress in the Railway Labor Act of 1926[409] to prevent employers from interfering with the right of employees to select freely their own collective bargaining representatives.[410]

[Pg 142] The Railroad Retirement Act

Still pursuing the idea of protecting commerce and the labor engaged in it concurrently, Congress, by the Railroad Retirement Act of June 27, 1934,[411] ordered the compulsory retirement of superannuated employees of interstate carriers, and provided that they be paid pensions out of a fund comprising compulsory contributions from the carriers and their present and future employees. In Railroad Retirement Board v. Alton R.R. Company,[412] however, a closely divided Court held this legislation to be in excess of Congress's power to regulate commerce and contrary to the due process clause of Amendment V. Said Justice Roberts for the majority: "We feel bound to hold that a pension plan thus imposed is in no proper sense a regulation of the activity of interstate transportation. It is an attempt for social ends to impose by sheer fiat noncontractual incidents upon the relation of employer and employee, not as a rule or regulation of commerce and transportation between the States, but as a means of assuring a particular class of employees against old age dependency. This is neither a necessary nor an appropriate rule or regulation affecting the due [Pg 143]fulfillment of the railroads' duty to serve the public in interstate transportation."[413] Chief Justice Hughes, speaking for the dissenters, contended, on the contrary, that "the morale of the employees [had] an important bearing upon the efficiency of the transportation service." He added: "The fundamental consideration which supports this type of legislation is that industry should take care of its human wastage, whether that is due to accident or age. That view cannot be dismissed as arbitrary or capricious. It is a reasoned conviction based upon abundant experience. The expression of that conviction in law is regulation. When expressed in the government of interstate carriers, with respect to their employees likewise engaged in interstate commerce, it is a regulation of that commerce. As such, so far as the subject matter is concerned, the commerce clause should be held applicable."[414] Under subsequent legislation, an excise is levied on interstate carriers and their employees, while by separate but parallel legislation a fund is created in the Treasury out of which pensions are paid along the lines of the original plan. The constitutionality of this scheme appears to be taken for granted in Railroad Retirement Board v. Duquesne Warehouse Company.[415]


Some years earlier the Court had had occasion in United States v. Ferger,[416] decided in 1919, to reiterate the rule laid down in the Southern Railway Case, that Congress's protective power over interstate commerce reaches all kinds of obstructions whatever the source of their origin. Ferger and associates had been indicted under a federal statute for issuing a false bill of lading, to cover a fictitious shipment in interstate commerce. Their defense was that, since there could be no commerce in a fraudulent bill of lading, therefore Congress's power could not reach their alleged offense, a contention which Chief Justice White, speaking for the Court, answered thus: "But this mistakenly assumes that the power of Congress is to be necessarily tested by the intrinsic existence of commerce in the particular subject dealt with, instead of by the relation of that subject to commerce and its effect upon it. We say mistakenly assumes, because we think it clear that if the proposition were sustained it would destroy the power of Congress to regulate, as obviously that power, if it is to exist, must include [Pg 144]the authority to deal with obstructions to interstate commerce (In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564) and with a host of other acts which, because of their relation to and influence upon interstate commerce, come within the power of Congress to regulate, although they are not interstate commerce in and of themselves. * * * That as instrumentalities of interstate commerce, bills of lading are the efficient means of credit resorted to for the purpose of securing and fructifying the flow of a vast volume of interstate commerce upon which the commercial intercourse of the country, both domestic and foreign, largely depends, is a matter of common knowledge as to the course of business of which we may take judicial notice. Indeed, that such bills of lading and the faith and credit given to their genuineness and the value they represent are the producing and sustaining causes of the enormous number of transactions in domestic and foreign exchange, is also so certain and well known that we may notice it without proof."[417]

Congressional Regulation of Commerce as Traffic


Congress's chief effort to regulate commerce in the primary sense of "traffic" is embodied in the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, the opening section of which declares "every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise," or "conspiracy in restraint of trade and commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations" to be "illegal," while the second section makes it a misdemeanor for anybody to "monopolize or attempt to monopolize any part of such commerce."[418] The act was passed to curb the growing tendency to form industrial combinations and the first case to reach the Court under it was the famous "Sugar Trust Case," United States v. E.C. Knight Co.[419] Here the Government asked for the cancellation of certain agreements, whereby, through purchases of stock in other companies, the American Sugar Refining Company, had "acquired," it was conceded, "nearly complete control of the manufacture of refined sugars in the United States." The question of the validity of the act was not expressly discussed by the Court, but was subordinated to that of its proper construction. So proceeding, the Court, in pursuance of doctrines of Constitutional Law which were then dominant with it, turned the act from its intended purpose and destroyed its effectiveness for several years, as that of the Interstate Commerce Act was being contemporaneously impaired. The following passage early in Chief Justice Fuller's opinion for the Court, sets forth the conception of the Federal System that controlled the decision: "It is vital that the independence of the commercial power and of the police power, and the delimitation between them, however sometimes perplexing, should always be recognized and observed, [Pg 145]for while the one furnishes the strongest bond of union, the other is essential to the preservation of the autonomy of the States as required by our dual form of government; and acknowledged evils, however grave and urgent they may appear to be, had better be borne, than risk be run, in the effort to suppress them, of more serious consequences by resort to expedients of even doubtful constitutionality."[420]

In short, what was needed, the Court felt, was a hard and fast line between the two spheres of power, and in the following series of propositions it endeavored to lay down such a line: (1) production is always local, and under the exclusive domain of the States; (2) commerce among the States does not commence until goods "commence their final movement from their State of origin to that of their destination"; (3) the sale of a product is merely an incident of its production and while capable of "bringing the operation of commerce into play," affects it only incidentally; (4) such restraint as would reach commerce, as above defined, in consequence of combinations to control production "in all its forms," would be "indirect, however inevitable and whatever its extent," and as such beyond the purview of the act.[421] Applying then the above reasoning to the case before it, the Court proceeded: "The object [of the combination] was manifestly private gain in the manufacture of the commodity, but not through the control of interstate or foreign commerce. It is true that the bill alleged that the products of these refineries were sold and distributed among the several States, and that all the companies were engaged in trade or commerce with the several States and with foreign nations; but this was no more than to say that trade and commerce served manufacture to fulfil its function. Sugar was refined for sale, and sales were probably made at Philadelphia for consumption, and undoubtedly for resale by the first purchasers throughout Pennsylvania and other States, and refined sugar was also forwarded by the companies to other States for sale. Nevertheless it does not follow that an attempt to monopolize, or the actual monopoly of, the manufacture was an attempt, whether executory or consummated, to monopolize commerce, even though, in order to dispose of the product, the instrumentality of commerce was necessarily invoked. There was nothing in the proofs to indicate any intention to put a restraint upon trade or commerce, and the fact, as we have seen that trade or commerce might be indirectly affected was not enough to entitle complainants to a decree."[422]


Four years later occurred the case of Addyston Pipe and Steel Co. v. United States,[423] in which the Antitrust Act was successfully applied as against an industrial combination for the first time. The [Pg 147]agreements in the case, the parties to which were manufacturing concerns, effected a division of territory among them, and so involved, it was held, a "direct" restraint on the distribution and hence of the transportation of the products of the contracting firms. The holding, however, did not question the doctrine of the earlier case, which in fact continued substantially undisturbed until 1905, when Swift and Co. v. United States,[424] was decided.


Defendants in the Swift case were some thirty firms engaged in Chicago and other cities in the business of buying livestock in their stockyards, in converting it at their packing houses into fresh meat, and in the sale and shipment of such fresh meat to purchasers in other States. The charge against them was that they had entered into a combination to refrain from bidding against each other in the local markets, to fix the prices at which they would sell, to restrict shipments of meat, and to do other forbidden acts. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court on defendants' contention that certain of the [Pg 148]acts complained of were not acts of interstate commerce and so did not fall within a valid reading of the Sherman Act. The Court, however, sustained the Government on the ground that the "scheme as a whole" came within the act, and that the local activities alleged were simply part and parcel of this general scheme.[425]

Referring to the purchases of livestock at the stockyards, the Court, speaking by Justice Holmes, said: "Commerce among the States is not a technical legal conception, but a practical one, drawn from the course of business. When cattle are sent for sale from a place in one State, with the expectation that they will end their transit, after purchase, in another, and when in effect they do so, with only the interruption necessary to find a purchaser at the stockyards, and when this is a typical, constantly recurring course, the current thus existing is a current of commerce among the States, and the purchase of the cattle is a part and incident of such commerce."[426] Likewise the sales alleged of fresh meat at the slaughtering places fell within the general design. Even if they imported a technical passing of title at the slaughtering places, they also imported that the sales were to persons in other States, and that shipments to such States were part of the transaction.[427] Thus, sales of the type which in the Sugar Trust Case were thrust to one side as immaterial from the point of view of the law, because they enabled manufacture "to fulfill its function," were here treated as merged in an interstate commerce stream. Thus, the concept of commerce as trade, that is, as traffic, again entered the Constitutional Law picture, with the result that conditions which directly affected interstate trade could not be dismissed on the ground that they affected interstate commerce, in the sense of interstate transportation, only "indirectly." Lastly, the Court added these significant words: "But we do not mean to imply that the rule which marks the point at which State taxation or regulation becomes permissible necessarily is beyond the scope of interference by Congress in cases where such interference is deemed necessary for the protection of commerce among the States."[428] That is to say, the line that confines State power from one side does not always confine national power from the other. For even though the line accurately divides the subject matter of the complementary spheres, still national power is always entitled to take on such additional extension as is requisite to guarantee its effective exercise, and is furthermore supreme.


In this respect, the Swift Case only states what the Shreveport Case was later to declare more explicitly; and the same may be said of an ensuing series of cases in which combinations of employees engaged in such intrastate activities as manufacturing, mining, building construction, and the distribution of poultry were subjected to the penalties of the Sherman Act because of the effect or intended effect of their activities on interstate commerce.[429]


In 1921 Congress passed the Packers and Stockyards Act[430] whereby the business of commission men and livestock dealers in the chief stockyards of the country was brought under national supervision; and the year following it passed the Grain Futures Act[431] whereby exchanges dealing in grain futures were subjected to control. The decisions of the Court sustaining these measures both built directly upon the Swift Case.

In Stafford v. Wallace,[432] which involved the former act, Chief Justice Taft, speaking for the Court, said: "The object to be secured by the act is the free and unburdened flow of livestock from the ranges and farms of the West and Southwest through the great stockyards and slaughtering centers on the borders of that region, and thence in the form of meat products to the consuming cities of the country in the Middle West and East, or, still as livestock, to the feeding places and fattening farms in the Middle West or East for further preparation for the market."[433] The stockyards, therefore, were "not a place of rest or final destination." They were "but a throat through which the current flows," and the sales there were not merely local transactions. "They do not stop the flow;—but, on the contrary" are "indispensable to its continuity."[434]

In Chicago Board of Trade v. Olsen,[435] involving the Grain Futures Act, the same course of reasoning was repeated. Speaking of the Swift Case, Chief Justice Taft remarked: "That case was a milestone in the interpretation of the commerce clause of the Constitution. It [Pg 150]recognized the great changes and development in the business of this vast country and drew again the dividing line between interstate and intrastate commerce where the Constitution intended it to be. It refused to permit local incidents of a great interstate movement, which taken alone were intrastate, to characterize the movement as such."[436] Of special significance, however, is the part of the opinion which was devoted to showing the relation between future sales and cash sales, and hence the effect of the former upon the interstate grain trade. The test, said the Chief Justice, was furnished by the question of price. "The question of price dominates trade between the States. Sales of an article which affect the country-wide price of the article directly affect the country-wide commerce in it."[437] Thus a practice which demonstrably affects prices would also affect interstate trade "directly," and so, even though local in itself, would fall within the regulatory power of Congress. In the following passage, indeed, Chief Justice Taft whittles down, in both cases, the "direct-indirect" formula to the vanishing point: "Whatever amounts to more or less constant practice, and threatens to obstruct or unduly to burden the freedom of interstate commerce is within the regulatory power of Congress under the commerce clause, and it is primarily for Congress to consider and decide the fact of the danger and meet it. This court will certainly not substitute its judgment for that of Congress in such a matter unless the relation of the subject to interstate commerce and its effect upon it are clearly nonexistent."[438] And it was in reliance on the doctrine of these cases that Congress first set to work to combat the Depression in 1933 and the years immediately following. But in fact, much of its legislation at this time marked a wide advance upon the measures just passed in review. They did not stop with regulating traffic among the States and the instrumentalities thereof; they also essayed to govern production and industrial relations in the field of production. Confronted with this revolutionary claim to power on Congress' part, the Court again deemed itself called upon to define a limit to the commerce power that would save to the States their historical sphere, and especially their customary monopoly of legislative power in relation to industry and labor management.


Not all antidepression legislation, however, was of this revolutionary type. The Securities Exchange Act of 1934[439] and the Public Utility Company Act ("Wheeler-Rayburn Act") of 1935[440] were not. The former creates the Securities and Exchange Commission, and authorizes it to lay down regulations designed to keep dealing in [Pg 151]securities honest and above-board and closes the channels of interstate commerce and the mails to dealers refusing to register under the act. The latter requires, by sections 4 (a) and 5, the companies which are governed by it to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission and to inform it concerning their business, organization and financial structure, all on pain of being prohibited use of the facilities of interstate commerce and the mails; while by section 11, the so-called "death sentence" clause, the same act closes after a certain date the channels of interstate communication to certain types of public utility companies whose operations, Congress found, were calculated chiefly to exploit the investing and consuming public. All these provisions have been sustained,[441] Gibbons v. Ogden, furnishing the Court its principal reliance.[442]

[Pg 152] Congressional Regulation of Production and Industrial Relations


In the following words of Chief Justice Hughes, spoken in a case which was decided a few days after President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first inauguration, the problem which confronted the new Administration was clearly set forth: "When industry is grievously hurt, when producing concerns fail, when unemployment mounts and communities dependent upon profitable production are prostrated, the wells of commerce go dry."[443]


The initial effort of Congress to deal with this situation was embodied in the National Industrial Recovery Act of June 16, 1933.[444] The opening section of the act asserted the existence of "a national emergency productive of widespread unemployment and disorganization of industry which" burdened "interstate and foreign commerce," affected "the public welfare," and undermined "the standards of living of the American people." To effect the removal of these conditions the President was authorized, upon the application of industrial or trade groups, to approve "codes of fair competition," or to prescribe the same in cases where such applications were not duly forthcoming. Among other things such codes, of which eventually more than 700 were promulgated, were required to lay down rules of fair dealing with customers and to furnish labor certain guarantees respecting hours, wages and collective bargaining. For the time being business and industry were to be cartelized on a national scale.


In the case of Schechter Corp. v. United States,[445] one of these codes, the Live Poultry Code, was pronounced unconstitutional. Although it was conceded that practically all poultry handled by the Schechters came from outside the State, and hence via interstate commerce, the Court held, nevertheless, that once the chickens came to rest in the Schechters' wholesale market interstate commerce in them ceased. The act, however, also purported to govern business activities which "affected" interstate commerce. This, Chief Justice Hughes held, must be taken to mean "directly" affect such commerce: "the distinction between direct and indirect effects of intrastate transactions upon interstate commerce must be recognized as a fundamental one, essential to the maintenance of our constitutional system. Otherwise, * * *, there would be virtually no limit to the federal power and for all practical purposes we should have a completely centralized government."[446] In short, the case was governed by the ideology of [Pg 153]the Sugar Trust Case, which was not mentioned in the Court's opinion.[447]


Congress' second attempt to combat the Depression comprised the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933.[448] As is pointed out elsewhere the measure was set aside as an attempt to regulate production, a subject which was held to be "prohibited" to the United States by Amendment X.[449] See pp. 917-918.


The third measure to be disallowed was the Guffey-Snyder Bituminous Coal Conservation Act of 1935.[450] The statute created machinery for the regulation of the price of soft coal, both that sold in interstate commerce and that sold "locally," and other machinery for the regulation of hours of labor and wages in the mines. The clauses of the act dealing with these two different matters were declared by the act itself to be separable so that the invalidity of the one set would not affect the validity of the other; but this strategy was ineffectual. A majority of the Court, speaking by Justice Sutherland held that the act constituted one connected scheme of regulation which, inasmuch as it invaded the reserved powers of the States over conditions of employment in productive industry, was violative of the Constitution and void.[451] Justice Sutherland's opinion set out [Pg 154]from Chief Justice Hughes's assertion in the Schechter Case of the "fundamental" character of the distinction between "direct" and "indirect" effects; that is to say, from the doctrine of the Sugar Trust Case. It then proceeded: "Much stress is put upon the evils which come from the struggle between employers and employees over the matter of wages, working conditions, the right of collective bargaining, etc., and the resulting strikes, curtailment and irregularity of production and effect on prices; and it is insisted that interstate commerce is greatly affected thereby. But, ..., the conclusive answer is that the evils are all local evils over which the Federal Government has no legislative control. The relation of employer and employee is a local relation. At common law, it is one of the domestic relations. The wages are paid for the doing of local work. Working conditions are obviously local conditions. The employees are not engaged in or about commerce, but exclusively in producing a commodity. And the controversies and evils, which it is the object of the act to regulate and minimize, are local controversies and evils affecting local work undertaken to accomplish that local result. Such effect as they may have upon commerce, however extensive it may be, is secondary and indirect. An increase in the greatness of the effect adds to its importance. It does not alter its character."[452] We again see the influence of the ideology of the Sugar Trust Case.[453]


The case in which the Court reduced the distinction between "direct" and "indirect" effects to the vanishing point, and thereby put Congress in the way of governing productive industry and labor relations in such industry was National Labor Relations Board v. Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp.,[454] decided April 12, 1937. Here the statute involved was the National Labor Relations Act of July 5, 1935,[455] which forbids "any unfair labor practice affecting interstate commerce" and lists among these "the denial by employers of the right of employees to organize and the refusal by employers to accept the procedure of collective bargaining." Ignoring recent holdings, government counsel appealed to the "current of commerce" concept of the Swift Case. The scope of respondent's activities, they pointed out, was immense. Besides its great steel-producing plants, it owned and operated mines, steamships, and terminal railways scattered through several States, and altogether it gave employment to many thousands of workers. A vast industrial commonwealth such as this, whose operations constantly traversed State lines, comprised, they contended, a species of territorial enclave which was subject in all its parts to the only governmental [Pg 155]power capable of dealing with it as an entity, that is, the National Government. Yet even if this were not so, still the protective power of Congress over interstate commerce must be deemed to extend to disruptive strikes by employees of such an immense concern, and hence to include power to remove the causes of such strikes. The Court, speaking through Chief Justice Hughes, held the corporation to be subject to the act on the latter ground. "The close and intimate effect," said he, "which brings the subject within the reach of federal power may be due to activities in relation to productive industry although the industry when separately viewed is local." Nor will it do to say that such effect is "indirect." Considering defendant's "far-flung activities," the effect of strife between it and its employees "* * * would be immediate and [it] might be catastrophic. We are asked to shut our eyes to the plainest facts of our national life and to deal with the question of direct and indirect effects in an intellectual vacuum. * * * When industries organize themselves on a national scale, making their relation to interstate commerce the dominant factor in their activities, how can it be maintained that their industrial labor relations constitute a forbidden field into which Congress may not enter when it is necessary to protect interstate commerce from the paralyzing consequences of industrial war? We have often said that interstate commerce itself is a practical conception. It is equally true that interferences with that commerce must be appraised by a judgment that does not ignore actual experience."[456]

While the act was thus held to be within the constitutional powers of Congress in relation to a productive concern, the interruption of whose business by strike "might be catastrophic," the decision was forthwith held to apply also to two minor concerns;[457] and in a later case the Court stated specifically that "the smallness of the volume of commerce affected in any particular case" is not a material consideration.[458] Moreover, the doctrine of the Jones-Laughlin Case applies equally to "natural" products, to coal mined, to stone quarried, to fruit and vegetables grown.[459]


In 1938 Congress enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act.[460] The measure prohibits not only the shipment in interstate commerce of [Pg 156]goods manufactured by employees whose wages are less than the prescribed minimum or whose weekly hours of labor are greater than the prescribed maximum, but also the employment of workmen in the production of goods for such commerce at other than the prescribed wages and hours. Interstate commerce is defined by the act to mean "trade, commerce, transportation, transmission, or communication among the several States or from any State to any place outside thereof." It was further provided that "for the purposes of this act an employee shall be deemed to have been engaged in the production of goods [that is, for interstate commerce] if such employee was employed * * *, or in any process or occupation necessary to the production thereof, in any State." Sustaining an indictment under the act, a unanimous Court, speaking by Chief Justice Stone, said: "The motive and purpose of the present regulation are plainly to make effective the congressional conception of public policy that interstate commerce should not be made the instrument of competition in the distribution of goods produced under substandard labor conditions, which competition is injurious to the commerce and to the States from and to which commerce flows."[461] In support of the decision the Court invokes Chief Justice Marshall's reading of the necessary and proper clause in McCulloch v. Maryland and his reading of the commerce clause in Gibbons v. Ogden.[462] Objections purporting to be based on the Tenth Amendment are met from the same point of view: "Our conclusion is unaffected by the Tenth Amendment which provides: '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.' The amendment states but a truism that all is retained which has not been surrendered. There is nothing in the history of its adoption to suggest that it was more than declaratory of the relationship between the national and State governments as it had been established by the Constitution before the amendment or that its purpose was other than to allay fears that the new National Government might seek to exercise powers not granted, and that the States might not be able to exercise fully their reserved powers. See e.g., II Elliot's Debates, 123, 131; III id. 450, 464, 600; IV id. 140, 149; I Annals of Congress, 432, 761, 767-768; Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, §§ 1907-1908."[463] Commenting recently on this decision, former Justice Roberts said: "Of course, the effect of sustaining the Fair Labor Standards Act was to place the whole matter of wages and hours of persons employed throughout the United States, with slight exceptions, under a single federal regulatory scheme and in this way completely to supersede state exercise of the police power in this field."[464] In a series of later cases construing terms of the act, it had been given wide application.[465]


Meantime Congress had returned to the task of bolstering agriculture by passing the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of June 3, 1937,[466] authorizing the Secretary of Agriculture to fix the minimum prices of certain agricultural products, when the handling of such products occurs "in the current of interstate or foreign commerce or * * * directly burdens, obstructs or affects interstate or foreign commerce in such commodity or product thereof." In United States v. Wrightwood Dairy Company[467] the Court sustained an order of the Secretary of Agriculture fixing the minimum prices to be paid to producers of milk in the Chicago "marketing area." The dairy company demurred to the regulation on the ground of its applying to milk produced and sold intrastate. Sustaining the order the Court said: "Congress plainly has power to regulate the price of milk distributed through the medium of interstate commerce, * * *, and it possesses every power needed to make that regulation effective. The commerce power is not confined in its exercise to the regulation of commerce among the States. It extends to those activities intrastate which so affect interstate commerce, or the exertion of the power of Congress over it, as to make regulation of them appropriate means to the attainment of a legitimate end, the effective execution of the granted power to regulate interstate commerce. See McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 421; * * * The power of Congress over interstate commerce is plenary and complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations other than are prescribed in the Constitution. Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 196. It follows that no form of State activity can constitutionally thwart the regulatory power granted by the commerce clause to Congress. Hence the reach of that power extends to those intrastate activities which in a substantial way interfere with or obstruct the exercise of the granted power."[468]

In Wickard v. Filburn[469] a still deeper penetration by Congress into the field of production was sustained. As amended by the act of 1941, the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938,[470] regulates production even when not intended for commerce but wholly for consumption on the producer's farm. Sustaining this extension of the act, the Court pointed out that the effect of the statute was to support the market. It said: "It can hardly be denied that a factor of such volume and variability as home-consumed wheat would have a substantial influence on price and market conditions. This may arise because being in marketable condition such wheat overhangs the market and, if induced by rising prices, tends to flow into the market and check price increases. But if we assume that it is never marketed, it supplies a [Pg 160]need of the man who grew it which would otherwise be reflected by purchases in the open market. Home-grown wheat in this sense competes with wheat in commerce. The stimulation of commerce is a use of the regulatory function quite as definitely as prohibitions or restrictions thereon. This record leaves us in no doubt that Congress may properly have considered that wheat consumed on the farm where grown, if wholly outside the scheme of regulation, would have a substantial effect in defeating and obstructing its purpose to stimulate trade therein at increased prices."[471] And it elsewhere stated: "Questions of the power of Congress are not to be decided by reference to any formula which would give controlling force to nomenclature such as 'production' and 'indirect' and foreclose consideration of the actual effects of the activity in question upon interstate commerce. * * * The Court's recognition of the relevance of the economic effects in the application of the Commerce Clause, * * *, has made the mechanical application of legal formulas no longer feasible."[472]

Acts of Congress Prohibiting Commerce


"Jefferson's Embargo" of 1807-1808, which cut all trade with Europe, was attacked on the ground that the power to regulate commerce was the power to preserve it, not the power to destroy it. This [Pg 161]argument was rejected by Judge Davis of the United States District Court for Massachusetts in the following words: "A national sovereignty is created [by the Constitution]. Not an unlimited sovereignty, but a sovereignty, as to the objects surrendered and specified, limited only by the qualifications and restrictions, expressed in the Constitution. Commerce is one of those objects. The care, protection, management and control, of this great national concern, is, in my opinion, vested by the Constitution, in the Congress of the United States; and their power is sovereign, relative to commercial intercourse, qualified by the limitations and restrictions, expressed in that instrument, and by the treaty making power of the President and Senate. * * * Power to regulate, it is said, cannot be understood to give a power to annihilate. To this it may be replied, that the acts under consideration, though of very ample extent, do not operate as a prohibition of all foreign commerce. It will be admitted that partial prohibitions are authorized by the expression; and how shall the degree, or extent, of the prohibition be adjusted, but by the discretion of the National Government, to whom the subject appears to be committed? * * * The term does not necessarily include shipping or navigation; much less does it include the fisheries. Yet it never has been contended, that they are not the proper objects of national regulation; and several acts of Congress have been made respecting them. * * * [Furthermore] if it be admitted that national regulations relative to commerce, may apply it as an instrument, and are not necessarily confined to its direct aid and advancement, the sphere of legislative discretion is, of course, more widely extended; and, in time of war, or of great impending peril, it must take a still more expanded range. Congress has power to declare war. It, of course, has power to prepare for war; and the time, the manner, and the measure, in the application of constitutional means, seem to be left to its wisdom and discretion. * * * Under the Confederation, * * * we find an express reservation to the State legislatures of the power to pass prohibitory commercial laws, and, as respects exportations, without any limitations. Some of them exercised this power. * * * Unless Congress, by the Constitution, possess the power in question, it still exists in the State legislatures—but this has never been claimed or pretended, since the adoption of the federal Constitution; and the exercise of such a power by the States, would be manifestly inconsistent with the power, vested by the people in Congress, 'to regulate commerce.' Hence I infer, that the power, reserved to the States by the articles of Confederation, is surrendered to Congress, by the Constitution; unless we suppose, that, by some strange process, it has been merged or extinguished, and now exists no where."[473]


Tariff laws have customarily contained prohibitory provisions, and such provisions have been sustained by the Court under Congress's revenue powers (see above) and under its power to regulate foreign commerce. Speaking for the Court in University of Illinois v. United States,[474] in 1933, Chief Justice Hughes said: "The Congress may determine what articles may be imported into this country and the terms upon which importation is permitted. No one can be said to have a vested right to carry on foreign commerce with the United States. * * * It is true that the taxing power is a distinct power; that it is distinct from the power to regulate commerce. * * * It is also true that the taxing power embraces the power to lay duties. Art. I, § 8, cl. 1. But because the taxing power is a distinct power and embraces the power to lay duties, it does not follow that duties may not be imposed in the exercise of the power to regulate commerce. The contrary is well established. Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 202. 'Under the power to regulate foreign commerce Congress impose duties on importations, give drawbacks, pass embargo and nonintercourse laws, and make all other regulations necessary to navigation, to the safety of passengers, and the protection of property.' Groves v. Slaughter, 15 Pet. 449, 505. The laying of duties is 'a common means of executing the power.' 2 Story on the Constitution, § 1088."[475]


The forerunners of more recent acts excluding objectionable commodities from interstate commerce are the laws forbidding the importation of like commodities from abroad. This power Congress has exercised since 1842. In that year it forbade the importation of obscene literature or pictures from abroad.[476] Six years later it passed an act "to prevent the importation of spurious and adulterated drugs" and to provide a system of inspection to make the prohibition effective.[477] Such legislation guarding against the importation of noxiously adulterated foods, drugs, or liquor has been on the statute books ever since. In 1887 the importation by Chinese nationals of smoking opium was prohibited,[478] and subsequent statutes passed in 1909 and 1914 made it unlawful for anyone to import it.[479] In 1897 Congress forbade the importation of any tea "inferior in purity, quality, and fitness for consumption" as compared with a legal standard.[480] The act was sustained in 1904, in the leading case of Buttfield v. Stranahan.[481] In "The Abby Dodge" case an act excluding sponges taken by means of diving or diving apparatus from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico or Straits of Florida was sustained, but construed as not applying to sponges taken from the territorial waters of a State.[482] In Weber v. Freed[483] an act prohibiting the importation and interstate transportation of prize-fight [Pg 163]films or of pictorial representation of prize fights was upheld. Speaking for the unanimous Court, Chief Justice White said: "In view of the complete power of Congress over foreign commerce and its authority to prohibit the introduction of foreign articles recognized and enforced by many previous decisions of this court, the contentions are so devoid of merit as to cause them to be frivolous."[484] In Brolan v. United States[485] the Court again stressed the absolute nature of Congress's power over foreign commerce, saying: "In the argument reference is made to decisions of this court dealing with the subject of the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce, but the very postulate upon which the authority of Congress to absolutely prohibit foreign importations as expounded by the decisions of this court rests is the broad distinction which exists between the two powers and therefore the cases cited and many more which might be cited announcing the principles which they uphold have obviously no relation to the question in hand."[486]


The question whether Congress's power to regulate commerce "among the several States" embraced the power to prohibit it furnished the topic of one of the most protracted debates in the entire history of the Constitution's interpretation, a debate the final resolution of which in favor of Congressional power is an event of first importance for the future of American Federalism. The issue was as early as 1841 brought forward by Henry Clay, in an argument before the Court in which he raised the specter of an act of Congress forbidding the interstate slave trade.[487] The debate was concluded ninety-nine years later by the decision in United States v. Darby, in which the Fair Labor Standards Act was sustained. The résumé of it which is given below is based on judicial opinions, arguments of counsel, and the writings of jurists and political scientists. Much of this material was evoked by efforts of Congress, from about 1905 onward, to stop the shipment interstate of the products of child labor.


The earliest such acts were in the nature of quarantine regulations and usually dealt solely with interstate transportation. In 1884 the exportation or shipment in interstate commerce of livestock having any infectious disease was forbidden.[488] In 1903 power was conferred upon the Secretary of Agriculture to establish regulations to prevent the spread of such diseases through foreign or interstate commerce.[489] In 1905 the same official was authorized to lay an absolute embargo or quarantine upon all shipments of cattle from one State to another when the public necessity might demand it.[490] A statute passed in 1905 forbade the transportation in foreign and interstate commerce and the mails of certain varieties of moths, plant lice, and other insect pests injurious to plant crops, trees, and other vegetation.[491] In 1912 a similar exclusion of diseased nursery stock was decreed,[492] while by the same act, and again by an act of 1917,[493] the Secretary of Agriculture was invested with powers of quarantine on interstate commerce for the protection of plant life from disease similar to those above described for the prevention of the spread of animal disease. While the Supreme Court originally held federal quarantine regulations of this sort to be constitutionally inapplicable to intrastate shipments of livestock, on the ground that federal authority extends only to foreign and interstate commerce,[494] this view has today been abandoned. See pp. 248-249.


The first case to come before the Court in which the issues discussed above were canvassed at all thoroughly was Champion v. Ames,[495] involving the act of 1895 "for the suppression of lotteries."[496] An earlier act excluding lottery tickets from the mails had been upheld in the earlier case of In re Rapier,[497] on the proposition that Congress clearly had the power to see that the very facilities furnished by it were not put to bad uses. But in the case of commerce the facilities are not ordinarily furnished by the National Government, and the right to engage in foreign and interstate commerce comes from the Constitution itself, or is anterior to it.

How difficult the Court found the question produced by the act of 1895, forbidding any person to bring within the United States or to cause to be "carried from one State to another" any lottery ticket, or an equivalent thereof, "for the purpose of disposing of the same," is shown by the fact that the case was thrice argued before the Court, and the fact that the Court's decision finally sustaining the act was a five-to-four decision. The opinion of the Court, on the other hand, prepared by Justice Harlan, marked an almost unqualified triumph at the time for the view that Congress's power to regulate commerce among the States includes the power to prohibit it, especially to supplement and support State legislation enacted under the police power.[498] Early in the opinion extensive quotation is made from Chief Justice Marshall's opinion in Gibbons v. Ogden,[499] with special stress upon the definition there given of the phrase "to regulate." Justice Johnson's assertion on the same occasion is also given: "The power of a sovereign State over commerce, * * *, amounts to nothing more than, a power to limit and restrain it at pleasure." Further along is quoted with evident approval Justice Bradley's statement in Brown v. Houston,[500] that "the power to regulate commerce among the several States is granted to Congress in terms as absolute as is the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations."


