Annotation 2 - Fourteenth Amendment


Unique among constitutional provisions, the privileges and immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment enjoys the distinction of having been rendered a ''practical nullity'' by a single decision of the Supreme Court issued within five years after its ratification. In the Slaughter-House Cases, 15 a bare majority of the Court frustrated the aims of the most aggressive sponsors of this clause, to whom was attributed an intention to centralize ''in the hands of the Federal Government large powers hitherto exercised by the States'' with a view to enabling business to develop unimpeded by state interference. This expansive alteration of the federal system was to have been achieved by converting the rights of the citizens of each State as of the date of the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment into privileges and immunities of United States citizenship and thereafter perpetuating this newly defined status quo through judicial condemnation of any state law challenged as ''abridging'' any one of the latter privileges. To have fostered such intentions, the Court declared, would have been ''to transfer the security and protection of all the civil rights . . . to the Federal Government, . . . to bring within the power of Congress the entire domain of civil rights heretofore belonging exclusively to the States,'' and to ''constitute this court a perpetual censor upon all legislation of the States, on the civil rights of their own citizens, with authority to nullify such as it did not approve as consistent with those rights, as they existed at the time of the adoption of this amendment. . . . [The effect of] so great a departure from the structure and spirit of our institutions . . . is to fetter and degrade the State governments by subjecting them to the control of Congress, in the exercise of powers heretofore universally conceded to them of the most ordinary and fundamental character. . . . We are convinced that no such results were intended by the Congress . . . , nor by the legislatures . . . which ratified'' this amendment, and that the sole ''pervading purpose'' of this and the other War Amendments was ''the freedom of the slave race.''

Conformably to these conclusions, the Court advised the New Orleans butchers that the Louisiana statute, conferring on a single corporation a monopoly of the business of slaughtering cattle, abrogated no rights possessed by them as United States citizens; insofar as that law interfered with their claimed privilege of pursuing the lawful calling of butchering animals, the privilege thus terminated was merely one of ''those which belonged to the citizens of the States as such.'' Privileges and immunities of state citizenship had been ''left to the state governments for security and protection'' and had not been placed by this clause ''under the special care of the Federal Government.'' The only privileges which the Fourteenth Amendment protected against state encroachment were declared to be those ''which owe their existence to the Federal Government, its National character, its Constitution, or its laws.'' 16 These privileges, however, had been available to United States citizens and protected from state interference by operation of federal supremacy even prior to the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Slaughter-House Cases, therefore, reduced the privileges and immunities clause to a superfluous reiteration of a prohibition already operative against the states.

Although the Court has expressed a reluctance to attempt a definitive enumeration of those privileges and immunities of United States citizens which are protected against state encroachment, it nevertheless felt obliged in the Slaughter-House Cases ''to suggest some which owe their existence to the Federal Government, its National character, its Constitution, or its laws.'' 17 Among those which it then identified were the right of access to the seat of Government and to the seaports, subtreasuries, land officers, and courts of justice in the several States, the right to demand protection of the Federal Government on the high seas or abroad, the right of assembly, the privilege of habeas corpus, the right to use the navigable waters of the United States, and rights secured by treaty. In Twining v. New Jersey, 18 the Court recognized ''among the rights and privileges'' of national citizenship the right to pass freely from State to State, 19 the right to petition Congress for a redress of grievances, 20 the right to vote for national officers, 21 the right to enter public lands, 22 the right to be protected against violence while in the lawful custody of a United States marshal, 23 and the right to inform the United States authorities of violation of its laws. 24 Earlier, in a decision not mentioned in Twining, the Court had also acknowledged that the carrying on of interstate commerce is ''a right which every citizen of the United States is entitled to exercise.'' 25  

