Hodges v. United States - 203 U.S. 1 (1906)


U.S. Supreme Court

Hodges v. United States, 203 U.S. 1 (1906)

Hodges v. United States

No. 14 of October Term. 1905

Submitted October 19, 1905

Restored to the docket for oral argument November 6, 1905

Argued April 23, 1906

Decided May 28, 1906

Opinion withheld until dissent filed, October 24, 1906

203 U.S. 1

Syllabus

The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments operate solely on state action, and not on individual action. Unless the Thirteenth Amendment vests jurisdiction in the national government, the remedy for wrongs committed by individuals on persons of African descent is through state action and state tribunals, subject to supervision of this Court by writ of error in proper cases.

Notwithstanding the adoption of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, the national government still remains one of enumerated powers, and the Tenth Amendment is not shorn of its vitality.

Slavery and involuntary servitude as denounced by the Thirteenth Amendment mean a condition of enforced compulsory service of one to another, and while the cause inciting that amendment was the emancipation of the colored race, it reaches every race and every individual.

The result of the Amendments to the Constitution adopted after the Civil War was to abolish slavery, and to make the emancipated slaves citizens,

Page 203 U. S. 2

and not wards of the nation, over whom Congress retained jurisdiction. This decision of the people is binding upon the courts, and they cannot attempt to determine whether it was the wiser course.

The United States court has no jurisdiction under the Thirteenth Amendment or §§ 1978, 1979, 5508, 5510, Revised Statutes, of a charge of conspiracy made and carried out in a state to prevent citizens of African descent, because of their race and color, from making or carrying out contracts and agreements to labor.

On October 8, 1903, the grand jury returned into the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Arkansas an indictment charging that the defendants (now plaintiffs in error), with others,

"did knowingly, willfully, and unlawfully conspire to oppress, threaten, and intimidate Berry Winn, Dave Hinton, Percy Legg, Joe Mardis, Joe McGill, Dan Shelton, jim Hall, and George Shelton, citizens of the United States of African descent, in the free exercise and enjoyment of rights and privileges secured to them and each of them by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and because of their having exercised the same, to-wit, the said Berry Winn, Dave Hinton, Percy Legg, Joe Mardis, Joe McGill, Dan Shelton, Jim Hall, and George Shelton, being then and there persons of African descent and citizens of the United States and of the State of Arkansas, had then and there made and entered into contracts and agreements with James A. Davis and James S. Hodges, persons then and there doing business under the name of Davis & Hodges as copartners, carrying on the business of manufacturers of lumber at White Hall, in said county, the said contracts being for the employment by said firm of the said Berry Winn, Dave Hinton, Percy Legg, Joe Mardis, Joe McGill, Dan Shelton, Jim Hall, and George Shelton as laborers and workmen in and about their said manufacturing establishment, by which contracts the said Berry Winn, Dave Hinton, Percy Legg, Joe Mardis, Joe McGill, Dan Shelton, Jim Hall, and George Shelton were, on their part, to perform labor and services at

Page 203 U. S. 3

said manufactory, and were to receive, on the other hand, for their labor and services, compensation, the same being a right and privilege conferred upon them by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and the laws passed in pursuance thereof, and being a right similar to that enjoyed in said state by the white citizens thereof, and while the said Berry Winn, Dave Hinton, Percy Legg, Joe Mardis, Joe McGill, Dan Shelton, Jim Hall, and George Shelton were in the enjoyment of said right and privilege, the said defendants did knowingly, willfully, and unlawfully conspire as aforesaid to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate them in the free exercise and enjoyment of said right and privilege, and because of their having so exercised the same, and because they were citizens of African descent, enjoying said right, by then and there notifying the said Berry Winn, Dave Hinton, Percy Legg, Joe Mardis, Joe McGill, Dan Shelton, Jim Hall, and George Shelton that they must abandon said contracts and their said work at said mill and cease to perform any further labor thereat, or receive any further compensation for said labor, and by threatening, in case they did not so abandon said work, to injure them, and by thereafter then and there willfully and unlawfully marching and moving in a body to and against the place of business of the said firm while the said Berry Winn, Dave Hinton, Percy Legg, Joe Mardis, Joe McGill, Dan Shelton, Jim Hall, and George Shelton were engaged thereat, and while they were in the performance of said contracts thereon, the said defendants being then and there armed with deadly weapons, threatening and intimidating the said workmen there employed, with the purpose of compelling them, by violence and threats and otherwise, to remove from said place of business, to stop said work, and to cease the enjoyment of said right and privilege, and by then and there willfully, deliberately, and unlawfully compelling said Berry Winn, Dave Hinton, Percy Legg, Joe Mardis, Joe McGill, Dan Shelton, Jim Hall, and George Shelton to quit said work and

Page 203 U. S. 4

abandon said place and cease the free enjoyment of all advantages under said contracts, the same being so done by said defendants and each of them for the purpose of driving the said Berry Winn, Dave Hinton, Percy Legg, Joe Mardis, Joe McGill, Dan Shelton, Jim Hall, and George Shelton from said place of business and from their labor because they were colored men and citizens of African descent, contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the United States."

A demurrer to this indictment, on the ground that the offense created by §§ 1977 and 5508, Rev.Stat., under which it was found, was not within the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States, but was judicially cognizable by state tribunals only, was overruled, a trial had, and the three plaintiffs in error found guilty, sentenced separately to imprisonment for different terms and to fine, and to be thereafter ineligible to any office of profit or trust created by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Sections 1977, 1978, 1979, 5508, and 5510 read as follows:

"SEC. 1977. All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every state and territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other."

"SEC. 1978. All citizens of the United States shall have the same right, in every state and territory, as is enjoyed by white citizens thereof to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property."

"SEC. 1979. Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any state or territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities

Page 203 U. S. 5

secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress."

"SEC. 5508. If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or if two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured, they shall be fined not more than five thousand dollars and imprisoned not more than ten years, and shall, moreover, be thereafter ineligible to any office or place of honor, profit or trust created by the Constitution or laws of the United States."

"SEC. 5510. Every person who, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, subjects, or causes to be subjected any inhabitant of any state or territory to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such inhabitant being an alien, or by reason of his color or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, or by imprisonment not more than one year, or by both."

There being constitutional questions involved, the judgment was brought directly to this Court on writ of error.

Page 203 U. S. 14



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