Following in the wake of Champion v. Ames, Congress has repeatedly brought its prohibitory powers over interstate commerce and communications to the support of certain local policies of the States in the exercise of their reserved powers, thereby aiding them in the repression of the liquor traffic,[501] of traffic in game taken in violation of State laws,[502] of commerce in convict-made goods,[503] of the white slave traffic,[504] of traffic in stolen motor vehicles,[505] of kidnapping,[506] of traffic in [Pg 170]stolen property,[507] of racketeering,[508] of prize-fight films or other pictorial representation of encounters of pugilists.[509] The conception of the Federal System on which the Court based its validation of this legislation was stated by it in 1913 in sustaining the Mann "White Slave" Act in the following words: "Our dual form of government has its perplexities, State and Nation having different spheres of jurisdiction, * * *, but it must be kept in mind that we are one people; and the powers reserved to the States and those conferred on the Nation are adapted to be exercised, whether independently or concurrently, to promote the general welfare, material, and moral."[510] At the same time, the Court made it plain that in prohibiting commerce among the States, Congress was equally free to support State legislative policy or to devise a policy of its own. "Congress," it said, "may exercise this authority in aid of the policy of the State, if it sees fit to do so. It is equally clear that the policy of Congress acting independently of the States may induce legislation without reference to the particular policy or law of any given State. Acting within the authority conferred by the Constitution it is for Congress to determine what legislation will attain its purposes. The control of Congress over interstate commerce is not to be limited by State laws."[511]


However, it is to be noted that none of this legislation operated in the field of industrial relations. So when the Court was confronted in 1918, in the case of Hammer v. Dagenhart,[512] with an act which forbade manufacturers and others to offer child-made goods for transportation in interstate commerce,[513] it held the act, by the narrow vote of five Justices to four, to be not an act regulative of commerce among the States, but one which invaded the reserved powers of the States. "The maintenance of the authority of the States over matters purely local," said Justice Day for the Court, "is as essential to the preservation of our institutions as is the conservation of the supremacy of [Pg 171]the federal power in all matters entrusted to the Nation by the Federal Constitution."[514] As to earlier decisions sustaining Congress's prohibitory powers, Justice Day said: "In each of these instances the use of interstate transportation was necessary to the accomplishment of harmful results. * * * This element is wanting in the present case. * * * The goods shipped are in themselves harmless. * * * When offered for shipment, and before transportation begins, the labor of their production is over, and the mere fact that they were intended for interstate commerce transportation does not make their production subject to federal control under the commerce power. * * * 'When commerce begins is determined, not by the character of the commodity, nor by the intention of the owner to transfer it to another State for sale, * * *, but by its actual delivery to a common carrier for transportation, * * *' (Mr. Justice Jackson in In re Greene, 52 Fed. Rep. 113). This principle has been recognized often in this court. Coe v. Errol, 116 U.S. 517 * * *."[515]

The decision in Hammer v. Dagenhart was, in short, governed by the same general conception of the interstate commerce process as that which governed the decision in the Sugar Trust Case. Commerce was envisaged as beginning only with an act of transportation from one State to another. And from this it was deduced that the only commerce which Congress may prohibit is an act of transportation from one State to the other which is followed in the latter by an act within the normal powers of government to prohibit. Commerce, however, is primarily traffic; and the theory of the Child Labor Act was that it was designed to discourage a widespread and pernicious interstate traffic in the products of child labor—pernicious because it bore "a real and substantial relation" to the existence of child labor employment in some States and constituted a direct inducement to its spread to other States. Deprived of the interstate market which this decision secured to it, child labor could not exist.


In Brooks v. United States,[516] decided in 1925, the Court, in sustaining the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act of 1919,[517] materially impaired the ratio decidendi of Hammer v. Dagenhart. At the outset of his opinion for the Court, Chief Justice Taft stated the general proposition that "Congress can certainly regulate interstate commerce to the extent of forbidding and punishing the use of such commerce as an agency to promote immorality, dishonesty or the spread of any evil or harm to the people of other States from the State of origin." [Pg 172]This statement was buttressed by a review of previous cases, including the explanation that the goods involved in Hammer v. Dagenhart were "harmless" and did not spread harm to persons in other States. Passing then to the measure before the Court, the Chief Justice noted "the radical change in transportation" brought about by the automobile, and the rise of "elaborately organized conspiracies for the theft of automobiles * * *, and their sale or other disposition" in another police jurisdiction from the owner's. This, the opinion declared, "is a gross misuse of interstate commerce. Congress may properly punish such interstate transportation by anyone with knowledge of the theft, because of its harmful result and its defeat of the property rights of those whose machines against their will are taken into other jurisdictions."[518]

The Motor Vehicle Act was sustained, therefore, mainly as protective of owners of automobiles, that is to say, of interests in "the State of origin." It was designed to repress automobile thefts, and that notwithstanding the obvious fact that such thefts must necessarily occur before transportation of the thing stolen can take place, that is, under the formula followed in Hammer v. Dagenhart, before Congress's power over interstate commerce becomes operative. Also, the Court took cognizance of "elaborately organized conspiracies" for the theft and disposal of automobiles across State lines—that, to say, of a widespread traffic in such property.


The formal overruling of Hammer v. Dagenhart, however, did not occur until 1941 when, in sustaining the Fair Labor Standards Act, a unanimous Court, speaking by Justice Stone, said: "Hammer v. Dagenhart has not been followed. The distinction on which the decision was rested that Congressional power to prohibit interstate commerce is limited to articles which in themselves have some harmful or deleterious property—a distinction which was novel when made and unsupported by any provision of the Constitution—has long since been abandoned. * * * The thesis of the opinion that the motive of the prohibition or its effect to control in some measure the use or production within the States of the article thus excluded from the commerce can operate to deprive the regulation of its constitutional authority has long since ceased to have force. * * * And finally we have declared 'The authority of the Federal Government over interstate commerce does not differ in extent or character from that retained by the States over intrastate commerce.' United States v. Rock Royal Co-operative, 307 U.S. 533, 569. The conclusion is inescapable that [Pg 173]Hammer v. Dagenhart, was a departure from the principles which have prevailed in the interpretation of the Commerce Clause both before and since the decision and that such vitality, as a precedent, as it then had has long since been exhausted. It should be and now is overruled."[519] And commenting in a recent case on the Fair Labor Standards Act, Justice Burton, speaking for the Court said: "The primary purpose of the act is not so much to regulate interstate commerce as such, as it is, through the exercise of legislative power, to prohibit the shipment of goods in interstate commerce if they are produced under substandard labor conditions."[520]


In view of these developments the following dictum by Justice Frankfurter, was no doubt, intended to be reassuring as to the future of the Federal System: "The interpenetrations of modern society have not wiped out State lines. It is not for us [the Court] to make inroads upon our federal system either by indifference to its maintenance or excessive regard for the unifying forces of modern technology. Scholastic reasoning may prove that no activity is isolated within the boundaries of a single State, but that cannot justify absorption of legislative power by the United States over every activity."[521] While this may be conceded, the unmistakable lesson of recent cases is that the preservation of our Federal System depends today mainly upon Congress.

The Commerce Clause as a Restraint on State Powers


The grant of power to Congress over commerce, unlike that of power to levy customs duties, the power to raise armies, and some others, is unaccompanied by correlative restrictions on State power. This circumstance does not, however, of itself signify that the States were expected still to participate in the power thus granted Congress, subject only to the operation of the supremacy clause. As Hamilton points out in The Federalist, while some of the powers which are vested in the National Government admit of their "concurrent" exercise by the States, others are of their very nature "exclusive," and hence render the notion of a like power in the States "contradictory and repugnant."[522] As an example of the latter kind of power Hamilton mentioned the power of Congress to pass a uniform naturalization law. Was the same principle expected to apply to the power over foreign and interstate commerce?

[Pg 174]

Unquestionably one of the great advantages anticipated from the grant to Congress of power over commerce was that State interferences with trade, which had become a source of sharp discontent under the Articles of Confederation, would be thereby brought to an end. As Webster stated in his argument for appellant in Gibbons v. Ogden: "The prevailing motive was to regulate commerce; to rescue it from the embarrassing and destructive consequences, resulting from the legislation of so many different States, and to place it under the protection of a uniform law." In other words, the constitutional grant was itself a regulation of commerce in the interest of uniformity. Justice Johnson's testimony in his concurring opinion in the same case is to like effect: "There was not a State in the Union, in which there did not, at that time, exist a variety of commercial regulations; * * * By common consent, those laws dropped lifeless from their statute books, for want of sustaining power that had been relinquished to Congress";[523] and Madison's assertion, late in life, that power had been granted Congress over interstate commerce mainly as "a negative and preventive provision against injustice among the States,"[524] carries a like implication.

That, however, the commerce clause, unimplemented by Congressional legislation, took from the States any and all power over foreign and interstate commerce was by no means universally conceded; and Ogden's attorneys directly challenged the idea. Moreover, as was pointed out on both sides in Gibbons v. Ogden, legislation by Congress regulative of any particular phase of commerce would still leave many other phases unregulated and consequently raise the question whether the States were entitled to fill the remaining gaps, if not by virtue of a "concurrent" power over interstate and foreign commerce, then by virtue of "that immense mass of legislation," as Marshall termed it, "which embraces everything within the territory of a State, not surrendered to the general government,"[525]—in a word, the "police power."

The commerce clause does not, therefore, without more ado, settle the question of what power is left to the States to adopt legislation regulating foreign or interstate commerce in greater or less measure. To be sure, in cases of flat conflict between an act or acts of Congress regulative of such commerce and a State legislative act or acts, from whatever State power ensuing, the act of Congress is today recognized, and was recognized by Marshall, as enjoying an unquestionable supremacy.[526] But suppose, first, that Congress has passed no act; or secondly, that its legislation does not clearly cover the ground which certain State legislation before the Court attempts to cover—what rules then apply? Since Gibbons v. Ogden both of these situations [Pg 175]have confronted the Court, especially as regards interstate commerce, hundreds of times, and in meeting them the Court has, first and last, coined or given currency to numerous formulas, some of which still guide, even when they do not govern, its judgment.


The earliest, and the most successful, attempt to set forth a principle capable of guiding the Court in adjusting the powers of the States to unexercised power of Congress under the commerce clause was that which was made by Daniel Webster in his argument in Gibbons v. Ogden, in the following words: "He contended, * * *, that the people intended, in establishing the Constitution, to transfer from the several States to a general government, those high and important powers over commerce, which, in their exercise, were to maintain a uniform and general system. From the very nature of the case, these powers must be exclusive; that is, the higher branches of commercial regulation must be exclusively committed to a single hand. What is it that is to be regulated? Not the commerce of the several States, respectively, but the commerce of the United States. Henceforth, the commerce of the States was to be a unit; and the system by which it was to exist and be governed, must necessarily be complete, entire and uniform." At the same time Webster conceded "that the words used in the Constitution, 'to regulate commerce,' are so very general and extensive, that they might be construed to cover a vast field of legislation, part of which has always been occupied by State laws; and therefore, the words must have a reasonable construction, and the power should be considered as exclusively vested in Congress, so far, and so far only, as the nature of the power requires."[527]

Webster also dealt with the problem which arises when Congress has exercised its power. The results of its act, he contended, must be treated as a unit, so that when Congress had left subject matter within its jurisdiction unregulated, it must be deemed to have done so of design, and its omissions, or silences, accordingly be left undisturbed by State action. Although Marshall, because he thought the New York act creating the Livingston-Fulton monopoly to be in direct conflict with the Enrolling and Licensing Act of 1793, was not compelled to pass on either of Webster's theories, he indicated his sympathy with them.[528]


Aside from Marshall's opinion in 1827 in Brown v. Maryland,[529] in which the famous "original package" formula made its debut, the [Pg 176]most important utterance of the Court touching interpretation of the commerce clause as a restriction on State legislative power is that for which Cooley v. Board of Wardens of Port of Philadelphia,[530] decided in 1851, is usually cited. The question at issue was the validity of a Pennsylvania pilotage act so far as it applied to vessels engaged in foreign commerce and the coastwise trade. The Court, speaking through Justice Curtis, sustained the act on the basis of a distinction between those subjects of commerce which "imperatively demand a single uniform rule" operating throughout the country and those which "as imperatively" demand "that diversity which alone can meet the local necessities of navigation," that is to say, of commerce. As to the former the Court held Congress's power to be "exclusive"—as to the latter it held that the States enjoyed a power of "concurrent legislation."

While this formula obviously stems directly from Webster's argument in Gibbons v. Ogden, it covers considerably less ground. Citation, nevertheless, of the Cooley case throughout the next half century eliminated the difference and brought the Curtis dictum abreast of Webster's earlier argument. The doctrine consequently came to be established, first, that Congress's power over interstate commerce is "exclusive" as to those phases of it which require "uniform regulation"; second, that outside this field, as plotted by the Court, the States enjoyed a "concurrent" power of regulation, subject to Congress's overriding power.[531]


But meantime other formulas had emerged from the judicial smithy, several of which are brought together into something like a doctrinal system, in Justice Hughes' comprehensive opinion for the Court in the Minnesota Rate Cases,[532] decided in 1913. "Direct" regulation of foreign or interstate commerce by a State is here held to be out of the question. At the same time, the States have their police and taxing powers, and may use them as their own views of sound public policy may dictate even though interstate commerce may be "incidentally" or "indirectly" regulated, it being understood that such "incidental" or "indirect" effects are always subject to Congressional disallowance. "Our system of government," Justice Hughes reflects, "is a practical adjustment by which the National authority as [Pg 177]conferred by the Constitution is maintained in its fall scope without unnecessary loss of local efficiency."[533]

In more concrete terms, the varied formulas which characterize this branch of our Constitutional Law have been devised by the Court from time to time in an endeavor to effect "a practical adjustment" between two great interests, the maintenance of freedom of commerce except so far as Congress may choose to restrain it, and the maintenance in the States of efficient local governments. Thus, while formulas may serve to steady and guide its judgment, the Court's real function in this area of judicial review is essentially that of an arbitral or quasi-legislative body. So much so is this the case that in 1940 three Justices joined in an opinion in which they urged that the business of drawing the line between the immunity of interstate commerce and the taxing power of the States "should be left to the legislatures of the States and the Congress," with the final remedy in the hands of the latter.[534]

State Taxing Power and Foreign Commerce


The leading case under this heading is Brown v. Maryland,[535] decided in 1827, the issue in which was the validity of a Maryland statute requiring "all importers of foreign articles or commodities," preparatory to selling the same, to take out a license. Holding this act to be void under both article I, sec. 10, and the commerce clause, the Court, speaking through Chief Justice Marshall, advanced the following propositions: (1) that "commerce is intercourse; one of its most ordinary ingredients is traffic"; (2) that the right to import includes the right to sell; (3) that a tax on the sale of an article is a tax on the article itself—a conception of the incidence of taxation which has at times had important repercussions in other fields of Constitutional Law; (4) that the taxing power of the State does not extend in any form to imports from abroad so long as they remain [Pg 178]"the property of the importer, in his warehouse, in the original form or package" in which they were imported—the famous "original package doctrine"; (5) that once, however, the importer parts with his importations "or otherwise mixes them with the general property of the State by breaking up his packages," the law may treat them as part and parcel of such property; (6) that even while in the original package imports are subject to the incidental operation of police measures adopted by the State in good faith for the protection of the public against apparent dangers. Lastly, in determining whether a State law amounts to a regulation of commerce the Court would, Marshall announced, be guided by "substance" and not by "form"—a proposition which has many times opened the way to extensive inquiries by the Court into the actualities both of commercial practice and of State administration.

The decision in Brown v. Maryland, but more especially the "original package doctrine" there laid down, has been sometimes criticised as going too far. It would have been sufficient, the critics contend, for the Court to have held the Maryland act void on account of its obviously discriminatory character; and they urge that original packages receiving the protection of the State ought to be subject to nondiscriminatory taxation by it. The criticism was partially anticipated by Marshall himself in the apprehensions which he voiced that any concession to "the great importing States" might be turned by them against the rest of the country. Indeed, he is uncertain whether the original package doctrine will prove sufficient for its purposes and accordingly offers it not as a rule "universal in its application," but rather as a stop-gap principle. History has proved, however, that in this he builded better than he knew. For in the field of foreign commerce the original package doctrine has never been disturbed, and it has scarcely been added to; and so confined, it has never been surpassed by any later piece of judicial legislation, whether in point of durability or in that of definiteness and easy comprehensibility.[536]

State Taxation of the Subject Matter of Interstate Commerce


The task of drawing the line between State power and the commercial interest has proved a comparatively simple one in the field of foreign commerce, the two things being in great part territorially distinct. With "commerce among the States" it is very different. This is conducted in the interior of the country, by persons and [Pg 179]corporations that are ordinarily engaged also in local business; its usual incidents are acts which, if unconnected with commerce among the States, would fall within the State's powers of police and taxation; while the things it deals in and the instruments by which it is carried on comprise the most ordinary subject matter of State power. In this field the Court has, consequently, been unable to rely upon sweeping solutions. To the contrary, its judgments have often been fluctuating and tentative, even contradictory; and this is particularly the case as respects the infringement of the State taxing power on interstate commerce. In the words of Justice Frankfurter: "The power of the States to tax and the limitations upon that power imposed by the Commerce Clause have necessitated a long, continuous process of judicial adjustment. The need for such adjustment is inherent in a Federal Government like ours, where the same transaction has aspects that may concern the interests and involve the authority of both the central government and the constituent States. The history of this problem is spread over hundreds of volumes of our Reports. To attempt to harmonize all that has been said in the past would neither clarify what has gone before nor guide the future. Suffice it to say that especially in this field opinions must be read in the setting of the particular cases and as the product of preoccupation with their special facts."[537]


The great leading case dealing with the relation of the State's taxing power to interstate commerce is that of the State Freight Tax,[538] decided in 1873. The question before the Court was the validity of a Pennsylvania statute, passed eight years earlier, which required every company transporting freight within the State, with certain exceptions, to pay a tax at specified rates on each ton of freight carried by it. Overturning the act, the Court held: "(1) The transportation of freight, or of the subjects of commerce, is a constituent part of commerce itself; (2) a tax upon freight, transported from State to State, is a regulation of commerce among the States; (3) whenever the subjects in regard to which a power to regulate commerce is asserted are in their nature National, or admit of one uniform system or plan of regulation, they are exclusively within the regulating control of Congress; (4) transportation of passengers or merchandise through a State, or from one State to another, is of this nature; (5) hence a statute of a State imposing a tax upon freight, taken up within the State and carried out of it, or taken up without the State and brought within it, is repugnant to that provision of the Constitution of the United States, which ordains that 'Congress shall have power to regulate [Pg 180]commerce with foreign nations and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.'"[539]


States, therefore, may not tax property in transit in interstate commerce. A nondiscriminatory tax, however, is permitted if the goods have not yet started in interstate commerce, or have completed the interstate transit even though still in the original package, unless they are foreign imports in the original package; and States may also impose a nondiscriminatory tax when there is a break in an interstate transit, and the goods have not been restored to the current of interstate commerce. Such is the law in brief. Two questions arise, first, when do goods originating in a State pass from under its power to tax; and, second, when do goods arriving from another State lose their immunity?

The leading case dealing with the first of these questions is Coe v. Errol,[540] in which the matter at issue was the right of the town of Errol, New Hampshire, to tax certain logs on their way to points in Maine, while they lay in the river before the town or along its shore awaiting the spring freshets and consequent rise of the river. As to the logs in the river, which had come from Maine on their way to Lewiston in the same State, but had been detained at Errol by low water, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire itself ruled that the local tax did not apply, the logs being still in transit. As to the logs which had been cut in New Hampshire and lay on the shore or in tributaries of the river, both courts were again in agreement that they were still subject to local taxation, notwithstanding the intention of their owners to send them out of the State. Said Justice Bradley: "* * * goods do not cease to be part of the general mass of property in the State, subject, as such, to its jurisdiction, and to taxation in the usual way, until they have been shipped, or entered with a common carrier for [Pg 181]transportation to another State, or have been started upon such transportation in a continuous route or journey."[541]


Under the above rule, obviously, production is not interstate commerce even though the thing produced is intended for the interstate market. Thus a Pennsylvania ad valorem tax on anthracite coal when prepared and ready for shipment was held not to be an interference with interstate commerce although applied to coal destined for a market in other States;[542] and in Oliver Iron Company v. Lord[543] an occupation tax on the mining of iron ore was upheld, although substantially all of the ore was immediately and continuously loaded on cars and shipped into other States. Said the Court: "Mining is not interstate commerce, but, * * * subject to local regulation and taxation. Its character in this regard is intrinsic, is not affected by the intended use or disposal of the product, is not controlled by contractual engagements, and persists even though the business be conducted in close connection with interstate commerce."[544] Likewise an annual privilege tax on the business of producing natural gas in the State, computed on the value of the gas produced "as shown by the gross proceeds derived from the sale thereof by the producer," was held constitutional even though most of the gas passed into interstate commerce in continuous movement from the wells.[545] And in Utah Power and Light Co. v. Pfost[546] the generation of electricity in a State was held to be distinguishable from its transmission over wires to consumers in another State, and hence taxable by the former State. Likewise, a State statute imposing a privilege tax on the production of mechanical power for sale or use did not contravene the interstate commerce clause although applied to an engine operating a compressor to increase the pressure of natural gas and thereby permit it to be transported to purchasers in other States.[547] Similarly, a tax so much per pound on shrimp taken within the three-mile belt of the coast of the taxing State was valid, since the taxable event, the taking of the shrimp, occurred before they could be said to have entered the interstate commerce stream.[548]


But while the production of goods intended for the interstate market is taxable by the State where it takes place, their purchase for an established market in another State is interstate commerce and as such is neither regulatable nor taxable by the State of origin, provided at any rate their trans-shipment is not unduly delayed.[549] Thus, oil gathered into the pipe lines of a distributing company and intended for the most part for customers outside the State, is in interstate commerce from the moment it leaves the wells;[550] and a like result has been reached as to natural gas.[551] "The typical and actual course of events," says the Court, "marks the carriage of the greater part as commerce among the States and theoretical possibilities may be left out of account."[552]


But the question also arises as to when goods entering a State from another State become part of the mass of property of the former and hence taxable by it? In Brown v. Maryland,[553] Chief Justice Marshall, had remarked at the close of his opinion, "We suppose the principles laid down in this case, apply equally to importations from a sister State."[554] Forty-two years later, in Woodruff v. Parham,[555] an effort was made to induce the Court, in reliance on this dictum, to apply the original package doctrine against a Mobile, Alabama tax on sales at auction, so far as it reached "imports" from sister States. [Pg 183]The Court refused the invitation; first on the ground that Marshall's statement was obiter, the point not having been involved in Brown v. Maryland; second, because usage contemporary with the Constitution and of the Constitution itself confined the term "imports" as employed in article I, section 10 to imports from abroad; third, because the tax in question was nondiscriminatory. At the same time, nevertheless, reference was made to the power of Congress to interpose at any time in exercise of its power over commerce, "in such a manner as to prevent the States from any oppressive interference with the free interchange of commodities by the citizens of one State with those of another."[556] The same result was reached a few years later in Brown v. Houston,[557] where it was held that coal transported down the Mississippi from Pennsylvania had been validly subjected by Louisiana to a general ad valorem property tax, having "come to its place of rest, for final disposal or use," and hence become "a part of the general mass of property in the State."[558] Again, however, a caveat was entered in behalf of the power of Congress to impose a different rule affording "a temporary exemption" of property transported from one State to another from taxation by the latter.[559]


Woodruff v. Parham and Brown v. Houston are still good law for the most part.[560] Nevertheless, there is one respect in which imports from sister States are treated as "imports" in the sense of the Constitution, and that is in being exempt from "unreasonable" inspection charges.[561] It is true, also, that in a series of cases involving sales of oil about 1920 the Court appeared to be contemplating reviving the original package doctrine,[562] but these holdings were presently "qualified" in a sweeping opinion by Chief Justice Taft, reviewing the cases.[563] But taxation is one thing, prohibition another. In the field of the police power, where its applicability was not so much as suggested in Brown v. Maryland, the original package doctrine has been frequently invoked by the Court against State legislation, and even today, perhaps retains a spark of life.[564]


By the same token, local sales of goods brought into a State from another State are subject to a nondiscriminatory exercise of its taxing power. Such a tax, the Court has said, "has never been regarded as imposing a direct burden upon interstate commerce and has no greater or different effect upon that commerce than a general property tax to which all those enjoying the protection of the State may be subjected"; and this is true, even of goods immediately to be used in interstate commerce.[565] The commerce clause, therefore, does not prohibit a State from imposing special license taxes on merchants using profit sharing coupons and trading stamps although the coupons may have been inserted in retail packages by the manufacturer or shipper outside the State and are redeemable outside the State, either by such manufacturer or shipper, or by some other agency outside the State;[566] nor yet a nondiscriminatory tax upon local peddling of goods and sales thereof by peddlers even though the goods are foreign or interstate imports, since the sale occurs after foreign or interstate commerce thereof has ended.[567] And in Kehrer v. Stewart[568] it was held that a State tax upon resident managing agents of nonresident meatpacking houses did not conflict with the commerce clause, regardless of the fact that the greater portion of the business was interstate in character, the tax having been construed by the highest court of the State as applying only to the business of selling to local customers from the stock of "original packages" shipped into the State without a previous sale or contract to sell, and kept and held for sale in the ordinary course of trade. Contrariwise, a tax on sales discriminatory in its incidence against merchandise because of its origin in another State is ipso facto unconstitutional. The leading case is Welton v. Missouri,[569] decided in 1876, in which a peddler's license tax confined to the sale of goods manufactured outside the State was set aside. The doctrine of Welton v. Missouri has been reiterated many times.[570]


It also follows logically from Coe v. Errol,[571] and the cases deriving from it, that a State may impose a nondiscriminatory tax when there is a break in interstate transit, and the goods have not been restored to the current of interstate commerce. The effect of an interruption upon the continuity of an interstate movement depends upon its causes and purposes. If the delay is due to the necessities of the journey, as in the Coe case, where the logs were detained for a time within the State by low water, they are deemed "in the course of commercial transportation, and * * * clearly under the protection of the Constitution."[572] Intention thus often enters into the determination of the question whether goods from another State have come to rest sufficiently to subject them to the local taxing power. In a typical case the Court held that oil shipped from Pennsylvania and held in tanks in Memphis, Tennessee for separation, distribution and reshipment, was subject to the taxing power of the latter State.[573] The delay in transportation resulting from these proceedings on the part of the owners, the Court pointed out, was clearly designed for their own profit and convenience and was not a necessary incident to the method of transportation adopted, as had been the delay of the logs coming from Maine in Coe v. Errol. The distinction is fundamental.[574]

Applying this rule in more recent cases, the Court has upheld State taxation: on the use and storage of gasoline brought into the State by a railroad company and unloaded and stored there, to be used for its interstate trains;[575] on gasoline imported and stored by an airplane company and withdrawn to fill airplanes that use it in their interstate travel;[576] on supplies brought into the State by an interstate railroad company to be used in replacements, repairs and extensions, [Pg 186]and installed immediately upon arrival in the taxing State;[577] on equipment brought into the State by a telephone and telegraph company for operation, maintenance, and repair of its interstate system.[578] In all these cases the Court applied the principle that "use and storage" are subject to local taxation when "there is an interval after the articles have reached the end of their interstate movement and before their consumption in interstate operation has begun."[579] On the other hand, in the absence of such an "interval," the Court declared invalid State gasoline taxes imposed per gallon of gasoline imported by interstate carriers as fuel for use in such vehicles, and used within the State as well as in their interstate travel.[580]


But there is one situation in which goods introduced into one State from another have until recent years enjoyed a special immunity from taxation by the former, and that is when they were introduced in consequence of a contract of sale. The leading case is Robbins v. Shelby County Taxing District,[581] in which the Court, after a penetrating survey of commercial practices, ruled that "the negotiation of sales of goods"—in this instance by sample—"which are in another State, for the purpose of introducing them into the State in which the negotiation is made, is interstate commerce." In short, whereas in foreign commerce, importation is succeeded by the right to sell in the original package, in interstate commerce sale was succeeded by the right of importation, which continued until the goods reached the hands of the purchaser. The benefits of this holding were extended in a series of rulings in which it was held to apply whether solicitation of orders was or was not made with sample,[582] and to sales which were not, accurately speaking, consummated until the actual delivery of the goods, [Pg 187]which was attended by local incidents. So, where a North Carolina agent of a Chicago firm took orders for framed pictures, which were then sent to him packed separately from the frames and then framed by him before delivery, the rule laid down in the Robbins case was held to apply throughout, with the result that North Carolina could tax or license no part of the transaction described;[583] so also as to a sewing machine ordered by a customer in North Carolina and sent to her C.O.D.;[584] so also as to brooms sent in quantity for the fulfillment of a number of orders, and subject to rejection by the purchaser if deemed by him not up to sample.[585] Said Justice Holmes in the case last referred to: "'Commerce among the States' is a practical conception not drawn from the 'witty diversities' * * * of the law of sales. * * * The brooms were specifically appropriated to specific contracts, in a practical, if not in a technical, sense. Under such circumstances it is plain that, wherever might have been the title, the transport of the brooms for the purpose of fulfilling the contracts was protected commerce."[586] Nor did it make any difference that the solicitor received his compensation in form of down payment by the purchaser.[587] Moreover, sales under a mail order business, with delivery taking place within the State to a carrier for through shipment to another State to fill orders, was held to be beyond the taxing power of the first State.[588] The fact that a concern doing a strictly interstate business had goods on hand within the State which were capable of being used in intrastate commerce, did not, the Court declared, take the business out of the protection of the commerce clause and allow the State to impose a privilege tax on such concern.


On the other hand, it was early held that the rule laid down in the Robbins case did not prevent a State from taxing a resident citizen [Pg 188]who engaged in a general commission business, on the profits thereof, although the business consisted "for the time being, wholly or partially in negotiating sales between resident and nonresident merchants, of goods situated in another State."[589] Also, it has been held that a stamp tax on transfers of corporate stock, as applied to a sale between two nonresidents, of the stock of foreign railway corporations, was not an interference with interstate commerce.[590] Likewise, the business of taking orders on commission for the purchase and sale of grain and cotton for future delivery not necessitating interstate shipment was ruled not to be interstate commerce, and as such exempt from taxation, although deliveries were sometimes made by interstate shipment.[591] And in Banker Bros. Co. v. Pennsylvania[592] it was held that a tax upon a domestic corporation selling automobiles built by a foreign corporation under an arrangement by which the latter agreed to build for and sell to the former, for cash, at a specified price less than list price, was not a tax on interstate transactions, there being nothing which connected the ultimate buyer with the manufacturer but a warranty and the buyer's agreement to pay the list price f.o.b. factory. Similarly, in Browning v. Waycross[593] it was held that the business of erecting lightning rods within the limits of a town by the agent of a nonresident manufacturer on whose behalf such agent had solicited orders for the sale of the rods, and from whom he had received them when shipped into the State, was validly subjected to a municipal license tax. "It was not," said the Court, "within the power of the parties by the form of their contract to convert what was exclusively a local business, * * *, into an interstate commerce business * * *"[594] Also, a municipal license tax upon persons engaged in the business of buying or selling cotton for themselves was found not to impose a forbidden burden upon interstate commerce even though the cotton was purchased with a view to ultimate shipment in some other State or country.[595] Nor was a gallonage tax imposed by a State upon a distributor of liquid fuel rendered repugnant to the commerce clause by the fact that the distributor caused fuel sold to customers in the State to be shipped from another State for delivery in tank cars—"deemed original packages"—on purchaser's siding, as agreed. Said the Court: "The contracts were executory and related to unascertained goods. * * * It does not appear that when they were made appellant had any fuels of the kinds covered, or that those to be delivered were then in existence. There was no selection of goods by purchasers. Appellant was not required by the contracts to obtain the fuels at Wilmington but was free to effect performance by shipping from, any place within or without Pennsylvania."[596]


In the cases reviewed in the preceding paragraph protestants against local taxation appealed, but unavailingly, to the Robbins case. So it would seem that the generative powers of that prolific precedent had begun to wane somewhat even before the Depression, an event which rendered judicial reaction against it still more pronounced. Indeed, by the Court's decision in McGoldrick v. Berwind-White Co.,[597] in 1940, the authority of the entire line of cases descending from Robbins v. Shelby County Taxing District was seriously impaired, for the time being, while a second holding the same year seemed to reduce the significance of the Robbins case itself to that of a reassertion of the elementary rule against discrimination. "The commerce clause," Justice Reed remarked sententiously, "forbids discrimination, whether forthright or ingenious."[598]


With a majority of the States on the verge of bankruptcy, extensive recourse was had to sales taxes and, as an offset to these in favor of the local economy, "use" taxes on competing products coming from sister States. The basic decision sustaining the use tax, in this novel employment of it, was Henneford v. Silas Mason Co.,[599] in which was involved a State of Washington two per cent tax on the privilege of using products coming from sister States. Excepted from the tax, on the other hand, was any property the sole use of which had already been subjected to an equal or greater tax, whether under the laws of Washington or any other State. Stressing this provision in its opinion, the Court said: "Equality is the theme that runs through all the sections of the statute. * * * When the account is made up, the stranger from afar is subject to no greater burdens as a consequence of ownership than the dweller within the gates."[600] There being no actual discrimination in favor of Washington products, the tax was valid.


A companion piece of the Henneford case in motivation, although it occurred three years later, was McGoldrick v. Berwind-White Coal Mining Company,[601] in which it was held that in the absence of Congressional action, a New York City general sales tax was applicable to sales of coal under contracts entered into within the municipality and calling for delivery therein. Speaking for the majority, Justice Stone declared any "distinction * * * between a tax laid on sales made, without previous contract, after the merchandise had crossed the State boundary, and sales, the contracts for which when made contemplate or require the transportation of merchandise interstate to the taxing State," to be "without the support of reason or authority";[602] and the Robbins case was held to be "narrowly limited to fixed-sum license taxes imposed on the business of soliciting order for the purchase of goods to be shipped interstate, * * *"[603] Three Justices, speaking by Chief Justice Hughes, dissented. Three companion cases decided the same day were found to follow the Berwind-White pattern,[604] while a fourth was held not to, on the ground that foreign commerce was involved.[605] For the time being Robbins and family looked to be on the way out.


