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As representative of the public, the Commonwealth's legislature may and does exercise control over the use which the public may make of public places, and it may, and does, delegate more or less of such control to the city or town immediately concerned. For the legislature absolutely or conditionally to forbid public speaking in a highway or public park is no more an infringement of the rights of a member of the public than for the owner of a private house to forbid it in his house. When no proprietary right interferes, the legislature may end the right of the public to enter upon the public place by putting an end to the dedication to public uses. So it may take the lesser step of limiting the public use to certain purposes.
Defendant, William F. Davis, made a public address on the Boston Common without getting the required permit from the mayor. The Commonwealth charged defendant in municipal court with violation of the city ordinance, Boston, Mass., Rev. Ordinance ch. 43, § 66 (1892). Upon a jury trial, defendant was convicted of violating the ordinance. Defendant sought review of the decision.
Was defendant’s conviction under the city ordinance proper?
The court affirmed defendant’s conviction. According to the court, the ordinance did not raise a constitutional speech issue but only concerned the modes of use of the public lands, that the legislature had the authority to close the public lands and the lesser option of limiting its use by permits was equally valid, and that, if the legislature had the authority to enact such legislation, the legislature had the authority to authorize the city to pass such an ordinance.