The Civil Rights Cases Essay Research Paper

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The Civil Rights Cases Essay, Research Paper The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was an effort of the Post-Civil War Congresses to enforce civil rights throughout the United States. It was a part of the Reconstructionists to eliminate racial discrimination throughout the United States and this Act was one form to attempt to accomplish this. They took the authority to pass this Act from Section 5 of the 14th Amendment. They interpreted that section to allow the Congress the power to define as well as enforce the rights established by the 14th Amendment. When the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was tested by the Supreme Court it held that interpretation of the amendment and thus the Act was unconstitutional, and in passing the Act overstepped the power granted by the amendment to Congress.

The ruling and the dissent to this opinion of the Court looked to four main constitutional issues to support their findings: civil and social rights, implied and expressed powers, federal supremacy and state sovereignty, and finally strict and broad interpretations. One of the issues exhibited in the Civil Rights Cases was the protection of civil rights versus the protection of what has been deemed as social rights. The argument of Justice Bradley indicted that the 13th and 14th Amendment can only be looked to for the protection of civil rights and expansion of these protections to social rights would be outside the scope of the Constitution. The protection of these rights instead fell to the States and their authority to legislate their own domestic affairs. Civil rights are

identified as those safeguarded by the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution (the essential rights of life, liberty, and property) against State infringement, and therefore cannot be breached by acts of individuals. Social rights or protection against discrimination, however, does not fall within the scope of the US Constitution. The imposition of an individual into the rights of an injured party, if not sanctioned in some way by the State, is a private wrong. Thus the injured party?s rights remain, and the individual must look to laws of the state to vindicate a redress of their grievances. The federal government does have jurisdiction from the 13th Amendment to create laws to protect citizens against involuntary servitude. Any such act whether committed by an individual

sanctioned by the State or not falls under the scope of the 13th Amendment and can be legislated; however, denial of admission to an inn, public conveyance, or place of public amusement cannot in any form be construed as servitude thus cannot be legislated by the 13th Amendment. Justice Harlan?s sole dissenting opinion argued to the contrary of the majority opinion stating that social rights could be in fact be construed as of public consequence. He pointed to the case Munn v. Illinois where the court found in a 7-2 decision that where the public has a definite and positive interest in a business, they have a right to regulate the operations of that business. ?The law may therefore regulate, to some extent, ? he reasoned ?the mode in which they shall be conducted.? He went on to

say ?the public have rights in respect of such places, which may be vindicated by the law. It is consequently not a matter purely of private concern.? The Congress must have the authority to legislate on rights and privileges granted to its citizens by the Constitution in order to prevent those rights from being tarnished. Another issue at arms in the decision was the extracting of implied or expressed powers from the Constitution in regards to the federal government. Justice Bradley argued that Congress in passing the Civil Rights Act 1875 overstepped the power granted to it by the US Constitution. Congress can create legislation over a subject if they are accompanied by an express or implied denial of such power to the states. For example, Congress has the sole power to