Two cases, decided respectively in 1944 and 1946, signalized the end of the Depression. In McLeod v. Dilworth Co.,[606] a divided Court ruled that a sales tax could not be validly imposed by a State on sales to its residents which were consummated by acceptance of orders in, and shipment of goods from another State, in which title passed upon delivery to the carrier. Said Justice Frankfurter for the majority: "A sales tax and a use tax in many instances may bring about the same result. But they are different in conception, are assessments upon different transactions, * * * A sales tax is a tax on the freedom of purchase * * * A use tax is a tax on the enjoyment of that which was purchased. In view of the differences in the basis of these two taxes and the differences in the relation of the taxing State to them, a tax on an interstate sale like the one before us and unlike the tax on the enjoyment of the goods sold, involves an assumption of power by a State which the Commerce Clause was meant to end."[607] He also "distinguished" the Berwind-White case—just as it had "distinguished" the Robbins case—but not to the satisfaction of three of his brethren, who found the decision to mark a retreat from the Berwind-White case.[608]

The second case, Nippert v. Richmond,[609] involved a municipal ordinance imposing upon solicitors of orders for goods a license tax of fifty dollars and one-half of one per cent of the gross earnings, commissions, etc., for the preceding year in excess of $1,000. Speaking for the same majority that had decided McLeod v. Dilworth Co., Justice Rutledge found that "as the case has been made, the issue is substantially whether the long line of so-called 'drummer cases' beginning with Robbins v. Shelby County Taxing District, 120 U.S. 489, shall be adhered to in result or shall now be overruled in the light of what attorneys for the city say are recent trends requiring that outcome."[610] The tax was held void, Berwind-White being not only "distinguished" this time, but also "explained." "The drummer," said Justice Rutledge, "is a figure representative of a by-gone day," citing Wright, Hawkers and Walkers in Early America (1927). "But his modern prototype persists under more euphonious appellations. [Pg 192]So endure the basic reasons which brought about his protection from the kind of local favoritism the facts of this case typify."[611]

A year later a Mississippi "privilege tax" laid upon each person soliciting business for a laundry not licensed in the State, was set aside directly on the authority of the Robbins case.[612] It would appear that Robbins and his numerous progeny can once more claim full constitutional status.[613]


Whether the carriage of persons from one State to another was a branch of interstate commerce was a question which the Court was able to side-step in Gibbons v. Ogden.[614] A quarter of a century later, however, an affirmative answer was suggested in the Passenger Cases,[615] in which a State tax on each passenger arriving on a vessel from a foreign country was set aside, though chiefly in reliance on existing treaties and acts of Congress. But similar cases arising after the Civil War were disposed of by direct recourse to the commerce clause.[616] Meantime, in 1865, the newly admitted State of Nevada, in an endeavor to prevent a threatened dissipation of its population, levied a special tax on railroad and stage companies for every passenger they carried out of the State, and in Crandall v. Nevada[617] this act was held void on the general ground that the National Government had at all times the right to require the services of its citizens at the seat of government and they the correlative right to visit the seat of government, rights which, if the Nevada tax was valid, were at the mercy of any State, the power to tax being without limit. Reference was also made to the right of the government to transport troops at all times by the most expeditious method. Two of the Justices, however, rejected this line of reasoning and held the act to be void under the commerce clause.[618] But it was not until 1885 that the Court, in deciding Gloucester Ferry Company v. Pennsylvania,[619] stated flatly that "Commerce among the States * * * includes the transportation of persons,"[620] and hence was not taxable by the States, a proposition which is still good law.[621] Four years earlier it had been held that the transmission of telegraph messages from one State to another, being interstate commerce, was something that the State of origin could not tax.[622]

[Pg 193] State Taxation of the Interstate Commerce Privilege: Foreign Corporations


In the famous case of Paul v. Virginia,[623] decided in 1869, it was held that a corporation chartered by one State could enter other States only with their assent, which might "be granted upon such terms and conditions as those States may think proper to impose";[624] but along with this holding went the statement that "the power conferred upon Congress to regulate commerce includes as well commerce carried on by corporations as commerce carried on by individuals."[625] And in the State Freight Tax Case it is implied that no State can regulate or restrict the right of a "foreign" corporation—one chartered by another State—to carry on interstate commerce within its borders,[626] an implication which soon became explicit. In Leloup v. Port of Mobile,[627] decided in 1888, the Court had before it a license tax on a telegraph company which was engaged in both domestic and interstate business. The general nature of the exaction did not suffice to save it. Said the Court: "The question is squarely presented to us, * * *, whether a State, as a condition of doing business within its jurisdiction, may exact a license tax from a telegraph company, a large part of whose business is the transmission of messages from one State to another and between the United States and foreign countries, and which is invested with the powers and privileges conferred by the act of Congress passed July 24, 1866, and other acts incorporated in Title LXV of the Revised Statutes? Can a State prohibit such a company from doing such a business within its jurisdiction, unless it will pay a tax and procure a license for the privilege? If it can, it can exclude such companies, and prohibit the transaction of such business altogether. We are not prepared to say that this can be done."[628]

[Pg 194]

In Crutcher v. Kentucky[629] a like result was reached, without assistance from an act of Congress, with respect to a Kentucky statute which provided that the agent of an express company not incorporated by the laws of that State should not carry on business there without first obtaining a license from the State, and that, preliminary thereto, he must satisfy the auditor of the State that the company he represented was possessed of an actual capital of at least $150,000. The act was held to be a regulation of interstate commerce so far as applied to a corporation of another State in that business. "To carry on interstate commerce," said the Court, "is not a franchise or a privilege granted by the State; it is a right which every citizen of the United States is entitled to exercise under the Constitution and laws of the United States; and the accession of mere corporate facilities, as a matter of convenience in carrying on their business, cannot have the effect of depriving them of such right, unless Congress should see fit to interpose some contrary regulation on the subject."[630]


The demand for what in effect is a license is, of course, capable of assuming various guises. In Ozark Pipe Line v. Monier[631] an annual franchise tax on foreign corporations equal to one-tenth of one per cent of the par value of their capital stock and surplus employed in business in the State was found to be a privilege tax, and hence one which could not be exacted of a foreign corporation whose business in the taxing State consisted exclusively of the operation of a pipe line for transporting petroleum through the State in interstate commerce, and of activities the sole purpose of which was the furtherance of its interstate business. Likewise a Massachusetts tax based on "the corporate surplus" of a foreign corporation having only an office in the State for the transaction of interstate business was held in Alpha Portland Cement Co. v. Massachusetts to be virtually an attempt to license interstate commerce.[632] In the same category of unconstitutional taxation of the interstate commerce privilege, the Court has also included the following: a State "franchise" tax on a foreign corporation, whose sole business in the State consisted in landing, storing and selling in the original package goods imported by it from abroad, the tax being imposed annually on the doing of such business and measured by the value of the goods on hand;[633] a State privilege or occupation tax on every corporation engaged in the business of operating and maintaining telephone lines and furnishing telephone service in the State, of so much for each telephonic instrument controlled and operated by it, [Pg 195]as applied to a company furnishing both interstate and intrastate service, and employing the same telephones, wires, etc., in both as integrated parts of its system;[634] a State occupation tax measured by the entire gross receipts of the business of a radio broadcasting station, licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, and engaged in broadcasting advertising "programs" for customers for hire to listeners within and beyond the State, since it did not "appear that any of the taxed income ... [was] allocable to interstate commerce";[635] a State occupation tax on the business of loading and unloading vessels engaged in interstate and foreign commerce;[636] an Indiana income tax imposed on the gross receipts from commerce inasmuch as the tax reached indiscriminately and without apportionment the gross income from both interstate commerce and intrastate activities;[637] an Arkansas statute making entry into the State of motor vehicles carrying more than twenty gallons of gasoline conditional on the payment of an excise on the excess.[638]


One of the most striking concessions ever made by the Court to the interstate commercial interest at the expense of the State's taxing power was that which appeared originally in 1910, in Western Union Telegraph. Co. v. Kansas ex rel. Coleman,[639] which involved a percentage tax upon the total capitalization of all foreign corporations doing or seeking to do a local business in the State. The Court pronounced the tax, as to the Western Union, a burden upon the company's interstate business and upon its property located and used outside the State, and hence void under both the commerce clause and the due process of law clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision was substantially aided by the fact that the company had been doing a general telegraphic business within the State for more than fifty years without having been subjected to such an exaction.[640]


The doctrine of the case, however, soon cast off these initial limitations. In Looney v. Crane Company[641] a similar tax by the State of Texas was disallowed as to an Illinois corporation, engaged in its home State in the manufacture of hardware, but maintaining in Texas depots and warehouses from which orders were filled and sales made, likewise, in International Paper Company v. Massachusetts,[642] it was clearly stated that "the immunity of interstate commerce from State taxation" is not confined to what is done by carriers in such commerce, but "is universal and covers every class of ... [interstate] commerce, including that conducted by merchants and trading companies." On the same occasion the general proposition was laid down that "the power of a State to regulate the transaction of a local business [Pg 197]within its borders by a foreign corporation, ... is not unrestricted or absolute, but must be exerted in subordination to the limitations which the Constitution places on State action."[643]


The precise standing of this doctrine is, nevertheless, seriously clouded by certain more recent holdings. In Sprout v. South Bend,[644] decided in 1928, the doctrine was still applied, to disallow a license tax on concerns operating a bus interstate. Pointing to the fact that the ordinance made no distinction between busses engaged exclusively interstate and those engaged intrastate or both interstate and intrastate, the Court said: "In order that the fee or tax shall be valid, it must appear that it is imposed solely on account of the intrastate business; that the amount exacted is not increased because of the interstate business done; that one engaged exclusively in interstate commerce would not be subject to the imposition; and that the person taxed could discontinue the intrastate business without withdrawing also from the interstate business."[645] Likewise, in Cooney v. Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Co., the Court asserted that to sustain a State occupation tax on one whose business is both interstate and intrastate, "it must appear * * *, and that the one [who is] taxed could discontinue the intrastate business without [also] withdrawing from the interstate business."[646] A year later, nevertheless, Justice Brandeis, speaking for the Court in Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co. v. Tax Commission,[647] asserted flatly: "No decision of this Court lends support to the proposition that an occupation tax upon local business, otherwise valid, must be held void merely because the local and interstate branches are for some reason inseparable."[648] An occupation tax, like other taxes and expenses, lessens the benefit derived [Pg 198]by interstate commerce from the joint operation with it of the intrastate business of the carrier; but it is not an undue burden on interstate commerce where, as in this case, the advantage to the carrier, and to the interstate commerce, of continuing the intrastate business is greatly in excess of the tax. And subsequent holdings in cases involving foreign corporations doing a mixed business, comprising both interstate and intrastate elements, have tended on the whole to restore the rule stated in Paul v. Virginia[649] shortly after the Civil War, that the Constitution does not confer upon a foreign corporation the right to engage in local business in a State without its assent, which it may give on such terms as it chooses.[650]

State Taxation of Property Engaged in, and of the Proceeds From, Interstate Commerce


In this area of Constitutional Law the principle asserted in the State Freight Tax Case,[651] that a State may not tax interstate commerce, is confronted with the principle that a State may tax all purely domestic business within its borders and all property "within its jurisdiction." Inasmuch as most large concerns prosecute both an interstate and a domestic business, while the instrumentalities of interstate commerce and the pecuniary returns from such commerce are ordinarily property within the jurisdiction of some State or other, the task before the Court in drawing the line between the immunity claimed by interstate business on the one hand and the prerogatives claimed by local power on the other has at times involved it in self-contradiction, as successive developments have brought into prominence novel aspects of its complex problem or have altered the perspective in which the interests competing for its protection have appeared. In this field words of the late Justice Rutledge, spoken in 1946, are especially applicable: "For cleanly as the commerce clause has worked affirmatively on the whole, its implied negative operation on State power has been uneven, at times highly variable. * * * [Pg 199]Into what is thus left open for inference to fill, divergent ideas of meaning may be read much more readily than into what has been made explicit by affirmation. That possibility is broadened immeasurably when not logic alone, but large choices of policy, affected in this instance by evolving experience of federalism, control in giving content to the implied negation."[652]


At the outset the Court appears to have thought that it could solve all difficulties by the simple device of falling back on Marshall's opinion in Brown v. Maryland;[653] and on the same day that it set aside Pennsylvania's freight tax by appeal to that transcendent precedent, it sustained, by reference to the same authority, a Pennsylvania tax on the gross receipts of all railroads chartered by it, the theory being that such receipts had, by tax time, become "part of the mass of property of the State."[654] This precedent stood fourteen years, being at last superseded by a ruling in which substantially the same tax was held void as to a Pennsylvania chartered steamship company.[655] A year later the Court sustained Massachusetts in levying a tax on Western Union, a New York corporation, on account of property owned and used by it in the State, taking as the basis of the assessment such proportion of the value of its capital stock as the length of its lines within the State bore to their entire length throughout the country.[656] The tax was characterized by the Court as an attempt by Massachusetts "to ascertain the just amount which any corporation engaged in business within its limits shall pay as a contribution to the support of its government upon the amount and value of the capital so employed by it therein."[657] And drawing on certain decisions in which it had sought to limit the principle of tax exemption as applied in the case of railroads chartered by the United States, it expressed concern that "the necessary powers of the States" should not be destroyed or "their efficient exercise" be prevented.[658] Three years later Pennsylvania, still in quest of revenue, was sustained in applying the Massachusetts idea to Pullman's Palace Car Company, a "foreign" corporation.[659] Pointing to the fact that the company had at all times substantially the same number of cars within the State and continuously and constantly used there a portion of its property, the Court commended the State for taking "as a basis of assessment such proportion of the capital stock of the company as the number of miles over which it ran cars within the State bore to the whole number of miles, in that and other States, * * *" This, said the Court, was "a just and equitable method of assessment;" one which, "if it were adopted [Pg 200]by all the States through which these cars ran, the company would be assessed upon the whole value of its capital stock, and no more."[660]


And pursuing the same course of thought, the Court, in Adams Express Company v. Ohio,[661] decided in 1897, sustained that State in taxing property worth less than $70,000.00 at a valuation of more than half a million, on the ground that the latter figure did not exceed, in relation to the total capital value of the company, the proportion borne by the railway mileage which the company covered in Ohio to the total mileage which it covered in all States. To the objection that "the intangible values" reached by the tax were derived from interstate commerce, the Court replied with the "cardinal rule * * * that whatever property is worth for purposes of income and sale it is also worth for purposes of taxation,"[662] which obviously does not meet the issue. What the case indubitably establishes is that a State may tax property within its limits "as part of a going concern" and hence "at its value as it is in its organic relations," although those relations constitute interstate commerce.[663] In short, values created by interstate commerce are taxed.

Thus emerged the concept of an "apportioned" tax, or as it is called when applied to the problem of property valuation, the "unit rule," which till 1938 afforded the Court its chief reliance in the field of Constitutional Law now under review. The theory underlying the concept appears to be that it is always possible for a State to devise a formula whereby it may assign to the property employed in interstate commerce within its limits, or to the proceeds from such commerce, a value which it may tax or by which it may "measure" a tax, without unconstitutionally burdening or interfering with interstate commerce, while at the same time exacting from it a fair return for the protection which the State gives it. The question in each case is, of course, whether the State has guessed right.


In reliance on the apportionment concept the Court has at various times sustained, in the case of a sleeping car company, as we have seen, a valuation based on the ratio of the miles of track over which the company runs within the State to the whole track mileage over which it runs;[664] in the case of a railroad company, a valuation based on the ratio of its mileage within the State to its total mileage;[665] in the case of a telegraph company, a valuation based upon the ratio of its length of line within the State to its total length;[666] in the case of an express company, as we have just seen, a valuation based upon the ratio of miles covered by it in the State to the mileage covered by it in all States.[667] Also, a tax has been upheld as to a railroad line whose principal business was hauling ore from mines in the taxing State to terminal docks outside the State, where the line and the docks were treated by the railway as a unit, the charge for the dock service being absorbed in the charge per ton transported; and where the evidence did not show that the mileage value of the part of the line outside of the taxing State, with the docks included, was greater than the mileage value of part within it.[668] Nor does the commerce clause preclude the assessment of an interstate railway within a State by taking such part of the value of the railroad's entire system, less the value of its localized property, such as terminal buildings, shops and nonoperating real estate, as is represented by the ratio which the railroad's mileage within the State bears to its total mileage.[669] To the objection that the mileage formula was inapplicable in this instance because of the disparity of the revenue-producing capacity between the lines in and out of the State, the Court answered that mathematical exactitude in making an apportionment had never been a constitutional requirement. "Wherever," it explained, "the State's taxing authorities have been held to have intruded upon the protected domain of interstate commerce in their use of a mileage formula, the special circumstances of the particular situation, in the view which this Court took of them, precluded a defensible utilization of the mileage basis."[670] The principle of apportionment is, moreover, applicable to the intangible property of a company engaged in both interstate and local commerce, as well as to its tangible property.[671]


The first State to attempt to employ the apportionment device in order to tax the gross receipts of companies engaged in interstate commerce was Maine, in connection with a so-called "franchise tax," which was levied on such proportion of the revenues of railroads operating in the State as their mileage there bore to their total mileage. In Maine v. Grand Trunk Railway Company,[672] a sharply divided Court upheld the tax on the basis of its designation, giving scant attention to its apportionment feature. Said Justice Field for the majority: "The privilege of exercising the franchises of a corporation within a State is generally one of value, and often of great value, and the subject of earnest contention. It is natural, therefore, that the corporation should be made to bear some proportion of the burdens of government. As the granting of the privilege rests entirely in the discretion of the State, whether the corporation be of domestic or foreign origin, it may be conferred upon such conditions, pecuniary or otherwise, as the State in its judgment may deem most conducive to its interests or policy."[673] Four Justices, speaking by Justice Bradley, protested forcefully that the decision directly contradicted a whole series of decisions holding that the States are without power to tax interstate commerce;[674] and seventeen years later another sharply divided Court endorsed this contention when it overturned a Texas gross receipts tax drawn on the lines of the earlier Maine statute.[675] The Maine tax, however, the later Court suggested, had been in the nature of a commutation tax in lieu of all taxes, which the Texas tax was not.[676]


Today the term, franchise tax, possesses no specific saving quality of its own. If the tax is merely a "just equivalent" of other taxes it is valid however calculated.[677] Conversely, when such taxes are in addition to other taxes then their fate will be determined by the same rules as would apply had the label been omitted.[678] More precisely, the rule governing this species of tax is ordinarily the apportionment [Pg 203]concept, and if the basis of apportionment adopted by the taxing State is deemed by the Court to be a fair and reasonable one, the tax will be sustained; otherwise, not.

Thus a franchise tax may be measured by such proportion of the company's net income as its capital invested in the taxing State and its business carried on there bear to its total capital and business;[679] also by the net income justly attributable to business done within the State although a part of this was derived from foreign or interstate commerce;[680] also by such proportion of the company's outstanding capital stock, surplus and undivided profits, plus its long-term obligations, as the gross receipts of its local business bear to its total gross receipts from its entire business;[681] also by such proportion of the company's total capital stock as the value of its property in the taxing State and of the business done there bears to the total value of its property and of its business.[682] On the other hand, a "franchise" tax on the unapportioned gross receipts of railroad companies engaged in interstate commerce, was, as we saw above, held void;[683] as was also one which was measured by assigning to the company's property in the State the same proportion of the total value of its stocks and bonds as its mileage in the State bore to its total mileage, no account being taken of the greater cost of construction of the company's lines in other States or of its valuable terminals elsewhere.[684] Other examples were given earlier.[685]


The late Justice Rutledge classified gross receipts taxes which have been sustained by the Court as follows: (a) those which were judged to be fairly apportioned;[686] (b) those which were justified on a "local incidence" theory, or the burden of which on interstate commerce was held to be "remote";[687] (c) those which were justified as not inviting the danger of multiple taxation of interstate commerce.[688] Gross receipts taxes which, on the other hand, have been invalidated [Pg 204]under the commerce clause he placed in the following groups: (a) those which were held not to be fairly apportioned;[689] (b) those which were not apportioned at all and were bound to subject interstate commerce to the risk of multiple taxation;[690] (c) those in which a discriminatory element was detected in that they were directed exclusively at transportation or communication;[691] (d) those in which there was no discrimination but a possible multiple burden;[692] and, of course, any tax which it disallows the Court is always free to stigmatize as an unconstitutional attempt to tax or license the interstate commerce privilege.[693]


That the Depression—allowing for the customary judicial lag—greatly altered the Court's conception of Congress's powers under the commerce clause, was pointed out earlier.[694] To a less, but appreciable degree, it also affected its views as to the allowable scope under the clause of the taxing power of the States, a majority of which were on [Pg 205]the verge of bankruptcy. The more evident proofs of this fact occurred in relation to State taxation of the subject matter of interstate commerce, as is indicated above.[695] But a certain revision of doctrine, apparently temporary in nature, however, is to be seen in the connection with State taxes impinging on property engaged in interstate commerce and the revenues from such commerce, the principal manifestation of which is to be seen in the emphasis which was for a time given the "multiple taxation" test. Thus in his opinion in the Western Live Stock Case,[696] cited above, Justice Stone seems to be engaged in an endeavor to erect this into an almost exclusive test of the validity, or invalidity of State taxation affecting interstate commerce. "It was not," he there remarks, "the purpose of the commerce clause to relieve those engaged in interstate commerce from their just share of State tax burden even though it increases the cost of doing the business. 'Even interstate business must pay its way,' * * * and the bare fact that one is carrying on interstate commerce does not relieve him from many forms of State taxation which add to the cost of his business."[697] Then citing cases, he continues: "All of these taxes in one way or another add to the expense of carrying on interstate commerce, and in that sense burden it; but they are not for that reason prohibited. On the other hand, local taxes, measured by gross receipts from interstate commerce, have often been pronounced unconstitutional. The vice characteristic of those which have been held invalid is that they have placed on the commerce burdens of such a nature as to be capable, in point of substance, of being imposed * * * [or added to] with equal right by every State which the commerce touches, merely because interstate commerce is being done, so that without the protection of the commerce clause it would bear cumulative burdens not imposed on local commerce. * * * The multiplication of State taxes measured by the gross receipts from interstate transactions would spell the destruction of interstate commerce and renew the barriers to interstate trade which it was the object of the commerce clause to remove," citing cases, most of which have been discussed above.[698] And speaking again for the Court eleven months later, in Gwin, White and Prince v. Henneford,[699] Justice Stone applied the test to invalidate a State of Washington tax. "Such a tax," said he, "at least when not apportioned to the activities carried on within the State, * * * would, if sustained, expose it [interstate commerce] to multiple tax burdens, each measured by the entire amount of the commerce, to which local commerce is not subject." The tax thus discriminated against interstate commerce; and threatened to "reestablish the barriers to interstate trade which it was the object of the commerce clause to remove."[700]

[Pg 206]

The adoption by the Court of the multiple taxation principle as an exclusive test of State taxing power in relation to interstate commerce would have enlarged the former; but this was not the sole reason for its temporary vogue with the Court, or at least a section of it. Discontent with the difficulties and uncertainties of the apportionment rule also played a great part. Thus in his concurring opinion in the Gwin case, Justice Butler, speaking for himself and Justice McReynolds after showing the instability of decisions in this area of Constitutional Law, contend that "the problems of conjectured 'multiple taxation' or 'apportionment'" should be left to Congress,[701] a suggestion which Justice Black, speaking also for Justices Frankfurter and Douglas a year later, made the basis of a dissenting opinion,[702] from the doctrines of which, however, Justice Frankfurter appears since to have recanted.[703]


In Freedman v. Hewit,[704] decided in 1946, the Court held void as an "unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce" an Indiana gross income tax of the proceeds from certain securities sent outside the State to be sold. Justice Frankfurter spoke for the Court; Justice Rutledge concurred in an opinion deploring the majority's failure to employ the multiple taxation test;[705] three Justices dissented.[706] In Joseph v. Carter and Weekes Stevedoring Co.,[707] also decided in 1947, the Court, reaffirming an earlier ruling, held void the application of a Washington gross receipts tax to the receipts of a stevedoring company from loading and unloading vessels employed in interstate and foreign commerce, or to the privilege of engaging in such business measured by their receipts. Said Justice Reed for the Court: "Although State laws do not discriminate against interstate commerce or * * * subject it to the cumulative burden of multiple levies, those laws may be unconstitutional because they burden or interfere with [interstate] commerce."[708] This time Justice Rutledge was among the dissenters so far as interstate commerce was concerned.[709] In Central Greyhound Lines, Inc. v. Mealey,[710] decided in 1948, five members of the Court ruled that a New York tax on the gross income of public utilities doing business in the State could not be constitutionally imposed on a carrier's unapportioned receipts from continuous transportation between termini in the State over a route a material part of which passes through other States. Justice Frankfurter, speaking [Pg 207]for the Court, held, however, that the tax was sustainable as to receipts apportioned as to the mileage within the State.[711] Justice Rutledge concurred without opinion. Justice Murphy, for himself and Justices Black and Douglas, thought the tax was on an essentially local activity and that the transportation through other States was "a mere geographic incident," conceding at the same time, that this view invited the other States involved to levy similar taxes and exposed the company to the danger of multiple taxation. In Memphis Natural Gas Co. v. Stone,[712] also of the 1948 grist, a Mississippi franchise tax, measured by the value of capital invested or employed in the State, was sustained in the case of a gas pipeline company a portion of whose line passed through the State but which did no local business there. Three Justices, speaking by Justice Reed, held that the tax was on the intrastate activities of the company in maintaining its facilities there, and was no more burdensome than the concededly valid ad valorem tax on the company's property in the State. Justice Rutledge held that the tax was valid because it did not discriminate against interstate commerce nor invite multiple taxation, while Justice Black concurred without opinion. Four Justices, speaking by Justice Frankfurter, contended that the pipeline already paid the ad valorem tax to which Justice Reed had adverted, and that the franchise tax must therefore be regarded as being on the interstate commerce privilege.

This survey of recent cases leaves the impression that the Court is at loose ends for intermediate guiding principles in this field of Constitutional Law. The "leave it to Congress" formula is evidently in the discard, although Justice Black's successive dissents without opinion may indicate that he still thinks it sound. The multiple tax test seems to be in an equally bad way, with both Chief Justice Stone and Justice Rutledge in the grave. The concept of an apportioned tax [Pg 208]still has some vitality however, although just how much is difficult to assess. Thus in Interstate Oil Pipe Line Co. v. Stone,[713] which was decided in 1949, we find Justice Rutledge, speaking for himself and Justices Black, Douglas, and Murphy, endorsing the view that Mississippi was within her rights in imposing on a Delaware corporation, as a condition of doing a local business, a "privilege" tax equal to two per cent of its intrastate business even though the exaction amounted to "a 'direct' tax on the 'privilege' of engaging in interstate commerce," an assertion which was countered by one just as positive, and also endorsed by four Justices, that no State may "levy privilege, excise or franchise taxes on a foreign corporation for the privilege of carrying on or the actual doing of solely interstate business," even though the tax is not discriminatory and is fairly apportioned between the corporation's intrastate and interstate business. The tax in controversy was sustained by the vote of the ninth Justice, who construed it as being levied only on the privilege of engaging in intrastate commerce, a conclusion which obviously ignores the question of the tax's actual impact on interstate commerce, the precise question on which many previous decisions have turned.[714]


The leading case under this caption is United States Glue Co. v. Oak Creek[715] where it was held that the State of Wisconsin, in laying a general income tax upon the gains and profits of a domestic corporation, was entitled to include in the computation the net income derived from transportations in interstate commerce. Pointing out the difference between such a tax and one on gross receipts, the Court said the latter "affects each transaction in proportion to its magnitude and irrespective of whether it is profitable or otherwise. Conceivably it may be sufficient to make the difference between profit and loss, or to so diminish the profit as to impede or discourage the conduct of the commerce. A tax upon the net profits has not the same deterrent effect, since it does not arise at all unless a gain is shown over and above expenses and losses, and the tax cannot be heavy unless the profits are large." Such a tax "constitutes one of the ordinary and general burdens of government, from which persons and corporations otherwise subject to the jurisdiction of the States are not exempted * * * because they happen to be engaged in commerce among the States."[716]

Adhering to this precedent, the Court has held that a tax upon the net income of a nonresident from business carried on by him in the State is not a burden on interstate commerce merely because the products [Pg 209]of the business are shipped out of the State;[717] also that a tax which is levied upon the proportion of the net profits of a foreign corporation earned by operations conducted within the taxing State is valid, if the method of allocation employed be not arbitrary or unreasonable.[718] Where, however, the method of allocating the net income of a foreign corporation attributed to the State an amount of income out of all proportion to the business there transacted by the corporation, it was held void.[719]

Also, a State may impose a tax upon the net income of property, as distinguished from the net income of him who owns or operates it, although the property is used in interstate commerce;[720] also a "franchise tax" measured by the net income justly attributable to business done by corporations within the State, although part of the income so attributable comes from interstate and foreign commerce;[721] also a tax on corporate net earnings derived from business done wholly within the State may be applied to the income of a foreign pipeline corporation which is commercially domiciled there and which pipes natural gas into that State for delivery to, and sale by, a local distributing corporation to local consumers.[722] Indeed it was asserted that even if the taxpayer's business were wholly interstate commerce, such a nondiscriminatory tax upon its net income "is not prohibited by the commerce clause," there being no showing that the income was not on net earnings partly attributable to the taxing State;[723] but a more recent holding appears to contradict this position.[724]



In Gloucester Ferry Company v. Pennsylvania,[725] decided in 1885, the Court held inapplicable to a New Jersey corporation which was [Pg 210]engaged solely in transporting passengers across the Delaware River and entered Pennsylvania only to discharge and receive passengers and freight, a statute which taxed the capital stock of all corporations doing business within the State. Such transactions, the Court held, were interstate commerce; nor were the company's vessels subject to taxation by Pennsylvania, their taxing situs being in the company's home State. The only property held by the company in Pennsylvania was the lease there of a wharf which could be taxed by the State according to its appraised value; and the State could also levy reasonable charges by way of tolls for the use of such facilities as it might itself furnish for the carrying on of commerce. This ruling rested on two earlier ones. In 1855, the Court had held that vessels registered in New York, owned by a New York corporation, and plying between New York City and San Francisco had the former city for their home port, and were not taxable by California where they remained no longer than necessary to discharge passengers and freight;[726] and in 1877 it had sustained Keokuk, Iowa in charging tolls for the use by vessels plying the Mississippi of wharves owned by the municipality, said tolls being reasonable and not discriminatory as between interstate and intrastate commerce.[727] Today it is still the general rule as to vessels plying between ports of different States and engaged in the coastwise trade, that the domicile of the owner is deemed to be the situs of the vessel for purposes of taxation,[728] unless the vessel has acquired actual situs in another State, by continuous employment there, in which event it may be taxed there.[729] Recently, however, this long standing rule has been amended by the addition to it of the apportionment rule as developed in the Pullman case. This occurred in Ott v. Mississippi Barge Line Co.,[730] decided in 1949, in which the Court sustained Louisiana in levying an ad valorem tax on vessels owned by an interstate carrier and used within the State, the assessment for the tax being based on the ratio between the number of miles of the carrier's lines within the State and its total mileage.


When, however, it was confronted by an attempt on the part of the State of Minnesota to impose a personal property tax on the entire air fleet owned and operated by a company in interstate commerce [Pg 211]although only a part of it was in the State on tax day, the Court found itself unable to recruit a majority for any of the above formulas.[731] Pointing to the fact that the company was a Minnesota corporation and that its principal place of business was located in the State, Justice Frankfurter for himself and three others wished to stress the prerogatives of the State of domicile.[732] Justice Black, concurring in this view, added the caveat that the taxing rights of other States should not be foreclosed and made reference to his "leave it to Congress" notion.[733] Justice Jackson, after speaking lightly of the apportionment theory,[734] joined the affirming brethren on the ground that the record seemed "to establish Minnesota as a 'home port' within the meaning of the old and somewhat neglected but to me wise authorities cited," to wit, the Hays case and those decided by analogy to it.[735] Four Justices, speaking by Chief Justice Stone dissented, urging the Pullman Case[736] as an applicable model and the fact that "the rationale found necessary to support the present tax leaves other States free to impose comparable taxes on the same property."[737] Evidently in this area of Constitutional Law the Court is still much at sea or better perhaps, "up in the air."

Motor Vehicles

In the matter of motor vehicle taxation, on the other hand, durable and consistent results have been achieved. This is because most such taxation has been readily classifiable as the exaction of a toll for the use of the State's highways, and the only question was whether the toll was exorbitant. Moreover, such taxation is apt to be designed not merely to raise revenue but to promote safety on the highways. In the leading case, Hendrick v. Maryland,[738] decided in 1915, the Court took cognizance of the fact that "the movement of motor vehicles over the highways is attended by constant and serious dangers to the [Pg 212]public, and is also abnormally destructive to the ways themselves";[739] and on this factual basis it has held that registration may be required by a State for out-of-State vehicles operated therein,[740] or passing through from one State to another;[741] that a special fee may be exacted for the privilege of transporting motor vehicles on their own wheels in caravans,[742] unless excessive;[743] that taxes may also be imposed on carriers based on capacity[744] or mileage,[745] or as a flat fee;[746] but that a privilege tax on motor busses operated exclusively in interstate commerce, cannot be sustained unless it appears affirmatively in some way, that it is levied only as compensation for use of the highways in the State or to defray the expense of regulating motor traffic.[747] Later decisions follow in the same general track,[748] the most recent one being Capitol Greyhound Lines v. Brice,[749] in which the Court, speaking by Justice Black passed upon a Maryland excise tax on the fair market value of motor vehicles used in interstate commerce as a condition to the issuance of certificates of title as prerequisites to the registration and operation of motor vehicles in the State. Because the tax was applied to vehicles used in both interstate and intrastate commerce and the proceeds were used for road purposes and because the Court considered the tax, though actually separate, to be an adjunct of Maryland's mileage tax, it was able to find that the total charge varied substantially with the mileage travelled, and on that ground sustained it, being constant, it said with "rough approximation rather than precision," no showing having been made that Maryland's taxes considered as a whole exceeded "fair compensation for the privilege of using State roads." Justice Frankfurter, who was joined by Justice Jackson, dissented, and in so doing contributed as an Appendix to his opinion a useful analysis of decisions involving State taxation of motor vehicles engaged in interstate commerce, for highway purposes.[750]

[Pg 213] Public Utilities; Regulatory Charges

"The principles governing decision [in this class of cases] have repeatedly been announced and were not questioned below.[751] In the exercise of its police power the State may provide for the supervision and regulation of public utilities, such as railroads; may delegate the duty to an officer or commission; and may exact the reasonable cost of such supervision and regulation from the utilities concerned and allocate the exaction amongst the members of the affected class without violating the rule of equality imposed by the Fourteenth Amendment.[752] The supervision and regulation of the local structures and activities of a corporation engaged in interstate commerce, and the imposition of the reasonable expense thereof upon such corporation, is not a burden upon, or regulation of, interstate commerce in violation of the commerce clause of the Constitution.[753] A law exhibiting the intent to impose a compensatory fee for such a legitimate purpose is prima facie reasonable.[754] If the exaction be so unreasonable and disproportionate to the service as to impugn the good faith of the law[755] it cannot stand either under the commerce clause or the Fourteenth Amendment.[756] The State is not bound to adjust the charge after the fact, but may, in anticipation, fix what the legislature deems to be a fair fee for the expected service, the presumption being that if, in practice, the sum charged appears inordinate the legislative body will reduce it in the light of experience.[757] Such a statute may, in spite of the presumption of validity, show on its face that some part of the exaction is to be used for a purpose other than the legitimate one of supervision and regulation and may, for that reason, be void.[758] And a statute fair upon its face may be shown to be void and unenforceable on account of its actual operation.[759] If the exaction be clearly excessive it is bad in toto and the State cannot collect any part of it."[760]

[Pg 214] Dominance of Congress

The Supreme Court has never forgotten the lesson which was administered it by the act of Congress of August 31, 1852,[761] which pronounced the Wheeling Bridge "a lawful structure," thereby setting aside the Court's determination to the contrary earlier the same year.[762] This lesson, stated in the Court's own language thirty years later, was, "It is Congress, and not the Judicial Department, to which the Constitution has given the power to regulate commerce * * *."[763] A parallel to the Wheeling Bridge episode occurred in 1945.


