Cummings v. Missouri
Annotate this Case
71 U.S. 277 (1867)
U.S. Supreme Court
Cummings v. Missouri, 71 U.S. 4 Wall. 277 277 (1867)
1. Under the form of creating a qualification or attaching a condition, the States cannot, in effect, inflict a punishment for a past act which was not punishable at the time it was committed.
2. Deprivation or suspension of any civil rights for past conduct is punishment for such conduct.
3. A bill of attainder is a legislative act which inflicts punishment without a judicial trial. If the punishment be less than death, the act is termed
a bill of pains and penalties. Within the meaning of the Constitution, bills of attainder include bills of pains and penalties.
4. These bills, though generally directed against individuals by name, may be directed against a whole class, and they may inflict punishment absolutely or may inflict it conditionally.
5. The clauses of the Second Article of the Constitution of Missouri (set forth at length in the statement of the case, infra, pp. 71 U. S. 279-281), which require priests and clergymen, in order that they may continue in the exercise of their professions and be allowed to preach and teach, to take and subscribe an oath that they have not committed certain designated acts, some of which were at the time offences with heavy penalties attached, and some of which were at the time acts innocent in themselves, constitute a bill of attainder within the meaning of the provision in the Federal Constitution prohibiting the States from passing bills of that character.
6. These clauses presume that the priests and clergymen are guilty of the acts specified, and adjudge the deprivation of their right to preach or teach unless the presumption be first removed by their expurgatory oath; they assume the guilt and adjudge the punishment conditionally.
7. There is no practical difference between assuming the guilt and declaring it. The deprivation is effected with equal certainty in the one case as in the other. The legal result is the same, on the principle that what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly.
8. The prohibition of the Constitution was intended to secure the rights of the citizen against deprivation for past conduct by legislative enactment under any form, however disguised.
9. An ex post facto law is one which imposes a punishment for an act which was not punishable at the time it was committed, or imposes additional punishment to that then prescribed, or changes the rules of evidence by which less or different testimony is sufficient to convict than was then required.
10. The clauses of the Second Article of the Constitution of Missouri, already referred to, in depriving priests and clergymen of the right to preach and teach, impose a penalty for some acts which were innocent at the time they were committed, and increase the penalty prescribed for such of the acts specified as at the time constituted public offences, and in both particulars violate the provision of the Federal Constitution prohibiting the passage by the State of an ex post facto law. They further violate that provision in altering the rules of evidence with respect to the proof of the acts specified -- thus, in assuming the guilt instead of the innocence of the parties, in requiring them to establish their innocence instead of requiring the government to prove their guilt, and in declaring that their innocence can be shown only in one way, by an expurgatory oath.
11. Although the prohibition of the Constitution to pass an ex post facto law is aimed at criminal cases, it cannot be evaded by giving a civil form to that which is, in substance, criminal.
In January, 1865, a convention of representatives of the people of Missouri assembled at St. Louis, for the purpose of amending the constitution of the State. The representatives had been elected in November, 1864. In April, 1865, the present constitution -- amended and revised from the previous one -- was adopted by the convention; and in June, 1865, by a vote of the people. The following are the third, sixth, seventh, ninth, and fourteenth sections of the second article of the constitution:
"SEC. 3. At any election held by the people under this Constitution, or in pursuance of any law of this State, or under any ordinance or by-law of any municipal corporation, no person shall be deemed a qualified voter, who has ever been in armed hostility to the United States, or to the lawful authorities thereof, or to the government of this State; or has ever given aid, comfort, countenance, or support to persons engaged in any such hostility; or has ever, in any manner, adhered to the enemies, foreign or domestic, of the United States, either by contributing to them, or by unlawfully sending within their lines, money, goods, letters, or information; or has ever disloyally held communication with such enemies; or has ever advised or aided any person to enter the service of such enemies; or has ever, by act or word, manifested his adherence to the cause of such enemies, or his desire for their triumph over the arms of the United States, or his sympathy with those engaged in exciting or carrying on rebellion against the United States; or has ever, except under overpowering compulsion, submitted to the authority, or been in the service, of the so-called 'Confederate States of America;' or has ever left this State, and gone within the lines of the armies of the so-called 'Confederate States of America,' with the purpose of adhering to said States or armies; or has ever been a member of, or connected with, any order, society, or organization, inimical to the government of the United States, or to the government of this State; or has ever been engaged in guerilla warfare against loyal inhabitants of the United States, or in that description of marauding commonly known as 'bush-whacking;' or has ever knowingly and willingly harbored, aided, or countenanced any person so engaged; or has ever come into or left this State, for the purpose of avoiding enrollment for or draft
