It is the right of every private citizen of the United States to
inform a marshal of the United States, or his deputy, of a
violation of the internal revenue laws of the United States; this
right is secured to the citizen by the Constitution of the United
States, and a conspiracy to injure, oppress, threaten, or
intimidate him in the free exercise or enjoyment of this right, or
because of his having exercised it, is punishable under section
5508 of the Revised Statutes.
These were two motions for leave to file petitions for writs of
habeas corpus to Samuel C. Dunlop, Marshal of the United States for
the Northern District of Georgia. The first motion was in behalf of
John M. Quarles and David Butler, and the case was as follows:
At March term, 1895, of the circuit court of the United States
for that district, an indictment was returned against the
petitioners and several other persons, the fourth count of which
alleged that within that district, on April 7, 1894, the defendants
"to injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate one Henry Worley, a
citizen of the United States, in the free exercise and enjoyment of
a right and privilege secured to him by the Constitution and laws
of the United States, and because of his having exercised the same,
in that he, the said Henry Worley,"
on March 19, 1894, "had reported and informed William J. Duncan,
a United States Deputy Marshal in and for said Northern District of
Georgia, that George Terry did," on that day and within that
district, "violate the internal revenue laws of the United States
by carrying on the business of a distiller without having given
bond as required by law," and that the conspiracy hereinbefore
charged was formed by the defendants
"for the purpose of
Page 158 U. S. 533
injuring, oppressing, threatening, and intimidating the said
Henry Worley because of his having exercised said right and
privilege secured to him as aforesaid, in reporting and informing
said William J. Duncan, deputy marshal, as aforesaid, of the
violation of the internal revenue laws as aforesaid by the said
George Terry, and in furtherance of said conspiracy so formed as
aforesaid, and for the purpose aforesaid, and to effect the object
the defendants, on April 7, 1894, within the district, in the
nighttime and in disguise, went to Worley's house, and took him
from his house, and beat, bruised, and otherwise ill-treated him,
and shot at him with guns and pistols, with intent to kill and
murder him, because he had reported to said Duncan, deputy marshal
as aforesaid, said Terry for having violated the revenue laws of
the United States as aforesaid, "contrary to the form of the
statute in such case made and provided, and against the peace and
dignity of the United States of America."
The first, second, and third counts of the indictment were like
the fourth, except as to the persons against whom the information
The defendants demurred to each of the four counts,
"because the right and privilege alleged as the right and
privilege of a citizen of the United States is not one secured by
the Constitution and laws of the United States, . . . because there
is no such right and privilege secured to the citizens of the
United States as such citizens as that set out in the said
and "because there is no offense charged in the said count of
which the courts of the United States can have or take cognizance."
The demurrer was overruled.
The defendants then pleaded not guilty, and were tried and
convicted by a jury, and moved in arrest of judgment, for the
"1. Because in said indictment there is no allegation that
William J. Duncan was an officer of the United States, and charged
with the enforcement of the internal revenue laws; nor is there any
allegation that the said William J. Duncan was authorized to take
information upon such subject, or to employ persons for the service
of the United States. "
Page 158 U. S. 534
"2. Because there is no allegation that Henry Worley was in the
service or employment of the United States."
"3. Because there is no such official as a United States deputy
marshal, as charged in the indictment."
"4. Because there is no such right and privilege secured by the
Constitution and laws of the United States within the meaning of
sections 5508 and 5509 of the Revised Statutes of the United
States, as that set out in the indictment."
"5. Because there is no crime or offense charged in the said
bill of indictment of which the courts of the United States have
The motion in arrest of judgment was overruled, and the
defendants were sentenced to imprisonment in a penitentiary for the
term of five years.
The second case was upon a motion in behalf of James McEntire
and John H. Goble, and was similar to the first except that no
further proceedings had been taken upon the indictment after the
overruling of the demurrer.
Upon the filing of these motions, the solicitor general
suggested to the court, as reasons for exercising jurisdiction in
this form, that the prisoners were in jail, and were too poor to
pay the expenses of writs of error, and that it was important to
settle as soon as possible the question whether they should be
prosecuted in the courts of the United States or in those of the
state. And he joined with their counsel in requesting the court to
allow the petitions to be filed and to pass upon the merits of the
MR. JUSTICE GRAY, after stating the facts, delivered the opinion
of the Court.
These cases are governed by the principles declared and affirmed
in Logan v. United States, 144 U.
, 144 U. S.
-295, and in the earlier decisions there reviewed,
the result of which may be summed up as follows:
Page 158 U. S. 535
The United States are a nation whose powers of government,
legislative, executive, and judicial, within the sphere of action
confided to it by the Constitution, are supreme and paramount.
Every right created by, arising under, or dependent upon the
Constitution may be protected and enforced by such means and in
such manner as Congress, in the exercise of the correlative duty of
protection, or of the legislative powers conferred upon it by the
Constitution, may in its discretion deem most eligible and best
adapted to attain the object. Logan v. United States,
144 U. S.
Section 5508 of the Revised Statutes provides for the punishment
"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."