Less than a year after the ruling in United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Association[764] that insurance transactions across State lines constituted interstate commerce, thereby logically establishing their immunity from discriminatory State taxation, Congress passed the McCarran Act[765] authorizing State regulation and taxation of the insurance business; and in Prudential Insurance Co. v. Benjamin,[766] a statute of South Carolina which imposed on foreign insurance companies, as a condition of their doing business in the State, an annual tax of three per cent of premiums from business done in South Carolina, while imposing no similar tax on local corporations, was sustained. "Obviously," said Justice Rutledge for the Court, "Congress' purpose was broadly to give support to the existing and future State systems for regulating and taxing the business of insurance. This was done in two ways. One was by removing obstructions which might be thought to flow from its own power, whether dormant or [Pg 215]exercised, except as otherwise expressly provided in the Act itself or in future legislation. The other was by declaring expressly and affirmatively that continued State regulation and taxation of this business is in the public interest and that the business and all who engage in it 'shall be subject to' the laws of the several States in these respects. * * * The power of Congress over commerce exercised entirely without reference to coordinated action of the States is not restricted, except as the Constitution expressly provides, by any limitation which forbids it to discriminate against interstate commerce and in favor of local trade. Its plenary scope enables Congress not only to promote but also to prohibit interstate commerce, as it has done frequently and for a great variety of reasons. * * * This broad authority Congress may exercise alone, subject to those limitations, or in conjunction with coordinated action by the States, in which case limitations imposed for the preservation of their powers become inoperative and only those designed to forbid action altogether by any power or combination of powers in our governmental system remain effective."[767] The generality of this language enforces again the sweeping nature of Congress's power to prohibit interstate commerce.[768]

The Police Power and Foreign Commerce


In Gibbons v. Ogden[769] cognizance was taken of the existence in the States of an "immense mass" of legislative power to be used for the protection of their welfare and the promotion of local interests.[770] In Marshall's opinion in Brown v. Maryland[771] this power is christened "the Police Power," a name which has since come to supply one of the great titles of Constitutional Law. Counsel for Maryland had argued that if the State was not permitted to tax imports in the original package before they left the hands of the importer, it would also be unable to prevent their introduction into its midst although they might comprise articles dangerous to the public health and safety. "The power to direct the removal of gunpowder," the Chief Justice answered, "is a branch of the police power, which unquestionably remains, and ought to remain, with the States;" and the power to direct "the removal or destruction of infectious or unsound articles" fell within the same category.[772]


In short, the power to tax was one thing, the police power something quite different. To concede the former would be to concede a power which could be exercised to any extent and at the will of its possessor;[773] to concede the latter was to concede a power which was limited of its own inherent nature to certain necessary objectives. In New York v. Miln,[774] however, the Court which came after Marshall inclined toward the notion of a power of internal police which was also unlimited; and on this ground upheld a New York statute which required masters of all vessels arriving at the port of New York to make reports as to passengers carried, and imposed fines for failure to do so. "We are of opinion," the Court said, "that the act is not a regulation of commerce, but of police." But, when New York, venturing a step further, passed an act to authorize State health commissioners to collect certain fees from captains arriving in ports of that State, and when Massachusetts enacted a statute requiring captains of ships to give bonds as to immigrants landed, both measures were pronounced void, either as conflicting with treaties and laws of the United States or as invading the "exclusive" power of Congress to regulate foreign commerce.[775] Following the Civil War, indeed, New York v. Miln was flatly overruled, and a New York statute similar to the one sustained in 1837 was pronounced void as intruding upon Congress's powers.[776] Nothing was gained, said the Court, by invoking "[the police power] * * *, it is clear, from the nature of our complex form of government, that, whenever the statute of a State invades the domain of legislation which belongs exclusively to the Congress of the United States, it is void, no matter under what class of powers it may fall, or how closely allied to powers conceded to belong to the States."[777] At the same time a California statute requiring a bond from shipowners as a condition precedent to their being permitted to land persons whom a State commissioner of immigration might choose to consider as coming within certain enumerated classes, e.g., "debauched women," was also disallowed. Said the Court: "If the right of the States to pass statutes to protect themselves in regard to the criminal, the pauper, and the diseased foreigner, landing within their borders, exists at all, it is limited to such laws as are absolutely necessary for that purpose; and this mere police regulation cannot extend so far as to prevent or obstruct other classes of persons from the right to hold personal and commercial intercourse with the people of the United States."[778]


On the other hand, it has been repeatedly held that the States may, in the absence of legislation by Congress, enact quarantine laws, even though in effect they thereby regulate foreign commerce; and furthermore that such legislation may be, in the interest of effective enforcement, applied beyond the mere exclusion of diseased persons. Thus in the leading case the State of Louisiana was sustained in authorizing its Board of Health in its discretion to prohibit the introduction into any infected portion of the State of "persons acclimated, unacclimated or said to be immune, when in its judgment the introduction of such persons would add to or increase the prevalence of the disease."[779] At the same time it was emphasized that all such legislation was subject to be supplanted by Congress at any time.


The Court's tolerance of legal provisions which might not standing alone be constitutional, when they are designed to make legislation within the police power practically enforceable, is also illustrated in connection with State game laws. In the case of Silz v. Hesterberg[780] the Court was confronted with a New York statute establishing a closed season for certain game, during which season it was a penal offense to take or possess any of the protected animals, fish or birds; and providing farther that the ban should equally apply "to such fish, game or flesh coming from without the State as to that taken within the State." This provision was held to have been validly applied in the case of a dealer in imported game who had in his possession during the closed season "one dead body of an imported grouse, ..., and taken in Russia." Again the absence of conflicting legislation by Congress was adverted to.[781]

The Police Power and Interstate Commerce


In Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona,[782] decided in 1945, Chief Justice Stone made the following systematic statement of principles which have guided the Court in the exercise of its power of judicial review of State legislation affecting interstate commerce: "Although the commerce clause conferred on the national government power to regulate commerce, its possession of the power does not exclude all state power of regulation. Ever since Willson v. Black-Bird Creek [Pg 218]Marsh Co., 2 Pet. 245, and Cooley v. Board of Wardens, 12 How. 299, it has been recognized that, in the absence of conflicting legislation by Congress, there is a residuum of power in the state to make laws governing matters of local concern which nevertheless in some measure affect interstate commerce or even, to some extent, regulate it.[783] Thus the states may regulate matters which, because of their number and diversity, may never be adequately dealt with by Congress.[784] When the regulation of matters of local concern is local in character and effect, and its impact on the national commerce does not seriously interfere with its operation, and the consequent incentive to deal with them nationally is slight, such regulation has been generally held to be within state authority.[785]

"But ever since Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, the states have not been deemed to have authority to impede substantially the free flow of commerce from state to state, or to regulate those phases of the national commerce which, because of the need of national uniformity, demand that their regulation, if any, be prescribed by a single authority.[786] Whether or not this long-recognized distribution of power between the national and the state governments is predicated upon the implications of the commerce clause itself,[787] or upon the presumed intention of Congress, where Congress has not spoken,[788] the result is the same.

[Pg 219]

"In the application of these principles some enactments may be found to be plainly within and others plainly without state power. But between these extremes lies the infinite variety of cases, in which regulation of local matters may also operate as a regulation of commerce, in which reconciliation of the conflicting claims of state and national power is to be attained only by some appraisal and accommodation of the competing demands of the state and national interests involved.[789]

"For a hundred years it has been accepted constitutional doctrine that the commerce clause, without the aid of Congressional legislation, thus affords some protection from state legislation inimical to the national commerce, and that in such cases, where Congress has not acted, this Court, and not the state legislature, is under the commerce clause the final arbiter of the competing demands of state and national interests.[790]

"Congress has undoubted power to redefine the distribution of power over interstate commerce. It may either permit the states to regulate the commerce in a manner which would otherwise not be permissible,[791] or exclude state regulation even of matters of peculiarly local concern which nevertheless affect interstate commerce.[792]

[Pg 220]

"But in general Congress has left it to the courts to formulate the rules thus interpreting the commerce clause in its application, doubtless because it has appreciated the destructive consequences to the commerce of the nation if their protection were withdrawn,[793] and has been aware that in their application state laws will not be invalidated without the support of relevant factual material which will 'afford a sure basis' for an informed judgment.[794] Meanwhile, Congress has accommodated its legislation, as have the states, to these rules as an established feature of our constitutional system. There has thus been left to the states wide scope for the regulation of matters of local state concern, even though it in some measure affects the commerce, provided it does not materially restrict the free flow of commerce across state lines, or interfere with it in matters with respect to which uniformity of regulation is of predominant national concern."

State Regulation of Agencies of Interstate Commerce


In one of the Granger Cases decided in 1877 the Court upheld the power of the legislature of Wisconsin in the absence of legislation by Congress, to prescribe by law the maximum charges to be made by a railway company for fare and freight upon the transportation of persons and property within the State, or taken up outside the State and brought within it, or taken up inside and carried without it.[795] Ten years later, in Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway Co. v. Illinois[796] this decision was reversed as to persons and property taken up within the State and transported out of it and as to persons and property brought into the State from outside. As to these, the Court held that the regulation of rates and charges must be uniform and that, therefore, the States had no power to deal with the subject even when Congress had not acted. The following year Congress passed the Interstate Commerce Act[797] to fill the gap created by the Wabash decision. Today, the States still exercise the power to regulate railway rates for the carriage of persons and property taken up and put down within their borders, but do so subject to the rule, which is enforced by the Interstate Commerce Commission, that such rates may not discriminate against interstate commerce.[798]


In many other respects the power still remains with the States to require by statute or administrative order a fair and adequate service for their inhabitants from railway companies, including interstate carriers operating within their borders, so long as the burdens thus imposed upon interstate commerce are, in the judgment of the Court, "reasonable." In an instructive brace of cases the Court was asked to say whether a carrier, in the interest of providing proper local facilities of commerce, could be required to stop its interstate trains. In one case a State regulation requiring all regular passenger trains operating wholly within the State to stop at all county seats was held to have been validly applied to interstate connection trains;[799] while in the other case a statute requiring all passenger trains to stop at county seats was held invalid, there being "other and ample accommodation."[800] Comparing these and other like decisions, the Court has stated "the applicable general doctrine" to be as follows: (1) It is competent for a State to require adequate local facilities, even to the stoppage of interstate trains or the rearrangement of their schedules. (2) Such facilities existing—that is, the local conditions being adequately met—the obligation of the railroad is performed, and the stoppage of interstate trains becomes an improper and illegal interference with interstate commerce. (3) And this, whether the interference be directly by the legislature or by its command through the orders of an administrative body. (4) The fact of local facilities this court may determine, such fact being necessarily involved in the determination of the Federal question whether an order concerning an interstate train does or does not directly regulate interstate commerce, by imposing an arbitrary requirement.[801] "There is, however," it later added, "no inevitable test of the instances; the facts in each must be considered."[802]

In the same way a State regulation requiring intersecting railways to make track connections was held valid,[803] as was also a regulation requiring equality of car service between shippers;[804] while a regulation requiring the delivery of shipments on private sideways[805] and one requiring cars for local shipments to be furnished on demand, were held to be invalid.[806] In the first brace of decisions, the application [Pg 222]of the local regulation to interstate commerce was found not to be "unduly" burdensome; in the second brace the contrary conclusion was reached.


A class of regulations as to which the Court has exhibited marked tolerance although they "incidentally" embrace interstate transportation within their operation are those which purport to be in furtherance of "public safety."[807] The leading case is Smith v. Alabama,[808] in which the Court held it to be within the police power of the State to require locomotive engineers to be examined and licensed, and to enforce this requirement until Congress should decree otherwise in the case of an engineer employed exclusively in interstate transportation. Also upheld as applicable to interstate trains were a statute which forbade the heating of passenger cars by stoves;[809] a municipal ordinance restricting the speed of trains within city limits;[810] the order of a public utility commission requiring the elimination of grade crossings;[811] a statute requiring electric headlights of a specified minimum capacity;[812] a statute requiring three brakemen on freight trains of over twenty-five cars.[813] In the last case the Court admitted that "under the evidence," there was "some room for controversy" as to whether the statute was necessary, but thought it "not so unreasonable as to justify the Court in adjudging it" to be "merely an arbitrary exercise of power" and "not germane" to objects which the State was entitled to accomplish.[814] And in 1943 the Court sustained, though again in somewhat doubtful terms, the order of a State railroad commission requiring a terminal railroad which served both interstate and local commerce to provide caboose cars for its employees.[815] At times, indeed, the Court has made surprising concession to local views that had nothing to do with safety. Hennington v. Georgia,[816] decided in 1896, where was sustained a Georgia statute forbidding freight trains to run on Sunday, is perhaps the supreme example. Whether such an act would pass muster today is doubtful. And earlier statutes reinforcing the legal liability of railroads as common carriers and the carriers of passengers were sustained in the absence of legislation by Congress.[817]


"The principle that, without controlling Congressional action, a State may not regulate interstate commerce so as substantially to affect its flow or deprive it of needed uniformity in its regulation is not to be avoided by 'simply invoking the convenient apologetics of the police power.'" So remarks Chief Justice Stone in his summarizing opinion cited above, in Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona.[818] Among others he lists the following instances in which State legislation was invalidated on the basis of this rule: "In the Kaw Valley case[819] the Court held that the State was without constitutional power to order a railroad to remove a railroad bridge over which its interstate trains passed, as a means of preventing floods in the district and of improving its drainage, because it was 'not pretended that local welfare needs the removal of the defendants' bridges at the expense of the dominant requirements of commerce with other States, but merely that it would be helped by raising them.' And in Seaboard Air Line R. Co. v. Blackwell,[820] it was held that the interference with interstate rail transportation resulting from a State statute requiring as a safety measure that trains come almost to a stop at grade crossings, outweigh the local interest in safety, when it appealed that compliance increased the scheduled running time more than six hours in a distance of one hundred and twenty-three miles."[821] And "more recently in Kelly v. Washington,"[822] the Chief Justice continued, "we have pointed out that when a State goes beyond safety measures which are permissible because only local in their effect upon interstate commerce, and 'attempts to impose particular standards as to structure, design, equipment and operation [of vessels plying interstate] which in the judgment [Pg 224]of its authorities may be desirable but pass beyond what is plainly essential to safety and seaworthiness, the State will encounter the principle that such requirements, if imposed at all, must be through the action of Congress which can establish a uniform rule. Whether the State in a particular matter goes too far must be left to be determined when the precise question arises.'"


Applying the test of these precedents, the Chief Justice concluded that Arizona, in making it unlawful to operate within the State a railroad train of more than fourteen passenger or seventy freight cars, had gone "too far"; and in support of this conclusion he recites the following facts: "In Arizona, approximately 93% of the freight traffic and 95% of the passenger traffic is interstate. Because of the Train Limit Law appellant is required to haul over 30% more trains in Arizona than would otherwise have been necessary. The record shows a definite relationship between operating costs and the length of trains, the increase in length resulting in a reduction of operating costs per car. The additional cost of operation of trains complying with the Train Limit Law in Arizona amounts for the two railroads traversing that State to about $1,000,000 a year. The reduction in train lengths also impedes efficient operation. More locomotives and more manpower are required; the necessary conversion and reconversion of train lengths at terminals and the delay caused by breaking up and remaking long trains upon entering and leaving the state in order to comply with the law, delays the traffic and diminishes its volume moved in a given time, especially when traffic is heavy.

"At present the seventy freight car laws are enforced only in Arizona and Oklahoma, with a fourteen car passenger car limit in Arizona. The record here shows that the enforcement of the Arizona statute results in freight trains being broken up and reformed at the California border and in New Mexico, some distance from the Arizona line. Frequently it is not feasible to operate a newly assembled train from the New Mexico yard nearest to Arizona, with the result that the Arizona limitation governs the flow of traffic as far east as El Paso, Texas. For similar reasons the Arizona law often controls the length of passenger trains all the way from Los Angeles to El Paso.

"If one State may regulate train lengths, so may all the others, and they need not prescribe the same maximum limitation. The [Pg 225]practical effect of such regulation is to control train operations beyond the boundaries of the State exacting it because of the necessity of breaking up and reassembling long trains at the nearest terminal points before entering and after leaving the regulating State. The serious impediment to the free flow of commerce by the local regulation of train lengths and the practical necessity that such regulation, if any, must be prescribed by a single body having a nation-wide authority are apparent.

"The trial court found that the Arizona law had no reasonable relation to safety, and made train operation more dangerous. Examination of the evidence and the detailed findings makes it clear that this conclusion was rested on facts found which indicate that such increased danger of accident and personal injury as may result from the greater length of trains is more than offset by the increase in the number of accidents resulting from the larger number of trains when train lengths are reduced. In considering the effect of the statute as a safety measure, therefore, the factor of controlling significance for present purposes is not whether there is basis for the conclusion of the Arizona Supreme Court that the increase in length of trains beyond the statutory maximum has an adverse effect upon safety of operation. The decisive question is whether in the circumstances the total effect of the law as a safety measure in reducing accidents and casualties is so slight or problematical as not to outweigh the national interest in keeping interstate commerce free from interferences which seriously impede it and subject it to local regulation which does not have a uniform effect on the interstate train journey which it interrupts."[823]


The lesson to be extracted from Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona is a threefold one: 1) Where uniformity is judged by the Court to be "essential for the functioning of commerce, a State may not interpose its regulation"; 2) in resolving this question the Court will canvass what it considers to be relevant facts extensively; 3) its task is, however, in the last analysis, one of weighing competing values, in brief, arbitral rather than strictly judicial.

The lesson of Southern Pacific is further exemplified by the more recent holding in Morgan v. Virginia,[824] in which the Court was confronted with a State statute which, in providing for the segregation of white and colored passengers, required passengers to change seats from time to time as might become necessary to increase the number of seats available to the one race or the other. First, reciting the rule of uniformity, Justice Heed, for the Court, said: "Congress, within the limits of the Fifth Amendment, has authority to burden [interstate] commerce if that seems to it a desirable means of accomplishing [Pg 226]a permitted end. * * * As no State law can reach beyond its own border nor bar transportation of passengers across its boundaries, diverse seating requirements for the races in interstate journeys result. As there is no federal act dealing with the separation of races in interstate transportation, we must decide the validity of this Virginia statute on the challenge that it interferes with commerce, as a matter of balance between the exercise of the local police power and the need for national uniformity in the regulations for interstate travel. It seems clear to us that seating arrangements for the different races in interstate motor travel require a single, uniform rule to promote and protect national travel. Consequently, we hold the Virginia statute in controversy invalid."


Cases arising under this caption further illustrate the competition for judicial recognition between the interstate commerce interest and local interests, especially that of public safety. A new element enters the problem, however, which lends some added weight to the claims of the police power, the fact, namely, that motor vehicles use highways furnished and maintained by the State.

A State is entitled to enact a comprehensive scheme for the licensing and regulation of motor vehicles using its highways with a view to insuring itself of reasonable compensation for the facilities afforded and to providing adequate protection of the public safety; and such scheme may embrace out-of-State vehicles using the State's highways.[825] Thus legislation limiting the net loads of trucks using the State's highways is valid;[826] as are also, in the absence of national legislation on the subject, State regulations limiting the weight and width of the vehicles themselves, provided such regulations are applied without discrimination as between vehicles moving in interstate commerce and those operating only intrastate.[827] Likewise, a State may deny a certificate of public convenience and necessity to one desiring to operate a common carrier over a particular highway to an out-of-State destination in an adjacent State, on the ground that the specified route is already congested. So it was held in Bradley v. Public Utilities Commission of Ohio,[828] in which the Court took cognizance of the full hearing accorded the appellant, and of his failure to choose another route, although he was at liberty to do so. And in Maurer v. Hamilton a Pennsylvania[829] statute prohibiting the operation over its highways of any motor vehicle carrying any other vehicle over the head of the operator was upheld in the absence of conflicting Congressional legislation. Similarly, in Welch v. New Hampshire[830] a statute of that State establishing maximum hours for drivers of motor vehicles was held not to be superseded by the Federal Motor Carrier Act prior to the effective date of regulations by the Interstate [Pg 227]Commerce Commission dealing with the subject. Nor was pendency before the Interstate Commerce Commission of an application under the Motor Carrier Act for a license to operate a motor carrier in interstate commerce found to supersede as to the applicant the authority of a State to enforce "reasonable regulations" of traffic upon its highways. "In the absence of the exercise of federal authority," said the Court, "and in the light of local exigencies, the State is free to act in order to protect its legitimate interests even though interstate commerce is directly affected."[831] And for the same reason New York City was entitled to apply to trucks engaged in the delivery of goods from New Jersey a traffic regulation forbidding the operation on the streets of an advertising vehicle.[832] Said Justice Douglas for the Court: "Many of these trucks are engaged in delivering goods in interstate commerce from New Jersey to New York. Where traffic control and the use of highways are involved and where there is no conflicting federal regulation, great leeway is allowed local authorities, even though the local regulation materially interferes with interstate commerce."[833] Also, the Court has consistently sustained State regulations requiring motor carriers to provide adequate insurance protection for injuries caused by the negligent operation of their vehicles.[834]


A State law which imposes upon all persons engaged in transporting for hire by motor vehicle over the public highways of the State the burdens and duties of common carriers and requires them to furnish bonds to secure the payment of claims and liabilities resulting from injury to property carried, may not be validly applied to a private carrier which is engaged exclusively in hauling from one State to another State the goods of particular factories under standing contracts with their owners, the said carrier enjoying neither a special franchise nor using the eminent domain power.[835] On the [Pg 228]other hand, a State statute which prohibits common carriers for hire from using the highways of the State between fixed termini or over regular routes without having first obtained from a director of public works a certificate of public convenience, is primarily not a regulation to secure safety on the highways or to conserve them, but a ban on competition and, as applied to a common carrier by motor vehicle of passengers and express purely in interstate commerce, is both violation of the Commerce Clause and defeats the express purpose of Congressional legislation rendering federal aid for the construction of interstate highways.[836]


The special characteristics of motor travel have brought about a reversal of the Court's attitude toward State control of transportation agencies. Sustaining in 1941 a California statute requiring that agents engaged in negotiating for the transportation of passengers in motor vehicles over the highways of the State take out a license, Justice (later Chief Justice) Stone, speaking for the Court, said: "In Di Santo v. Pennsylvania,[837] this Court took a different view * * *, it held that a Pennsylvania statute requiring others than railroad or steamship companies, who engage in the intrastate sale of steamship tickets or of orders for transportation to and from foreign countries, to procure a license by giving proof of good moral character and filing a bond as security against fraud and misrepresentation to purchasers, was an infringement of the Commerce Clause. Since the decision in that case this Court has been repeatedly called upon to examine the constitutionality of numerous local regulations affecting interstate motor vehicle traffic. It has uniformly held that in the absence of pertinent Congressional legislation there is constitutional power in the States to regulate interstate commerce by motor vehicle wherever it affects the safety of the public or the safety and convenient use of its highways, provided only that the regulation does not in any other respect unnecessarily obstruct interstate commerce."[838]


In Gibbons v. Ogden[839] the Court, speaking by Chief Justice Marshall, held that New York legislation which excluded from the [Pg 229]navigable waters of that State steam vessels enrolled and licensed under an act of Congress to engage in the coasting trade was in conflict with the act of Congress and hence void. In Willson v. Blackbird Creek and Marsh Co.[840] the same Court held that in the absence of an act of Congress, "the object of which was to control State legislation over those small navigable creeks into which the tide flows," the State of Delaware was entitled to incorporate a company vested with the right to erect a dam across such a creek. From these two cases the Court in Cooley v. the Board of Wardens,[841] decided in 1851, extracted the rule that in the absence of conflicting legislation by Congress States were entitled to enact legislation adapted to the local needs of interstate and foreign commerce, that a pilotage law was of this description, and was, accordingly, constitutionally applicable until Congress acted to the contrary to vessels engaged in the coasting trade. In the main, these three holdings have controlled the decision of cases under the above and the following caption, there being generally no applicable act of Congress involved. But the power which the rule attributed to the States, they must use "reasonably," something they have not always done in the judgment of the Court.

Thus an Alabama statute which required that owners of vessels using the public waters of the enacting State be enrolled, pay fees, file statements as to ownership, etc., was held to be inapplicable to vessels licensed under the act of Congress to engage in the coasting trade;[842] as was also a Louisiana statute ordering masters and wardens of the port of Orleans to survey the hatches of all vessels arriving there and to enact a fee for so doing.[843] "The unreason and the oppressive character of the act" was held to take it out of the class of local legislation protected by the rule of the Cooley case.[844] Likewise, while control by a State of navigable waters wholly within its borders has been often asserted to be complete in the absence of regulation by Congress,[845] Congress may assume control at any time;[846] and when such waters connect with other similar waters "so as to form a waterway to other States or foreign nations, [they] cannot be obstructed or impeded so as to impair, defeat, or place any burden upon a right to their navigation granted by Congress."[847]

[Pg 230]

On the other hand, in Kelly v. Washington,[848] decided in 1937, the Court sustained the State in applying to motor-driven tugs operating in navigable waters of the United States legislation which provided for the inspection and regulation of every vessel operated by machinery if the same was not subject to inspection under the laws of the United States. It was conceded that there was "elaborate" federal legislation in the field, but it was asserted that the Washington statute filled a gap. "The principle is thoroughly established," said Chief Justice Hughes for the Court, "that the exercise by the State of its police power, which would be valid if not superseded by federal action, is superseded only where the repugnance or conflict is so 'direct and positive' that the two acts cannot 'be reconciled or consistently stand together.'"[849] And in Bob-Lo Excursion Co. v. Michigan,[850] the Court, elbowing aside a decision of many years standing,[851] ruled that the commerce clause does not preclude a State, in the absence of federal statute or treaty, from forbidding racial discrimination by one carrying passengers by vessel to and from a port in the United States to an island situated in Canadian territory.


The holding in Willson v. Blackbird Creek Marsh Co.[852] has been invoked by the Court many times in support of State legislation permitting the construction across navigable streams of dams, booms, and other shore protections,[853] as well as in support of State legislation authorizing the erection of bridges and the operation of ferries across such streams.[854] Bridges, it is true, may obstruct some commerce, but they may more than compensate for this by aiding other commerce.[855] In Justice Field's words in Huse v. Glover,[856] it should not be forgotten that: "the State is interested in the domestic as well as in the interstate and foreign commerce conducted on the Illinois River, and to increase its facilities, and thus augment its growth, it has full power. It is only when, in the judgment of Congress, its action is deemed to encroach upon the navigation of the river as a means of interstate and foreign Commerce, that that body may interfere and control or supersede it. * * * How the highways of a State, whether on land or by water, shall be best improved for the public good is a matter for State determination, subject always to the right of Congress to interpose in the cases mentioned."[857] The same principle applies to the construction of piers and wharves in a navigable stream,[858] as well as to harbor improvements by a State for the aid and protection of navigation;[859] [Pg 231]and reasonable tolls may be charged for the use of such aids, and reasonable regulations laid down governing their employment.[860]


A State may license individuals to operate a ferry across an interstate river bounding its territory, or may incorporate a company for the purpose.[861] Nor may a neighbor State make the securing of its consent and license a condition precedent to the operation of such a ferry to one of its towns.[862] Earlier the right of a State to regulate the rates to be charged by an interstate bridge company for passage across its structure was denied by a closely divided Court.[863] The ruling does not, however, control the regulation of rates to be charged by an interstate ferry company. These the chartering State may, in the absence of action by Congress, regulate except in the case of ferries operated in connection with railroads,[864] as to which Congress has acted with the result of excluding all State action.[865] A State may also regulate the rates of a vessel plying between two points within the State although the journey is over the high seas; although again action by Congress may supersede State action at any time.[866]


An Indiana statute which required telegraph companies to deliver dispatches by messenger to the persons to whom they were [Pg 232]addressed if the latter resided within one mile of the telegraph station or within the city or town where it was located, and which prescribed the order of preference to be given various kinds of messages, was held to be an unconstitutional interference with interstate commerce;[867] as was also the order of the Massachusetts Public Service Commission interfering with the transmission to firms within the State's borders of continuous quotations of the New York Stock Exchange by means of ticker service.[868] But a Virginia statute which imposed a penalty on a telegraph company for failure in its "clear common-law duty" of transmitting messages without unreasonable delay, was held, in the absence of legislation by Congress, to be valid;[869] as was also a Michigan statute which prohibited the stipulation by a company against liability for nonperformance of such duty.[870] However, a South Carolina statute which sought to make mental anguish caused by the negligent nondelivery of a telegram a cause of action, was held to be, as applied to messages transmitted from one State to another or to the District of Columbia, an unconstitutional attempt to regulate interstate commerce.[871] A State has no authority to interfere with the operation of the lines of telegraph companies constructed along postal routes within its borders under the authority of the Post Road Act of 1866,[872] nor to exclude altogether a company proposing to take advantage of the act;[873] but that act does not deprive the State or a municipality of the right to subject telegraph companies to reasonable regulations, and an ordinance regulating the erection and use of poles and wires in the streets does not interfere with the exercise of authority under that act.[874] The jurisdiction conferred by The Transportation Act of 1920 upon the Interstate Commerce Commission, and since transferred to the Federal Communications Commission, over accounts and depreciation rates of telephone companies does not, in the absence of exercise by the federal agency of its power, operate to curtail the analogous State authority;[875] nor is an unconstitutional burden laid upon interstate commerce by the action of a State agency in requiring a telephone company to revise its intrastate toll rates so as to conform to rates charged for comparable distances in interstate service.[876]


The business of piping natural gas from one State to another to local distributors which sell it locally to consumers is a branch of interstate commerce which a State may not regulate.[877] Likewise, an order by a State commission fixing rates on electric current generated within the States and sold to a distributor in another State, imposes an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce, although the regulation of such rates would necessarily benefit local consumers of electricity furnished by the same company.[878] In the absence, on the other hand, of contrary regulation by Congress a State may regulate the sale to consumers in its cities of natural gas produced in and transmitted from another State;[879] nor did Congress, by the National Gas Act of 1938, impose any such contrary regulation.[880] Likewise, a State is left free by the same act to require a gas company engaged in interstate commerce to obtain a certificate of convenience before selling directly to customers in the State.[881] And where a pipe line is used to distribute both gas that is brought in from without the State and gas that is produced and used within the State, and the two are commingled, but their proportionate quantities are known, an order by the State commission directing the gas company to continue supplying gas from the line to a certain community does not burden interstate commerce.[882] The transportation of natural gas from sources outside the State to local consumers in its municipalities ceases to be interstate commerce at the point where it passes from a pressure producing station into local distributing stations, and from that point is subject to State regulation.[883] A State public utilities commission is entitled to require a natural gas distributing company seeking an increase of rates to show the fairness and reasonableness of the rate paid by it to the pipe line company from which it obtains its supplies, both companies being subsidiaries of a third.[884] A State agency may require a company which sells natural gas to local consumers and distributing companies, transporting it in pipe lines from other States, to file contracts, agreements, etc., for sales and deliveries to the distributing companies;[885] nor does the fact that a natural gas pipe line from the place of production to the distributing points in the same State cuts across a corner of another State render it improper, in determining maximum rates for gas sold by the owner of the pipe line to distributing companies, to include the value of the total line in the rate base.[886] A State may, as a conservation measure, fix the minimum prices at the wellhead on natural gas produced in the State and sold interstate.[887]


A State may require that a foreign corporation as a condition of its being admitted to do a local business or to having access to its courts obtain a license, and in connection therewith furnish information as to its home State or country, the location of its principal office, the names of its officers and directors, its authorized capitalization, and the like, and that it pay a reasonable license fee;[888] nor is a corporation licensed by the National Government to act as a customs broker thereby relieved from meeting such conditions.[889] So it was decided in 1944. The holding does not necessarily disturb one made thirty years earlier in which the Court ruled that a statute which closed the courts of the enacting State to any action on any contract in the State by a foreign corporation unless it had previously appointed a resident agent to accept process, could not be constitutionally applied to the right of a foreign corporation to sue on an interstate transaction.[890] A suit brought in a State court by a foreign corporation having its principal place of business in the State against another foreign corporation engaged in interstate commerce on a cause of action arising outside the State does not impose an undue burden on such commerce; and the forum being in other respects appropriate, its jurisdiction is not forfeited because the property attached is an instrumentality of interstate commerce.[891] There is nothing in the commerce clause which immunizes a foreign corporation doing business in a State from any fair inquiry, judicial or legislative, that is required by local laws.[892]


Banks and Banking

A State statute which forbids individuals or partnerships to engage in the banking business without a license is not, as to one whose business chiefly consists in receiving deposits for periodic shipment [Pg 235]to other States and to foreign countries, invalid as a regulation of interstate and foreign commerce.[893]


A statute which requires dealers in securities evidencing title or interest in property to obtain a license from a State officer, is not invalid as applied to dispositions within the State securities transported from other States.[894]

Commission Men

A statute requiring commission merchants to give bonds for the protection of consignees may be validly applied to commission merchants handling produce shipped to them from without the State.[895]

Attachment and Garnishment

Railway cars are not exempt from attachment under State laws, although they may have been or are intended to be used in interstate commerce.[896]

Statutory Liens

A State statute which gives a lien upon all vessels whether domestic or foreign, and whether engaged in interstate commerce or not, for injuries to persons and property within the State, does not as applied to nonmaritime torts offend the commerce clause, there being no act of Congress in conflict.[897] Nor can the enforcement of a lien for materials used in the construction of a vessel be avoided because the vessel is engaged in interstate commerce.[898]

The Police Power and the Subject-Matter of Commerce


"Quarantine regulations are essential measures of protection which the States are free to adopt when they do not come into conflict with Federal action. In view of the need of conforming such measures to local conditions, Congress from the beginning has been content to leave the matter for the most part, notwithstanding its vast importance, to the States and has repeatedly acquiesced in the enforcement of State [Pg 236]laws. * * * Such laws undoubtedly operate upon interstate and foreign commerce. They could not be effective otherwise. They cannot, of course, be made the cover for discriminations and arbitrary enactments having no reasonable relation to health * * *; but the power of the State to take steps to prevent the introduction or spread of disease, although interstate and foreign commerce are involved (subject to the paramount authority of Congress if it decides to assume control), is beyond question.[899] * * * State inspection laws and statutes designed to safeguard the inhabitants of a State from fraud and imposition are valid when reasonable in their requirements and not in conflict with Federal rules, although they may affect interstate commerce in their relation to articles prepared for export or by including incidentally those brought into the State and held for sale in the original imported packages."[900]


In two earlier cases a Missouri statute which prohibited the driving of all Texan, Mexican, and Indian cattle into the state during certain seasons of the year was held void;[901] while a statute making anybody in the State who had Texas cattle which had not wintered north of a certain line liable for damage through the communication of disease from these to other cattle was sustained;[902] as were also the regulations of a sanitary commission which excluded all cattle, horses, and mules, from the State at a certain period when anthrax was prevalent.[903] Reviewing previous cases in the one last cited, the Court declared their controlling principle to be simply whether the police power of the State had been exerted to exclude "beyond what is necessary for any proper quarantine," a question predominantly of fact, and one therefore to be determined for each case with only general guidance from earlier decisions.[904]

More recent cases conform to the same pattern. Among measures sustained are the following: an Ohio statute forbidding the sale in that State of condensed milk unless made from unadulterated milk;[905] a New York statute penalizing the sale with intent to defraud of preparations falsely represented to be Kosher;[906] a New York statute requiring that cattle shall not be imported for dairy or breeding purposes unless accompanied by the certificate of a proper sanitary official in the State of origin, in order to prevent the spread of an infectious [Pg 237]disease;[907] an order of a State Department of Agriculture, pursuant to a State law, regulating the standards of containers in which agricultural products (berries) may be marketed within the State;[908] a State statute restricting the processing of fish found within the waters of the State with the purpose of conserving it for food, even though it also operates upon fish brought into the State from without;[909] the price fixing and licensing provisions of a State Milk and Cream Act, not applicable to transactions in interstate commerce, by declaration of the act;[910] a Maine statute requiring the registration with the State Health Department of cosmetic preparations for the purpose of ascertaining whether the products are harmless;[911] an Indiana Animals Disposal Act requiring that animal carcasses, not promptly disposed of by the owner, be delivered to the representative of a disposal plant licensed by the State, and prohibiting their transportation on the public highways for any other purpose;[912] a Pennsylvania statute providing for the licensing and bonding of all milk dealers and fixing a minimum price to be paid producers, as applied to a dealer purchasing milk within the State for shipment to points outside it.[913]


The application of State inspection laws to imports from outside the State has been sustained as warranted by local interests and as not discriminating against out-of-state products, in the following instances: A North Carolina statute providing that "every bag, barrel, or other package" of commercial fertilizer offered for sale in the State should bear a label truly describing its chemical composition, which must comply with certain requirements, and charging 25 cents per ton to meet the cost of inspection;[914] an Indiana statute forbidding the sale in the original package of concentrated feeding stuffs prior to inspection and analysis for the purpose of ascertaining whether certain minimum standards as to composition had been met;[915] a Minnesota statute requiring as a precondition of its being offered for sale in the State, the inspection of illuminating oil and gasoline;[916] a Kansas statute forbidding any moving picture film or reel to be exhibited in the State unless it had been examined by the State Superintendent of Instruction and certified by him as moral and instructive and not tending to debase or corrupt the morals.[917] A Minnesota statute, on the other hand, which forbade the sale in any city of the State of any [Pg 238]beef, mutton, lamb, or pork which, had not been inspected on the hoof by local inspectors within twenty-four hours of slaughter, was held void.[918] Its "necessary operation," said the Court, was to ban from the State wholesome and properly inspected meat from other States.[919] Also a Virginia statute which required the inspection and labelling of all flour brought into the State for sale was disallowed because flour produced in the State was not subject to inspection;[920] likewise a Florida statute providing for the inspection of all cement imported into the State and enacting a fee therefor, but making no provision for the inspection of the local product, met a like fate;[921] as did also a Madison, Wisconsin ordinance which sought to exclude a foreign corporation from selling milk in that city solely because its pasteurization plants were more than five miles away.[922]


The original package doctrine made its debut in Brown v. Maryland,[923] where it was applied to remove imports from abroad which were still in the hands of the importer in the original package, out of the reach of the State's taxing power. This rule the Court, overriding a dictum in Marshall's opinion in Brown v. Maryland,[924] rejected outright after the Civil War as to imports from sister States.[925] However, when in the late eighties and early nineties State-wide Prohibition laws began making their appearance, the Court seized on the rejected dictum and began applying it as a brake on the operation of such laws with respect to interstate commerce in intoxicants, which the Court denominated "legitimate articles of commerce." While holding that a State was entitled to prohibit the manufacture and sale within its limits of intoxicants,[926] even for an outside market—manufacture being no part of commerce[927]—it contemporaneously laid down the rule, in Bowman v. Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Co.,[928] that so long as Congress remained silent in the matter, a State lacked the power, even as part and parcel of a program of Statewide prohibition of the traffic in intoxicants, to prevent the shipment into it of intoxicants from a sister State; and this holding was soon followed by another to the effect that, so long as Congress remained silent, a State had no power to prevent the sale in the original package of liquors introduced from another State.[929] The effect of the latter decision was [Pg 239]soon overcome by an act of Congress, the so-called Wilson Act, repealing its alleged silence,[930] but the Bowman decision still stood, the act in question being interpreted by the Court not to subject liquors from sister States to local authority until their arrival in the hands of the person to whom consigned.[931] Not till 1913 was the effect of the decision in the Bowman case fully nullified by the Webb-Kenyon Act,[932] which placed intoxicants entering a State from another State under the control of the former for all purposes whatsoever.


