United States v. Stanley

109 U.S. 3, 3 S. Ct. 18 (1883)



It is state action of a particular character that is prohibited by U.S. Const. amend. XIV. Individual invasion of individual rights is not the subject-matter of the amendment. It nullifies and makes void all state legislation and state action which impairs the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, or which injures them in life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or which denies to any of them the equal protection of the laws. It also invests Congress with power to enforce it by appropriate legislation. It does not invest Congress with power to legislate upon subjects which are within the domain of state legislation. It does not authorize Congress to create a code of municipal law for the regulation of private rights, but to provide modes of redress against the operation of state laws and the action of state officers executive or judicial.


Five civil rights cases were consolidated before the court in order to decide if the Civil Rights Act of 1875, 18 Stat. 335, §§ 1, 2 (1875), were constitutional for the denial of plaintiffs' public accommodations and privileges. These cases were all founded on the first and second sections of the Act of Congress, known as the Civil Rights Act, passed March 1st, 1875, entitled "An Act to protect all citizens in their civil and legal rights."


Is it valid for Congress to pass an act that prohibits discrimination?




The court held that U.S. Const. amend. XIII prohibited the badges and incidents of slavery, and individual discrimination against African Americans did not rise to the level of slavery. The court further held that U.S. Const. amend XIV did not provide authority to enact these sections of the Civil Rights Act, as it was aimed at the state legislatures rather than the individual person. As such, the court held the sections unconstitutional in respect to the five cases brought before it.

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