Among the rights and privileges which have been recognized by
this Court to be secured to citizens of the United States by the
Constitution are the right to petition Congress for a redress of
grievances, United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S.
, 92 U. S. 553
and the right to vote for Presidential electors or members of
Congress, Ex Parte Yarbrough, 110 U.
, and the right of every judicial or executive
officer, or other person engaged in the service or kept in the
custody of the United States, in the course of the administration
of justice, to be protected from lawless violence. There is a peace
of the United States. In re Neagle, 135 U. S.
, 135 U. S. 69
United States v. Logan,
It is the duty and the right not only of every peace officer of
the United States, but of every citizen, to assist in prosecuting,
and in securing the punishment of, any breach of the peace of the
United States. It is the right, as well as the duty, of every
citizen, when called upon by the proper officer, to act as part of
the posse commitatus
in upholding the laws of his country.
It is likewise his right and his duty to communicate to the
executive officers any information which he has of the commission
of an offense against those laws, and such information, given by a
private citizen, is a privileged and confidential
Page 158 U. S. 536
communication for which no action of libel or slander will lie,
and the disclosure of which cannot be compelled without the assent
of the government. Vogel v. Gruaz, 110 U.
; United States v. Moses,
4 Wash. C.C.
726; Worthington v. Scribner,
109 Mass. 487.
The right of a citizen informing of a violation of law, like the
right of a prisoner in custody upon a charge of such violation, to
be protected against lawless violence, does not depend upon any of
the amendments to the Constitution, but arises out of the creation
and establishment by the Constitution itself of a national
government, paramount and supreme within its sphere of action.
United States v. Logan, 144 U. S. 294
Both are, within the concise definition of the Chief Justice in an
"privileges and immunities arising out of the nature and
essential character of the national government, and granted or
secured by the Constitution of the United States."
In re Kemmler, 136 U. S. 436
136 U. S.
The right of the private citizen who assists in putting in
motion the course of justice, and the right of the officers
concerned in the administration of justice, stand upon the same
ground, just as do the rights of citizens voting and of officers
elected, of which Mr. Justice Miller, speaking for this Court in
Ex Parte Yarbrough,
above cited, said:
"The power in either case arises out of the circumstance that
the function in which the party is engaged, or the right which he
is about to exercise, is dependent on the laws of the United
States. In both cases, it is the duty of that government to see
that he may exercise this right freely, and to protect him from
violence while so doing or on account of so doing. This duty does
not arise solely from the interest of the party concerned, but from
the necessity of the government itself that its service shall be
free from the adverse influence of force and fraud practiced on its
agents and that the votes by which its members of Congress and its
President are elected shall be the free votes of the electors, and
the officers thus chosen the free and uncorrupted choice of those
who have the right to take part in that choice."
110 U.S. 110 U. S.
To leave to the several states the prosecution and
Page 158 U. S. 537
of conspiracies to oppress citizens of the United States, in
performing the duty and exercising the right of assisting to uphold
and enforce the laws of the United States, would tend to defeat the
independence and the supremacy of the national government. As was
said by Chief Justice Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland,
and cannot be too often repeated:
"No trace is to be found in the Constitution of an intention to
create a dependence of the government of the Union on those of the
states, for the execution of the great powers assigned to it. Its
means are adequate to its ends, and on those means alone was it
expected to rely for the accomplishment of its ends. To impose on
it the necessity of resorting to means which it cannot control,
which another government may furnish or withhold, would render its
course precarious, the result of its measures uncertain, and create
a dependence on other governments which might disappoint its most
important designs, and is incompatible with the language of the
17 U. S. 4
316, 17 U. S.
The suggestions made in the circuit court, and renewed in this
Court, "that there is no such official as a United States deputy
marshal," and that the marshal and his deputies have nothing to do
with enforcing the internal revenue laws, are sufficiently answered
by referring to the statutes. The Revised Statutes provide that
every marshal may appoint one or more deputies, removable from
office by the district judge or by the circuit court, and who take
the like oath as the marshal, and for the faithful performance of
whose duties the marshal is responsible upon his official bond.
Rev.Stat. §§ 780, 782, 783. And by the Act of March 1, 1879, c.
125, § 9, any marshal or deputy marshal may arrest any person found
within his district in the act of operating an illegal distillery,
and take him before a judicial officer. 20 Stat. 341, 342.
The necessary conclusion is that it is the right of every
private citizen of the United States to inform a marshal of the
United States or his deputy of a violation of the internal revenue
laws of the United States, that this right is secured to the
citizen by the Constitution of the United States, and
Page 158 U. S. 538
that a conspiracy to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate
him in the free exercise or enjoyment of this right, or because of
his having exercised it, is punishable under section 5508 of the
According to the agreement of counsel, and in order that the
judgment of this Court may appear in regular form upon its records,
leave is given to file the petitions. But, for the reasons above
Writs of habeas corpus are denied.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER dissented.