Long before this the immunity temporarily conferred by the original package doctrine upon liquors had been extended to cigarettes[933] and, with an instructive exception, to oleomargarine. The exception referred to was made in Plumley v. Massachusetts,[934] where the Court held that a statute of that State forbidding the sale of oleomargarine colored to look like butter could validly be applied to oleomargarine brought from another State and still in the original package. The justification of the statute to the Court's mind was that it sought "to suppress false pretenses and promote fair dealing in the sale of an article of food." Nor did Leisy and Co. v. Hardin[935] apply, said Justice Harlan for the Court, because the beer in that case was "genuine beer, and not a liquid or drink colored artificially so as to cause it to look like beer." That decision was never intended, he continued, to hold that "a State is powerless to prevent the sale of articles manufactured in or brought from another State, and subjects of traffic and commerce, if their sale may cheat the people into purchasing something they do not intend to buy * * *."[936] Obviously, the argument was conclusive only on the assumption that a State has a better right to prevent frauds than it has to prevent drunkenness and like evils; and doubtless that is the way the Court felt about the matter at that date. On the one hand, the liquor traffic was a very [Pg 240]ancient, if not an altogether, venerable institution, while oleomargarine was then a relatively novel article of commerce whose wholesomeness was suspect. On the other hand, laws designed to secure fair dealing and condemnatory of fraud followed closely the track of the common law, while anti-liquor laws most decidedly did not. The real differentiation of the two cases had to be sought in historical grounds. Yet the State must not put unreasonable burdens upon interstate commerce even in oleomargarine. Thus a Pennsylvania statute forbidding the sale of this product even in the unadulterated condition was pronounced invalid so far as it operated to prevent the introduction of such oleomargarine from another State and its sale in the original package;[937] as was also a New Hampshire statute which required that all oleomargarine marketed in the State be colored pink.[938] A little later in the case above mentioned involving cigarettes, the Court discovered some of the difficulties of the original package doctrine when applied to interstate commerce, in which the package is not so apt to be standardized as it is in foreign commerce.[939]


What importance has the original package doctrine today as a restraint on State legislation affecting interstate commerce? The answer is, very little, if any. State laws prohibiting the importation of intoxicating liquor, have since the passage of the Twenty-first Amendment consistently been upheld, even when imposing a burden on interstate commerce or discriminating against liquor imported from another State.[940] Indeed the Court has, without appealing to the Twenty-first Amendment, even gone so far as to uphold a statute requiring a permit for transportation of liquor through the enacting State.[941] In Whitfield v. Ohio,[942] moreover, the Court upheld a State law prohibiting the sale in open market of convict-made goods including sales of goods imported from other States and still in the original package. While the decision is based on the Hawes-Cooper Act of 1929,[943] which follows the pattern of the Webb-Kenyon Act, Justice Sutherland speaking for the Court, takes pains to disparage the "unbroken-package doctrine, as applied to interstate commerce, * * *, as more artificial than sound."[944] Indeed, earlier cases make it clear that the enforcement of State quarantine and inspection acts, [Pg 241]otherwise constitutional, is not to be impeded by the doctrine in any way.[945]


Prior to the Civil War the slaveholding States, ever fearful of a slave uprising, adopted legislation meant to exclude from their borders free Negroes whether hailing from abroad or from sister States, and in 1823 a South Carolina Negro Seamen's Act embodying this objective was held void by Justice William Johnson, himself a South Carolinian, in a case arising in the Carolina circuit and involving a colored British sailor.[946] The basis of the ruling, which created tremendous uproar in Charleston,[947] was the commerce clause and certain treaties of the United States. There followed two rulings of Attorneys General, the earlier by Attorney General Wirt, denouncing such legislation as unconstitutional;[948] the latter by Attorney General Berrien, sustaining it;[949] and in City of New York v. Miln[950] the Court, speaking by Justice Barbour of Virginia, asserted, six years after Nat Turner's rebellion, the power of the States to exclude undesirables in sweeping terms, which in the Passenger Cases,[951] decided in 1840, a narrowly divided Court considerably qualified. Shortly after the Civil War the Court overturned a Nevada statute which sought to halt the further loss of population by a special tax on railroads on every passenger carried out of the State.[952] This time only two Justices invoked the commerce clause; the majority, speaking by Justice Miller held the measure to be an unconstitutional interference with a right of national citizenship—a holding today translatable, in the terminology of the Fourteenth Amendment, as an abridgment of a privilege or immunity of citizens of the United States.

[Pg 242]

Against this background the Court in 1941, in Edwards v. California,[953] held void a statute which penalized the bringing into that State, or the assisting to bring into it, any nonresident knowing him to be "an indigent person." Five Justices, speaking by Justice Byrnes, held the act to be even as to "persons who are presently destitute of property and without resources to obtain the necessities of life, and who have no relatives or friends able and willing to support them,"[954] an unconstitutional interference with interstate commerce. "The State asserts," Justice Byrnes recites, "that the huge influx of migrants into California in recent years has resulted in problems of health, morals, and especially finance, the proportions of which are staggering. It is not for us to say that this is not true. We have repeatedly and recently affirmed, and we now reaffirm, that we do not conceive it our function to pass upon 'the wisdom, need, or appropriateness' of the legislative efforts of the States to solve such difficulties. * * * But this does not mean that there are no boundaries to the permissible area of State legislative activity. There are. And none is more certain than the prohibition against attempts on the part of any single State to isolate itself from difficulties common to all of them by restraining the transportation of persons and property across its borders. It is frequently the case that a State might gain a momentary respite from the pressure of events by the simple expedient of shutting its gates to the outside world. But, in the words of Mr. Justice Cardozo: 'The Constitution was framed under the dominion of a political philosophy less parochial in range. It was framed upon the theory that the peoples of the several States must sink or swim together, and that in the long run prosperity and salvation are in union and not division'."[955] Four of the Justices would have preferred to rest the holding of unconstitutionality on the rights of national citizenship under the privileges and immunities clause of Amendment XIV.[956]


In Geer v. Connecticut[957] the Court sustained the right of the State to forbid the shipment beyond its borders of game taken within the State—this on the ground, in part, that a State has an underlying property right to wild things found within its limits, and so is entitled [Pg 243]to qualify the right of individual takers thereof to any extent it chooses; and a similar ruling was laid down in a later case as to the prohibition by a State of the transportation out of it of water from its important streams.[958] In Oklahoma v. Kansas Natural Gas Co.,[959] however, this doctrine was held inapplicable to the case of natural gas, on the ground: first, that "gas, when reduced to possession, is a commodity, the individual property" of the owner; and secondly, that "the business welfare of the State," is subordinated by the commerce clause to that of the nation as a whole. If the States had the power asserted in the Oklahoma statute, said Justice McKenna, "a singular situation might result. Pennsylvania might keep its coal, the Northwest its timber, the mining States their minerals. And why may not the products of the field be brought within the principle? * * * And yet we have said that 'in matters of foreign and interstate commerce there are no State lines.' In such commerce, instead of the States, a new power appears and a new welfare, a welfare which transcends that of any State. But rather let us say it is constituted of the welfare of all the States and that of each State is made greater by a division of its resources, * * *, with every other State, and those of every other State with it. This was the purpose, as it is the result, of the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution of the United States."[960] In Pennsylvania v. West Virginia[961] the same doctrine was enforced in disallowance of a West Virginia statute whereby that State sought to require that a preference be accorded local consumers of gas produced within the State. West Virginia's argument that the supply of gas within the State was waning and no longer sufficed for both the local and the interstate markets, and that therefore the statute was a legitimate measure of conservation in the interest of the people of the State, was answered in the words just quoted.

In the above cases the State prohibition overturned was directed specifically to shipments beyond the State. In two other cases the State enactments involved reached all commerce, both domestic and interstate without discrimination. In the first of these, Sligh v. Kirkwood,[962] the Court upheld the application to oranges which were intended for the interstate market of a Florida statute prohibiting the sale, shipment, or delivery for shipment of any citrus fruits which were immature or otherwise unfit for consumption. The burden thus imposed upon interstate commerce was held by the Court to be incidental merely to the effective enforcement of a measure intended to safeguard the health of the people of Florida. Moreover, said the Court, "we may take judicial notice of the fact that the raising of citrus fruits is one of the great industries of the State of Florida. It was competent [Pg 244]for the legislature to find that it was essential for the success of that industry that its reputation be preserved in other States wherein such fruits find their most extensive market."[963] In Lemke v. Farmers Grain Co.,[964] on the other hand, a North Dakota statute which confined the purchase of grain within that State to those holding licenses from the State and which regulated prices, was pronounced void under the commerce clause. To the argument that such legislation was "in the interest of the grain growers and essential to protect them from fraudulent purchases, and to secure payment to them of fair prices for the grain actually sold," the Court answered that, "Congress is amply authorized to pass measures to protect interstate commerce if legislation of that character is needed."

The differentiation of the above two cases is twofold. The statute under review in the earlier one was of the ordinary type of inspection law and was applied without discrimination to fruits designed for the home and the interstate market. The North Dakota act was far more drastic, approximating an attempt on the part of the State to license interstate commerce. What is even more important, however, the later case represents a new rule of law, and one which at the time the Florida act was before the Court had not yet been heard of. This is embodied in the head note of the case in the following words: "The business of buying grain in North Dakota, practically all of which is intended for shipment to, and sale at, terminal markets in other States, conformably to the usual and general course of business in the grain trade, is interstate commerce."[965] The application of this rule in the field of state taxation was mentioned on a previous page.[966]


Certain recent cases have had to deal with State regulation of the milk business. In Nebbia v. New York,[967] decided in 1934, that State's law regulating the price of milk was sustained by the Court against objections based on the due process clause of Amendment XIV. A year later, in Baldwin v. Seelig[968] the refusal of a license under the same act to a dealer who had procured his milk at a lower minimum price than producers were guaranteed in New York, was set aside as an unconstitutional interference with interstate commerce. However, a Pennsylvania statute requiring dealers to obtain licenses was sustained as to one who procured milk from neighboring farms and shipped it all into a neighboring State for sale.[969] The purpose of the act, explained Justice Roberts, was to control "a domestic situation in the interest of the welfare of the producers and consumers," and its application to the kind of case before the Court was essential to [Pg 245]its effective enforcement and affected interstate commerce only incidentally.[970] But when a distributor of milk in Massachusetts, who already had two milk stations in Eastern New York, was refused a license for a third on the ground, among others, that the further diversion of milk to Massachusetts would deprive the local market of a supply needed during the short season, a narrowly divided Court interposed its veto on the basis of Oklahoma v. Kansas Natural Gas Co.[971]


Meantime, Geer v. Connecticut has been somewhat overcast by subsequent rulings. In a case, decided in 1928, it was held that a Louisiana statute which permitted the shipment of shrimp taken in the tidal waters of Louisiana marshes only if the heads and hulls have been previously removed was unconstitutional.[972] Distinguishing Geer v. Connecticut the Court said: "As the representative of its people, the State might have retained the shrimp for [local] consumption and use therein." But the object of the Louisiana statute was in direct opposition to the conservation of a local food supply. Its object was to favor the canning of shrimp for the interstate market. "* * * by permitting its shrimp to be taken and all the products thereof to be shipped and sold in interstate commerce, the State necessarily releases its hold and, as to the shrimp so taken, definitely terminates its control. * * * And those taking the shrimp under the authority of the act necessarily thereby become entitled to the rights of private ownership and the protection of the commerce clause."[973] On the same reasoning a South Carolina statute which required that owners of shrimp boats, fishing in the marine waters off the coast of the State, dock at a State port and unload, pack and stamp their catch with a tax stamp before shipping or transporting it to another State, was pronounced void in 1948.[974] However, a California statute which restricted the processing of fish, both that taken in the waters of the State and that brought into the State in a fresh condition, was found by the Court to be purely a food conservation measure, and hence valid.[975] The application of the act to fish brought from outside was held to be justified "by rendering evasion of it less easy."[976]

[Pg 246] Concurrent Federal and State Legislation


Since the turn of the century federal legislation under the commerce clause has penetrated more and more deeply into areas once occupied exclusively by the police power of the States. The result has been that State laws have come under increasingly frequent attack as being incompatible with acts of Congress operating in the same general field. The Court's decisions resolving such alleged conflicts fall into three groups: first, those which follow Webster's theory, advanced in Gibbons v. Ogden, that when Congress acts upon a particular phase of interstate commerce, it designs to appropriate the entire field with the result that no room is left for supplementary State action; second, those in which, in the absence of conflict between specific provisions of the State and Congressional measures involved, the opposite result is reached; third, those in which the State legislation involved is found to conflict with certain acts of Congress, and in which the principle of national supremacy is invoked by the Court. Most of the earlier cases stemming from State legislation affecting interstate railway transportation fall in the first class; while illustrations of the second category usually comprise legislation intended to promote the public health and fair dealing. More recent cases are more difficult to classify, especially as between the first and third categories.


No act ever passed by Congress was more destructive of legislation on the State statute books than the Hepburn Act of 1906,[977] amending the Interstate Commerce Act. Thus a State statute which, while prohibiting a railway from giving free passes or free transportation, authorized the issuance of transportation in payment for printing and advertising, was found to conflict with the unqualified prohibition by Congress of free interstate transportation.[978] Likewise, a State statute which penalized a carrier for refusing to receive freight for transportation whenever tendered at a regular station was found to conflict with the Congressional provision that no carrier "shall engage or participate in the transportation of passengers or property, as defined in this act, unless the rates, fares, and charges upon which the same are transported by said carrier have been filed and published in accordance with the provisions of this act."[979] In enacting this provision, the Court found, Congress had intended to occupy the entire field. In a third case, it was held that the Hepburn Act had put it outside the power of a State to regulate the delivery of cars for interstate shipments;[980] and on the same ground, a State statute authorizing recovery of a penalty for delay in giving notice of the arrival of freight [Pg 247]was disallowed;[981] as was also the similar rule of a State railroad commission with respect to failure to deliver freight at depots and warehouses within a stated time limit.[982] And in Adams Express Co. v. Croninger[983] it was sweepingly ruled that the so-called Carmack Amendment to the Hepburn Act, which puts the responsibility for loss of, or injury to, cargo upon the initial carrier, had superseded all State statutes limiting recovery for loss or injury to goods in transportation to an agreed or declared value. Substantially contemporaneous with these holdings were others in which the Court ruled that the federal Employers' Liability Act of 1908, as amended in 1910;[984] the federal Hours of Service Act (Railroads) of 1907;[985] and the federal Safety Appliance Acts of 1893, as amended in 1903[986] superseded all State legislation dealing with the same subjects so far as such legislation affected interstate commerce.[987] However, the States were still able to regulate the time and manner of payment of the employees of railroads, including those engaged in interstate commerce,[988] Congress having not legislated on the subject.


In 1904 it was held that a New York statute prohibiting the manufacture or sale of any adulterated food or drug, or the coloring or coating of food whereby it is made to appear better than it really is, was not, as applied to imported coffee, repugnant to either the commerce clause or the Meat Inspection Act of 1890,[989] prohibiting the importation into the United States of adulterated and unwholesome food, but as exertion by the State of power to legislate for the protection of the health and safety of the community and to provide against deception and fraud.[990] And in 1912 it was held that an Indiana statute regulating the sale of concentrated commercial feeding stuff and requiring the disclosure of ingredients by certificate and label, and providing for inspection and analysis, was not in conflict with the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906.[991] However, when Wisconsin about the same time passed an act requiring that when certain commodities were offered for sale in that State they should bear the label required by State law and no other, she was informed that she could not validly apply it to articles which had been labeled in accordance with the federal statute nor did it make any difference that the goods in question had been removed from the container in which they had been shipped into the State, inasmuch as they could still be proceeded against under the act of Congress.[992] The original package doctrine, it was added, "was not intended to limit the right of Congress, * * *, to keep the channels of interstate commerce free from the carriage of injurious or fraudulently branded articles and to choose appropriate means to that end."[993] But a North Dakota statute requiring that lard compound or substitutes, unless sold in bulk, should be put up in pails or containers holding one, three, or five pounds net weight, or some multiple of these numbers, was held not to be repugnant to the Pure Food and Drugs Act.[994] On the other hand, a decade later the Court found that the Plant Quarantine Act of 1912, as amended in 1917,[995] had so completely occupied the field indicated by its title that a State was left without power to prevent the importation of plants infected by a particular disease to which the Secretary of Agriculture's regulations did not apply.[996] Congress promptly intervened by further amending the federal statute to permit the States to impose quarantines in such overlooked cases.[997]


In 1935, it was held[998] that an order of the New York Commissioner of Agriculture prohibiting the importation of cattle for dairy or breeding purposes unless such cattle and the herds from which they come had been certified by the chief sanitary officer of the State of origin as being free from Bang's disease, was not in conflict with the Cattle Contagious Diseases Acts.[999] In 1937, it was ruled[1000] that a Georgia statute fixing maximum charges for handling and selling leaf tobacco did not, as applied to sales of tobacco destined for export, conflict with the Tobacco Inspection Act.[1001] In 1942,[1002] it was held that an order of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Board which commanded a union, its agents, and members, to desist from mass picketing of a factory, threatening personal injury or property damage to employees desiring to work, obstructing the streets about the factory, and picketing the homes of employees, was not in conflict with the National Labor Relations Act,[1003] to which the employer was admittedly subject but which had not been invoked. An "intention of Congress," said the Court, "to exclude States from exerting their police power must be clearly manifested."[1004] In 1943,[1005] the Court sustained the marketing program for the 1940 California raisin crop, adopted pursuant to the California Agricultural Prorate Act. Although it was conceded that the program and act operated to eliminate competition among producers concerning terms of sale and price as to product destined for the interstate market, they were held not to conflict with the commerce clause or with the Sherman Act or the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act.[1006] To the contrary, said Chief Justice Stone, speaking for the unanimous court, the program "is one which it has been the policy of Congress to aid and encourage through federal agencies" under federal act.[1007] The case was not one, he further observed, which was to be resolved by "mechanical test," but with the object in view of accommodating "the competing demands of the State and national interests involved."[1008] In 1944,[1009] the Court upheld the right of Minnesota to exclude from its courts a firm licensed by the National Government to carry on the business of customs broker because of its failure to comply with a State statute requiring foreign corporations to obtain a license to do business in the State. Speaking for the Court, Justice Frankfurter, again disparaged "the generalities" to which certain cases had given utterance. Actually, he asserted, "the fate of State legislation in these cases has not been determined by these generalities but by the weight of the circumstances and the practical and experienced judgment in applying these generalities to the particular instances."[1010] In cases, decided in 1947,[1011] the Court ruled that Indiana had not violated the Natural Gas Act[1012] by attempting [Pg 250]to regulate the rates for natural gas sold within the State by an interstate pipe line company to local industrial consumers; and that Illinois was not precluded by the Commodity Exchange Act[1013] from imposing upon grain exchanges doing business within her borders regulations not at variance with the provisions of the act or with regulations promulgated under it by the Secretary of Agriculture. Nor, it was held by a bare majority of the Court in 1949, did the Motor Carrier Act of 1935, as amended in 1942,[1014] prevent California from prohibiting the sale or arrangement of any transportation over its public highways if the transporting carrier has no permit from the Interstate Commerce Commission.[1015] The opposed opinions line up most of the cases on either side of the question.


On the other side of the ledger appear the following cases, decided contemporaneously with those just reviewed: one in 1942 in which it was held that a gas company engaged in the business of piping natural gas from without the State of Illinois and selling it wholesale to distributors in that State was subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Power Commission under the Natural Gas Act,[1016] and hence could not be required by the Illinois Commerce Commission to extend its facilities in the absence of a certificate of convenience from the Federal Power Commission;[1017] one, in the same year, in which it was held, by a sharply divided Court, that federal regulation of the production of renovated butter under the Internal Revenue Code[1018] prevented the State of Alabama from inspecting, seizing and detaining stock butter from which such butter was made, some of it being intended for interstate commerce;[1019] one in 1947 holding that the United [Pg 251]States Warehouse Act, as amended,[1020] must be construed as superseding State authority to regulate licenses thereunder, and hence overruled the stricter requirements of Illinois law dealing with such subject as rate discrimination, the dual position of grain warehousemen storing their own grain, the mixing of inferior grain owned by the warehousemen with superior grain of other users of the facility, delay in loading grain, the sacrificing or rebating of storage charges, retraining desirable transit tonnage, utilizing preferred storage space, maintenance of unsafe and inadequate grain elevators, inadequate and ineffectual warehouse service, the obtaining of a license, the abandonment of warehousing service, and the rendition of warehousing service without filing and publishing rate schedules;[1021] one decided the same year in which it was held that the authority of the Federal Power Commission under the Natural Gas Act[1022] extended to and superseded State regulatory power over sales made within a State by a natural gas producing company to pipe line companies which transported the purchased gas to markets in other States;[1023] one in 1948, in which a sharply divided Court held that Michigan law governing the rights of dissenting stockholders could not be applied to embarrass a merger agreement between two railroad companies which had been approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission under the Interstate Commerce Act[1024] as "just and reasonable";[1025] and finally one decided the same year in which it was held by a unanimous Court that the Interstate Commerce Commission may, in approving the acquisition by a railroad corporation of one State of railroad lines in another, relieve such corporation from being incorporated under the laws of the latter State.[1026]


One group of cases, which has caused the Court some difficulty and its attitude in which has perhaps shifted in some measure, deals with the question of the effect of the Wagner, and, latterly, of the Taft-Hartley Act on State power to govern labor union activities. [Pg 252]In a case decided in 1945[1027] it was held that a Florida statute which required business agents of a union operating in the State to file annual reports and pay an annual fee of one dollar conflicted with the Wagner Act,[1028] standing, as the Court put it, "'as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.'"[1029] In two cases decided in 1949, however, State legislation regulative of labor relations was sustained. In one a "cease and desist" order of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Board[1030] implementing the State Employment Peace Act, which made it an unfair labor practice for an employee to interfere with production except by leaving the premises in an orderly manner for the purpose of going on strike, was found not to conflict with either the Wagner or the Taft-Hartley Act,[1031] both of which, the Court asserted, designedly left open an area for State control. In the other,[1032] the Wisconsin board, acting under the same statute, was held to be within its powers in labelling as "an unfair labor practice" the discharge by an employer of an employee under a maintenance of membership clause which had been inserted in the contract of employment in 1943 under pressure from the National War Labor Board, but which was contrary to provisions of the Wisconsin Act. On the other hand, in 1950, the Court invalidated a Michigan mediation statute, and in 1951, a Wisconsin Public Utility Anti-Strike Act, on the ground that these matters were governed by the policies embodied in the Wagner and Taft-Hartley Acts.[1033]

Commerce With Indian Tribes


Congress is given power to regulate commerce "with the Indian tribes." Faced in 1886 with a Congressional enactment which prescribed a system of criminal laws for Indians living on their reservations, the Court rejected the government's argument which sought to base the act on the commerce clause. It sustained the act, however, on the following grounds: "From their very weakness and helplessness, so largely due to the course of dealing of the Federal Government with them and the treaties in which it has been promised, there arises the duty of protection, and with it the power. This has always been recognized by the Executive and by Congress, and by this Court, whenever the question has arisen. * * * The power of the General Government over these remnants of a race once powerful, now weak [Pg 253]and diminished in numbers, is necessary to their protection, as well as to the safety of those among whom they dwell. It must exist in that government, because it never has existed anywhere else, because the theatre of its exercise is within the geographical limits of the United States, because it has never been denied, and because it alone can enforce its laws on all the tribes." Moreover, such power was operative within the States.[1034]

Obviously, this line of reasoning renders the commerce clause superfluous as a source of power over the Indian tribes; and some years earlier, in 1871, Congress had forbidden the further making of treaties with them.[1035] However, by a characteristic judicial device the effort has been made at times to absorb the doctrine of the Kagama case into the commerce clause,[1036] although more commonly the Court, in sustaining Congressional legislation, prefers to treat the commerce clause and "the recognized relations of tribal Indians," as joint sources of Congress's power.[1037] Most of the cases have arisen, in fact, in connection with efforts by Congress to ban the traffic in "fire water" with tribal Indians. In this connection it has been held that even though an Indian has become a citizen, yet so long as he remains a member of his tribe, under the charge of an Indian agent, and so long as the United States holds in trust the title to land which has been allotted him, Congress can forbid the sale of intoxicants to him.[1038] Also Congress can prohibit the introduction of intoxicating liquors into land occupied by a tribe of uncivilized Indians within territory admitted to statehood.[1039] Nor can a State withdraw Indians within its borders from the operation of acts of Congress regulating trade with them by conferring on them rights of citizenship and suffrage, whether by its constitution or its statutes.[1040] And when a State is admitted into the Union Congress may, in the enabling act, reserve authority to legislate in the future respecting the Indians residing within the new State, and may declare that existing acts of Congress relating to traffic and intercourse with them shall remain in force.[1041]

[Pg 254]

Clause 4. The Congress shall have Power * * * To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States.

Naturalization and Citizenship


Naturalization has been defined by the Supreme Court as "the act of adopting a foreigner, and clothing him with the privileges of a native citizen, * * *"[1042] In the Dred Scott Case,[1043] the Court asserted that the power of Congress under this clause applies only to "persons born in a foreign country, under a foreign government."[1044] These dicta are much too narrow to sustain the power which Congress has actually exercised on the subject. The competence of Congress in this field merges, in fact, with its indefinite, inherent powers in the field of foreign relations. In the words of the Court: "As a government, the United States is invested with all the attributes of sovereignty. As it has the character of nationality it has the powers of nationality, especially those which concern its relations and intercourse with other countries."[1045] By the Immigration and Nationality Act of June 27, 1952,[1046] which codifies much previous legislation, it is enacted that the following shall be citizens of the United States at birth:

"(1) a person born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof;

"(2) a person born in the United States to a member of an Indian, Eskimo, Aleutian, or other aboriginal tribe: Provided, That the granting of citizenship under this subsection shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of such person to tribal or other property;

"(3) a person born outside of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents both of whom are citizens of the United States and one of whom has had a residence in the United States or one of its outlying possessions, prior to the birth of such person;

"(4) a person born outside of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is a citizen of the United States who has been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year prior to the birth of such person, and the other of whom is a national, but not a citizen of the United States;

"(5) a person born in an outlying possession of the United States of parents one of whom is a citizen of the United States who has been physically present in the United States or one of its outlying possessions for a continuous period of one year at any time prior to the birth of such person;

[Pg 255]

"(6) a person of unknown parentage found in the United States while under the age of five years, until shown, prior to his attaining the age of twenty-one years, not to have been born in the United States;

"(7) a person born outside the geographical limits of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than ten years, at least five of which were after attaining the age of fourteen years: Provided, That any periods of honorable service in the Armed Forces of the United States by such citizen parent may be included in computing the physical presence requirements of this paragraph."[1047] By the same act, "persons born in the Canal Zone and Panama after February 26, 1904, one or both of whose parents were at the time of birth of such person citizens of the United States, are declared to be citizens of the United States; as likewise are of certain categories of persons born in Puerto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii, the Virgin Islands and Guam on or after certain stated dates."[1048]


Naturalization is a privilege to be given, qualified, or withheld as Congress may determine, which an alien may claim only upon compliance with the terms which Congress imposes. Earlier the privilege was confined to white persons and persons of African descent, but was extended by the Act of December 17, 1943, to descendants of races indigenous to the Western Hemisphere and Chinese persons or persons of Chinese descent;[1049] and by the Act of June 27, 1952, "the rights of a person to become a naturalized citizen of the United States shall not be denied or abridged because of race or sex or because the person is married."[1050] But, any person "who advocates or teaches or who is a member of or affiliated with any organization that advocates or teaches * * *" opposition to all organized [Pg 256]government, or "who advocates or teaches or who is a member of or affiliated with any organization that advocates or teaches the overthrow by force or violence or other unconstitutional means of the Government of the United States" may not be naturalized as a citizen of the United States.[1051] These restrictive provisions are, moreover, "applicable to any applicant for naturalization who at any time within a period of ten years immediately preceding the filing of the petition for naturalization or after such filing and before taking the final oath of citizenship is, or has been found to be within any of the classes enumerated within this section, notwithstanding that at the time the petition is filed he may not be included within such classes."[1052]


This involves as its principal and culminating event the taking in open court by the applicant of an oath: "(1) to support the Constitution of the United States; (2) to renounce and abjure absolutely and entirely all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which the petitioner was before a subject or citizen; (3) to support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; (4) to bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and (5)(A) to bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law, or (B) to perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law, or (C) to perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by law."[1053] Any naturalized person who takes this oath with mental reservations or conceals beliefs and affiliations which under the statute disqualify one for naturalization, is subject, upon these facts being shown in a proceeding brought for the purpose, to have his certificate of naturalization cancelled.[1054] Furthermore, if a naturalized person shall within five years "following his naturalization become a member of or affiliated with any organization, membership in or affiliation with which at the time of naturalization would have precluded such person from naturalization under the provisions of section 313, it shall be considered prima facie evidence that such person was not attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States and was not well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States at the time of naturalization, and, in the absence of countervailing evidence, it shall be sufficient in the proper proceeding to authorize the revocation and setting aside of the order admitting such person to citizenship and the cancellation of the certificate of [Pg 257]naturalization as having been obtained by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation. * * *" [1055]


Chief Justice Marshall early stated the dictum that "a naturalized citizen * * * become[s] a member of the society, possessing all the rights of a native citizen, and standing, in the view of the Constitution, on the footing of a native. The Constitution does not authorize Congress to enlarge or abridge those rights. The simple power of the national legislature is, to prescribe a uniform rule of naturalization, and the exercise of this power exhausts it, so far as respects the individual."[1056] A similar idea was expressed in 1946 in Knauer v. United States:[1057] "Citizenship obtained through naturalization is not a second-class citizenship. * * * [It] carries with it the privilege of full participation in the affairs of our society, including the right to speak freely, to criticize officials and administrators, and to promote changes in our laws including the very Charter of our Government."[1058] But, as shown above, a naturalized citizen is subject at any time to have his good faith in taking the oath of allegiance to the United States inquired into, and to lose his citizenship if lack of such faith is shown in proper proceedings.[1059] Also, "a person who has become a national by naturalization" may lose his nationality by "having a continuous residence for three years in the territory of a foreign state of which he was formerly a national or in which the place of his birth is situated," or by "having a continuous residence for five years in any other foreign state or states."[1060] However, in the absence of treaty or statute to the contrary effect, a child born in the United States who is taken during minority to the country of his parents' origin, where his parents resume their former allegiance, does not thereby lose his American citizenship provided that on attaining his majority he elects to retain it and returns to the United States to assume its duties.[1061]


Congress' power over naturalization is an exclusive power. A State cannot denationalize a foreign subject who has not complied with federal naturalization law and constitute him a citizen of the United States, or of the State, so as to deprive the federal courts of jurisdiction over a controversy between him and a citizen of a State.[1062] But power to naturalize aliens may be, and early was, devolved by Congress upon state courts having a common law jurisdiction.[1063] Also States may confer the right of suffrage upon resident aliens who have declared their intention to become citizens, and have frequently done so.[1064]