In modern times, the Court has continued the minor role accorded to the clause, only occasionally manifesting a disposition to enlarge the restraint which it imposes upon state action. Colgate v. Harvey, 26 which was overruled five years later, 27 represented the first attempt by the Court since adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment to convert the privileges and immunities clause into a source of protection of other than those ''interests growing out of the relationship between the citizen and the national government.'' Here, the Court declared that the right of a citizen resident in one State to contract in another, to transact any lawful business, or to make a loan of money, in any State other than that in which the citizen resides was a privilege of national citizenship which was abridged by a state income tax law excluding from taxable income interest received on money loaned within the State. In Hague v. CIO, 28 two and perhaps three justices thought that freedom to use municipal streets and parks for the dissemination of information concerning provisions of a federal statute and to assemble peacefully therein for discussion of the advantages and opportunities offered by such act was a privilege and immunity of a United States citizen, and in Edwards v. California 29 four Justices were prepared to rely on the clause. 30 In Oyama v. California, 31 in a single sentence the Court agreed with the contention of a native-born youth that a state Alien Land Law, applied to work a forfeiture of property purchased in his name with funds advanced by his parent, a Japanese alien ineligible for citizenship and precluded from owning land, deprived him ''of his privileges as an American citizen.'' The right to acquire and retain property had previously not been set forth in any of the enumerations as one of the privileges protected against state abridgment, although a federal statute enacted prior to the proposal and ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment did confer on all citizens the same rights to purchase and hold real property as white citizens enjoyed. 32  

In other respects, however, claims based on this clause have been rejected. 33  


[Footnote 15]   83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 36, 71 , 77-79 (1873).

[Footnote 16] Id. at 78-79.

[Footnote 17] Id. at 79.

[Footnote 18]   211 U.S. 78, 97 (1908).

[Footnote 19] Citing Crandall v. Nevada, 73 U.S. (65 Wall.) 35 (1868). It was observed in United States v. Wheeler, 254 U.S. 281, 299 (1920), that the statute at issue in Crandall was actually held to burden directly the performance by the United States of its governmental functions. Cf. Passenger Cases, 48 U.S. (7 How.) 282, 491 -92 (1849) (Chief Justice Taney dissenting). Four concurring Justices in Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160, 177 , 181 (1941), would have grounded a right of interstate travel on the privileges and immunities clause. More recently, the Court declined to ascribe a source but was content to assert the right to be protected. United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745, 758 (1966); Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 629 -31 (1969). Three Justices ascribed the source to this clause in Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112, 285 -87 (1970) (Justices Stewart and Blackmun and Chief Justice Burger, concurring in part and dissenting in part).

[Footnote 20] Citing United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1876).

[Footnote 21] Citing Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 651 (1884); Wiley v. Sinkler, 179 U.S. 58 (1900). Note Justice Douglas' reliance on this clause in Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112, 149 (1970) (concurring in part and dissenting in part).

[Footnote 22] Citing United States v. Waddell, 112 U.S. 76 (1884).

[Footnote 23] Citing Logan v. United States, 144 U.S. 263 (1892).

[Footnote 24] Citing In re Quarles and Butler, 158 U.S. 532 (1895).

[Footnote 25] Crutcher v. Kentucky, 141 U.S. 47, 57 (1891).

[Footnote 26]   296 U.S. 404 (1935).

[Footnote 27] Madden v. Kentucky, 309 U.S. 83, 93 (1940).

[Footnote 28]   307 U.S. 496, 510 -18 (1939) (Justices Roberts and Black; Chief Justice Hughes may or may not have concurred on this point. Id. at 532). Justices Stone and Reed preferred to base the decision on the due process clause. Id. at 518.

[Footnote 29]   314 U.S. 160, 177 -83 (1941).

[Footnote 30] See also Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112, 149 (1970) (Justice Douglas); id. at 285-87 (Justices Stewart and Blackmun and Chief Justice Burger).

[Footnote 31]   332 U.S. 633, 640 (1948).

[Footnote 32] Civil Rights Act of 1866, ch. 31, 14 Stat. 27, now 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1982, as amended.

