“We the People”, but, Who are We? – Part IV
Outpost of Freedom
July 21, 2011
In Part I, we established what the Supreme Court determined to be “We the People”, or, “citizens of the United States”, prior to the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment.
In Part II, we saw that the Fourteenth Amendment conferred to those not of “We the People”, regardless of prior status, a new class of people who are granted “privileges and immunities”, though not the rights inherent with “We the People”.
In Part III, we see that within a few years of ratification of the 14th Amendment, the Supreme Court confirms that “rights” were not conveyed by the Amendment.
This must lead us to question whether there is any substance to these very significant acts and decision. Is there any long-lasting affect, as a result of them? If so, has anything changed them? If there have been no changes, are there still two distinct classes of people in this country?
Do answer these questions, we need only jump forward another 34 years, to 1908. This Supreme Court decision will clearly lay out that there are, indeed, two classes of people, and that one is subject to federal jurisdiction and protection, while the other is not.
The case is Twining v. State of New Jersey – 211 U.S. 78 (1908). It has two elements, at least pertinent to this discussion. First was whether there was jurisdiction, under the Fourteenth Amendment, to a state citizen; and, what did the Fourteenth Amendment extend to a “citizen of the United States”.
Albert C. Twining and David C. Cornell were indicted by a Grand Jury, and, convicted of providing “false papers” to a state banking examiner. They were sentenced to prison terms, and Twining appealed the action of the New Jersey Court. He held that the requirement to turn over papers to the examiner, absent a court order, denied him “due process” under the Fourteenth Amendment. He lost that case and pursued a remedy in the Supreme Court.
Justice Moody provided the decision of the Supreme Court. In summing up the case, he posed the following:
“. . . whether such a law [state law] violates the 14th Amendment, either by abridging the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, or by depriving persons of their life, liberty, or property without due process of law. In order to bring themselves within the protection of the Constitution it is incumbent on the defendants to prove two propositions: First, that the exemption from compulsory self- incrimination is guaranteed by the Federal Constitution against impairment by the states; and, second, if it be so guaranteed, that the exemption was in fact impaired in the case at bar. The first proposition naturally presents itself for earlier consideration. If the right here asserted is not a Federal right, that is the end of the case. We have no authority to go further and determine whether the state court has erred in the interpretation and enforcement of its own laws.
Well, that last point, “If the right here asserted is not a Federal right, that is the end of the case.”, will lead to the final decision of the Court, though we must first look at why they denied Twining the protection, under the Fourteenth Amendment, that he sought.
The Court brought out that two states, Iowa and New Jersey, had provisions that did not allow compulsory testimony against one’s self, and, that those two did have limits on compulsory testimony, though not as broad as the other states. This was felt to satisfy the intent, since it was a state decision based upon their view of the intention of the Fifth Amendment (“No person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”), that established the right of the state to enact a law requiring the turning over of the papers to the examiner.
So, the question resolved itself to whether the federal interpretation of the Fifth Amendment was superior to the state law, and, if so, under what circumstances.
Since Twining and Cornel were both citizens of New Jersey, and the case was not between parties of different states, or any other qualifiers for federal intervention, they retained their status as state citizens, dealing with the laws of that state, without “Federal right[s]” being conferred to them.
Let’s separate the points of significance in this case:
- Is there a difference between state citizens and “citizens of the United States”, as established by the Fourteenth Amendment?
- If so, to what extent does the Fourteenth Amendment confer rights to those who are protected thereby?
The Court goes on to give us some insight into the second point.
“It is obvious . . . that it has been supposed by the states that, so far as the state courts are concerned, the privilege had its origin in the Constitutions and laws of the states, and that persons appealing to it must look to the state for their protection. Indeed, since, by the unvarying decisions of this court, the first ten Amendments of the Federal Constitution are restrictive only of national action, there was nowhere else to look up to the time of the adoption of the 14th Amendment, and the state, at least until then, might give, modify, or withhold the privilege at its will.”
So, the states were within their rights, as they existed prior to the Fourteenth Amendment, and that those rights did not, until the Fourteenth was ratified, include the restrictive first ten amendments. Prior to the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court recognized that the Constitution did not apply to the states, so long as they were not in conflict with the Constitution. Essentially, they are conferring all privileges of those first ten amendments, to those who so qualify, for the protections afforded by the Fourteenth.