into the military service of the United States; or has ever, with a view to avoid enrollment in the militia of this State, or to escape the performance of duty therein, or for any other purpose, enrolled himself, or authorized himself to be enrolled, by or before any officer, as disloyal, or as a southern sympathizer, or in any other terms indicating his disaffection to the Government of the United States in its contest with rebellion, or his sympathy with those engaged in such rebellion; or, having ever voted at any election by the people in this State, or in any other of the United States, or in any of their Territories, or held office in this State, or in any other of the United States, or in any of their Territories, or under the United States, shall thereafter have sought or received, under claim of alienage, the protection of any foreign government, through any consul or other officer thereof, in order to secure exemption from military duty in the militia of this State, or in the army of the United States; nor shall any such person be capable of holding in this State any office of honor, trust, or profit, under its authority; or of being an officer, councilman, director, trustee, or other manager of any corporation, public or private, now existing or hereafter established by its authority; or of acting as a professor or teacher in any educational institution, or in any common or other school; or of holding any real estate or other property in trust for the use of any church, religious society, or congregation. But the foregoing provisions, in relation to acts done against the United States, shall not apply to any person not a citizen thereof, who shall have committed such acts while in the service of some foreign country at war with the United States, and who has, since such acts, been naturalized, or may hereafter be naturalized, under the laws of the United States and the oath of loyalty hereinafter prescribed, when taken by any such person, shall be considered as taken in such sense."
"SEC. 6. The oath to be taken as aforesaid shall be known as the Oath of Loyalty, and shall be in the following terms:"
" I, A. B., do solemnly swear that I am well acquainted with the terms of the third section of the second article of the Constitution of the State of Missouri, adopted in the year eighteen hundred and sixty-five, and have carefully considered the same; that I have never, directly or indirectly, done any of the acts in said section specified; that I have always been truly and loyally on the side of the United States against all enemies thereof, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the United States, and will support the Constitution and laws thereof as the supreme
law of the land, any law or ordinance of any State to the contrary notwithstanding; that I will, to the best of my ability, protect and defend the Union of the United States, and not allow the same to be broken up and dissolved, or the government thereof to be destroyed or overthrown, under any circumstances, if in my power to prevent it; that I will support the Constitution of the State of Missouri; and that I make this oath without any mental reservation or evasion, and hold it to be binding on me."
"SEC. 7. Within sixty days after this Constitution takes effect, every person in this State holding any office of honor, trust, or profit, under the Constitution or laws thereof, or under any municipal corporation, or any of the other offices, positions, or trusts, mentioned in the third section of this Article, shall take and subscribe the said oath. If any officer or person referred to in this section shall fail to comply with the requirements thereof, his office, position, or trust, shall, ipso facto, become vacant, and the vacancy shall be filled according to the law governing the case."
"SEC. 9. No person shall assume the duties of any state, county, city, town, or other office, to which he may be appointed, otherwise than by a vote of the people; nor shall any person, after the expiration of sixty days after this Constitution takes effect, be permitted to practise as an attorney or counselor at law; nor, after that time, shall any person be competent as a bishop, priest, deacon, minister, elder, or other clergyman of any religious persuasion, sect, or denomination, to teach, or preach, or solemnize marriages, unless such person shall have first taken, subscribed, and filed said oath."
"SEC. 14. Whoever shall, after the times limited in the seventh and ninth sections of this Article, hold or exercise any of the offices, positions, trusts, professions, or functions therein specified, without having taken, subscribed, and filed said oath of loyalty, shall, on conviction thereof, be punished by fine, not less than five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment in the county jail not less than six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment; and whoever shall take said oath falsely, by swearing or by affirmation, shall, on conviction thereof, be adjudged guilty of perjury, and be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary not less than two years."
In September, A.D. 1865, after the adoption of this constitution, the Reverend Mr. Cummings, a priest of the Roman
Catholic Church, was indicted and convicted in the Circuit Court of Pike County, in the State of Missouri, of the crime of teaching and preaching in that month, as a priest and minister of that religious denomination, without having first taken the oath prescribed by the constitution of the State, and was sentenced to pay a fine of five hundred dollars and to be committed to jail until said fine and costs of suit were paid.
On appeal to the Supreme Court of the State, the judgment was affirmed; and the case was brought to this Court on writ of error, under the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act.
Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.