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Dissenting Opinion: Harlan, J.
as to be compelled by force to render personal services in a purely private business with which the public has no concern whatever.
The court holds that within the meaning of the Constitution the word "involuntary" does not attach to the word "servitude" continuously and make illegal a service which was voluntary at the outset, but became involuntary before the agreed term of service was ended; consequently, "an individual may, for a valuable consideration, contract for the surrender of his personal liberty for a definite time and for a recognized purpose, and subordinate his going and coming to the will of another during the continuance of the contract; not that all such contracts would be lawful, but that a servitude which was knowingly and willingly entered into could not be termed involuntary. Thus," the court proceeds, "if one should agree, for a yearly wage, to serve another in a particular capacity during his life, and never to leave his estate without his consent, the contract might be void upon grounds of public policy, but the servitude could not be properly termed involuntary. Such agreements for a limited personal servitude at one time were very common in England, and by statute of June 17, 1823, 4 Geo. IV, c. 34, it was enacted that if any servant in husbandry, or any artificer, calico printer, handicraftsman, miner, collier, keelman, pitman, glassman, potter, laborer or other person, should contract to serve another for a definite time, and should desert such service during the term of the contract, he was made liable to a criminal punishment. The breach of a contract for a personal service has not, however, been recognized in this country as involving a liability to criminal punishment, except in the cases of soldiers, sailors and apprentices, and possibly some others, nor would public opinion tolerate a statute to that effect."
It seems to me that these observations rest upon an erroneous view of the constitutional inhibition upon involuntary servitude.
Of the meaning and scope of the constitutional interdict upon slavery, no one can entertain doubt. A contract by which one person agrees to become the slave of another
Dissenting Opinion: Harlan, J.
would not be respected in any court, nor could it become the foundation of any claim or right, even if it were entered into without constraint being used upon the person who assumed to surrender his liberty and to become the property of another. But involuntary servitude, no matter when it arises, if it be not the result of punishment for crime of which the party has been duly convicted, is as much forbidden by the Constitution as is slavery. If that condition exists at the time the authority of the law is invoked to protect one against being forcibly compelled to render personal services for another, the court cannot refuse to act because the party seeking relief had voluntarily agreed to render such services during a given period. The voluntary contracts of individuals for personal services in private business cannot justify the existence anywhere or at any time in this country of a condition of involuntary servitude not imposed as a punishment for crime, any more than contracts creating the relation of master and slave can justify the existence and recognition of a state of slavery anywhere, or with respect to any persons, within the jurisdiction of the United States. The condition of one who contracts to render personal services in connection with the private business of another becomes a condition of involuntary servitude from the moment he is compelled against his will to continue in such service. He may be liable in damages for the non-performance of his agreement, but to require him, against his will, to continue in the personal service of his master is to place him and keep him in a condition of involuntary servitude. It will not do to say that by "immemorial usage" seamen could be held in a condition of involuntary servitude, without having been convicted of crime. The people of the United States, by an amendment of their fundamental law, have solemnly decreed that "except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted," involuntary servitude shall not exist in any form in this country. The adding another exception by interpretation simply, and without amending the Constitution, is, I submit, judicial legislation. It is a very serious matter when a judicial tribunal, by the construction of an act of Congress, defeats the expressed will of the
Dissenting Opinion: Harlan, J.
legislative branch of the government. It is a still more serious matter when the clear reading of a constitutional provision relating to the liberty of man is departed from in deference to what is called usage which has existed, for the most part, under monarchical and despotic governments.
In considering this case it is our duty to look at the consequences of any decision that may be rendered. We cannot avoid this duty by saying that it will be time enough to consider supposed cases when they arise. When such supposed cases do arise, those who seek judicial support for extraordinary remedies that encroach upon the liberty of freemen will of course refer to the principles announced in previous adjudications, and demand their application to the particular case in hand.