The Court continues:
“The 14th Amendment withdrew from the states powers theretofore enjoyed by them to an extent not yet fully ascertained, or rather, to speak more accurately, limited those powers and restrained their exercise. There is no doubt of the duty of this court to enforce the limitations and restraints whenever they exist, and there has been no hesitation in the performance of the duty. But, whenever a new limitation or restriction is declared, it is a matter of grave import, since, to that extent, it diminishes the authority of the state, so necessary to the perpetuity of our dual form of government, and changes its relation to its people and to the Union.”
So, the Court recognizes an obligation to “enforce the limitations and restraints whenever they exist”. This implies that they are addressing both points, mentioned above. First, to determine the extent of the authority (jurisdiction of the state) imposed by the Fourteenth; and, Second, to determine to what extent the first ten amendments convey obligations to the state.
The Court continues:
“The defendants contend, in the first place, that the exemption from self incrimination is one of the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States which the 14th Amendment forbids the states to abridge. It is not argued that the defendants are protected by that part of the 5th Amendment which provides that ‘no person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,’ for it is recognized by counsel that, by a long line of decisions, the first ten Amendments are not operative on the states.”
Twining has asserted that he is of the nature of a “citizen of the United States”, and, therefore, the state may not abridge those “privileges and immunities”. He has declared a status as a “citizen of the United States”.
The Court then, referring to a previous case (subsequent to the Fourteenth Amendment), In Re Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36 (1872), and citing with the decision of that case, given by Justice Miller, in affirming that there were two classes of citizen.
“The 14th Amendment, it is observed by Mr. Justice Miller, delivering the opinion of the court, removed the doubt whether there could be a citizenship of the United States independent of citizenship of the state, by recognizing or creating and defining the former. ‘ It is quite clear, then,’ he proceeds to say, ‘that there is a citizenship of the United States and a citizenship of a state, which are distinct from each other and which depend upon different characteristics or circumstances in the individual.
So, this Court is affirming what the Court decided 34 years prior, in that there are distinct differences between the “citizenship of the United States and a citizenship of a State”. One case, shortly after the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, and another, three decades later, that affirm the conclusion of just who are “We the People”. Can there be any doubt as to the existence of a distinction between the two classes?
The Court, after a lengthy discussion of “due process”, concludes:
The decisions of this court, though they are silent on the precise question before us [due process], ought to be searched to discover if they present any analogies which are helpful in its decision. The essential elements of due process of law, already established by them, are singularly few, though of wide application and deep significance. We are not here concerned with the effect of due process in restraining substantive laws, as, for example, that which forbids the taking of private property for public use without compensation. We need notice now only those cases which deal with the principles which must be observed in the trial of criminal and civil causes. Due process requires that the court which assumes to determine the rights of parties shall have jurisdiction.
And, they conclude that the court that has jurisdiction over the parties will prevail in a conflict of interpretation. Since they leave the interpretation to the state court, there must be an absence of federal jurisdiction in the current case. The Court sees Twining and Cornell to be state citizens, therefore, not afforded the” privileges and immunities”, meaning that federal jurisdiction fails to include them — an absence of federal jurisdiction.
In affirming that view, the Court said:
“Much might be said in favor of the view that the privilege was guaranteed against state impairment as a privilege and immunity of national citizenship, but, as has been shown, the decisions of this court have foreclosed that view.”
They tighten up on that conclusion, to wit:
We do not pass upon the conflict, because, for the reasons given, we think that the exemption from compulsory self-incrimination in the courts of the states is not secured by any part of the Federal Constitution.
Now, this would not be true if the case involved a party of one state against a party from another state, nor would it be true in the extension of “privileges and immunities” conferred by the Fourteenth Amendment, to “citizens of the United States”.
So, we can conclude that the “citizen of the United States” is a separate and distinct entity than the citizen of a state. That the jurisdiction of the United States Supreme Court extends only to those who have been brought into jurisdiction by the Constitution (parties of different states, etc.) or by virtue of they being the subjects brought into that jurisdiction by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Now, some will say that this case is over one hundred years old, and things have changed, since then. But, have they? And, if so, how have they been changed? I can find no amendment that changes what is presented here, and must suppose that nothing has been changed.
So, in the next Part, we will see if this decision, from 1908, still has merit over half a century later.
* * * * *
Part I can be found at “We the People”, but, Who are We? – Part I
Part II can be found at “We the People”, but, Who are We? – Part II
Part III can be found at “We the People”, but, Who are We? — Part III
Part V can be found at “We the People”, but, Who are We? — Part V