Notwithstanding evidence in early court decisions[1065] and in the Commentaries of Chancellor Kent of a brief acceptance of the ancient English doctrine of perpetual and unchangeable allegiance to the government of one's birth, whereby a citizen is precluded from renouncing his allegiance without permission of that government, the United States, since enactment of the act of 1868,[1066] if indeed not earlier, has expressly recognized the right of everyone to expatriate himself and choose another country. Retention of citizenship is not dependent entirely, however, upon the desires of the individual; for, although it has been "conceded that a change of citizenship cannot be arbitrarily imposed, that is, imposed without the concurrence of the citizen," the United States, by virtue of the powers which inhere in it as a sovereign nation, has been deemed competent to provide that an individual voluntarily entering into certain designated conditions shall, as a consequence thereof, suffer the loss of citizenship.[1067]

[Pg 259] Exclusion of Aliens

The power of Congress "to exclude aliens from the United States and to prescribe the terms and conditions on which they come in" is absolute, being an attribute of the United States as a sovereign nation. In the words of the Court: "That the government of the United States, through the action of the legislative department, can exclude aliens from its territory is a proposition which we do not think open to controversy. Jurisdiction over its own territory to that extent is an incident of every independent nation. It is a part of its independence. If it could not exclude aliens, it would be to that extent subject to the control of another power. * * * The United States, in their relation to foreign countries and their subjects or citizens are one nation, invested with powers which belong to independent nations, the exercise of which can be invoked for the maintenance of its absolute independence and security throughout its entire territory."[1068] By the Immigration and Nationality Act of June 27, 1952, some thirty-one categories of aliens are excluded from the United States[1069] including "aliens who are, or at any time have been, members * * * of or affiliated with any organization that advocates or teaches * * * the overthrow by force, violence, or other unconstitutional means of the Government of the United States * * *"[1070]

[Pg 260]

With this power of exclusion goes also the power to assert a considerable degree of control over aliens after their admission to the country. By the Alien Registration Act of 1940[1071] it was provided that all aliens in the United States, fourteen years of age and over, should submit to registration and finger printing, and wilful failure to do so was made a criminal offense against the United States. This Act, taken in conjunction with other laws regulating immigration and naturalization, has constituted a comprehensive and uniform system for the regulation of all aliens and precludes enforcement of a State registration act. Said the Court, speaking by Justice Black: "With a view to limiting prospective residents from foreign lands to those possessing the qualities deemed essential to good and useful citizenship in America, carefully defined qualifications are required to be met before aliens may enter our country. These qualifications include rigid requirements as to health, education, integrity, character, and adaptability to our institutions. Nor is the alien left free from the application of federal laws after entry and before naturalization. If during the time he is residing here he should be found guilty of conduct contrary to the rules and regulations laid down by Congress, he can be deported. At the time he enters the country, at the time he applies for permission to acquire the full status of citizenship, and during the intervening years, he can be subjected to searching investigations as to conduct and suitability for citizenship."[1072] The Act of June 27, 1952, repeats these requirements of the Act of 1940.[1073]

Recent cases underscore the sweeping nature of the powers of the National Government to exclude aliens from the United States and to deport by administrative process members of excluded classes. In Knauff v. Shaughnessy,[1074] decided early in 1950, an order of the Attorney General excluding, on the basis of confidential information, a wartime bride who was prima facie entitled to enter the United States under The War Brides Act of 1945,[1075] was held to be not reviewable by the courts; nor were regulations on which the order was based invalid as representing an undue delegation of legislative power. Said the Court: "Normally Congress supplies the conditions of the privilege of entry into the United States. But because the power of exclusion of aliens is also inherent in the executive department of the sovereign, Congress may in broad terms authorize the executive to exercise the power, e.g., as was done here, for the best interests of the country during a time of national emergency. Executive officers may be entrusted with the duty of specifying the procedures for carrying out the congressional intent."[1076]

[Pg 261]

In cases decided in March and April, 1952, comparable results were reached: The Internal Security Act of 1950, section 23, in authorizing the Attorney General to hold in custody, without bail, aliens who are members of the Communist Party of the United States, pending determination as to their deportability, is not unconstitutional.[1077] Nor was it unconstitutional to deport under the Alien Registration Act of 1940[1078] a legally resident alien because of membership in the Communist Party, although such membership ended before the enactment of the Act. Such application of the Act did not make it ex post facto, being but an exercise of the power of the United States to terminate its hospitality ad libitum.[1079] And a statutory provision[1080] which makes it a felony for an alien against whom a specified order of deportation is outstanding "to willfully fail or refuse to make timely application for travel or other documents necessary to his departure" is not on its face void for "vagueness."[1081]

The power of Congress to legislate with respect to the conduct of alien residents is, however, a concomitant of its power to prescribe the terms and conditions on which they may enter the United States; to establish regulations for sending out of the country such aliens as have entered in violation of law; and to commit the enforcement of such conditions and regulations to executive officers. It is not a power to lay down a special code of conduct for alien residents or to govern private relations with them. Purporting to enforce the above distinction, the Court, in 1909, held void a statutory provision which, in prohibiting the importation of "any alien woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution," provided further that whoever should keep for the purpose of prostitution "any alien woman or girl within three years after she shall have entered the United States" should be deemed guilty of a felony and punished therefor.[1082] Three Justices, however, thought the measure justifiable on the principle that "for the purpose of excluding those who unlawfully enter this country Congress has power to retain control over aliens long enough to make sure of the facts. * * * To this end it may make their admission conditional for three years. * * *" [And] "if Congress can forbid the entry * * *, it can punish those who cooperate in their fraudulent entry."[1083]

[Pg 262] Bankruptcy


In an early case on circuit Justice Livingston suggested that inasmuch as the English statutes on the subject of bankruptcy from the time of Henry VIII down had applied only to traders it might "well be doubted, whether an act of Congress subjecting to such a law every description of persons within the United States, would comport with the spirit of the powers vested in them in relation to this subject."[1084] Neither Congress nor the Supreme Court has ever accepted this limited view. The first bankruptcy law, passed in 1800, departed from the English practice to the extent of including bankers, brokers, factors and underwriters as well as traders.[1085] Asserting that the narrow scope of the English statutes was a mere matter of policy, which by no means entered into the nature of such laws, Justice Story defined a law on the subject of bankruptcies in the sense of the Constitution as a law making provisions for cases of persons failing to pay their debts.[1086] This interpretation has been ratified by the Supreme Court. In Hanover National Bank v. Moyses,[1087] it held valid the Bankruptcy Act of 1898 which provided that persons other than traders might become bankrupts and that this might be done on voluntary petition. The Court has given tacit approval to the extension of the bankruptcy laws to cover practically all classes of persons and corporations,[1088] including even municipal corporations.[1089]


As the coverage of the bankruptcy laws has been expanded, the scope of the relief afforded to debtors has been correspondingly enlarged. The act of 1800, like its English antecedents, was designed primarily for the benefit of creditors. Beginning with the act of 1841, which opened the door to voluntary petitions, rehabilitation of the debtor has become an object of increasing concern to Congress. An adjudication in bankruptcy is no longer requisite to the exercise of bankruptcy jurisdiction. In 1867 the debtor for the first time was permitted, either before or after adjudication of bankruptcy, to propose terms of composition which would become binding upon acceptance by a designated majority of his creditors and confirmation by a bankruptcy court. This measure was held constitutional,[1090] as were later acts which provided for the reorganization of corporations [Pg 263]which are insolvent or unable to meet their debts as they mature,[1091] and for the composition and extension of debts in proceedings for the relief of individual farmer-debtors.[1092] Nor is the power of Congress limited to adjustment of the rights of creditors. The Supreme Court has also ruled that the rights of a purchaser at a judicial sale of the debtor's property are within reach of the bankruptcy power, and may be modified by a reasonable extension of the period for redemption from such sale.[1093] The sympathetic attitude with which the Court has viewed these developments is reflected in the opinion in Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Co. v. Chicago, R.I. and P.R. Co.,[1094] where Justice Sutherland wrote, on behalf of a unanimous court: "* * * these acts, far-reaching though they may be, have not gone beyond the limit of Congressional power; but rather have constituted extensions into a field whose boundaries may not yet be fully revealed."[1095]


In the exercise of its bankruptcy powers Congress must not transgress the Fifth and Tenth Amendments. It may not take from a creditor specific property previously acquired from a debtor nor circumscribe the creditor's right to such an unreasonable extent as to deny him due process of law;[1096] neither may it subject the fiscal affairs of a political subdivision of a State to the control of a federal bankruptcy court.[1097] Since Congress may not supersede the power of a State to determine how a corporation shall be formed, supervised and dissolved, a corporation which has been dissolved by a decree of a State court may not file a petition for reorganization under the Bankruptcy Acts.[1098] But Congress may impair the obligation of a contract and may extend the provisions of the bankruptcy laws to contracts already entered into at the time of their passage.[1099] It may also empower courts of bankruptcy to entertain petitions by taxing agencies or instrumentalities for a composition of their indebtedness where the State has consented to the proceeding and the federal court is not authorized to interfere with the fiscal or governmental affairs of the petitioner.[1100] Also bankruptcy legislation must be uniform, but the uniformity required is geographic, not personal. Congress may recognize the laws of the States relating to dower, exemption, the validity of mortgages, [Pg 264]priorities of payment and similar matters, even though such recognition leads to different results from State to State.[1101]


Prior to 1898 Congress exercised the power to establish "uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies" only very intermittently. The first national bankruptcy law was not enacted until 1800 to be repealed in 1803; the second was passed in 1841 and repealed two years later; the third was enacted in 1867 and repealed in 1878.[1102] Thus during the first 89 years under the Constitution a national bankruptcy law was in existence only sixteen years altogether. Consequently the most important problems of interpretation which arose during that period concerned the effect of this clause on State law. The Supreme Court ruled at an early date that in the absence of Congressional action the States may enact insolvency laws since it is not the mere existence of the power but rather its exercise which is incompatible with the exercise of the same power by the States.[1103] Later cases were to settle further that the enactment of a national bankruptcy law does not invalidate State laws in conflict therewith but serves only to relegate them to a state of suspended animation with the result that upon repeal of the national statute they again come into operation without reenactment.[1104]


A State is, of course, without power to enforce any law governing bankruptcies which impairs the obligation of contracts,[1105] extends to persons or property outside its jurisdiction,[1106] or conflicts with the national bankruptcy laws.[1107] Giving effect to the policy of the federal statute, the Supreme Court has held that a State statute regulating the distribution of property of an insolvent was suspended by that law,[1108] and that a State court was without power to proceed with pending foreclosure proceedings after a farmer-debtor had filed a petition in the federal bankruptcy court for a composition or extension of time to pay his debts.[1109] A State law governing fraudulent [Pg 265]transfers was found to be compatible with the act of Congress,[1110] as was a statute which provided that a discharge in bankruptcy should be unavailing to terminate the suspension of the driver's license of a person who failed to pay a judgment rendered against him for damages resulting from his negligent operation of a motor vehicle.[1111] If a State desires to participate in the assets of a bankrupt it must submit to the appropriate requirements of the Bankruptcy Court with respect to the filing of claims by a designated date; it cannot assert a claim for taxes by filing a demand therefor at a later date.[1112]

Clauses 5 and 6. The Congress shall have Power * * * To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures.

* * * To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States.

Fiscal and Monetary Powers of Congress


The power "to coin money" and "regulate the value thereof" has been broadly construed to authorize regulation of every phase of the subject of currency. Congress may charter banks and endow them with the right to issue circulating notes,[1113] and may restrain the circulation of notes not issued under its own authority.[1114] To this end it may impose a prohibitive tax upon the circulation of the notes of State banks[1115] or of municipal corporations.[1116] It may require the surrender of gold coin and of gold certificates in exchange for other currency not redeemable in gold. A plaintiff who sought payment for the gold coin and certificates thus surrendered in an amount measured by the higher market value of gold, was denied recovery on the ground that he had not proved that he would suffer any actual loss by being compelled to accept an equivalent amount of other currency.[1117] Inasmuch as "every contract for the payment of money, simply, is necessarily subject to the constitutional power of the government over the currency, whatever that power may be, and the obligation [Pg 266]of the parties is, therefore, assumed with reference to that power,"[1118] the Supreme Court sustained the power of Congress to make Treasury notes legal tender in satisfaction of antecedent debts,[1119] and, many years later, to abrogate the clauses in private contracts calling for payment in gold coin, even though such contracts were executed before the legislation was passed.[1120] The power to coin money also imports authority to maintain such coinage as a medium of exchange at home, and to forbid its diversion to other uses by defacement, melting or exportation.[1121]


In its affirmative aspect this clause has been given a narrow interpretation; it has been held not to cover the circulation of counterfeit coin or the possession of equipment susceptible of use for making counterfeit coin.[1122] At the same time the Supreme Court has rebuffed attempts to read into this provision a limitation upon either the power of the States or upon the powers of Congress under the preceding clause. It has ruled that a State may punish the utterance of forged coins.[1123] On the ground that the power of Congress to coin money imports "the correspondent and necessary power and obligation to protect and to preserve in its purity this constitutional currency for the benefit of the nation,"[1124] it has sustained federal statutes penalizing the importation or circulation of counterfeit coin,[1125] or the willing and conscious possession of dies in the likeness of those used for making coins of the United States.[1126] In short, the above clause is entirely superfluous. Congress would have had the power which it purports to confer under the necessary and proper clause; and the same is the case with the other enumerated crimes which it is authorized to punish. The enumeration was unnecessary and is not exclusive.[1127]


Usually the aggregate of the fiscal and monetary powers of the National Government—to lay and collect taxes, to borrow money and to coin money and regulate the value thereof—have reinforced [Pg 267]each other, and, cemented by the necessary and proper clause, have provided a secure foundation for acts of Congress chartering banks and other financial institutions,[1128] or making its treasury notes legal tender in the payment of antecedent debts.[1129] But in 1935 the opposite situation arose—one in which the power to regulate the value of money collided with the obligation incurred in the exercise of the power to borrow money. By a vote of eight-to-one the Supreme Court held that the obligation assumed by the exercise of the latter was paramount, and could not be repudiated to effectuate the monetary policies of Congress.[1130] In a concurring opinion Justice Stone declined to join with the majority in suggesting that "the exercise of the sovereign power to borrow money on credit, which does not override the sovereign immunity from suit, may nevertheless preclude or impede the exercise of another sovereign power, to regulate the value of money; or to suggest that although there is and can be no present cause of action upon the repudiated gold clause, its obligation is nevertheless, in some manner and to some extent, not stated, superior to the power to regulate the currency which we now hold to be superior to the obligation of the bonds."[1131]

Clause 7. The Congress shall have Power * * * To establish Post Offices and post Roads.

The Postal Power


The great question raised in the early days with reference to the postal clause concerned the meaning to be given to the word "establish"—did it confer upon Congress the power to construct post offices and post roads, or only the power to designate from existing places and routes those that should serve as post offices and post roads? As late as 1855 Justice McLean stated that this power "has generally been considered as exhausted in the designation of roads on which the mails are to be transported," and concluded that neither under the commerce power nor the power to establish post roads could Congress construct a bridge over a navigable water.[1132] A decade earlier, however, the Court, without passing upon the validity of the original construction of the Cumberland Road, held that being "charged, * * *, with the transportation of the mails," Congress could enter a valid compact with the State of Pennsylvania regarding the use and upkeep [Pg 268]of the portion of the road lying in that State.[1133] The debate on the question was terminated in 1876 by the decision in Kohl v. United States[1134] sustaining a proceeding by the United States to appropriate a parcel of land in Cincinnati as a site for a post office and courthouse.


The postal powers of Congress embrace all measures necessary to insure the safe and speedy transit and prompt delivery of the mails.[1135] And not only are the mails under the protection of the National Government, they are in contemplation of law its property. This principle was recognized by the Supreme Court in 1845 in holding that wagons carrying United States mail were not subject to a State toll tax imposed for use of the Cumberland Road pursuant to a compact with the United States.[1136] Half a century later it was availed of as one of the grounds on which the national executive was conceded the right to enter the national courts and demand an injunction against the authors of any wide-spread disorder interfering with interstate commerce and the transmission of the mails.[1137]


Prompted by the efforts of Northern anti-slavery elements to disseminate their propaganda in the Southern States through the mails, President Jackson, in his annual message to Congress in 1835, suggested "the propriety of passing such a law as will prohibit, under severe penalties, the circulation in the Southern States, through the mail, of incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection."[1138] In the Senate John C. Calhoun resisted this recommendation, taking the position that it belonged to the States and not to Congress to determine what is and what is not calculated to disturb their security. He expressed the fear that if Congress might determine what papers were incendiary, and as such prohibit their circulation through the mail, it might also determine what were not incendiary and enforce their circulation.[1139]


Some thirty years later Congress passed the first of a series of acts to exclude from the mails publications designed to defraud the public or corrupt its morals. In the pioneer case of Ex parte Jackson,[1140] the [Pg 269]Court sustained the exclusion of circulars relating to lotteries on the general ground that "the right to designate what shall be carried necessarily involves the right to determine what shall be excluded."[1141] The leading fraud order case, decided in 1904, holds to the same effect.[1142] Pointing out that it is "an indispensable adjunct to a civil government," to supply postal facilities, the Court restated its premise that the "legislative body in thus establishing a postal service, may annex such conditions to it as it chooses."[1143] Later cases appear to have qualified these sweeping declarations. In upholding requirements that publishers of newspapers and periodicals seeking second-class mailing privileges file complete information regarding ownership, indebtedness and circulation and that all paid advertisements in such publications be marked as such, the Court emphasized that these provisions were reasonably designed to safeguard the second-class privilege from exploitation by mere advertising publications. Chief Justice White warned that the Court by no means intended to imply that it endorsed the government's "broad contentions concerning the existence of arbitrary power through the classification of the mails, or by way of condition * * *"[1144] Again, in Milwaukee Social Democratic Publishing Co. v. Burleson,[1145] where the Court sustained an order of the Postmaster General excluding from the second-class privilege a newspaper which he found to have systematically published matter banned by the Espionage Act of 1917, the claim of absolute power in Congress to withhold this privilege was sedulously avoided. More recently, when reversing an order denying the second-class privilege to a mailable publication because of the poor taste and vulgarity of its contents, on the ground that the Postmaster General exceeding his statutory authority, Justice Douglas assumed, in the opinion of the Court, "that Congress has a broad power of classification and need not open second-class mail to publications of all types."[1146]


In the cases just reviewed the mails were closed to particular types of communication which were deemed to be harmful. A much broader power of exclusion was asserted in the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935.[1147] To induce compliance with the regulatory requirements of that act, Congress denied the privilege of using the mails for any purpose to holding companies which failed to obey that law, irrespective of the character of the material to be carried. Viewing the matter realistically, the Supreme Court treated this provision [Pg 270]as a penalty. While it held this statute constitutional because the regulations whose infractions were thus penalized were themselves valid,[1148] it declared that "Congress may not exercise its control over the mails to enforce a requirement which lies outside its constitutional province, * * *."[1149]


In determining the extent to which State laws may impinge upon persons or corporations whose services are utilized by Congress in executing its postal powers, the task of the Supreme Court has been to determine whether particular measures are consistent with the general policies indicated by Congress. Broadly speaking, the Court has approved regulations which have a trivial or remote relation to the operation of the postal service, while disallowing those which constitute a serious impediment to it. Thus a State statute which granted to one company an exclusive right to operate a telegraph business in the State was found to be incompatible with a federal law which, in granting to any telegraph company the right to construct its lines upon post roads, was interpreted as a prohibition of State monopolies in a field which Congress was entitled to regulate in the exercise of its combined power over commerce and post roads.[1150] An Illinois statute which, as construed by the State courts, required an interstate mail train to make a detour of seven miles in order to stop at a designated station, also was held to be an unconstitutional interference with the power of Congress under this clause.[1151] But a Minnesota statute which required intrastate trains to stop at county seats was found to be unobjectionable.[1152] Local laws classifying postal workers with railroad employees for the purpose of determining a railroad's liability for personal injuries,[1153] or subjecting a union of railway mail clerks to a general law forbidding any "labor organization" to deny any person membership because of his race, color or creed,[1154] have been held not to conflict with national legislation or policy in this field. Despite the interference pro tanto with the performance of a federal function, a State may arrest a postal employee charged with murder while he is engaged in carrying out his official duties,[1155] but it cannot punish a person for operating a mail truck over its highways without procuring a driver's license from State authorities.[1156]

[Pg 271]

Clause 8. The Congress shall have Power * * * To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

Copyrights and Patents


This clause is the foundation upon which the national patent and copyright laws rest, although it uses neither of those terms. So far as patents are concerned, modern legislation harks back to the Statute of Monopolies of 1624, whereby Parliament endowed inventors with the sole right to their inventions for fourteen years.[1157] Copyright law, in turn, traces back to the statute of 1710 which secured to authors of books the sole right of publishing them for designated periods.[1158] Congress was not, however, by this provision, vested with anything akin to the royal prerogative in the creation and bestowal of monopolistic privileges. Its power is limited as to subject matter, and as to the purpose and duration of the rights granted. Only the writings and discoveries of authors and inventors may be protected, and then only to the end of promoting science and the useful arts.[1159] While Congress may grant exclusive rights only for a limited period, it may extend the term upon the expiration of the period originally specified, and in so doing may protect the rights of purchasers and assignees.[1160] The copyright and patent laws do not have, of their own force, any extraterritorial operation.[1161]


The protection afforded by acts of Congress under this clause is limited to new and useful inventions,[1162] and while a patentable invention is a mental achievement,[1163] yet for an idea to be patentable it must have first taken physical form.[1164] Despite the fact that the Constitution uses the term "discovery" rather than "invention," a patent may not issue for the discovery of a hitherto unknown phenomenon of nature; "if there is to be invention from such a discovery, it must come from the application of the law of nature to a new and useful end."[1165] Conversely, the mental processes which are thus applied must display "more ingenuity * * * than the work of a mechanic skilled in the art";[1166] and while combination patents have been at times [Pg 272]sustained,[1167] the accumulation of old devices is patentable "only when the whole in some way exceeds the sum of its parts."[1168] The Court's insistence on the presence of "inventive genius" as the test of patentability goes far back and has been reiterated again and again in slightly varying language,[1169] although it seems to have had little effect on the point of view of the Patent Office.[1170]


The standard of patentability is a constitutional standard, and the question of the validity of a patent is a question of law.[1171] Congress may authorize the issuance of a patent for an invention by a special, as well as by general law, provided the question as to whether the patentees device is in truth an invention is left open to investigation under the general law.[1172] The function of the Commissioner of Patents in issuing letters patent is deemed to be quasi-judicial in character. Hence an act granting a right of appeal from the Commission to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is not unconstitutional as conferring executive power upon a judicial body.[1173]


The leading case bearing on the nature of the rights which Congress is authorized to secure is that of Wheaton v. Peters. Wheaton charged Peters with having infringed his copyright on the twelve volumes of "Wheaton's Reports" wherein are reported the decisions of the United States Supreme Court for the years from 1816 to 1827 inclusive. Peters's defense turned on the proposition that inasmuch as Wheaton had not complied with all of the requirements of the act of Congress, his alleged copyright was void. Wheaton, while denying this assertion of fact, further contended that the statute was only intended to secure him in his pre-existent rights at common law. These at least, he claimed, the Court should protect. A divided Court held in favor of Peters on the legal question. It denied, in the first place, that there was any principle of the common law which protected an author in the sole right to continue to publish a work once published. It denied, in the second place, that there is any principle of law, common or otherwise, which pervades the Union except such as are embodied in the Constitution and the acts of Congress. Nor, in the third place, it held, did the word "securing" in the Constitution recognize the alleged common law principle which Wheaton invoked. The exclusive right which Congress is authorized to secure to authors and inventors owes its existence solely to the acts of Congress securing it,[1174] from which it follows that the rights granted by a patent or copyright are subject to such qualifications and limitations as Congress, in its unhampered consultation of the public interest, sees fit to impose.[1175]

[Pg 275]

In giving to authors the exclusive right to dramatize any of their works, Congress did not exceed its powers under this clause. Even as applied to pantomime dramatization by means of silent motion pictures, the act was sustained against the objection that it extended the copyright to ideas rather than to the words in which they were clothed.[1176] But the copyright of the description of an art in a book was held not to lay a foundation for an exclusive claim to the art itself. The latter can be protected, if at all, only by letters patent.[1177] Since copyright is a species of property distinct from the ownership of the equipment used in making copies of the matter copyrighted, the sale of a copperplate under execution did not pass any right to print and publish the map which the copperplate was designed to produce.[1178] A patent right may, however, be subjected, by bill in equity, to payment of a judgment debt of the patentee.[1179]


Letters patent for a new invention or discovery in the arts confer upon the patentee an exclusive property in the patented invention which cannot be appropriated or used by the Government without just compensation.[1180] Congress may, however, modify rights under an existing patent, provided vested property rights are not thereby impaired,[1181] but it does not follow that it may authorize an inventor to recall rights which he has granted to others or reinvest in him rights of property which he had previously conveyed for a valuable and fair consideration.[1182] Furthermore, the rights which the present statutes confer are subject to the Anti-Trust Acts, though it can be hardly said that the cases in which the Court has endeavored to draw the line between the rights claimable by patentees and the kind of monopolistic privileges which are forbidden by those acts exhibit entire consistency in their holdings.[1183]


Nor do the patent laws displace the police or taxing powers of the States. Whatever rights are secured to inventors must be enjoyed in subordination to the general authority of the State over all property within its limits. A statute of Kentucky requiring the condemnation of illuminating oils which were inflammable at less than 130 degrees Fahrenheit, was held not to interfere with any right secured by the patent laws, although the oil for which the patent was issued could not be made to comply with State specifications.[1184] In the absence of federal legislation, a State may prescribe reasonable regulations for the transfer of patent rights so as to protect its citizens from fraud. Hence a requirement of State law that the words "given for a patent right" appear on the face of notes given in payment for such right is not unconstitutional.[1185] Royalties received from patents or copyrights are subject to a nondiscriminating State income tax, a holding to the contrary in 1928 having been subsequently overruled.[1186]


In the famous Trade-Mark Cases,[1187] decided in 1879, the Supreme Court held void acts of Congress which, in apparent reliance upon this clause, extended the protection of the law to trade-marks registered in the Patent Office. "The ordinary trade-mark" said Justice Miller for the Court, "has no necessary relation to invention or discovery"; nor is it to be classified "under the head of writings of authors." It does not "depend upon novelty, invention, discovery, or any work of the brain."[1188] Not many years later the Court, again speaking through Justice Miller, ruled that a photograph may be constitutionally copyright,[1189] while still more recently a circus poster was held to be entitled to the same protection. In answer to the objection of the Circuit Court that a lithograph which "has no other use than that of a mere advertisement * * * (would not be within) the meaning of the Constitution," Justice Holmes summoned forth the shades of Velasquez, Whistler, Rembrandt, Ruskin, Degas, and others in support of the proposition that it is not for the courts to attempt to judge the worth of pictorial illustrations outside the narrowest and most obvious limits.[1190]

[Pg 277]

Clause 9. The Congress shall have Power * * * To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court; See article III, p. 528.

Clause 10. The Congress shall have Power * * * To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations.

Piracies, Felonies, and Offenses Against the Law of Nations


"When the United States ceased to be a part of the British empire, and assumed the character of an independent nation, they became subject to that system of rules which reason, morality, and custom had established among civilized nations of Europe, as their public law. * * * The faithful observance of this law is essential to national character, * * *"[1191] These words of Chancellor Kent expressed the view of the binding character of International Law which was generally accepted at the time the Constitution was adopted. During the Revolutionary War, Congress took cognizance of all matters arising under the law of nations and professed obedience to that law.[1192] Under the Articles of Confederation, it was given exclusive power to appoint courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, but no provision was made for dealing with offenses against the law of nations.[1193] The draft of the Constitution submitted to the Convention of 1787 by its Committee of Detail empowered Congress "to declare the law and punishment of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and the punishment of counterfeiting the coin of the United States, and of offences against the law of nations."[1194] In the debate on the floor of the Convention the discussion turned on the question as to whether the terms, "felonies" and the "law of nations," were sufficiently precise to be generally understood. The view that these terms were often so vague and indefinite as to require definition eventually prevailed and Congress was authorized to define as well as punish piracies, felonies and offenses against the law of nations.[1195]


The fact that the Constitutional Convention considered it necessary to give Congress authority to define offenses against the law of nations does not mean that in every case Congress must undertake [Pg 278]to codify that law or mark its precise boundaries before prescribing punishments for infractions thereof. An act punishing "the crime of piracy, as defined by the law of nations" was held to be an appropriate exercise of the constitutional authority to "define and punish" the offense, since it adopted by reference the sufficiently precise definition of International Law.[1196] Similarly, in Ex parte Quirin,[1197] the Court found that by the reference in the Fifteenth Article of War to "offenders or offenses that * * * by the law of war may be triable by such military commissions * * *," Congress had "exercised its authority to define and punish offenses against the law of nations by sanctioning, within constitutional limitations, the jurisdiction of military commissions to try persons for offenses which, according to the rules and precepts of the law of nations, and more particularly the law of war, are cognizable by such tribunals."[1198] Where, conversely, Congress defines with particularity a crime which is "an offense against the law of nations," the law is valid, even if it contains no recital disclosing that it was enacted pursuant to this clause. Thus the duty which the law of nations casts upon every government to prevent a wrong being done within its own dominion to another nation with which it is at peace, or to the people thereof, was found to furnish a sufficient justification for the punishment of the counterfeiting within the United States, of notes, bonds and other securities of foreign governments.[1199]


Since this clause contains the only specific grant of power to be found in the Constitution for the punishment of offenses outside the territorial limits of the United States, a lower federal court held in 1932[1200] that the general grant of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction by article III, section 2, could not be construed as extending either the legislative or judicial power of the United States to cover offenses committed on vessels outside the United States but not on the high seas. Reversing that decision, the Supreme Court held that this provision "cannot be deemed to be a limitation on the powers, either legislative or judicial, conferred on the National Government by article III, § 2. The two clauses are the result of separate steps independently taken in the Convention, by which the jurisdiction in admiralty, previously divided between the Confederation and the States, was transferred to the National Government. It would be a surprising result, and one plainly not anticipated by the framers or justified by principles which ought to govern the interpretation of a constitution [Pg 279]devoted to the redistribution of governmental powers, if part of them were lost in the process of transfer. To construe the one clause as limiting rather than supplementing the other would be to ignore their history, and without effecting any discernible purpose of their enactment, to deny to both the States and the National Government powers which were common attributes of sovereignty before the adoption of the Constitution. The result would be to deny to both the power to define and punish crimes of less gravity than felonies committed on vessels of the United States while on the high seas, and crimes of every grade committed on them while in foreign territorial waters."[1201] Within the meaning of this section an offense is committed on the high seas even where the vessel on which it occurs is lying at anchor on the road in the territorial waters of another country.[1202]

Clauses 11, 12, 13, and 14. The Congress shall have power * * *:

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years.

To provide and maintain a Navy.

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.

The War Power


Three different views regarding the source of the war power found expression in the early years of the Constitution and continued to vie for supremacy for nearly a century and a half. Writing in The Federalist,[1203] Hamilton elaborated the theory that the war power is an aggregate of the particular powers granted by article I, section 8. Not many years later, in 1795, the argument was advanced that the war power of the National Government is an attribute of sovereignty and hence not dependent upon the affirmative grants of the written Constitution.[1204] Chief Justice Marshall appears to have taken a still different view, namely that the power to wage war is implied from the power to declare it. In McCulloch v. Maryland[1205] he listed the power "to declare and conduct a war"[1206] as one of the "enumerated powers" from which the authority to charter the Bank of the United [Pg 280]States was deduced. During the era of the Civil War the two latter theories were both given countenance by the Supreme Court. Speaking for four Justices in Ex Parte Milligan, Chief Justice Chase described the power to declare war as "necessarily" extending "to all legislation essential to the prosecution of war with vigor and success, except such as interferes with the command of the forces and conduct of campaigns."[1207] In another case, adopting the terminology used by Lincoln in his Message to Congress on July 4, 1861,[1208] the Court referred to "the war power" as a single unified power.[1209]


Thereafter we find the phrase, "the war power," being used by both Chief Justice White[1210] and Chief Justice Hughes,[1211] the former declaring the power to be "complete and undivided."[1212] Not until 1936 however did the Court explain the logical basis for imputing such an inherent power to the Federal Government. In United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp.,[1213] the reasons for this conclusion were stated by Justice Sutherland as follows: "As a result of the separation from Great Britain by the colonies acting as a unit, the powers of external sovereignty passed from the Crown not to the colonies severally, but to the colonies in their collective and corporate capacity as the United States of America. Even before the Declaration, the colonies were a unit in foreign affairs, acting through a common agency—namely the Continental Congress, composed of delegates from the thirteen colonies. That agency exercised the powers of war and peace, raised an army, created a navy, and finally adopted the Declaration of Independence. * * * It results that the investment of the Federal Government with the powers of external sovereignty did not depend upon the affirmative grants of the Constitution. The power to declare and wage war, to conclude peace, to make treaties, to maintain diplomatic relations with other sovereignties, if they had never been mentioned in the Constitution, would have vested in the Federal Government as necessary concomitants of nationality."[1214]


In the more recent case of Lichter v. United States,[1215] on the other hand, the Court speaks of the "war powers" of Congress. Upholding the Renegotiation Act, it declared that: "In view of this power 'To raise and support Armies, * * *' and the power granted in the same Article of the Constitution 'to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, * * *' the only question remaining is whether the Renegotiation Act was a law 'necessary and proper for carrying into Execution' the war powers of Congress and especially its power to support armies."[1216] In a footnote it listed the Preamble, the necessary and proper clause, the provisions authorizing Congress to lay taxes and provide for the common defense, to declare war, and to provide and maintain a navy, together with the clause designating the President as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, as being "among the many other provisions implementing the Congress and the President with powers to meet the varied demands of war, * * *"[1217]


In the first draft of the Constitution presented to the Convention of 1787 by its Committee of Detail Congress was empowered "to make war."[1218] On the floor of the Convention according to Madison's Journal "Mr. Madison and Mr. Gerry, moved to insert 'declare' striking out 'make' war; leaving to the Executive the power to repel sudden attacks"[1219] and their motion was adopted. When the Bey of Tripoli declared war upon the United States in 1801 a sharp debate was precipitated as to whether a formal declaration of war by Congress was requisite to create the legal status of war. Jefferson sent a squadron of frigates to the Mediterranean to protect our commerce but its mission was limited to defense in the narrowest sense of the term. After one of the vessels in this squadron had been engaged by, and had defeated, a Tripolitan cruiser, the latter was permitted to return home. Jefferson defended this course in a message to Congress saying, "Unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defence, the vessel being disabled from committing further hostilities, was liberated with its crew."[1220] Hamilton promptly espoused a different interpretation of the power given to Congress to declare war. "It is the peculiar and exclusive province of Congress," he declared "when the nation is at peace to change that state into a state of war; whether from calculations of policy, or from provocations, or injuries received; in other words, it belongs to Congress only to go to War. But when a foreign nation declares or openly and avowedly makes war upon the United States, they are then by the very fact already at war, and any declaration on the part of Congress [Pg 282]is nugatory; it is at least unnecessary."[1221] Apparently Congress shared the view that a formal declaration of war was unnecessary. It enacted a statute which authorized the President to instruct the commanders of armed vessels of the United States to "seize and make prize of all vessels, goods and effects, belonging to the Bey of Tripoli, * * *; and also to cause to be done all such other acts of precaution or hostility as the state of war will justify, * * *"[1222]


Sixty years later the Supreme Court, in sustaining the blockade of the Southern ports which Lincoln had instituted in April 1861, at a time when Congress was not in session, adopted virtually the same line of reasoning as Hamilton had advanced. "This greatest of civil wars" said the Court "was not gradually developed * * * it * * * sprung forth suddenly from the parent brain, a Minerva in the full panoply of war. The President was bound to meet it in the shape it presented itself, without waiting for Congress to baptize it with a name; and no name given to it by him or them could change the fact."[1223] This doctrine was sharply challenged by a powerful minority of the Court on the ground that while the President could unquestionably adopt such measures as the statutes permitted for the enforcement of the laws against insurgents, Congress alone could stamp an insurrection with the character of war and thereby authorize the legal consequences which ensue a state of war.[1224] Inasmuch as the Court finally conceded that the blockade had been retroactively sanctioned by Congress, that part of its opinion dealing with the power of the President, acting alone, was really obiter. But a similar opinion was voiced by Chief Justice Chase on behalf of a unanimous Court, after the war was over. In Freeborn v. The "Protector,"[1225] it became necessary to ascertain the exact dates on which the war began and ended in order to determine whether the statute of limitation had run against the asserted claim. To answer this question the Chief Justice said that "it is necessary, therefore, to refer to some public act of the political departments of the government to fix the dates; and, for obvious reasons, those of the executive department, which may be, and, in fact, was, at the commencement of hostilities, obliged to act during the recess of Congress, must be taken. The proclamation of intended blockade by the President may therefore be assumed as marking the first of these dates, and the proclamation that the war had closed, as marking the second."[1226]

[Pg 283] The Power To Raise and Maintain Armed Forces


The clauses of the Constitution which give Congress authority "to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain a navy" and so forth, were not inserted for the purpose of endowing the National Government with power to do these things, but rather to designate the department of government which should exercise such powers. Moreover, they permit Congress to take measures essential to the national defense in time of peace as well as during a period of actual conflict. That these provisions grew out of the conviction that the Executive should be deprived of the "sole power of raising and regulating fleets and armies" which Blackstone attributed to the King under the British Constitution,[1227] was emphasized by Story in his Commentaries. He wrote: "Our notions, indeed, of the dangers of standing armies, in time of peace, are derived in a great measure from the principles and examples of our English ancestors. In England, the King possessed the power of raising armies in the time of peace according to his own good pleasure. And this prerogative was justly esteemed dangerous to the public liberties. Upon the revolution of 1688, Parliament wisely insisted upon a bill of rights, which should furnish an adequate security for the future. But how was this done? Not by prohibiting standing armies altogether in time of peace; but (as has been already seen) by prohibiting them without the consent of Parliament. This is the very proposition contained in the Constitution; for Congress can alone raise armies; and may put them down, whenever they choose."[1228]


Prompted by the fear of standing armies to which Story alluded, the framers inserted the limitation that "no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years." In 1904 the question arose whether this provision would be violated if the Government contracted to pay a royalty for use of a patent in constructing guns and other equipment where the payments were likely to continue for more than two years. Solicitor-General Hoyt ruled that such a contract would be lawful; that the appropriations limited by the Constitution "are those only which are to raise and support armies in the strict sense of the word 'support,' and that the inhibition of that clause does not extend to appropriations for the various means which an army may use in military operations, or which are deemed necessary for the common defense, * * *"[1229] Relying on this earlier opinion, [Pg 284]Attorney General Clark ruled in 1948 that there was "no legal objection to a request to the Congress to appropriate funds to the Air Force for the procurement of aircraft and aeronautical equipment to remain available until expended."[1230]


By the National Security Act of 1947[1231] there was established within the National Military Establishment "an executive department to be known as the Department of the Air Force" which was made coordinate with the Departments of the Army and the Navy. Shortly after the passage of this Act a Joint Resolution was offered in the House of Representatives, proposing an amendment to the Constitution whereby Congress would be authorized to "provide and maintain an Air Force and to make rules for the government and regulation thereof," and the President would be designated as Commander in Chief of the Air Force.[1232] Apparently in the belief that the broad sweep of the war power warranted the creation of the Air Force, without a constitutional amendment, Congress took no action on this proposal.


The constitutions adopted during the Revolutionary War by at least nine of the States sanctioned compulsory military service.[1233] Towards the end of the War of 1812, conscription of men for the army was proposed by James Monroe, then Secretary of War, but opposition developed and peace came before the bill could be enacted.[1234] In 1863 a compulsory draft law was adopted and put into operation without being challenged in the federal courts.[1235] Not so the Selective Service Act of 1917. This measure was attacked on the grounds that it tended to deprive the States of the right to "a well-regulated militia," that the only power of Congress to exact compulsory service was the power to provide for calling forth the militia for the three purposes specified in the Constitution, which did not comprehend service abroad, and finally that the compulsory draft imposed involuntary servitude in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court rejected all of these contentions. It held that the powers of the States with respect to the militia were exercised in subordination to the paramount power of the National Government to raise and support armies, and that the power of Congress to mobilize an army was distinct from its authority to provide for calling the militia and was not qualified or in any wise limited thereby.[1236] Before the United States entered the first World War, the Court had anticipated the objection that compulsory military service would violate the Thirteenth Amendment and had answered it in the following words: "It introduced no novel [Pg 285]doctrine with respect of services always treated as exceptional, and certainly was not intended to interdict enforcement of those duties which individuals owe to the State, such as services in the army, militia, on the jury, etc. The great purpose in view was liberty under the protection of effective government, not the destruction of the latter by depriving it of essential powers."[1237] Accordingly, in the Selective Draft Law Cases[1238] it dismissed the objection under that amendment as a contention that was "refuted by its mere statement."[1239]


Congress has a plenary and exclusive power to determine the age at which a soldier or seaman shall be received, the compensation he shall be allowed and the service to which he shall be assigned. This power may be exerted to supersede parents' control of minor sons who are needed for military service. Where the statute which required the consent of parents for enlistment of a minor son did not permit such consent to be qualified, their attempt to impose a condition that the son carry war risk insurance for the benefit of his mother was not binding on the Government.[1240] Since the possession of government insurance payable to the person of his choice, is calculated to enhance the morale of the serviceman, Congress may permit him to designate any beneficiary he desires, irrespective of State law, and may exempt the proceeds from the claims of creditors.[1241] To safeguard the health and welfare of the armed forces, Congress may authorize the suppression of houses of ill fame in the vicinity of the places where such forces are stationed.[1242]


Under its power to make rules for the Government and regulation of the land and naval forces, Congress may provide for the trial and punishment of military and naval offenses in the manner practiced by civilized nations. This authority is independent of the judicial power conferred by article III.[1243] "Cases arising in the land and naval forces" are expressly excepted from the provision of the Fifth Amendment requiring presentment by a grand jury for capital or infamous and by implication they are also excepted from Amendment [Pg 286]VI,[1244] which relates to the trial of criminal offenses. Also the Fifth Amendment's provision against double-jeopardy apparently does not apply to military courts.[1245] A statute which provided that offenses not specifically mentioned therein should be punished "according to the laws and customs of such cases at sea" was held sufficient to give a naval court-martial jurisdiction to try a seaman of the United States Navy for the unspecified offense of attempted desertion.[1246] In habeas corpus proceedings a court can consider only whether the military tribunal had jurisdiction to act in the case under consideration.[1247] The acts of a court-martial, within the scope of its jurisdiction and duty, cannot be controlled or reviewed in the civil courts, by a writ of prohibition or otherwise.[1248]

War Legislation


The American Revolution affords many precedents for extensive and detailed regulation of the nation's economy in time of war. But since the resolves of Congress under the Articles of Confederation were in practical effect mere recommendations to the State legislatures, it was the action of the latter which made these policies effective. On November 22, 1777, for example, Congress recommended to the States that they take steps "to regulate and ascertain the price of labour, manufactures, [and] internal produce."[1249] A month later the same body further recommended "to the respective legislatures of the United States, forthwith to enact laws, appointing suitable persons to seize and take, for the use of the continental army of the said States, all woolen cloths, blankets, linens, shoes, stockings, hats, and other necessary articles of clothing, * * *"[1250] Responding to such appeals, or acting on their own initiative, the State legislatures enacted measure after measure which entrenched upon the normal life of the community very drastically. Laws were passed forbidding the distillation of whiskey and other spirits in order to conserve grain supplies;[1251] fixing prices of labor and commodities, sometimes in greatest detail;[1252] levying requisitions upon the inhabitants for supplies needed by the army;[1253] and so on. In one instance a statute authorized the erection of an arms manufactory for the United States;[1254] in another, Negro Slaves were impressed for labor on fortifications.[1255] The fact that all this legislation came from the State legislatures whereas the war power was attributed to the "United States in Congress assembled" [Pg 287]served to obscure the fact that the former was really an outgrowth of the latter.


The most pressing economic problem of the Civil War was that of finance. When Congress found itself unable to raise money to pay the soldiers in the field, it authorized the issuance of Treasury notes which, although not redeemable in specie, were made legal tender in payment of private debts. Upon its first consideration of this measure, the Supreme Court held it unconstitutional. It concluded that even if the circulation of such notes was facilitated by giving them the quality of legal tender, that result did not suffice to make the expedient an appropriate and plainly adapted means for the execution of the power to declare and carry on war.[1256] Three of the seven Justices then constituting the Court dissented from this decision,[1257] and it was reversed within a little more than a year, after two vacancies in the membership of the Court had been filled. One of the grounds relied upon by the new majority to sustain the statute was that the exigencies of war justified its enactment under the necessary and proper clause.[1258]


In meeting the strain which World War I put on our national resources of men and material, the economic activities of the people were directed or restricted by the Government on a scale previously unparalleled. The most sweeping measure of control was the Lever Food and Fuel Control Act,[1259] which authorized the President to regulate by license the importation, manufacture, storage, mining or distribution of necessaries; to requisition foods, feeds, and fuels; to take over and operate factories, packinghouses, pipelines, mines or other plants; to fix a minimum price for wheat; to limit, regulate or prohibit the use of food materials in the production of alcoholic beverages; and to fix the price of coal and coke and to regulate the production, sale and distribution thereof. Other statutes clothed him with power to determine priority in car service,[1260] to license trade with the enemy and his allies,[1261] and to take over and operate the rail and water [Pg 288]transportation system,[1262] and the telephonic and telegraphic communication systems,[1263] of the country.


Several of these World War I measures were still on the statute books when World War II broke out. Moreover, in the period of preparation preceding the latter, Congress had enacted the Priorities Act of May 31, 1941[1264] which gave the President power to allocate any material where necessary to facilitate the defense effort. By the Second War Powers Act,[1265] passed early in 1942, the authority to allocate materials was extended to facilities. These two acts furnished the statutory foundation for the extensive system of consumer rationing administered by the Office of Price Administration, as well as for the comprehensive control of industrial materials and output which was exercised by the War Production Board. Under the Emergency Price Control Act[1266] the Office of Price Administration regulated the price of almost all commodities, as well as the rentals for housing accommodations in scores of defense rental areas. The War Labor Disputes Act[1267] permitted the President to commandeer plants which were closed by strikes.


While the validity of several of the measures just reviewed was assailed on one constitutional ground or another, the general power of Congress to regulate their subject matter in time of war was not disputed. Not until the Government sought to recover excessive profits realized on war contracts did the Supreme Court have occasion to affirm the broad authority of the National Government to mobilize the industrial resources of the nation in time of war. Using the power of Congress to conscript men for the armed forces as a measure of its power to regulate industry, the Court sustained the legislation, saying: "The Renegotiation Act was developed as a major wartime policy of Congress comparable to that of the Selective Service Act. The authority of Congress to authorize each of them sprang from its war powers. * * * With the advent of * * * [global] warfare, mobilized property in the form of equipment and supplies became as essential as mobilized manpower. Mobilization of effort extended not only to the uniformed armed services but to the entire population. Both Acts were a form of mobilization. The language of the [Pg 289]Constitution authorizing such measures is broad rather than restrictive. * * * [It] * * * places emphasis upon the supporting as well as upon the raising of armies. The power of Congress as to both is inescapably express, not merely implied."[1268]


While insisting that, "in peace or in war it is essential that the Constitution be scrupulously obeyed, and particularly that the respective branches of the Government keep within the powers assigned to each,"[1269] the Supreme Court has recognized that in the conduct of a war delegations of power may be valid which would not be admissible in other circumstances. The cases in which this issue has been raised have been few in number. In one, the Selective Draft Law cases,[1270] the objection was dismissed without discussion. In a second, the price-fixing authority exercised by the Office of Price Administration during the second world war, was, on the issue of delegation of power, sustained by reference to peace time precedents.[1271] Where the war power has been the basis of decision, two different theories concerning its significance can be recognized. The first is that since the war power is an inherent power shared by the legislative and executive departments rather than an enumerated power granted to the former, Congress does not delegate legislative power when it authorizes the President to exercise the war power in a prescribed manner. Opposed to this is the view that the right of Congress to delegate power to the President is limited in this as in other cases but that where the validity of the delegation depends upon whether or not too great a latitude of discretion has been conferred upon the Executive, the existence of a state of war is a factor to be considered in determining whether the delegation in the particular case is necessary and hence permissible.

The idea that a delegation of discretion in the exercise of the war power stands on a different footing than delegation of authority to levy a tax is implicit in Justice Bradley's opinion in Hamilton v. Dillin.[1272] The plaintiffs in that case contended that the sum they were required to pay for the privileges of buying cotton in the South was a tax, which, since it was imposed by the Secretary of the Treasury, was invalid because the taxing power was not susceptible of delegation to the Executive Department. To this argument the Court replied: "It is hardly necessary, under the view we have taken of the character of the regulations in question, * * *, to discuss the question of [Pg 290]the constitutionality of the act of July 13th, 1861, regarded as authorizing such regulations. * * *, the power of the Government to impose such conditions upon commercial intercourse with an enemy in time of war * * * does not belong to the same category as the power to levy and collect taxes, duties, and excises. It belongs to the war powers of the Government * * *."[1273]

The Mergence of Legislative and Executive in Wartime

Both theories receive countenance in different passages in the opinion of Chief Justice Stone in Hirabayashi v. United States.[1274] In disposing of the contention that the curfew imposed upon a citizen of Japanese descent involved an invalid delegation of legislative power, the Chief Justice said: "The question then is not one of Congressional power to delegate to the President the promulgation of the Executive Order, but whether, acting in cooperation, Congress and the Executive have constitutional authority to impose the curfew restriction here complained of. * * *, we conclude that it was within the constitutional power of Congress and the executive arm of the Government to prescribe this curfew order for the period under consideration and that its promulgation by the military commander involved no unlawful delegation of legislative power. * * * Where, as in the present case, the standard set up for the guidance of the military commander, and the action taken and the reasons for it, are in fact recorded in the military orders, so that Congress, the courts and the public are assured that the orders, in the judgment of the commander, conform to the standards approved by the President and Congress, there is no failure in the performance of the legislative function."[1275] He went on to say, however, that: "The essentials of [the legislative] * * * function are the determination by Congress of the legislative policy and its approval of a rule of conduct to carry that policy into execution. The very necessities which attend the conduct of military operations in time of war in this instance as in many others preclude Congress from holding committee meetings to determine whether there is danger, before it enacts legislation to combat the danger."[1276]

Doctrine of Lichter v. United States

A similar ambiguity is found in Lichter v. United States,[1277] but on the whole the opinion seems to espouse the second theory, as the following excerpts indicate: "A constitutional power implies a power of delegation of authority under it sufficient to effect its purposes.[Pg 291]—This power is especially significant in connection with constitutional war powers under which the exercise of broad discretion as to methods to be employed may be essential to an effective use of its war powers by Congress. The degree to which Congress must specify its policies and standards in order that the administrative authority granted may not be an unconstitutional delegation of its own legislative power is not capable of precise definition.[1278] * * * Thus, while the constitutional structure and controls of our Government are our guides equally in war and in peace, they must be read with the realistic purposes of the entire instrument fully in mind. In 1942, in the early stages of total global warfare, the exercise of a war power such as the power 'To raise and support Armies, * * *' and 'To provide and maintain a Navy; * * *,' called for the production by us of war goods in unprecedented volume with the utmost speed, combined with flexibility of control over the product and with a high degree of initiative on the part of the producers. Faced with the need to exercise that power, the question was whether it was beyond the constitutional power of Congress to delegate to the high officials named therein the discretion contained in the Original Renegotiation Act of April 28, 1942, and the amendments of October 21, 1942. We believe that the administrative authority there granted was well within the constitutional war powers then being put to their predestined uses."[1279]


To some indeterminate extent the power to wage war embraces the power to prepare for it and the further power to deal with the problem of adjustment after hostilities have ceased. In his Commentaries, Justice Story wrote as follows with specific reference to the question of preparation for war: "'It is important also to consider, that the surest means of avoiding war is to be prepared for it in peace. * * * How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely prohibited, unless we could in like manner prohibit the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation? The means of security can be only regulated by the means and the danger of attack. * * * It will be in vain to oppose constitutional barriers to the impulse of self-preservation.'"[1280] Authoritative judicial recognition of the power is found in Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority,[1281] where, in sustaining the power of the Government to construct and operate Wilson Dam and the power plant connected with it, pursuant to the National Defense Act of June 3, 1916,[1282] the Court said: "While the District Court found that there is no intention to use the nitrate plants or the hydroelectric units installed at Wilson Dam for the production of war materials in time of peace, 'the [Pg 292]maintenance of said properties in operating condition and the assurance of an abundant supply of electric energy in the event of war, constitute national defense assets.' This finding has ample support."[1283]

Atomic Energy Act

By far the most significant example of legislation adopted at a time when no actual "shooting war" was in progress, with the object of providing for the national defense, is the Atomic Energy Act of 1946.[1284] That law establishes an Atomic Energy Commission of five members which is empowered to conduct through its own facilities, or by contracts with, or loans to private persons, research and developmental activity relating to nuclear processes, the theory and production of atomic energy and the utilization of fissionable and radioactive materials for medical, industrial and other purposes. The act further provides that the Commission shall be the exclusive owner of all facilities (with minor exceptions) for the production of fissionable materials; that all fissionable material produced shall become its property; that it shall allocate such materials for research and developmental activities, and shall license all transfer of source materials. The Commission is charged with the duty of producing atomic bombs, bomb parts, and other atomic military weapons at the direction of the President. Patents relating to fissionable materials must be filed with the Commission, the "just compensation" payable to the owners to be determined by a Patent Compensation Board designated by the Commission from among its employees.


The war power "is not limited to victories in the field. * * * It carries with it inherently the power to guard against the immediate renewal of the conflict, and to remedy the evils which have arisen from its rise and progress."[1285] Accordingly, the Supreme Court held in 1871 that it was within the competence of Congress to deduct from the period limited by statute for the bringing of an action the time during which plaintiff had been unable to prosecute his suit in consequence of the Civil War. This principle was given a much broader application after the first world war in Hamilton v. Kentucky Distilleries and Wine Co.,[1286] where the War Time Prohibition Act adopted after the signing of the Armistice was upheld as an appropriate measure for increasing war efficiency. It was conceded that the measure was valid when enacted, since the mere cessation of hostilities did not end the war or terminate the war powers of Congress. The plaintiff contended however that in October 1919, when the suit was brought, the [Pg 293]war emergency had in fact passed, and that the law was therefore obsolete. Inasmuch as the treaty of peace had not yet been concluded and other war activities had not been brought to a close, the Court said it was "unable to conclude" that the act had ceased to be valid. But in 1924 it held upon the facts that we judicially know that the rent control law for the District of Columbia, which had previously been upheld,[1287] had ceased to operate because the emergency which justified it had come to an end.[1288] A similar issue was present after World War II in Woods v. Miller,[1289] where the Supreme Court reversed a decision of a lower court to the effect that the authority of Congress to regulate rents by virtue of the war power ended with the Presidential proclamation terminating hostilities on December 31, 1946. This decision was coupled with a warning that: "We recognize the force of the argument that the effects of war under modern conditions may be felt in the economy for years and years, and that if the war power can be used in days of peace to treat all the wounds which war inflicts on our society, it may not only swallow up all other powers of Congress but largely obliterate the Ninth and the Tenth Amendments as well. There are no such implications in today's decision."[1290] In 1948, a sharply divided Court further ruled that the power which Congress has conferred upon the President to deport enemy aliens in time of a declared war was not exhausted when the shooting war stopped. Speaking for the majority of five, Justice Frankfurter declared: "It is not for us to question a belief by the President that enemy aliens who were justifiably deemed fit subjects for internment during active hostilites [sic] do not lose their potency for mischief during the period of confusion and conflict which is characteristic of a state of war even when the guns are silent but the peace of Peace has not come."[1291]

Private Rights in Wartime


Although, broadly speaking, the constitutional provisions designed for the protection of individual rights are operative in war as well as in peace, the incidents of war repeatedly give rise to situations in which judicially enforceable constitutional restraints are inapplicable. In the first place persons in enemy territory are entirely beyond the reach of constitutional limitations. They are subject, in [Pg 294]relation to the war powers of the National Government, to the laws of war as interpreted and applied by Congress and by the President as Commander in Chief. To the question: "What is the law which governs an army invading an enemy's country?" the Court gave the following answer in Dow v. Johnson:[1292] "It is not the civil law of the invaded country; it is not the civil law of the conquering country: it is military law,—the law of war,—and its supremacy for the protection of the officers and soldiers of the army, when in service in the field in the enemy's country, is as essential to the efficiency of the army as the supremacy of the civil law at home, and, in time of peace, is essential to the preservation of liberty."[1293]


That substantially the same rule, resting on the same considerations, applies in the field of active military operations, was assumed by all members of the Court in Ex parte Milligan.[1294] There the Court held that the trial by a military commission of a civilian charged with acts of disloyalty committed in a part of the country which was remote from the theatre of military operations, and in which the civil courts were open and functioning, was invalid under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Although unanimous in holding that the military tribunal lacked jurisdiction to try the case, the Court divided, five-to-four, as to the grounds of the decision. The point on which the Justices differed was which department of the Government had authority to say with finality what regions lie within the theatre of military operation. Claiming this as a function of the courts, the majority held that the theatre of war did not embrace an area in which the civil courts were open and functioning.[1295] The minority argued that this was a question to be determined by Congress.[1296] All rejected the argument of the government that the President's determination was conclusive in the absence of restraining legislation. A similar result was reached in Duncan v. Kahanamoku[1297] where, upon an examination of the circumstances existing in Hawaii after Pearl Harbor, a divided Court found that the authority which Congress had granted to the Territorial Governor to declare martial law "in case of rebellion or invasion, or imminent danger thereof," did not warrant the trial of civilians by military tribunals.


The position of enemy property was dealt with by Chief Justice Marshall in the early case of Brown v. United States.[1298] Here it was held that the mere declaration of war by Congress does not effect a [Pg 295]confiscation of enemy property situated within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, but the right of Congress by further enactment to subject such property to confiscation was asserted in the most positive terms. Being an exercise of the war powers of the Government, such confiscation is not affected by the restrictions of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Since it has no relation to the personal guilt of the owner, it is immaterial whether the property belongs to an alien, a neutral, or even to a citizen of the United States. The whole doctrine of confiscation is built upon the foundation that it is an instrument of coercion, which, by depriving an enemy of property within the reach of his power, whether within his territory or without it, impairs his ability to resist the confiscating government, while at the same time it furnishes to that government means for carrying on the war. Any property which the enemy can use, either by actual appropriation, or by the exercise of control over the owner, no matter what his nationality, is a proper subject of confiscation. Congress may provide for immediate seizure of property which the President or his agent determines to be enemy property, leaving the question of enemy ownership to be settled later at the suit of a claimant. For these reasons the Confiscation Act of 1862,[1299] and the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 and amendments thereto, were held to be within the power of Congress to "make rules concerning captures on land and water."[1300]


The power of Congress with respect to prizes is plenary; no one can have any interest in prizes captured except by permission of Congress.[1301] Nevertheless, since International Law is a part of our law, the Court will administer it so long as it has not been modified by treaty or by legislative or executive action. Thus, during the Civil War, the Court found that the Confiscation Act of 1861, and the Supplementary Act of 1863, which, in authorizing the condemnation of vessels, made provision for the protection of interests of loyal citizens, merely created a municipal forfeiture and did not override or displace the law of prize. It decided, therefore, that when a vessel was liable to condemnation under either law, the government was at liberty to proceed under the more stringent rules of International Law, with the result that the citizen would be deprived of the benefit of the protective provisions of the statute.[1302] Similarly, when Cuban ports were blockaded during the Spanish-American War, the Court held, over the vigorous dissent of three of its members, that the rule [Pg 296]of International Law exempting unarmed fishing vessels from capture was applicable in the absence of any treaty provision, or other public act of the Government in relation to the subject.[1303]


In enforcing the requirement of due process of law in its modern expanded sense of "reasonable law" the Court has recognized that a war emergency may justify legislation which would otherwise be an unconstitutional invasion of private rights. Shortly after the first world war, it sustained, by a narrow margin, a rent control law for the District of Columbia, which not merely limited the rents which might be charged but which also gave the existing tenants the right to continue in occupancy of their dwellings at their own option, provided they paid rent and performed other stipulated conditions. The Court, while conceding that ordinarily such legislation would transcend constitutional limitations, declared that "a public exigency will justify the legislature in restricting property rights in land to a certain extent without compensation. * * * A limit in time, to tide over a passing trouble, well may justify a law that could not be upheld as a permanent change."[1304] During World War II an apartment house owner who complained that the rentals allowed by the Office of Price Administration did not afford a "fair return" on the property was told by the Court that, "a nation which can demand the lives of its men and women in the waging of * * * war is under no constitutional necessity of providing a system of price control * * * which will assure each landlord a 'fair return' on his property."[1305] Moreover, such rentals may be established without a prior hearing because "national security might not be able to afford the luxuries of litigation and the long delays which preliminary hearings traditionally have entailed. * * * Where Congress has provided for judicial review after the regulations or orders have been made effective it has done all that due process under the war emergency requires."[1306] The more specific clauses of the Bill of Rights yield less readily, however, to the impact of a war emergency. In United States v. Cohen Grocery Company,[1307] the Court held that a statute which penalized the making of "'any unjust or unreasonable rate or charge in handling * * * any necessaries,'" was void on the ground that it set up no "ascertainable standard of guilt" and so was "repugnant to the Fifth and Sixth Amendments * * * which require due process of law and that persons accused of crime shall be adequately informed of the nature and cause of the accusation."[1308]


That the power of Congress to punish seditious utterances in time of war is limited by the First Amendment was assumed by the Supreme Court in the series of cases[1309] in which it affirmed convictions for violation of the Espionage Act of 1917.[1310] But in the famous opinion of Justice Holmes in Schenck v. United States,[1311] it held that: "When a nation is at war many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right."[1312] A State also has power to make it unlawful to advocate that citizens of the State should not assist in prosecuting a war against public enemies of the United States.[1313] The most drastic restraint of personal liberty imposed during World War II was the detention and relocation of the Japanese residents of the Western States, including those who were native-born citizens of the United States. When various phases of this program were challenged, the Court held that in order to prevent espionage and sabotage, the freedom of movement of such persons could be restricted by a curfew order,[1314] even by a regulation excluding them from a defined area,[1315] but that a citizen of Japanese ancestry whose loyalty was concerned could not be detained against her will in a relocation camp.[1316]


The status of alien enemies was first considered in connection with the passage of the Alien Act of 1798,[1317] whereby the President was authorized to deport any alien or to license him to reside within the United States at any place to be designated by the President. Critics of the measure conceded its constitutionality so far as enemy aliens were concerned, because, as Madison wrote, "The Constitution having expressly delegated to Congress the power to declare war against any nation, and, of course, to treat it and all its members as enemies."[1318] The substance of this early law was reenacted during the first world war. Under it the President is authorized, in time of war, to prescribe "the manner and degree of the restraint to which [alien enemies] shall be subject and in what cases, and upon what [Pg 298]security their residence shall be permitted," or to provide for their removal from the United States.[1319] This measure was held valid in Ludecke v. Watkins.[1320]


An often-cited dictum uttered shortly after the Mexican War asserted the right of an owner to compensation for property destroyed to prevent its falling into the hands of the enemy, or for that taken for public use.[1321] In United States v. Russell,[1322] decided following the Civil War, a similar conclusion was based squarely on the Fifth Amendment, although the case did not necessarily involve the point. Finally, in United States v. Pacific Railroad,[1323] also a Civil War case, the Court held that the United States was not responsible for the injury or destruction of private property by military operations, but added that it did not have in mind claims for property of loyal citizens which was taken for the use of the national forces. "In such cases," the Court said, "it has been the practice of the government to make compensation for the property taken. * * *, although the seizure and appropriation of private property under such circumstances by the military authorities may not be within the terms of the constitutional clauses."[1324] Meantime, however, in 1874, a committee of the House of Representatives, in an elaborate report on war claims growing out of the Civil War, had voiced the opinion that the Fifth Amendment embodied the distinction between a taking of property in the course of military operations or other urgent military necessity, and other takings for war purposes, and required compensation of owners in the latter class of cases.[1325] In determining what constitutes just compensation for property requisitioned for war purposes during World War II, the Court has assumed that the Fifth Amendment is applicable to such takings.[1326]

[Pg 299]

Clause 15. The Congress shall have Power * * * To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.

Clause 16. The Congress shall have Power * * * To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.

The Militia Clauses


The States as well as Congress may prescribe penalties for failure to obey the President's call of the militia. They also have a concurrent power to aid the National Government by calls under their own authority, and in emergencies may use the militia to put down armed insurrection.[1327] The Federal Government may call out the militia in case of civil war; its authority to suppress rebellion is found in the power to suppress insurrection and to carry on war.[1328] The act of February 28, 1795,[1329] which delegated to the President the power to call out the militia, was held constitutional.[1330] A militiaman who refused to obey such a call was not "employed in the service of the United States so as to be subject to the article of war," but was liable to be tried for disobedience of the act of 1795.[1331]


The power of Congress over the militia "being unlimited, except in the two particulars of officering and training them, * * *, it may be exercised to any extent that may be deemed necessary by Congress. * * * The power of the State government to legislate on the same subjects, having existed prior to the formation of the Constitution, and not having been prohibited by that instrument, it remains with the States, subordinate nevertheless to the paramount law of the General Government, * * *"[1332] Under the National Defense Act of 1916,[1333] the militia, which hitherto had been an almost purely State [Pg 300]institution, was brought under the control of the National Government. The term "militia of the United States" was defined to comprehend "all able-bodied male citizens of the United States and all other able-bodied males who have * * * declared their intention to become citizens of the United States," between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. The act reorganized the National Guard, determined its size in proportion to the population of the several States, required that all enlistments be for "three years in service and three years in reserve," limited the appointment of officers to those who "shall have successfully passed such tests as to * * * physical, moral and professional fitness as the President shall prescribe," and authorized the President in certain emergencies to "draft into the military service of the United States to serve therein for the period of the war unless sooner discharged, any and all members of the National Guard and National Guard Reserve," who thereupon should "stand discharged from the militia."

Clause 17. Congress shall have power * * * To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;—And

The Seat of Government

The jurisdiction of the United States over the District of Columbia vested on the first Monday of December, 1800.[1334] By the act of February 27, 1801,[1335] the District was divided into two counties and in the following year the city of Washington was erected into a municipality.[1336] The present form of government dates from 1876; all legislative powers with respect to District affairs are retained by Congress, while an executive board of three commissioners vested with ordinance powers is appointed by the President.[1337] As a municipal corporation, the District has the legal capacity to sue and be sued.[1338] But the District Commissioners are merely administrative officers, having only the ministerial powers given them by statute; accordingly they were [Pg 301]found to have no power to submit a claim against the District to arbitration.[1339]


In ceding the territory which became the District of Columbia, both Maryland and Virginia provided that the United States should not acquire any right of property in the soil except by transfer by the individual owner. This proviso was held not to prevent the Federal Government from exercising the power of eminent domain within the District.[1340] Under the agreement made between the original proprietors of the land on which the city of Washington was laid out, and the Commissioners appointed by the President to survey, define and locate the district for the seat of government, the United States became the owner in fee of the streets of the city although the trustees never carried out their agreement to convey them.[1341] Both the right of dominion and of property of navigable waters and of the soil under them in the District, which originally had been granted by Charles I, King of England to the Lord Proprietary of Maryland, and to which Maryland succeeded upon the American Revolution, became vested in the United States by the cession from Maryland.[1342]


Originally the District of Columbia embraced the maximum area permitted by the Constitution. In 1846, however, Congress authorized a referendum on the question of retroceding Alexandria County to Virginia, and declared that jurisdiction should be relinquished to that State if a majority of the voters in the county voted in favor of the change. The proposal was approved, whereupon, without any further action by Congress, Virginia declared the county annexed and resumed full jurisdiction over it. Thirty years later, in a suit to recover taxes paid to the State, the Supreme Court called the retrocession "a violation of the Constitution" but held that since Congress had recognized the transfer as a settled fact, a resident of the county was estopped from challenging it.[1343]


Under the act of July 16, 1790,[1344] which provided for the establishment of the seat of government, State laws were continued in operation until Congress created a government for the District. The Supreme Court intimated that this was "perhaps, only declaratory of a principle which would have been in full operation without such declaration."[1345] In 1801 Congress declared that the laws of Virginia and Maryland "as they now exist, shall be and continue in force" in the respective portions of the District ceded by those States.[1346] The only effect of the cession upon individuals was to terminate their State citizenship and the jurisdiction of the State governments over them;[1347] contract obligations were not affected,[1348] and liens on property for debt were continued.[1349]


Chief Justice Marshall ruled in the early case of Hepburn v. Ellzey[1350] that the District of Columbia is not a State within the meaning of the diversity of citizenship clause of article III. This view was consistently adhered to for nearly a century and a half in the interpretation of later acts of Congress regulating the jurisdiction of federal courts.[1351] In 1940, however, Congress expressly authorized those courts to take jurisdiction of nonfederal controversies between residents of the District of Columbia and citizens of a State. By a five-to-four decision that statute was held constitutional, but the Justices who voted to sustain it were not in agreement as to the grounds of the decision.[1352] Three found it to be an appropriate exercise of the power of Congress to legislate for the District of Columbia without reference to article III.[1353] Six members of the Court rejected this theory, but two of the six joined in upholding the act on another ground which seven of their brethren considered untenable,—namely, that Hepburn v. Ellzey was erroneously decided and that the District of Columbia should be deemed to be a "State" within the meaning of article III, section 2.[1354]

[Pg 303]

It is not disputed that the District is a part of "the United States," and that its residents are entitled to the privilege of trial by jury, whether in civil or criminal cases,[1355] and of presentment by a grand jury.[1356] Legislation which is restrictive of the rights of liberty and property in the District must find justification in facts adequate to support like legislation by a State in the exercise of its police power.[1357]


Congress possesses over the District of Columbia the blended powers of a local and national legislature.[1358] Even when legislating for the District, Congress remains the legislature of the Union, with the result that it may give its enactments nation-wide operations so far as is "necessary and proper" in order to make them locally effective. As was pointed out in Cohens v. Virginia,[1359] if a felon escapes from the State in which the crime was committed, the government of such State cannot pursue him into another State and there apprehend him, "but must demand him from the executive power of that other State." On the other hand, a felon escaping from the District of Columbia or any other place subject to the exclusive power of Congress, may be apprehended by the National Government anywhere in the United States. "And the reason," declared Chief Justice Marshall, "is, that Congress is not a local legislature, but exercises this particular power, [of exclusive legislation], like all its other powers, in its high character, as the legislature of the Union."[1360]


Persons and property within the District of Columbia are subject to taxation by Congress under both the first and seventeenth clauses of this section. A general tax levied throughout the United States may be applied to the District of Columbia upon the same conditions [Pg 304]as elsewhere;—e.g., if a direct tax, it must be levied in proportion to the census.[1361] But in laying taxes for District purposes only, "Congress, like any State legislature unrestricted by constitutional provisions, may its discretion wholly exempt certain classes of property from taxation, or may tax them at a lower rate than other property."[1362] It is no impediment to the exercise of either power that residents of the District lack the suffrage and have politically no voice in the expenditure of the money raised by taxation.[1363]


Congress may delegate to municipal authorities legislative functions which are strictly local in character.[1364] It may confer upon them the power to improve or repair streets, to assess adjacent property therefor,[1365] and to regulate public markets.[1366] It may confirm assessments previously made by the District government without authority of law.[1367] But in Stoutenburgh v. Hennick,[1368] the Court held that Congress would not, and did not intend to, delegate to the District the power to impose a license tax on commercial agents who offered merchandise for sale by sample, since such a license amounted to a regulation of interstate commerce.