[Footnote 33] E.g., Holden v. Hardy, 169 U.S. 366, 380 (1898) (statute limiting hours of labor in mines); Williams v. Fears, 179 U.S. 270, 274 (1900) (statute taxing the business of hiring persons to labor outside the State); Wilmington Mining Co. v. Fulton, 205 U.S. 60, 73 (1907) (statute requiring employment of only licensed mine managers and examiners and imposing liability on the mine owner for failure to furnish a reasonably safe place for workmen); Heim v. McCall, 239 U.S. 175 (1915); Crane v. New York, 239 U.S. 195 (1915) (statute restricting employment on state public works to citizens of the United States, with a preference to citizens of the State); Missouri Pacific Ry. v. Castle, 224 U.S. 541 (1912) (statute making railroads liable to employees for injuries caused by negligence of fellow servants and abolishing the defense of contributory negligence); Western Union Tel. Co. v. Milling Co., 218 U.S. 406 (1910) (statute prohibiting a stipulation against liability for negligence in delivery of interstate telegraph messages); Bradwell v. Illinois, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 130, 139 (1873); In re Lockwood, 154 U.S. 116 (1894) (refusal of state court to license a woman to practice law); Kirtland v. Hotchkiss, 100 U.S. 491, 499 (1879) (law taxing a debt owed a resident citizen by a resident of another State and secured by mortgage of land in the debtor's State); Bartemeyer v. Iowa, 85 U.S. (18 Wall.) 129 (1874); Mugler v. Kansas, 123 U.S. 623 (1887); Crowley v. Christensen, 137 U.S. 86, 91 (1890); Giozza v. Tiernan, 148 U.S. 657 (1893) (statutes regulating the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors); In re Kemmler, 136 U.S. 436 (1890) (statute regulating the method of capital punishment); Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 162 (1875) (statute regulating the franchise to male citizens); Pope v. Williams, 193 U.S. 621 (1904) (statute requiring persons coming into a State to make a declaration of intention to become citizens and residents thereof before being permitted to register as voters); Ferry v. Spokane, P. & S. Ry., 258 U.S. 314 (1922) (statute restricting dower, in case wife at time of husband's death is a nonresident, to lands of which he died seized); Walker v. Sauvinet, 92 U.S. 90 (1876) (statute restricting right to jury trial in civil suits at common law); Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 267 (1886) (statute restricting drilling or parading in any city by any body of men without license of the Governor); Maxwell v. Dow, 176 U.S. 581, 596 , 597-98 (1900) (provision for prosecution upon information, and for a jury (except in capital cases) of eight persons); New York ex rel. Bryant v. Zimmerman, 278 U.S. 63, 71 (1928) (statute penalizing the becoming or remaining a member of any oathbound association (other than benevolent orders, and the like) with knowledge that the association has failed to file its constitution and membership lists); Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319 (1937) (statute allowing a State to appeal in criminal cases for errors of law and to retry the accused); Breedlove v. Suttles, 302 U.S. 277 (1937) (statute making the payment of poll taxes a prerequisite to the right to vote); Madden v. Kentucky, 309 U.S. 83, 92 -93 (1940), (overruling Colgate v. Harvey, 296 U.S. 404, 430 (1935)) (statute whereby deposits in banks outside the State are taxed at 50 cents per $100); Snowden v. Hughes, 321 U.S. 1 (1944) (the right to become a candidate for state office is a privilege of state citizenship, not national citizenship); MacDougall v. Green, 335 U.S. 281 (1948) (Illinois Election Code requirement that a petition to form and nominate candidates for a new political party be signed by at least 200 voters from each of at least 50 of the 102 counties in the State, notwithstanding that 52% of the voters reside in only one county and 87% in the 49 most populous counties); New York v. O'Neill, 359 U.S. 1 (1959) (Uniform Reciprocal State Law to secure attendance of witnesses from within or without a State in criminal proceedings); James v. Valtierra, 402 U.S. 137 (1971) (a provision in a state constitution to the effect that low-rent housing projects could not be developed, constructed, or acquired by any state governmental body without the affirmative vote of a majority of those citizens participating in a community referendum).

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