It is, therefore, entirely appropriate to inquire as to the necessary results of the sanction given by this court to the statute here in question. If Congress, under its power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States, can authorize the arrest of a seaman who engaged to serve upon a private vessel, and compel him by force to return to the vessel and remain during the term for which he engaged, a similar rule may be prescribed as to employés. upon railroads and steamboats engaged in commerce among the States. Even if it were conceded · - a concession to be made only for argument's sake-that it could be made a criminal offence, punishable by fine or imprisonment or both, for such employés to quit their employment before the expiration of the term for which they agreed to serve, it would not follow that they could be compelled, against their will and in advance of trial and conviction, to continue in such service. But the decision to-day logically leads to the conclusion that such a power exists in Congress. Again, as the legislatures of the States have all legislative power not prohibited to them, while Congress can only exercise certain enumerated powers for accomplishing specified objects, why may not the States, under the principles this day announced, compel all employés of railroads engaged in domestic commerce, and all domestic servants, and all employés in private establishments, within
Dissenting Opinion: Harlan, J.
their respective limits, to remain with their employers during the terms for which they were severally engaged, under the penalty of being arrested by some sheriff or constable, and forcibly returned to the service of their employers? The mere statement of these matters is sufficient to indicate the scope of the decision this day rendered.
The Thirteenth Amendment, although tolerating involuntary servitude only when imposed as a punishment for crime of which the party shall have been duly convicted, has been construed, by the decision just rendered, as if it contained an additional clause expressly excepting from its operation seamen who engage to serve on private vessels. Under this view of the Constitution, we may now look for advertisements, not for runaway servants as in the days of slavery, but for runaway seamen. In former days, overseers could stand with whip in hand over slaves, and force them to perform personal service for their masters. While, with the assent of all, that condition of things has ceased to exist, we can but be reminded of the past when it is adjudged to be consistent with the law of the land for freemen who happen to be seamen to be held in custody that they may be forced to go aboard private vessels and render personal services against their will.
In my judgment the holding of any person in custody, whether in jail or by an officer of the law, against his will, for the purpose of compelling him to render personal service to another in a private business, places the person so held in custody in a condition of involuntary servitude forbidden by the Constitution of the United States; consequently, that the statute as it now is, and under which the appellants were arrested at Astoria and placed against their will on the barkantine Arago, is null and void, and their refusal to work on such vessel after being forcibly returned to it could not be made a public offence authorizing their subsequent arrest at San Francisco.
I dissent from the opinion and judgment of the court.
MR. JUSTICE GRAY was not present at the argument, and took no part in the decision of this case.
Statement of the Case.
WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY v. INDIANA.
ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF INDIANA.
No. 649. Submitted December 11, 1896. - Decided February 1, 1897.
The provision in § 11 of the act of March 6, 1893, c. 171, of the legislature of Indiana, that on the failure or refusal of a telegraph company "to pay any tax assessed against it in any county or township in the State, in addition to other remedies provided by law for the collection of taxes, an action may be prosecuted in the name of the State of Indiana by the prosecuting attorneys of the different judicial circuits of the State and the judgment in said action shall include a penalty of fifty per cent of the amount of taxes so assessed and unpaid," does not, as to the penalty clause, contravene the Constitution of the United States; and the question whether, in this case, that penalty was properly included in the judgment rendered against the telegraph company was for the determination of the state courts.
In enforcing the collection of taxes one rule may be adopted in respect of the admitted use of one kind of property, and another rule in respect of the admitted use of another, in order that all may be compelled to contribute their proper share to the burdens of government.
The amount of penalty to be enforced for non-payment of taxes is a matter within legislative discretion.
UNDER an act of the general assembly of Indiana of March 6, 1891, c. 99, in respect of the assessment and collection of taxes upon all property within the jurisdiction of the State, it was provided that payment of the taxes in the year succeeding their assessment might be made in two instalments, and a penalty of ten per cent was denounced for the first six months of delinquency and of an additional six per cent for the second six months.
On March 6, 1893, an amendatory act was passed, c. 171, providing for the taxation of telegraph, telephone, palace car, sleeping car, drawing-room car, dining car, express, fast freight and joint stock associations, companies, copartnerships and corporations transacting business in the State, of which section 11 was as follows: