Appellees are three Mississippi law enforcement officials and 15
private individuals who are alleged to have conspired to deprive
three individuals of their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
The alleged conspiracy involved releasing the victims from jail at
night; intercepting, assaulting and killing them, and disposing of
their bodies. Its purpose was to "punish" the victims summarily.
Two indictments were returned. One charged all appellees with a
conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. § 371 to violate 18 U.S.C. § 242, which
makes it a misdemeanor willfully and under color of law to subject
any person to the deprivation of any rights secured or protected by
the Constitution. The indictment also charged all appellees with
substantive violations of § 242. The District Court sustained the
conspiracy count against a motion to dismiss, and sustained the
substantive counts as to the three official defendants. It
dismissed the substantive counts as to the 15 private defendants on
the ground that, although the indictment alleged that they had
acted "under color" of law, it did not allege that they were acting
as officers of the State. This dismissal is here on direct appeal
as No. 60. The other indictment charged all appellees with a
conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241, making it a felony to
conspire to interfere with a citizen in the free exercise or
enjoyment of any right secured or protected by the Constitution or
laws of the United States. The District Court dismissed this
indictment as to all appellees on the ground that § 241 does not
include rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. This
dismissal is here on direct appeal as No. 59.
1. The District Court erred in dismissing the indictment in No.
60 insofar as it charged the private defendants with substantive
violations of § 242. Pp. 383 U. S.
(a) "To act under color' of law does not require that the
accused be an officer of the State. It is enough that he is a
willful participant in joint activity with the State or its
agents." Pp. 383 U. S.
Page 383 U. S.
(b) The dismissal of the indictment in No. 60 as to the private
persons resulted from the District Court's erroneous construction
of the "under color" of law requirement of § 242 as making the
statute inapplicable to nonofficials, not upon a construction of
the indictment as a pleading; hence the dismissal is reviewable on
direct appeal. Pp. 383 U. S.
2. Section 241 includes within its protection rights secured or
protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, and the District Court
accordingly erred in dismissing the indictment in No. 59. Pp.
383 U. S.
(a) The District Court incorrectly assumed that United
States v. Williams, 341 U. S. 70
authoritatively determined the inapplicability of § 241 to
deprivations of Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Justices who
reached that issue in Williams
divided equally on the
question. That case "thus left the proper construction of § 241, as
regards its applicability to protect Fourteenth Amendment rights,
an open question." Pp. 383 U. S.
(b) "There is no doubt that the indictment in No. 59 sets forth
a conspiracy within the ambit of the Fourteenth Amendment. Like the
indictment in No. 60 . . . , it alleges that the defendants acted
under color of law,' and that the conspiracy included action by
the State through its law enforcement officers to punish the
alleged victims without due process of law in violation of the
Fourteenth Amendment's direct admonition to the States." Pp.
383 U. S.
(c) The wording of § 241 suggests no limitation of its coverage
to exclude Fourteenth Amendment rights. "The language of § 241 is
plain and unlimited. . . . [I]ts language embraces all
the rights and privileges secured to citizens by all
the Constitution and all
of the laws of the United
States." P. 383 U. S.
(d) The legislative history of § 241 supports the view that it
was intended to encompass Fourteenth Amendment rights within its
protection. Pp. 383 U. S.
Reversed and remanded.
Page 383 U. S. 789
MR. JUSTICE FORTAS delivered the opinion of the Court.
These are direct appeals from the dismissal in part of two
indictments returned by the United States Grand Jury for the
Southern District of Mississippi. The indictments allege assaults
by the accused persons upon the rights of the asserted victims to
due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment. The indictment
in No. 59 charges 18 persons [Footnote 1
] with violations of 18 U.S.C. § 241 (1964 ed.).
In No. 60, the same 18 persons are charged with offenses based upon
18 U.S.C. § 242 (1964 ed.). These are among the so-called civil
rights statutes which have come to us from Reconstruction days, the
period in our history which also produced the Thirteenth,
Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution.
The sole question presented in these appeals is whether the
specified statutes make criminal the conduct for which the
individuals were indicted. It is an issue of construction, not of
constitutional power. We have no doubt of
"the power of Congress to enforce by appropriate criminal
sanction every right guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the
United States v. Williams, 341 U. S.
, 341 U. S. 72
Page 383 U. S. 790
The events upon which the charges are based, as alleged in the
indictments, are as follows: On June 21, 1964, Cecil Ray Price, the
Deputy Sheriff of Neshoba County, Mississippi, detained Michael
Henry Schwerner, James Earl Chaney and Andrew Goodman in the
Neshoba County jail located in Philadelphia, Mississippi. He
released them in the dark of that night. He then proceeded by
automobile on Highway 19 to intercept his erstwhile wards. He
removed the three men from their automobile, placed them in an
official automobile of the Neshoba County Sheriff's office, and
transported them to a place on an unpaved road.
These acts, it is alleged, were part of a plan and conspiracy
whereby the three men were intercepted by the 18 defendants,
including Deputy Sheriff Price, Sheriff Rainey and Patrolman Willis
of the Philadelphia, Mississippi, Police Department. The purpose
and intent of the release from custody and the interception,
according to the charge, were to "punish" the three men. The
defendants, it is alleged, "did willfully assault, shoot and kill"
each of the three. And, the charge continues, the bodies of the
three victims were transported by one of the defendants from the
rendezvous on the unpaved road to the vicinity of the construction
site of an earthen dam approximately five miles southwest of
Page 383 U. S. 791
These are federal, and not state, indictments. They do not
charge as crimes the alleged assaults or murders. The indictments
are framed to fit the stated federal statutes, and the question
before us is whether the attempt of the draftsman for the Grand
Jury in Mississippi has been successful: whether the indictments
charge offenses against the various defendants which may be
prosecuted under the designated federal statutes.
We shall deal first with the indictment in No. 60, based on §
242 of the Criminal Code, and then with the indictment in No. 59,
under § 241. We do this for ease of exposition and because § 242
was enacted by the Congress about four years prior to § 241.
] Section 242 was
enacted in 1866; § 241 in 1870.
I. No. 60
Section 242 defines a misdemeanor, punishable by fine of not
more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than one year, or
both. So far as here significant, it provides punishment for
"Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance,
regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any inhabitant of any
State . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or
immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the
United States. . . ."
The indictment in No. 60 contains four counts, each of which
names as defendants the three officials and 15 nonofficial persons.
The First Count charges, on the basis of allegations substantially
as set forth above, that all of the defendants conspired "to
willfully subject" Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman
"to the deprivation
Page 383 U. S. 792
of their right, privilege and immunity secured and protected by
the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
not to be summarily punished without due process of law by persons
acting under color of the laws of the State of Mississippi."
This is said to constitute a conspiracy to violate § 242, and
therefore an offense under 18 U.S.C. § 371 (1964 ed.). The latter
section, the general conspiracy statute, makes it a crime to
conspire to commit any offense against the United States. The
penalty for violation is the same as for direct violation of § 242
-- that is, it is a misdemeanor. [Footnote 4
On a motion to dismiss, the District Court sustained this First
Count as to all defendants. As to the sheriff, deputy sheriff and
patrolman, the court recognized that each was clearly alleged to
have been acting "under color of law," as required by § 242.
] As to the private
persons, the District Court held that "[I]t is immaterial to the
conspiracy that these private individuals were not acting under
color of law," because the count charges that they were conspiring
with persons who were so acting. See United States v.
Rabinowich, 238 U. S. 78
238 U. S.
The court necessarily was satisfied that the indictment, in
alleging the arrest, detention, release, interception and killing
of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, adequately stated as the purpose
of the conspiracy, a violation of § 242, and that this section
could be violated by "willfully subject[ing the victims] . . . to
the deprivation of their right, privilege and immunity" under the
Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Page 383 U. S. 793
No appeal was taken by the defendants from the decision of the
trial court with respect to the First Count, and it is not before
us for adjudication.
The Second, Third and Fourth Counts of the indictment in No. 60
charge all of the defendants not with conspiracy, but with
substantive violations of § 242. Each of these counts charges that
the defendants, acting "under color of the laws of the State of
Mississippi," "did willfully assault, shoot and kill" Schwerner,
Chaney and Goodman, respectively, "for the purpose and with the
intent" of punishing each of the three, and that the defendants
"did thereby willfully deprive" each "of rights, privileges and
immunities secured and protected by the Constitution and the laws
of the United States" -- namely, due process of law.
The District Court held these counts of the indictment valid as
to the sheriff, deputy sheriff and patrolman. But it dismissed them
as against the nonofficial defendants because the counts do not
charge that the latter were "officers, in fact, or de
in anything allegedly done by them under color of
We note that, by sustaining these counts against the three
officers, the court again necessarily concluded that an offense
under § 242 is properly stated by allegations of willful
deprivation, under color of law, of life and liberty without due
process of law. We agree. No other result would be permissible
under the decisions of this Court. Screws v. United
States, 325 U. S. 91
Page 383 U. S. 794
But we cannot agree that the Second, Third or Fourth Counts may
be dismissed as against the nonofficial defendants. Section 242
applies only were a person indicted has acted "under color" of law.
Private persons, jointly engaged with state officials in the
prohibited action, are acting "under color" of law for purposes of
the statute. To act "under color" of law does not require that the
accused be an officer of the State. It is enough that he is a
willful participant in joint activity with the State or its agents.
Page 383 U. S. 795
In the present case, according to the indictment, the brutal
joint adventure was made possible by state detention and calculated
release of the prisoners by an officer of the State. This action,
clearly attributable to the State, was part of the monstrous design
described by the indictment. State officers participated in every
phase of the alleged venture: the release from jail, the
interception, assault, and murder. It was a joint activity, from
start to finish. Those who took advantage of participation by state
officers in accomplishment of the foul purpose alleged must suffer
the consequences of that participation. In effect, if the
allegations are true, they were participants in official
lawlessness, acting in willful concert with state officers and
hence under color of law.
Appellees urge that the decision of the District Court was based
upon a construction of the indictment to the effect that it did not
charge the private individuals with acting "under color" of law.
Consequently, they urge us to affirm in No. 60. In any event, they
submit, since the trial court's decision was based on the
inadequacy of the indictment, and not on construction of the
statute, we have no jurisdiction to review it on direct appeal.
United States v. Swift & Co., 318 U.
. We do not agree. Each count of the indictment
specifically alleges that all of the defendants were acting "under
color of the laws of the State of Mississippi." The fault lies not
in the indictment, but in the District Court's view that the
statute requires that each offender be an official or that
Page 383 U. S. 796
he act in an official capacity. We have jurisdiction to consider
this statutory question on direct appeal and, as we have shown, the
trial court's determination of it is in error. Since each of the
private individuals is indictable as a principal acting under color
of law, we need not consider whether he might be held to answer as
an "aider or abettor" under 18 U.S.C. § 2 (1964 ed.), despite
omission to include such a charge in the indictment.
Accordingly, we reverse the dismissal of the Second, Third and
Fourth Counts of the indictment in No. 60, and remand for
. No. 59
No. 59 charges each of the 18 defendants with a felony -- a
violation of § 241. This indictment is in one count. It charges
that the defendants "conspired together . . . to injure, oppress,
threaten and intimidate" Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman
"in the free exercise and enjoyment of the right and privilege
secured to them by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of
the United States not to be deprived of life or liberty without due
process of law by persons acting under color of the laws of
The indictment alleges that it was the purpose of the conspiracy
that Deputy Sheriff Price would release Schwerner, Chaney and
Goodman from custody in the Neshoba County jail at such time that
Price and the other 17 defendants "could and would intercept" them
"and threaten, assault, shoot and kill them." The penalty under §
241 is a fine of not more than $5,000, or imprisonment for not more
than 10 years, or both.
Section 241 is a conspiracy statute. It reads as follows:
"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
Page 383 U. S. 797
United States, or because of his having so exercised the same;
"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 $5,000 or imprisoned not more
than ten years, or both."
The District Court dismissed the indictment as to all
defendants. In effect, although § 241 includes rights or privileges
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States without
qualification or limitation, the court held that it does not
include rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.
It will be recalled that, in No. 60, the District Court held
that § 242 included the denial of Fourteenth Amendment rights --
the same right to due process involved in the indictment under §
241. Both include rights or privileges secured by the Constitution
or laws of the United States. Neither is qualified or limited. Each
includes, presumably, all of the Constitution and laws of the
United States. To the reader of the two sections, versed only in
the English language, it may seem bewildering that the two sections
could be so differently read.
But the District Court purported to read the statutes with the
gloss of Williams I.
In that case, the only case in which
this Court has squarely confronted the point at issue, the Court
did, in fact, sustain dismissal of an indictment under § 241. But
it did not, as the District Court incorrectly assumed, hold that §
241 is inapplicable to Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Court
divided equally on the issue. Four Justices, in an opinion by Mr.
Justice Frankfurter, were of the view that § 241 "only covers
conduct which interferes with rights arising from the substantive
powers of the Federal Government" -- rights "which Congress can
Page 383 U. S. 798
constitutionally secure against interference by private
individuals." 341 U.S. at 341 U. S. 73
341 U. S. 77
Four other Justices, in an opinion by MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, found no
support for Mr. Justice Frankfurter's view in the language of the
section, its legislative history, or its judicial interpretation up
to that time. They read the statute as plainly covering
conspiracies to injure others in the exercise of Fourteenth
Amendment rights. They could see no obstacle to using it to punish
deprivations of such rights. Dismissal of the indictment was
affirmed because MR. JUSTICE BLACK voted with those who joined Mr.
Justice Frankfurter. He did so, however, for an entirely different
reason -- that the prosecution was barred by res judicata
-- and he expressed no view on the issue whether "§ 241, as
applied, is too vague and uncertain in scope to be consistent with
the Fifth Amendment." Williams I
thus left the proper
construction of § 241, as regards its applicability to protect
Fourteenth Amendment rights, an open question.
In view of the detailed opinions in Williams I,
would be supererogation to track the arguments in all of their
intricacy. On the basis of an extensive reexamination of the
question, we conclude that the District Court erred; that § 241
must be read as it is written -- to reach conspiracies
"to injure . . . 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 . . . ;"
that this language includes rights or privileges protected by
the Fourteenth Amendment; that whatever the ultimate coverage of
the section may be, it extends to conspiracies otherwise within the
scope of the section, participated in by officials alone or in
collaboration with private persons, and that the indictment in No.
59 properly charges such a conspiracy in violation of § 241. We
shall confine ourselves to a review of the major considerations
which induce our conclusion.
Page 383 U. S. 799
1. There is no doubt that the indictment in No. 59 sets forth a
conspiracy within the ambit of the Fourteenth Amendment. Like the
indictment in No. 60, supra,
it alleges that the
defendants acted "under color of law," and that the conspiracy
included action by the State, through its law enforcement officers,
to punish the alleged victims without due process of law in
violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's direct admonition to the
The indictment specifically alleges that the sheriff, deputy
sheriff and a patrolman participated in the conspiracy; that it was
a part of the "plan and purpose of the conspiracy" that Deputy
"while having [the three victims] . . . in his custody in the
Neshoba County Jail . . . , would release them from custody at such
time that he [and others of the defendants] . . . could and would
intercept [the three victims] . . . and threaten, assault, shoot
and kill them."
This is an allegation of state action which, beyond dispute,
brings the conspiracy within the ambit of the Fourteenth Amendment.
It is an allegation of official, state participation in murder,
accomplished by and through its officers with the participation of
others. It is an allegation that the State, without the semblance
of due process of law as required of it by the Fourteenth
Amendment, used its sovereign power and office to release the
victims from jail so that they were not charged and tried, as
required by law, but instead could be intercepted and killed. If
the Fourteenth Amendment forbids denial of counsel, it clearly
denounces denial of any trial at all.
As we have consistently held "The Fourteenth Amendment protects
the individual against state action, not against wrongs done by
" Williams I,
341 U.S. at
341 U. S. 92
(opinion of DOUGLAS, J.). In the present case, the participation by
law enforcement officers, as
Page 383 U. S. 800
alleged in the indictment, is clearly state action, as we have
discussed, and it is therefore within the scope of the Fourteenth
2. The argument, however, of Mr. Justice Frankfurter's opinion
in Williams I,
upon which the District Court rests its
decision cuts beneath this. It does not deny that the accused
conduct is within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment, but it
contends that, in enacting § 241, the Congress intended to include
only the rights and privileges conferred on the citizen by reason
of the "substantive" powers of the Federal Government -- that is,
by reason of federal power operating directly upon the citizen, and
not merely by means of prohibitions of state action. As the Court
of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Williams I,
upon in the opinion below, put it,
"the Congress had in mind the federal rights and privileges
which appertain to citizens as such, and not the general rights
extended to all persons by the . . . Fourteenth Amendment."
179 F.2d 644, 648. We do not agree.
The language of § 241 is plain and unlimited. As we have
discussed, its language embraces all
of the rights and
privileges secured to citizens by all
of the Constitution
of the laws of the United States. There is no
indication in the language that the sweep of the section is
confined to rights that are conferred by or "flow from" the Federal
Government, as distinguished from those secured or confirmed or
guaranteed by the Constitution. We agree with the observation of
Mr. Justice Holmes in United States v. Mosley,
238 U. S. 383
238 U. S.
"The source of this section in the doings of the Ku Klux and the
like is obvious, and acts of violence obviously were in the mind of
Congress. Naturally Congress put forth all its powers. . . . [T]his
Page 383 U. S. 801
dealt with Federal rights and with all Federal rights, and
protected them in the lump. . . . [It should not be construed so]
as to deprive citizens of the United States of the general
protection which, on its face, § 19 [now § 241] most reasonably
affords. [Footnote 8
We believe, with Mr. Justice Holmes, that the history of the
events from which § 241 emerged illuminates the purpose and means
of the statute with an unmistakable light. We think that history
leaves no doubt that, if we are to give § 241 the scope that its
origins dictate, we must accord it a sweep as broad as its
language. We are not at liberty to seek ingenious analytical
instrument for excluding from its general language the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment -- particularly since the
violent denial of legal process was one of the reasons motivating
enactment of the section. [Footnote
Section 241 was enacted as part of what came to be known as the
Enforcement Act of 1870, 16 Stat. 140. [Footnote 10
] The Act was passed on May 31, 1870, only
a few months
Page 383 U. S. 802
after ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment. In addition to
the new § 241, it included a reenactment of a provision of the
Civil Rights Act of 1866 which is now § 242. The intended breadth
of § 241 is emphasized by contrast with the narrowness of § 242 as
it then was. [Footnote 11
Section 242 forbade the deprivation, "under color of any law," of
"any right secured or protected by this act." The rights protected
by the Act were narrow and specific:
"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 person and property as is enjoyed
by white citizens [and to] be subject to like punishment, pains,
penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and none
Act of May 31, 1870, § 16, 16 Stat. 144, reenacting, with minor
changes, Act of April 9, 1866, § 1, 14 Stat. 27. Between 1866 and
1870, there was much agitated criticism in the Congress and in the
Nation because of the continued denial of rights to Negroes,
sometimes accompanied by violent assaults. In response to the
demands for more stringent legislation, Congress enacted the
Enforcement Act of 1870. Congress had before it and reenacted §
242, which was explicitly limited as we have described. At the same
time, it included § 241 in the Act using broad language to cover
not just the rights enumerated in § 242, but all rights and
privileges under the Constitution and laws of the United
Page 383 U. S. 803
It was not until the statutory revision of 1874 that the
specific enumeration of protected rights was eliminated from § 242.
The section was then broadened to include as wide a range of rights
as § 241 already did: "any rights, privileges, or immunities
secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the United
States." The substantial change thus effected was made with the
customary stout assertions of the codifiers that they had merely
clarified and reorganized, without changing substance. [Footnote 12
] Section 241 was left
essentially unchanged, and neither in the 1874 revision nor in any
subsequent reenactment has there been the slightest indication of a
congressional intent to narrow or limit the original broad scope of
§ 241. It is clear, therefore, that § 241, from original enactment
through subsequent codifications, was intended to deal, as Mr.
Justice Holmes put it, with conspiracies to interfere with "Federal
rights and with all Federal rights." We find no basis whatsoever
for a Judgment of Solomon which would give to the statute less than
its words command. [Footnote
The purpose and scope of the 1866 and 1870 enactments must be
viewed against the events and passions of the time. [Footnote 14
] The Civil War had ended in
April, 1865. Relations between Negroes and whites were increasingly
turbulent. [Footnote 15
Congress had taken control of the entire
Page 383 U. S. 804
governmental process in former Confederate States. It had
declared the governments in 10 "unreconstructed" States to be
illegal, and had set up federal military administrations in their
place. Congress refused to seat representatives from these States
until they had adopted constitutions guaranteeing Negro suffrage,
and had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment. Constitutional
conventions were called in 1868. Six of the 10 States fulfilled
Congress' requirements in 1868, the other four by 1870.
For a few years, "radical" Republicans dominated the governments
of the Southern States, and Negroes played a substantial political
role. But countermeasures were swift and violent. The Ku Klux Klan
was organized by southern whites in 1866, and a similar
organization appeared with the romantic title of the Knights of the
White Camellia. In 1868, a wave of murders and assaults was
launched including assassinations designed to keep Negroes from the
polls. [Footnote 16
States themselves were helpless, despite the resort by some of them
to extreme measures such as making it legal to hunt down and shoot
any disguised man. [Footnote
Within the Congress, pressures mounted in the period between the
end of the war and 1870 for drastic measures. A few months after
the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 6, 1865,
Congress, on April 9, 1866, enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1866,
which, as we have described, included § 242 in its originally
narrow form. On June 13, 1866, the Fourteenth Amendment was
proposed, and it was ratified in July, 1868. In February, 1869, the
Fifteenth Amendment was proposed,
Page 383 U. S. 805
and it was ratified in February, 1870. On May 31, 1870, the
Enforcement Act of 1870 was enacted.
In this context, it is hardly conceivable that Congress intended
§ 241 to apply only to a narrow and relatively unimportant category
of rights. [Footnote 18
cannot doubt that the purpose and effect of § 241 was to reach
assaults upon rights under the entire Constitution, including the
Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and not merely
under part of it.
This is fully attested by the only statement explanatory of §
241 in the recorded congressional proceedings relative to its
enactment. We refer to the speech of Senator Pool of North
Carolina, who introduced the provisions as an amendment to the
Enforcement Act of 1870. The Senator's remarks are printed in full
in the 383
app|>Appendix to this opinion. [Footnote 19
] He urged that the section was
needed in order to punish invasions of the newly adopted Fourteenth
and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. He acknowledged that
the States, as such, were beyond the reach of the punitive process,
and that the legislation must therefore operate upon individuals.
He made it clear that "It matters not whether those individuals be
officers or whether they are acting upon their own responsibility."
We find no evidence whatever that Senator Pool intended that § 241
should not cover violations
Page 383 U. S. 806
of Fourteenth Amendment rights, or that it should not include
state action or actions by state officials.
We conclude, therefore, that it is incumbent upon us to read §
241 with full credit to its language. Nothing in the prior
decisions of this Court or of other courts which have considered
the matter stands in the way of that conclusion. [Footnote 20
The present application of the statutes at issue does not raise
fundamental questions of federal-state relationships. We are here
concerned with allegations which squarely and indisputably involve
state action in direct violation of the mandate of the Fourteenth
Amendment -- that no State shall deprive any person of life or
liberty without due process of law. This is a direct, traditional
concern of the Federal Government. It is an area in which the
federal interest has existed for at least a century, and in which
federal participation has intensified as part of a renewed emphasis
upon civil rights. Even as recently as 1951, when Williams
was decided, the federal role in the establishment and
vindication of fundamental rights -- such as the freedom to travel,
nondiscriminatory access to public areas and nondiscriminatory
educational facilities -- was neither as pervasive nor as intense
as it is today. Today, a decision interpreting a federal law in
accordance with its historical design, to punish denials by state
action of constitutional rights of the person, can hardly be
regarded as adversely affecting "the wise adjustment between State
responsibility and national control. . . ." Williams
Page 383 U. S. 807
341 U.S. at 341 U. S. 73
(opinion of Frankfurter, J.). In any event, the problem, being
statutory, and not constitutional, is ultimately, as it was in the
beginning, susceptible of congressional disposition.
Reversed and remanded.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK concurs in the judgment and opinion of the
Court except insofar as the opinion relies upon United States
v. Williams, 341 U. S. 58
United States v. Williams, 341 U. S.
, and Williams v. United States, 341 U. S.
APPENDIX TO OPINION OF THE COURT.
Remarks of Senator Pool of North Carolina on sponsoring Sections
5, 6 and 7 of the Enforcement Act of 1870 (Cong.Globe, 41st Cong.,
2d Sess., pp. 3611-3613):
"Mr. POOL. Mr. President, the question involved in the
proposition now before the Senate is one in which my section of the
Union is particularly interested, although, since the ratification
of the fifteenth amendment, which we are now about to enforce by
appropriate legislation, other sections of the country have become
more or less interested in the same question. It is entering upon a
new phase of reconstruction; that is, to enforce by appropriate
legislation those great principles upon which the reconstruction
policy of Congress was based. I said upon a former occasion on this
floor that the reconstruction policy of Congress had been
progressive, and that it was necessary that it should be
progressive still. The mere act of establishing governments in the
recently insurgent States was one thing; the great principles upon
which Congress proposed to proceed in establishing those
governments was quite another thing, involving principles which lie
at the very foundation of all that has been done, and which are
Page 383 U. S. 808
with all the results that must follow from that and from the
legislation of Congress connected with the whole subject."
