Dorr v. United States
195 U.S. 138 (1904)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Dorr v. United States, 195 U.S. 138 (1904)

Dorr v. United States

No. 683

Argued April 22, 1904

Decided May 31, 1904

195 U.S. 138

Syllabus

While it is settled that the Constitution of the United States is the only source of power authorizing action by any branch of the federal government, it is equally well settled that the United States may acquire territory in the exercise of the treatymaking power by direct cession as the result of war, and in making effective terms of peace and for that purpose has the powers of other sovereign nations.

Congress has the right to make laws for the government of territories, without being subject to all the restrictions which are imposed upon it when passing laws for the United States considered as a political body of states in union, and until territory ceded by treaty has been incorporated into the United States, it is to be governed under Congress subject only to such constitutional restrictions upon its powers as are applicable to the situation.

It is evident, from Article IX of the treaty with Spain ceding the Philippine Islands that the intention of the framers of the treaty was to reserve to Congress, so far as it could constitutionally be done, a free hand in dealing with the territory ceded by the treaty.

Congress has not up to the present time incorporated the Philippine Islands into the United States, and by an express provision of the Act of July 1, 1902, c 1891, Rev.Stat., by which force and effect is given to the Constitution and laws of the United States in the territories, does not apply to the Philippine Islands.

The power to govern territory implied in the right to acquire it, and given to Congress in Article IV, § 3 of the Constitution, to whatever other limitations it may be subject, does not require Congress to exact for ceded territory, not made a part of the United States by Congressional action, a system of laws which shall include the right of trial by jury, and the Constitution does not, without legislation and of its own force, carry such right to territory so situated.

Under §§ 7 and 8 of the libel law enacted by the Philippine Commission, permitting a fair and true report of judicial, legislative and public official proceedings as privileged communications but excluding libelous remarks or comments from the privilege, the headlines "Traitor, Seducer, Perjurer -- Wife would have killed him," over the report of a trial, although in quotation marks, are not within the privilege given by the act, and, if proved to be without basis, are libelous.

The power of Congress to authorize the temporary government, such as

Page 195 U. S. 139

that established under the Spooner Resolution of March 2, 1901, for the Philippine Islands, has been frequently exercised and is not now open to question, and the Philippine Commission established under that act had power to enact the libel law involved in this case.

The facts, which involved the question whether, in the absence of a statute of Congress expressly conferring the right of trial by jury, when demanded by the accused, is a necessary incident of judicial procedure in the Philippine Islands, are stated in the opinion of the court.

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