In its capacity as a local legislature Congress may create courts for the District of Columbia and may confer upon them powers and duties which lie outside the judicial power vested in "constitutional" courts. On appeal from an order of the District Public Utilities Commission, a court for the District of Columbia may be empowered to modify valuations, rates and regulations established by the Commission and to make such orders as in its judgment the Commission should have made. But inasmuch as the issuance of such orders is a legislative as distinguished from a judicial function, the provision for an appeal from them to the Supreme Court was held unconstitutional.[1369]

Despite the fact that Congress, acting under this clause, imposed nonjudicial duties upon the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals [Pg 305]for the District of Columbia, those tribunals were held to be constitutional courts, established under article III, with the result that the compensation of the judges thereof may not be diminished during their continuance in office.[1370] Since the courts established for the District are courts of the United States, their judgments stand upon the same footing, so far as concerns the obligations created by them, as domestic judgments of the States, wherever rendered and wherever sought to be enforced.[1371]

Authority Over Places Purchased


This clause has been broadly construed to cover all structures necessary for carrying on the business of the National Government.[1372] It includes post offices,[1373] a hospital and a hotel located in a national park,[1374] and locks and dams for the improvement of navigation.[1375] But it does not cover lands acquired for forests, parks, ranges, wild life sanctuaries or flood control.[1376] Nevertheless the Supreme Court has held that a State may convey, and that Congress may accept, either exclusive or qualified jurisdiction over property acquired within the geographical limits of a State, for purposes other than those enumerated in Clause 17.[1377]

After exclusive jurisdiction over lands within a State has been ceded to the United States, Congress alone has the power to punish crimes committed within the ceded territory.[1378] Private property located thereon is not subject to taxation by the State,[1379] nor can State statutes enacted subsequent to the transfer have any operation therein.[1380] But the local laws in force at the date of cession which are protective of private rights continue in force until abrogated by Congress.[1381]


A State may qualify its cession of territory by a condition that jurisdiction shall be retained by the United States only so long as the place is used for specified purposes.[1382] Such a provision operates [Pg 306]prospectively and does not except from the grant that portion of a described tract which is then used as a railroad right of way.[1383] In 1892, the Court upheld the jurisdiction of the United States to try a person charged with murder on a military reservation, over the objection that the State had ceded jurisdiction only over such portions of the area as were used for military purposes, and that the particular place on which the murder was committed was used solely for farming. The Court held that the character and purpose of the occupation having been officially established by the political department of the government, it was not open to the Court to inquire into the actual uses to which any portion of the area was temporarily put.[1384] A few years later, however, it ruled that the lease to a city, for use as a market, of a portion of an area which had been ceded to the United States for a particular purpose, suspended the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States.[1385]

Recently the question arose whether the United States retains jurisdiction over a place which was ceded to it unconditionally after it has abandoned the use of the property for governmental purposes and entered into a contract for the sale thereof to private persons. Minnesota asserted the right to tax the equitable interest of the purchaser in such land, and the Supreme Court upheld its right to do so. The majority assumed that "the Government's unrestricted transfer of property to nonfederal hands is a relinquishment of the exclusive legislative power."[1386] In separate concurring opinions Chief Justice Stone and Justice Frankfurter reserved judgment on the question of territorial jurisdiction.[1387]


For more than a century the Supreme Court kept alive, by repeated dicta,[1388] the doubt expressed by Justice Story "whether Congress are by the terms of the Constitution, at liberty to purchase lands for forts, dockyards, etc., with the consent of a State legislature, where such consent is so qualified that it will not justify the 'exclusive legislation' of Congress there. It may well be doubted if such consent be not utterly void."[1389] But when the issue was squarely presented in 1937, the Court ruled that where the United States purchases property within a State with the consent of the latter, it is valid for the State to convey, and for the United States to accept, "concurrent jurisdiction" over such land, the State reserving to itself the right to execute process "and such other jurisdiction and authority over the same as is not inconsistent with the jurisdiction ceded to the United States."[1390] [Pg 307]The holding logically renders the second half of Clause 17 superfluous. In a companion case, the Court ruled further that even if a general State statute purports to cede exclusive jurisdiction, such jurisdiction does not pass unless the United States accepts it.[1391]

Clause 18. The Congress shall have Power * * * To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

The Coefficient or Elastic Clause


That this clause is an enlargement, not a constriction, of the powers expressly granted to Congress, that it enables the lawmakers to select any means reasonably adapted to effectuate those powers, was established by Marshall's classic opinion in McCulloch v. Maryland.[1392] "Let the end be legitimate," he wrote, "let it be within the scope of the Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consist with the letter and spirit of the Constitution, are constitutional."[1393] Moreover, this provision gives Congress a share in the responsibilities lodged in other departments, by virtue of its right to enact legislation necessary to carry into execution all powers vested in the National Government. Conversely, where necessary for the efficient execution of its own powers, Congress may delegate some measure of legislative power to other departments.[1394]


Practically every power of the National Government has been expanded in some degree by the coefficient clause. Under its authority Congress has adopted measures requisite to discharge the treaty obligations of the nation;[1395] it has organized the federal judicial system and has enacted a large body of law defining and punishing crimes. Effective control of the national economy has been made possible by the authority to regulate the internal commerce of a State to the extent necessary to protect and promote interstate commerce.[1396] Likewise the right of Congress to utilize all known and appropriate means for collecting the revenue, including the distraint of property for Federal taxes,[1397] and its power to acquire property needed for the operation of the government by the exercise of the power of eminent domain,[1398] have greatly extended the range of national power. But the widest application of the necessary and proper clause has occurred in the field of monetary and fiscal controls. Inasmuch as the various specific powers granted by article I, section 8, do not add up to a general legislative power over such matters, the Court has relied heavily upon this clause in sustaining the comprehensive control which Congress has asserted over this subject.[1399]


Although the only crimes which Congress is expressly authorized to punish are piracies, felonies on the high seas, offenses against the law of nations, treason and counterfeiting of the securities and current coin of the United States, its power to create, define and punish crimes and offenses whenever necessary to effectuate the objects of the Federal Government is universally conceded.[1400] Illustrative of the offenses which have been punished under this power are the alteration of registered bonds;[1401] the bringing of counterfeit bonds into the country;[1402] conspiracy to injure prisoners in custody of a United States marshal;[1403] impersonation of a federal officer with intent to defraud;[1404] conspiracy to injure a citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States;[1405] the receipt by government officials of contributions from government employees for political purposes;[1406] advocating, etc., the overthrow of the Government by force.[1407] Part I of Title 18 of the United States Code comprises more than 500 sections defining penal offenses against the United States.


As an appropriate means for executing "the great powers, to lay and collect taxes; to borrow money; to regulate commerce; to declare and conduct a war; and to raise and support armies * * *" Congress may incorporate banks and kindred institutions.[1408] Moreover, it may confer upon them private powers which, standing alone, have no relation to the functions of the Federal Government, if those privileges are essential to the effective operation of such corporations.[1409] Where necessary to meet the competition of State banks, Congress may authorize national banks to perform fiduciary functions, even though, apart from the competitive situation, federal instrumentalities might not be permitted to engage in such business.[1410] The Court will not undertake to assess the relative importance of the public and private functions of a financial institution which Congress has seen fit to create. It sustained the act setting up the Federal Farm Loan Banks to provide funds for mortgage loans on agricultural land against the contention that the right of the Secretary of the Treasury, which he had not exercised, to use these banks as depositaries of public funds, was merely a pretext for chartering these banks for private purposes.[1411]


Reinforced by the necessary and proper clause, the powers "'to lay and collect taxes, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States,' and 'to borrow money on the credit of the United States and to coin money and regulate the value thereof * * *'";[1412] have been held to give Congress virtually complete control over money and currency. A prohibitive tax on the [Pg 310]notes of State banks;[1413] the issuance of treasury notes impressed with the quality of legal tender in payment of private debts[1414] and the abrogation of clauses in private contracts which called for payment in gold coin,[1415] were sustained as appropriate measures for carrying into effect some or all of the foregoing powers.


In addition to the creation of banks, Congress has been held to have authority to charter a railroad corporation,[1416] or a corporation to construct an interstate bridge,[1417] as instrumentalities for promoting commerce among the States, and to create corporations to manufacture aircraft[1418] or merchant vessels[1419] as incidental to the war power.


Inasmuch as the Constitution "delineated only the great outlines of the judicial power * * *, leaving the details to Congress, * * * The distribution and appropriate exercise of the judicial power must * * * be made by laws passed by Congress, * * *"[1420] As a necessary and proper provision for the exercise of the jurisdiction conferred by article III, section 2 Congress may direct the removal from a State to a federal court of a criminal prosecution against a federal officer for acts done under color of federal law,[1421] and may authorize the removal before trial of civil cases arising under the laws of the United States.[1422] It may prescribe the effect to be given to judicial proceedings of the federal courts,[1423] and may make all laws necessary for carrying into execution the judgments of federal courts.[1424] When a territory is admitted as a State, Congress may designate the Court to which the records of the territorial courts shall be transferred, and may prescribe the mode for enforcement and review of judgments rendered by those courts.[1425] In the exercise of other powers conferred by the Constitution, apart from article III, Congress may create legislative courts and "clothe them with functions deemed essential or helpful in carrying those powers into execution."[1426]


This clause enables Congress to pass special laws to require other departments of the Government to prosecute or adjudicate particular claims, whether asserted by the Government itself or by private persons. In 1924,[1427] Congress adopted a Joint Resolution directing the President to cause suit to be instituted for the cancellation of certain oil leases alleged to have been obtained from the Government by fraud, and to prosecute such other actions and proceedings, civil and criminal, as were warranted by the facts. This resolution also authorized the appointment of special counsel to have charge of such litigation. Private acts providing for a review of an order for compensation under the Longshoreman's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act,[1428] or conferring jurisdiction upon the Court of Claims to hear and determine certain claims of a contractor against the Government, in conformity with directions given by Congress, after that court had denied recovery on such claims, have been held constitutional.[1429]


Congress may implement the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction conferred upon the federal courts by revising and amending the maritime law which existed at the time the Constitution was adopted, but in so doing, it cannot go beyond the reach of that jurisdiction.[1430] This power cannot be delegated to the States; hence acts of Congress which purported to make State Workmen's Compensation laws applicable to maritime cases were held unconstitutional.[1431]

[Pg 312]

Section 9. Clause 1. The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

Powers Denied to Congress


This section of the Constitution (containing eight clauses restricting or prohibiting legislation affecting the importation of slaves, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the enactment of bills of attainder or ex post facto laws, the levying of taxes on exports, the granting of preference to ports of one State over another, the granting of titles of nobility, etc.,) is devoted to restraints upon the power of Congress and of the National Government,[1432] and in no respect affects the States in the regulation of their domestic affairs.[1433]

The above clause, which sanctioned the importation of slaves by the States for twenty years after the adoption of the Constitution, when considered with the section requiring escaped slaves to be returned to their masters (art. IV, § 1, cl. 3), was held by Chief Justice Taney in Scott v. Sanford,[1434] to show conclusively that such persons and their descendants were not embraced within the term "citizen" as used in the Constitution. Today is interesting only as an historical curiosity.

Clause 2. The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.


Purpose of the Writ

This section, which restricts only the Federal Government and not the States,[1435] is the only place in the Constitution where the writ of habeas corpus is mentioned. The framers took for granted that the courts of the United States would be given jurisdiction to issue this, the greatest of the safeguards of personal liberty embodied in the common law, and the Judiciary Act of 1789[1436] provided for the issuance of the writ according to "the usages and principles of law." At common [Pg 313]law the purpose of such a proceeding was to obtain the liberation of persons who were imprisoned without just cause.[1437] While the Supreme Court conceded at an early date that the authority of the federal courts to entertain petitions for habeas corpus derived solely from acts of Congress,[1438] a narrow majority recently asserted the right to expand the scope of the writ by judicial interpretation and to sanction its use for a purpose unknown to the common law, i.e., to bring a prisoner into court to argue his own appeal. Speaking for the majority Justice Murphy declared that: "However, we do not conceive that a circuit court of appeals, in issuing a writ of habeas corpus under § 262 of the Judicial Code, is necessarily confined to the precise forms of that writ in vogue at the common law or in the English judicial system. Section 262 says that the writ must be agreeable to the usages and principles of 'law,' a term which is unlimited by the common law or the English law. And since 'law' is not a static concept, but expands and develops as new problems arise, we do not believe that the forms of the habeas corpus writ authorized by § 262 are only those recognized in this country in 1789, when the original Judiciary Act containing the substance of this section came into existence."[1439]

Errors Which May Be Corrected on Habeas Corpus

The writ of habeas corpus provides a remedy for jurisdictional and constitutional errors at the trial without limit as to time.[1440] It may be used to correct errors of that order made by military as well as by civil courts.[1441] Under the common law and the Act 31 Car. II c. 2 (1679), where a person was detained pursuant to a conviction by a court having jurisdiction of the subject matter, habeas corpus was available only if a want of jurisdiction appeared on the face of the record of the Court which convicted him. A showing in a return to a writ that the prisoner was held under final process based upon a judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction closed the inquiry.[1442] Under the Judiciary Act of 1789[1443] the same rule obtained.[1444] But by the act of February 5, 1867,[1445] Congress extended the writ to all persons restrained of their liberty in violation of the Constitution or a law or treaty of the United States, and required the Court to ascertain the facts and to "dispose of the party as law and justice require." This gave the prisoner a right to have a judicial inquiry in a court of the United States into the very truth and substance of the causes of his detention. The Supreme Court has said that there is "no doubt of the authority of the Congress to thus liberalize the common law procedure on habeas corpus * * *" .[1446]

[Pg 314] Habeas Corpus Not a Substitute for Appeal

Since the writ of habeas corpus is appellate in nature, Congress may confer jurisdiction to issue it upon the Supreme Court as well as upon the inferior federal courts.[1447] The proceeding may not, however, be used as a substitute for an appeal or writ of error.[1448] But if special circumstances make it advantageous to use this writ in aid of a just disposition of a cause pending on appeal it may be used for that purpose.[1449] Where facts dehors the record, which are not open to consideration upon appeal, are alleged to show a denial of constitutional rights, a judicial hearing must be granted to ascertain the truth or falsity of the allegations.[1450]

Issuance of the Writ

On application for a writ of habeas corpus, the Court may either issue the writ, and, on the return, dispose of the case, or it may waive the issuing of the writ and consider whether, upon the facts presented in the petition, the prisoner, if brought before it, could be discharged.[1451] The proceeding may not be used to secure an adjudication of a question which, if determined in the prisoner's favor, could not result in his immediate release.[1452] A discharge of a prisoner on habeas corpus is granted only in the exercise of a sound judicial discretion.[1453] While the strict doctrine of res judicata does not apply to this proceeding,[1454] the Court may, in its discretion, dismiss a petition for habeas corpus where the ground on which it is sought had been alleged in a prior application, but the evidence to support it had been unjustifiably withheld for use on a second attempt if the first failed.[1455] Where the Government did not deny the allegation in a prisoner's fourth petition for habeas corpus, but sought dismissal of the proceedings on the ground that the prisoner had abused the writ, the prisoner was held to be entitled to a hearing to determine whether the charge of abusive use of the writ was well founded.[1456]

[Pg 315] Suspension of the Privilege

A critical question under this section is who determines with finality whether the circumstances warrant suspension of the privilege of the writ. In England the writ may be suspended only by Act of Parliament,[1457] and in an early case Chief Justice Marshall asserted that the decision as to when public safety calls for this drastic action depends "on political considerations, on which the legislature is to decide."[1458] At the beginning of the Civil War Lincoln authorized the Commanding General of the Army of the United States to suspend the writ along any military line between Philadelphia and Washington.[1459] In Ex parte Merryman,[1460] Chief Justice Taney strongly denounced the President's action and reasserted the proposition that only Congress could suspend the writ. Attorney General Bates promptly challenged Taney's opinion. Noting that in Ex parte Bollman, Marshall did "not speak of suspending the privilege of the writ, but of suspending the powers vested in the Court by the act," he took the position that the constitutional provision was itself the equivalent of an Act of Parliament.[1461] Thereafter, by an express provision of the act of March 3, 1863, Congress declared, "That, during the present rebellion, the President of the United States, whenever, in his judgment, the public safety may require it, is authorized to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in any case throughout the United States, or any part thereof."[1462] The validity of this statute was assumed in Ex parte Milligan,[1463] but a narrow majority of the Court declared that the suspension of the writ did not authorize the arrest of any one, but simply denied to one arrested the privilege of the writ in order to obtain his liberty.[1464]

Clause 3. No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.


Historically, the term "bills of attainder" was applied to "such special acts of the legislature as inflict capital punishment upon persons supposed to be guilty of high offences, such as treason and felony, without any conviction in the ordinary course of judicial proceedings." [Pg 316]An act which inflicted a milder degree of punishment was called a bill of pains and penalties.[1465] Within the meaning of the Constitution, however, bills of attainder include bills of pains and penalties.[1466] As interpreted by the Supreme Court, this clause prohibits all legislative acts, "no matter what their form, that apply either to named individuals or to easily ascertainable members of a group in such a way as to inflict punishment on them without a judicial trial * * *"[1467] Two acts of Congress—one which required attorneys practicing in the federal courts to take an oath that they had never given aid to persons engaged in hostility to the United States,[1468] and another which prohibited the payment of compensation to certain named government employees who have been charged with subversive activity,[1469]—have been held unconstitutional on the ground that they amounted to bills of attainder.



At the time the Constitution was adopted, many persons understood the terms ex post facto laws, to "embrace all retrospective laws, or laws governing or controlling past transactions, whether * * * of a civil or a criminal nature."[1470] But in the early case of Calder v. Bull,[1471] the Supreme Court decided that the phrase, as used in the Constitution, applies only to penal and criminal statutes. But although it is inapplicable to retroactive legislation of any other kind,[1472] the constitutional prohibition may not be evaded by giving a civil form to a measure which is essentially criminal.[1473] Every law which makes criminal an act which was innocent when done, or which inflicts a greater punishment than the law annexed to the crime when committed, is an ex post facto law within the prohibition of the Constitution.[1474] A prosecution under a temporary statute which was extended before the date originally set for its expiration does not offend this provision even though it is instituted subsequent to the extension of the statute's duration for a violation committed prior thereto.[1475] Since this provision has no application to crimes committed outside the jurisdiction of the United States against the laws of a foreign country, it is immaterial in extradition proceedings whether the foreign law is ex post facto or not.[1476]

[Pg 317] What Constitutes Punishment

An act of Congress which prescribed as a qualification for practice before the federal courts an oath that the attorney had not participated in the Rebellion was found unconstitutional since it operated as a punishment for past acts.[1477] But a statute which denied to polygamists the right to vote in a territorial election, was upheld even as applied to a person who had not practiced polygamy since the act was passed, because the law did not operate as an additional penalty for the offense of polygamy but merely defined it as a disqualification of a voter.[1478] A deportation law authorizing the Secretary of Labor to expel aliens for criminal acts committed before its passage is not ex post facto since deportation is not a punishment.[1479] Likewise an act permitting the cancellation of naturalization certificates obtained by fraud prior to the passage of the law was held not to impose a punishment but simply to deprive the alien of his ill-gotten privileges.[1480]

Change in Place or Mode of Trial

A change of the place of trial of an alleged offense after its commission, is not an ex post facto law. If no place of trial was provided when the offense was committed, Congress may designate the place of trial thereafter.[1481] A law which alters the rule of evidence to permit a person to be convicted upon less or different evidence than was required when the offense was committed is invalid,[1482] but a statute which simply enlarges the class of persons who may be competent to testify in criminal cases is not ex post facto as applied to a prosecution for a crime committed prior to its passage.[1483]

Clause 4. No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.


The Hylton Case

The crucial problem under this section is to distinguish "direct" from other taxes. In its opinion in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan and [Pg 318]Trust Co., we find the Court declaring: "It is apparent * * * that the distinction between direct and indirect taxation was well understood by the framers of the Constitution and those who adopted it."[1484] Against this confident dictum may be set the following brief excerpt from Madison's Notes on the Convention: "Mr. King asked what was the precise meaning of direct taxation? No one answered."[1485] The first case to come before the Court on this issue was Hylton v. United States,[1486] which was decided early in 1796. Congress had levied, according to the rule of uniformity, a specific tax upon all carriages, for the conveyance of persons, which shall be kept by, or for any person, for his own use, or to be let out for hire, or for the conveying of passengers. In a fictitious statement of facts, it was stipulated that the carriages involved in the case were kept exclusively for the personal use of the owner and not for hire. The principal argument for the constitutionality of the measure was made by Hamilton, who treated it as an "excise tax,"[1487] while Madison both on the floors of Congress and in correspondence attacked it as "direct" and so void, inasmuch as it was levied without apportionment.[1488] The Court, taking the position that the direct tax clause constituted in practical operation an exception to the general taxing powers of Congress, held that no tax ought to be classified as "direct" which could not be conveniently apportioned, and on this basis sustained the tax on carriages as one on their "use" and therefore an "excise." Moreover, each of the judges advanced the opinion that the direct tax clause should be restricted to capitation taxes and taxes on land, or that at most, it might cover a general tax on the aggregate or mass of things which generally pervade all the States, especially if an assessment should intervene; while Justice Paterson, who had been a member of the Federal Convention, testified to his recollection that the principal purpose of the provision had been to allay the fear of the Southern States lest their Negroes and lands should be subjected to a specific tax.[1489]

From the Hylton to the Pollock Case

The result of the Hylton case was not challenged until after the Civil War. A number of the taxes imposed to meet the demands of that war were assailed during the postwar period as direct taxes, but [Pg 319]without result. The Court sustained successively as "excises" or "duties," a tax on an insurance company's receipts for premiums and assessments;[1490] a tax on the circulating notes of State banks,[1491] an inheritance tax on real estate,[1492] and finally a general tax on incomes.[1493] In the last case, the Court took pains to state that it regarded the term "direct taxes" as having acquired a definite and fixed meaning-to-wit, capitation taxes, and taxes on hand.[1494] Then, almost one hundred years after the Hylton case, the famous case of Pollock v. Farmers' Loan and Trust Company[1495] arose under the Income Tax Act of 1894.[1496] Undertaking to correct "a century of error" the Court held, by a vote of five-to-four, that a tax on income from property was a direct tax within the meaning of the Constitution and hence void because not apportioned according to the census.

Restriction of the Pollock Decision

The Pollock decision encouraged taxpayers to challenge the right of Congress to levy by the rule of uniformity numerous taxes which had always been reckoned to be excises. But the Court evinced a strong reluctance to extend the doctrine to such exactions. Purporting to distinguish taxes levied "because of ownership" or "upon property as such" from those laid upon "privileges,"[1497] it sustained as "excises" a tax on sales on business exchanges;[1498] a succession tax which was construed to fall on the recipients of the property transmitted, rather than on the estate of the decedent,[1499] and a tax on manufactured tobacco in the hands of a dealer, after an excise tax had been paid by the manufacturer.[1500] Again, in Thomas v. United States,[1501] the validity of a stamp tax on sales of stock certificates was sustained on the basis of a definition of "duties, imposts and excises." These terms, according to the Chief Justice, "were used comprehensively to cover customs and excise duties imposed on importation, consumption, manufacture and sale of certain commodities, privileges, particular business transactions, vocations, occupations and the like."[1502] On the same day it ruled, in Spreckels Sugar Refining Co. v. McClain,[1503] that an exaction denominated a special excise tax imposed on the business of refining sugar and measured by the gross receipts thereof, was in truth an excise and hence properly levied by the rule of uniformity. The lesson of Flint v. Stone Tracy Co.[1504] is the same. Here what was in form an income tax was sustained as a tax on the privilege of doing business as a corporation, the value of the privilege being measured by the income, including income from investments. Similarly, in Stanton v. Baltic Mining Co.[1505] a tax on the annual production of mines was held [Pg 320]to be "independently of the effect of the operation of the Sixteenth Amendment * * * not a tax upon property as such because of its ownership, but a true excise levied on the results of the business of carrying on mining operations."[1506]

A convincing demonstration of the extent to which the Pollock decision had been whittled down by the time the Sixteenth Amendment was adopted is found in Billings v. United States.[1507] In challenging an annual tax assessed for the year 1909 on the use of foreign built yachts—a levy not distinguishable in substance from the carriage tax involved in the Hylton case as construed by the Supreme Court-counsel did not even suggest that the tax should be classed as a direct tax. Instead, he based his argument that the exaction constituted a taking of property without due process of law upon the premise that it was an excise, and the Supreme Court disposed of the case upon the same assumption.

In 1921 the Court cast aside the distinction drawn in Knowlton v. Moore between the right to transmit property on the one hand and the privilege of receiving it on the other, and sustained an estate tax as an excise. "Upon this point" wrote Justice Holmes for a unanimous court, "a page of history is worth a volume of logic."[1508] This proposition being established, the Court has had no difficulty in deciding that the inclusion in the computation of the estate tax of property held as joint tenants,[1509] or as tenants by the entirety,[1510] or the entire value of community property owned by husband and wife,[1511] or the proceeds of insurance upon the life of the decedent,[1512] did not amount to direct taxation of such property. Similarly it upheld a graduated tax on gifts as an excise, saying that it was "a tax laid only upon the exercise of a single one of those powers incident to ownership, the power to give the property owned to another."[1513] In vain did Justice Sutherland, speaking for himself and two associates, urge that "the right to give away one's property is as fundamental as the right to sell it or, indeed, to possess it."[1514]

[Pg 321] Miscellaneous

The power of Congress to levy direct taxes is not confined to the States which are represented in that body. Such a tax may be levied in proportion to population in the District of Columbia.[1515] A penalty imposed for nonpayment of a direct tax is not a part of the tax itself and hence is not subject to the rule of apportionment. Accordingly, the Supreme Court sustained the penalty of fifty percent which Congress exacted for default in the payment of the direct tax on land in the aggregate amount of twenty million dollars which was levied and apportioned among the States during the Civil War.[1516]

Clause 5. No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.


This prohibition applies only to the imposition of duties on goods by reason of exportation.[1517] The word "export" signifies goods exported to a foreign country, not to an unincorporated territory of the United States.[1518] A general tax laid on all property alike, including that intended for export, is not within the prohibition, if it is not levied on goods in course of exportation nor because of their intended exportation.[1519] Where the sale to a commission merchant for a foreign consignee was consummated by delivery of the goods to an exporting carrier, the sale was held to be a step in the exportation and hence exempt from a general tax on sales of such commodity.[1520] The giving of a bond for exportation of distilled liquor is not the commencement of exportation so as to exempt from an excise tax spirits which were not exported pursuant to such bond.[1521] A tax on the income of a corporation derived from its export trade is not a tax on "articles exported" within the meaning of the Constitution.[1522]

[Pg 322] Stamp Taxes

A stamp tax imposed on foreign bills of lading,[1523] charter parties,[1524] or marine insurance policies,[1525] is in effect a tax or duty upon exports, and so void; but an act requiring the stamping of all packages of tobacco intended for export in order to prevent fraud was held not to be forbidden as a tax on exports.[1526]

Clause 6. No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another: nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties in another.


The limitations imposed by this section were designed to prevent preferences as between ports on account of their location in different States. They do not forbid such discriminations as between individual ports. Acting under the commerce clause, Congress may do many things which benefit particular ports and which incidentally result to the disadvantage of other ports in the same or neighboring States. It may establish ports of entry, erect and operate lighthouses, improve rivers and harbors, and provide structures for the convenient and economical handling of traffic.[1527] A rate order of the Interstate Commerce Commission which allowed an additional charge to be made for ferrying traffic across the Mississippi to cities on the east bank of the river was sustained over the objection that it gave an unconstitutional preference to ports in Texas.[1528] Although there were a few early intimations that this clause was applicable to the States as well as to Congress,[1529] the Supreme Court declared emphatically in 1886 that State legislation was unaffected by it.[1530] After more than a century the Court confirmed, over the objection that this clause was offended, the power which the First Congress had exercised[1531] in sanctioning the continued supervision and regulation of pilots by the States.[1532] Alaska is not deemed to be a State within the meaning of this clause.[1533]

[Pg 323]

Clause 7. No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.


This clause is a limitation upon the power of the executive department and does not restrict Congress in appropriating moneys in the Treasury.[1534] That body may recognize and pay a claim of an equitable, moral or honorary nature. Where it directs a specific sum to be paid to a certain person, neither the Secretary of the Treasury nor any court has discretion to determine whether the person is entitled to receive it.[1535] In making appropriations to pay claims arising out of the Civil War, the Court held that it was lawful to provide that certain persons, i.e., those who had aided the rebellion, should not be paid out of the funds made available by the general appropriation, but that such persons should seek relief from Congress.[1536] The Court has also recognized that Congress has a wide discretion as to the extent to which it shall prescribe details of expenditures for which it appropriates funds and has approved the frequent practice of making general appropriations of large amounts to be allotted and expended as directed by designated government agencies. Citing as an example the act of June 17, 1902[1537] where all moneys received from the sale and disposal of public lands in a large number of States and territories were set aside as a special fund to be expended under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior upon such projects as he determined to be practicable and advisable for the reclamation of arid and semi-arid lands within those States and territories, the Court declared: "The constitutionality of this delegation of authority has never been seriously questioned."[1538]


No officer of the Federal Government is authorized to pay a debt due from the United States, whether reduced to judgment or not, without an appropriation for that purpose.[1539] After the Civil War, a number of controversies arose out of attempts by Congress to restrict the payment of the claims of persons who had aided the Rebellion, but had thereafter received a pardon from the President. The Supreme Court held that Congress could not prescribe the evidentiary effect of a pardon in a proceeding in the Court of Claims for property confiscated during the Civil War,[1540] but that where the confiscated property had been sold and the proceeds paid into the Treasury, a pardon did not of its own force authorize the restoration of such proceeds.[1541] It was within the competence of Congress to declare that the amounts due to persons thus pardoned should not be paid out of the Treasury and that no general appropriation should extend to their claims.[1542]

Clause 8. No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

In 1871 the Attorney General of the United States ruled that: "A minister of the United States abroad is not prohibited by the Constitution from rendering a friendly service to a foreign power, even that of negotiating a treaty for it, provided he does not become an officer of that power, but the acceptance of a formal commission, as minister plenipotentiary, creates an official relation between the individual thus commissioned and the government which in this way accredits him as its representative, which is prohibited by this clause of the Constitution."[1543]

[Pg 325]

Section 10. No State Shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

Powers Denied to the States


At the time of the Civil War this clause was one of the provisions upon which the Court relied in holding that the Confederation formed by the seceding States could not be recognized as having any legal existence.[1544] Today, its practical significance lies in the limitations which it implies upon the power of the States to deal with matters having a bearing upon international relations. In the early case of Holmes v. Jennison,[1545] Chief Justice Taney invoked it as a reason for holding that a State had no power to deliver up a fugitive from justice to a foreign State. Recently the kindred idea that the responsibility for the conduct of foreign relations rests exclusively with the Federal Government prompted the Court to hold that, since the oil under the three mile marginal belt along the California coast might well become the subject of international dispute and since the ocean, including this three mile belt, is of vital consequence to the nation in its desire to engage in commerce and to live in peace with the world, the Federal Government has paramount rights in and power over that belt, including full dominion over the resources of the soil under the water area.[1546] In Skiriotes v. Florida,[1547] the Court, on the other hand, ruled that this clause did not disable Florida from regulating the manner in which its own citizens may engage in sponge fishing outside its territorial waters. Speaking for a unanimous Court, Chief Justice Hughes declared: "When its action does not conflict with federal legislation, the sovereign authority of the State over the conduct of its citizens upon the high seas is analogous to the sovereign authority of the United States over its citizens in like circumstances."[1548]


Within the sense of the Constitution, bills of credit signify a paper medium of exchange, intended to circulate between individuals; and between the Government and individuals, for the ordinary purposes of society. It is immaterial whether the quality of legal tender is imparted to such paper. Interest bearing certificates, in denominations not exceeding ten dollars, which were issued by loan offices established by the State of Missouri, and made receivable in payment of taxes or other moneys due to the State, and in payment of the fees and salaries of State officers, were held to be bills of credit whose issuance was banned by this section.[1549] The States are not forbidden, however, to issue coupons receivable for taxes,[1550] nor to exec