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Jacobson v. Massachusetts

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued December 6, 1904 ; February 20, 1905

No. 70


 [*22]   [**359]  MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

We pass without extended discussion the suggestion that the particular section of the statute [***21]  of Massachusetts now in question (§ 137, c. 75) is in derogation of rights secured by the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States. Although that Preamble indicates the general purposes for which the people ordained and established the Constitution, it has never been regarded as the source of any substantive power conferred on the Government of the United States or on any of its Departments. Such powers embrace only those expressly granted in the body of the Constitution and such as may be implied from those so granted. Although, therefore, one of the declared objects of the Constitution was to secure the blessings of liberty to all under the sovereign jurisdiction and authority of the United States, no power can be exerted to that end by the United States unless, apart from the Preamble, it be found in some express delegation of power or in some power  [**360]  to be properly implied therefrom. 1 Story's Const. § 462.

We also pass without discussion the suggestion that the above section of the statute is opposed to the spirit of the Constitution. Undoubtedly, as observed by Chief Justice Marshall, speaking for the court in Sturges v. Crowninshield, 4 Wheat.  [***22]  122, 202, "the spirit of an instrument, especially of a constitution, is to be respected not less than its letter, yet the spirit is to be collected chiefly from its words." We have no need in this case to go beyond the plain, obvious meaning of the words in those provisions of the Constitution which, it is contended, must control our decision.

What, according to the judgment of the state court, is the  [*23]  scope and effect of the statute? What results were intended to be accomplished by it? These questions must be answered.

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197 U.S. 11 *; 25 S. Ct. 358 **; 1905 U.S. LEXIS 1232 ***; 49 L. Ed. 643




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