"Mr. President, the first thing that was done was the passage of
the thirteenth amendment by which slavery in the United States was
abolished. By that, four millions of people were taken out from
under the protecting hand of interested masters and turned loose to
take care of themselves. They were turned loose and put upon their
own resources in communities which were imbued with prejudices
against them as a race, communities which, for the most part, had
for years past -- indeed from the very time when those who are now
in existence were born -- been taught and had instilled into them a
prejudice against the equality which has been attempted to be
established for the colored citizens of the United States."
"Mr. President, the condition which that thirteenth amendment
imposed on the late insurrectionary States was one which demanded
the serious consideration and attention of this Government. The
equality which by the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth
amendments has been attempted to be secured for the colored men,
has not only subjected them to the operation of the prejudices
which had theretofore existed, but it has raised against them still
stronger prejudices and stronger feelings in order to fight down
the equality by which it is claimed they are to control the
legislation of that section of the country. They were turned loose
among those people, weak, ignorant, and poor. Those among the white
citizens there who have sought to maintain the rights which you
have thrown upon that class of people, have to endure every species
of proscription, of opposition, and of vituperation in order to
carry out the policy of Congress, in order to lift up and to uphold
the rights which you have conferred upon that class. It is
Page 383 U. S. 809
for that reason not only necessary for the freedmen, but it is
necessary for the white people of that section that there should be
stringent and effective legislation on the part of Congress in
regard to these measures of reconstruction."
"We have heard on former occasions on the floor of the Senate
that there were organizations which committed outrages, which went
through communities for the purposes of intimidating and coercing
classes of citizens in the exercise of their rights. We have been
told here that perhaps it might be well that retaliation should be
resorted to on the part of those who are oppressed. Sir, the time
will come when retaliation will be resorted to unless the
Government of the United States interposes to command and to
maintain the peace; when there will be retaliation and civil war;
when there will be bloodshed and tumult in various communities and
sections. It is not only necessary for the freedmen, but it is
important to the white people of the southern section, that, by
plain and stringent laws, the United States should interpose and
preserve the peace and quiet of the community."
"The fifteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United
States provides that 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. It speaks of 'the right of citizens to vote.' It has
been said that voting is a privilege; but this amendment recognizes
it as a right in the citizen, and this right is not to 'be denied
or abridged by the United States, or by any State.' What are we to
understand by that? Can individuals abridge it with impunity? Is
there no power in this Government to prevent individuals or
associations of individuals from abridging or contravening that
provision of the Constitution? If that be so, legislation is
unnecessary. If our legislation is to apply only to the
Page 383 U. S. 810
States, it is perfectly clear that it is totally unnecessary,
inasmuch as we cannot pass a criminal law as applicable to a State;
nor can we indict a State officer as an officer. It must apply to
individuals. A State might attempt to contravene that provision of
the Constitution by passing some positive enactment by which it
would be contravened, but the Supreme Court would hold such
enactment to be unconstitutional, and, in that way, the State would
be restrained. But the word 'deny' is used. There are various ways
in which a State may prevent the full operation of this
constitutional amendment. It cannot -- because the courts would
prevent it -- by positive legislation, but by acts of omission it
may practically deny the right. The legislation of Congress must be
to supply acts of omission on the part of the States. If a State
shall not enforce its laws by which private individuals shall be
prevented by force from contravening the rights of the citizen
under the amendment, it is, in my judgment, the duty of the United
States Government to supply that omission, and by its own laws and
by its own courts to go into the States for the purpose of giving
the amendment vitality there."
"The word 'deny' is used not only in this fifteenth amendment,
but I perceive in the fourteenth amendment it is also used. When
the fourteenth amendment was passed, there was in existence what is
known as the civil rights bill, a part of which has been copied in
the Senate bill now pending. The civil rights bill recognized all
persons born or naturalized in the United States as citizens, and
provided that they should have certain rights which were
enumerated. They are 'to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be
made parties, give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell,
hold and convey real and personal property,' and to 'the full and
equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of
person and property.' "
Page 383 U. S. 811
"The civil rights bill was to be enforced by making it criminal
for any officer, under color of any State law, 'to subject, or
cause to be subjected, any citizen to the deprivation of any of the
rights secured and protected' by the act. If an officer of any
State were indicted for subjecting a citizen to the deprivation of
any of those rights, he was not to be indicted as an officer; it
was as an individual. And so, under the fourteenth amendment to the
"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."
"There, the word 'deny' is used again; it is used in
contradistinction to the first clause, which says, 'No State shall
make or enforce any law' which shall do so and so. That would be a
positive act which would contravene the right of a citizen; but to
say that it shall not deny to any person the equal protection of
the law it seems to me opens up a different branch of the subject.
It shall not deny by acts of omission, by a failure to prevent its
own citizens from depriving by force any of their fellow citizens
of these rights. It is only when a State omits to carry into effect
the provisions of the civil rights act, and to secure the citizens
in their rights, that the provisions of the fifth section of the
fourteenth amendment would be called into operation, which is,
'that Congress shall enforce by appropriate legislation the
provisions of this article.'"
"There is no legislation that could reach a State to prevent its
passing a law. It can only reach the individual citizens of the
State in the enforcement of law. You have, therefore, in any
appropriate legislation, to act on the citizen, not on the State.
If you pass an act by which you make it an indictable offense for
Page 383 U. S. 812
to execute any law of a State by which he trespasses upon any of
these rights of the citizen it operates upon him as a citizen, and
not as an officer. Why can you not just as well extend it to any
other citizen of the country?"
"It is, in my judgment, incumbent upon Congress to pass the most
stringent legislation on this subject. I believe that we have a
perfect right under the Constitution of the United States, not only
under these three amendments, but under the general scope and
features and spirit of the Constitution itself, to go into any of
these States for the purpose of protecting and securing liberty. I
admit that, when you go there for the purpose of restraining
liberty, you can go only under delegated powers in express terms;
but to go into the States for the purpose of securing and
protecting the liberty of the citizen and the rights and immunities
of American citizenship is in accordance with the spirit and whole
object of the formation of the Union and the national
"There are, Mr. President, various ways in which the right
secured by the fifteenth amendment may be abridged by citizens in a
State. If a State should undertake by positive enactment, as I have
said, to abridge the right of suffrage, the courts of the country
would prevent it, and I find that, in section two of the bill which
has been proposed as a substitute by the Judiciary Committee of the
Senate, provision is made for cases where officers charged with
registration or officers charged with the assessment of taxes and
with making the proper entries in connection therewith, shall
refuse the right to register or to pay taxes to a citizen. I
believe the language of the Senate bill is sufficiently large and
comprehensive to embrace any other class of officers that might be
charged with any act that was necessary to enable a citizen to
perform any prerequisite to voting. But, sir, individuals may
prevent the exercise of the right of
Page 383 U. S. 813
suffrage; individuals may prevent the enjoyment of other rights
which are conferred upon the citizen by the fourteenth amendment,
as well as trespass upon the right conferred by the fifteenth. Not
only citizens, but organizations of citizens, conspiracies, may be
and are, as we are told, in some of the States formed for that
purpose. I see in the fourth section of the Senate bill a provision
for cases where citizens, by threats, intimidation, bribery, or
otherwise prevent, delay, or hinder the exercise of this right; but
there is nothing here that strikes at organizations of individuals,
at conspiracies for that purpose. I believe that any bill will be
defective which does not make it a highly penal offense for men to
conspire together, to organize themselves into bodies, for the
express purpose of contravening the right conferred by the
"But, sir, there is a great, important omission in this bill, as
well as in that of the House. It seems not to have struck those who
drew either of the two bills that the prevention of the exercise of
the right of suffrage was not the only or the main trouble that we
have upon our hands. Suppose there shall be an organization of
individuals, or, if you please, a single individual, who shall take
it upon himself to compel his fellow citizens to vote in a
particular way. Suppose he threatens to discharge them from
employment, to bring upon them the outrages which are being
perpetrated by the Kuklux organizations, so as not to prevent their
voting, but to compel them to vote in accordance with the dictates
of the party who brings this coercion upon them. It seems to me it
is necessary that we should legislate against that. That is a more
threatening view of the subject than the mere preventing of
registration or of entering men's names upon the assessment books
for taxation or of depositing the ballot in the box. I think the
bill cannot be perfected to meet the emergencies of the
Page 383 U. S. 814
unless there be a section which meets that view of the
"The Senator from Indiana [Mr. Morton] asks whether I have drawn
an amendment to that effect. I have, but I cannot offer it at this
time, for the simple reason that there is an amendment to an
"Mr. MORTON. Let it be read for information."
"Mr. POOL. It has been printed, and I send it to the desk to be
read for information."
"The Chief Clerk read the amendment intended to be proposed by
Mr. Pool, as follows: "
" Insert after section four of the Senate bill the following
" SEC. 5. And be it further enacted,
That it shall be
unlawful for any person, with intent to hinder or influence the
exercise of the right of suffrage as aforesaid, to coerce or
intimidate, or attempt to coerce or intimidate any of the legally
qualified voters in any State or Territory. Any person violating
the provisions of this section shall be held guilty of a
misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof shall be fined or
imprisoned, or both, in the discretion of the court: the fine not
to exceed $1,000, and the imprisonment not to exceed one year."
" SEC. 6. And be it further enacted,
That if two or
more persons shall band or conspire together, or go in disguise
upon the public highway, or upon the premises of another, with
intent to violate any provision of this act, or to injure, oppress,
threaten, or intimidate any citizen with intent to prevent or
hinder his free exercise and enjoyment of any right or privilege
granted or secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United
States, such person shall be held guilty of felony, and on
conviction thereof shall be fined and imprisoned; the fine not to
exceed $5,000 and the imprisonment not to exceed ten years, and
shall, moreover, be thereafter ineligible to and disabled from
holding any office or place of honor,
Page 383 U. S. 815
profit, or trust created by the Constitution or laws of the
" SEC. 7. And be it further enacted,
That if in the act
of violating any provision in either of the two preceding sections,
any other felony, crime, or misdemeanor shall be committed, the
offender may be indicted or prosecuted for the same in the courts
of the United States, as hereinafter provided, for violations of
this act, and on conviction thereof shall be punished for the same
with such punishments as are attached to like felonies, crimes, and
misdemeanors by the laws of the State in which the offense may be
"Strike out section twelve and substitute therefor the
" And be it further enacted,
That the President of the
United States, or such person as he may empower for that purpose,
may employ in any State such part of the land and naval forces of
the United States, or of the militia, as he may deem necessary to
enforce the complete execution of this act, and with such forces
may pursue, arrest, and hold for trial all persons charged with the
violation of any of the provisions of this act, and enforce the
attendance of witnesses upon the examination or trial of such
"* * * *"
"Mr. POOL. The Senator from Indiana asked if I had an amendment
prepared which met the view of the case I was presenting in regard
to the compelling of citizens to vote in a particular way. The
first section of the amendment which I have offered uses this
" That it shall be unlawful for any person with intent to hinder
or influence the exercise of the right of suffrage as aforesaid, to
coerce or intimidate or attempt to coerce or intimidate any of the
legally qualified voters in any State or Territory. "
Page 383 U. S. 816
"But, Mr. President, there is another view which seems to have
been lost sight of entirely by those who have drawn both the House
bill and the bill now pending before the Senate, and from which we
apprehend very much danger. It is this: the oppression of citizens
because of having voted in a particular way, or having voted at
all. It may often happen, as it has happened up to this time
already, that, upon the close of an election, colored persons will
be discharged from employment by their employers. They may be
subjected to outrages of various kinds because they have
participated in an election, and cast their votes in a particular
way. That is not done for the purpose of punishment so much as for
the purpose of deterring them from voting in any succeeding
election, or from voting in a way that those who perpetrate these
outrages do not desire them to do. I find that branch of the
subject is entirely left out of view in the bill."
"There is another feature of my amendment which I deem of some
importance. I t is this: "
" That if in the act of violating any provision in either of the
two preceding sections any other felony, crime, or misdemeanor
shall be committed, the offender may be indicted or prosecuted for
the same in the courts of the United States."
"I think the most effective mode of preventing this intimidation
and these attempts at coercion, as well as the outrages which grow
out of these attempts, would be found in making any offense
committed in the effort to violate them indictable before the
courts of the United States. As was said before in the discussion
of the Georgia question in the Senate, the juries in the
communities where these outrages are committed are often composed
of men who are engaged in them, or of their friends, or of those
who connive at them, or of persons
Page 383 U. S. 817
who are intimidated by them, and in many instances they dare not
bring in a true bill when there is an attempt to indict, or if a
true bill be found, they dare not go for conviction on the final
trial. It is for that reason that I believe it will be better, it
will be the only effective remedy, to take such offenders before
the courts of the United States, and there have them tried by a
jury which is not imbued with the prejudices and interests of those
who perpetrate the crimes."
"These are the principal features of the amendment which I have
drawn in the effort to perfect this bill, and there is another one
to which I will call the attention of the Senate. It is that in
regard to calling out the military forces of the United States. I
find that, in the civil rights bill, as in the bill which has been
introduced by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the President is
authorized, either by himself or by such person as he may empower
for that purpose, to use the military forces of the United States
to enforce the act. There in both instances it stops. It has been
objected to here that the expression, 'or such other person as he
may empower for that purpose,' should not be in the bill; that it
may be subject to abuse. I think it would have no good effect to
keep that language in. The President may send his officers, and he
may empower whomsoever he pleases to take charge of his forces,
without any such provision."
"But there is a use for these forces which seems not to have
been adverted to in either the civil rights bill or in the bill
that is now pending before the Senate. It is the holding of these
offenders for examination and trial after they are arrested. Their
confederates, if they are put in the common prisons of the State,
will, in nine cases out of ten, release them. But more important
still is it to use these forces to compel the attendance of
witnesses, for a subterfuge resorted to is to keep witnesses
Page 383 U. S. 818
from the trial. In many instances, witnesses are more or less
implicated in the commission of the offense. In other cases, the
witnesses are intimidated, and cannot be obtained upon the trial.
So, in the amendment which I have prepared, I have proposed that
these forces may be used to enforce the attendance of witnesses
both upon the examination and the trial. My purpose in introducing
this was to perfect the Senate bill. I think, as I said yesterday,
that that bill is liable to less objection than the House bill. I
think it is more efficacious in its provisions. I think it is
better that the Senate should direct its attention to perfecting
that bill, in order that it may be made, when perfected, a
substitute for the bill that came from the House."
"That much being said upon the purpose of perfecting the bill
and making it efficacious, I have very little more to say. I did
not intend when I rose to say much upon the general power, which
has been questioned here, to pass any law at all. I think it is
better to do nothing than to do that which will not have the proper
effect. To do that which will not accomplish the purpose would be
worse than doing nothing at all. That the United States Government
has the right to go into the States and enforce the fourteenth and
the fifteenth amendments is, in my judgment, perfectly clear, by
appropriate legislation that shall bear upon individuals. I cannot
see that it would be possible for appropriate legislation to be
resorted to except as applicable to individuals who violate or
attempt to violate these provisions. Certainly we cannot legislate
here against States. As I said a few moments ago, it is upon
individuals that we must press our legislation. It matters not
whether those individuals be officers or whether they are acting
upon their own responsibility; whether they are acting singly or in
organizations. If there is to be appropriate legislation at all, it
must be that which applies to individuals. "
Page 383 U. S. 819
"I believe that the United States has the right, and that it is
an incumbent duty upon it, to go into the States to enforce the
rights of the citizens against all who attempt to infringe upon
those rights when they are recognized and secured by the
Constitution of the country. If we do not possess that right, the
danger to the liberty of the citizen is great indeed in many parts
of this Union. I think this question will come time and again as
years pass by, perhaps before another year, in different forms
before the Senate. It is well that we should deal with it now, and
deal with it squarely, and I hope that the Senate will not hesitate
in doing so."
"Mr. President, the liberty of a citizen of the United States,
the prerogatives, the rights, and the immunities of American
citizenship, should not be and cannot be safely left to the mere
caprice of States either in the passage of laws or in the
withholding of that protection which any emergency may require. If
a State by omission neglects to give to every citizen within its
borders a free, fair, and full exercise and enjoyment of his rights
it is the duty of the United States Government to go into the
State, and, by its strong arm, to see that he does have the full
and free enjoyment of those rights."
"Upon that ground the Republican party must stand in carrying
into effect the reconstruction policy, or the whole fabric of
reconstruction, with all the principles connected with it, amounts
to nothing at all, and, in the end, it will topple and fall unless
it can be enforced by the appropriate legislation, the power to
enact which has been provided in each one of the great charters of
liberty which that party has put forth in its amendments to the
Constitution. Unless the right to enforce it by appropriate
legislation is enforced stringently and to the point, it is clear
to my mind that there will be no efficacy whatever in what has been
done up to this time to carry out and to establish that policy.
Page 383 U. S. 820
"I did not rise, sir, for the purpose of arguing the question
very much in detail. I did not rise for the purpose of making any
appeals to the Senate, but more for the purpose of asserting here
and arguing for a moment the general doctrine of the right of the
United States to intervene against individuals in the States who
attempt to contravene the amendment to the Constitution which we
are now endeavoring to enforce, and for the purpose of calling
attention to the defects in the bill and offering a remedy for
One of the defendants charged in the two indictments, James E.
Jordan, is not a party to the present appeal. His case was
transferred under Rule 20, Fed.Rules Crim.Proc., to the United
States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.
Mr. Justice Holmes in United States v.
Mosley, 238 U. S. 383
238 U. S. 386
(a federal voting rights case under an earlier version of § 241):
"It is not open to question that this statute is constitutional. .
. ." The source of congressional power in this case is, of course,
§ 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which reads: "The Congress shall
have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions
of this article."
There are three "Williams" cases arising from the same events.
The first, with no bearing on the present appeal, is United
States v. Williams, 341 U. S. 58
involving a prosecution for perjury. The second, United States
v. Williams, 341 U. S. 70
, was a
prosecution for violation of § 241; it will be referred to
hereinafter as Williams I.
The third, Williams v.
United States, 341 U. S. 97
, was a
prosecution for violation of § 242; it will be referred to as
In the interest of clarity, we shall use the present designation
of the statutes throughout this discussion. Reference is made to
the Appendix to Mr. Justice Frankfurter's opinion in Williams
341 U.S. at 341 U. S. 83
which contains a table showing major changes in the statutes
through the years.
"If . . . the offense, the commission of which is the object of
the conspiracy, is a misdemeanor only, the punishment for such
conspiracy shall not exceed the maximum punishment provided for
18 U.S.C. § 371 (1964 ed.).
This is settled by our decisions in Screws v. United
States, 325 U. S. 91
325 U. S.
-113, and Williams II,
341 U.S. at
341 U. S.
". . . where police take matters in their own hands, seize
victims, beat and pound them until they confess, there cannot be
the slightest doubt that the police have deprived the victim of a
right under the Constitution. It is the right of the accused to be
tried by a legally constituted court, not by a kangaroo court."
341 U.S. at 341 U. S.
"Under color" of law means the same thing in § 242 that it does
in the civil counterpart of § 242, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1964 ed.).
Monroe v. Pape, 365 U. S. 167
365 U. S. 185
(majority opinion), 365 U. S. 212
(Frankfurter, J., dissenting). In cases under § 1983, "under color"
of law has consistently been treated as the same thing as the
"state action" required under the Fourteenth Amendment. See,
e.g., Smith v. Allwright, 321 U. S. 649
Terry v. Adams, 345 U. S. 461
Simkins v. Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital,
323 F.2d 959
(C.A.4th Cir.), cert. denied,
376 U.S. 938; Smith v.
336 F.2d 630 (C.A. 6th Cir.); Hampton v.
City of Jacksonville,
304 F.2d 320 (C.A. 5th Cir.), cert.
371 U.S. 911; Boman v. Birmingham Transit
280 F.2d 531 (C.A. 5th Cir.); Kerr v. Enoch Pratt
149 F.2d 212 (C.A.4th Cir.), cert.
326 U.S. 721.
The contrary view in a § 242 context was expressed by the
dissenters in Screws,
325 U.S. at 325 U. S.
-149, and was rejected then, later in Williams
and finally -- in a § 1983 case -- in Monroe v. Pape,
supra. Cf. Peterson v. City of Greenville,
373 U. S. 244
373 U. S. 250
(separate opinion of HARLAN, J.). Recent decisions of this Court
which have given form to the "state action" doctrine make it clear
that the indictments in this case allege conduct on the part of the
"private" defendants which constitutes "state action," and hence
action "under color" of law within § 242. In Burton v.
Wilmington Parking Authority, 365 U.
, we held that there is "state action" whenever
"State has so far insinuated itself into a position of
interdependence [with the otherwise 'private' person whose conduct
is said to violate the Fourteenth Amendment] . . . that it must be
recognized as a joint participant in the challenged activity,
which, on that account, cannot be considered to have been so
'purely private' as to fall without the scope of the Fourteenth
365 U.S. at 365 U. S. 725
Cf. Pennsylvania v. Board of Trusts, 353 U.
; Evans v. Newton, 382 U.
; Peterson v. City of Greenville,
373 U. S. 244
Lombard v. Louisiana, 373 U. S. 267
Robinson v. Florida, 378 U. S. 153
Griffin v. Maryland, 378 U. S. 130
American Communication An. v. Douds, 339 U.
, 339 U. S. 401
Public Utilities Comm'n v. Pollak, 343 U.
; Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.
; Terry v. Adams, 345 U.
, Williams II,
341 U.S. at 341 U. S.
Mr. Justice Rutledge, concurring in result, in
Screws v. United states, 325 U. S. 91
325 U. S.
It would be strange indeed were this Court to revert to a
construction of the Fourteenth Amendment which would once again
narrow its historical purpose -- which remains vital and pertinent
to today's problems. As is well known, for many years after
Reconstruction, the Fourteenth Amendment was almost a dead letter
as far as the civil rights of Negroes were concerned. Its sole
office was to impede state regulation of railroads or other
corporations. Despite subsequent statements to the contrary,
nothing in the records of the congressional debates or the Joint
Committee on Reconstruction indicates any uncertainty that its
objective was the protection of civil rights. See
The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877, 136-137 (1965).
The official title is "An Act to enforce the Right of Citizens
of the United States to vote in the several States of this Union,
and for other Purposes."
The substantial difference in coverage of the two sections as
they were in the Act of 1870 precludes the argument that § 241
should be narrowly construed to exclude Fourteenth Amendment rights
because otherwise it would have been duplicative of § 242 taken in
conjunction with the general conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. § 371.
If, as we hold, § 241 was intended to cover all Fourteenth
Amendment rights, it was far broader in 1870 than was § 242. For
other reasons for rejecting the duplication argument, see
the opinion of MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS in Williams I,
at 341 U. S. 88
14 Stat. 74; 17 Stat. 579; S.Misc.Doc. No. 101,
40th Cong., 2d Sess.; H.Misc.Doc. No. 31, 40th Cong., 3d Sess.;
S.Misc.Doc. No. 3, 42d Cong., 2d Sess.; 2 Cong.Rec. 646, 648, 1029,
The opinion of MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS in Williams I,
U.S. at 341 U. S. 88
disposes of the argument that the words of § 241 themselves suggest
the narrow meaning which the opinion of Mr. Justice Frankfurter
found in the section.
Stampp, The Era of Reconstruction,
1865-1877 (1965); Nevins, The Emergence of Modern America,
H.R.Rep. No. 16, 39th Cong., 2d Sess., p. 12 et
Nevins, op. cit. supra,
at 352; Morison, Oxford History of the American
People 722-723 (1965).
See, for example, United States v. Waddell,
112 U. S. 76
to perfect a homestead claim); United States v. Classic,
313 U. S. 299
(right to vote in federal elections); Loan v. United
States, 144 U. S. 263
(right to be secure from unauthorized violence while in federal
custody); In re Quarles, 158 U. S. 532
(right to inform of violations of federal law). Cf. also United
States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542
92 U. S. 552
Hague v. CIO, 307 U. S. 496
307 U. S.
-513 (opinion of Roberts, J.); Collins v.
Hardyman, 341 U. S. 651
341 U. S.
We include these remarks only to show that the Senator clearly
intended § 241 to cover Fourteenth Amendment rights.
This Court has rejected the argument that the constitutionality
of § 241 may be affected by undue vagueness of coverage. The Court
held with reference to § 242 that any deficiency is cured by the
requirement that specific intent be proved. Screws v. United
States, 325 U. S. 91
is no basis for distinction between the two statutes in this
respect. See Williams I,
341 U.S. at 341 U. S. 93