American Constitutional Law: Introductory Essays & Selected Cases

By Alpheus Thomas Mason; William M. Beaney | Go to book overview

Mugler v. Kansas?

123 U.S. 623, 8 S.Ct. 273, 31 L.Ed. 205 ( 1887)

An article of the constitution of Kansas, adopted in 1880, prohibited the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors except for certain restricted purposes, and a statute of 1881 provided sanctions. Mugler, who had erected a brewery in 1877, was convicted of selling and manufacturing beer after the effective date of the statute. He sought on writ of error to review the affirmance of his conviction.

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the court....

The general question in each case is, whether the foregoing statutes of Kansas are in conflict with that clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which provides that "no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

That legislation by a State prohibiting the manufacture within her limits of intoxicating liquors, to be there sold or bartered for general use as a beverage, does not necessarily infringe any right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution of the United States, is made clear by the decisions of this court, rendered before and since the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment....

...These cases rest upon the acknowledged right of the States of the Union to control their purely internal affairs, and, in so doing, to protect the health, morals, and safety of their people by regulations that do not interfere with the execution of the powers of the general government, or violate rights secured by the Constitution of the United States. The power to establish such regulations, as was said in Gibbons v. Ogden ...reaches everything within the territory of a State not surrendered to the national government.

It is, however, contended that, although the State may prohibit the manufacture of intoxicating liquors for sale or barter within her limits, for general use as a beverage, "no convention or legislature has the right, under our form of government, to prohibit any citizen from manufacturing for his own use, or for export, or storage, any article of food or drink not endangering or affecting the rights of others." The argument made in support of the first branch of this proposition, briefly stated, is, that in the implied compact between the State and the citizen certain rights are reserved by the latter, which are guaranteed by the constitutional provision protecting persons against being deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, and with which the State cannot interfere; that among those rights is that of manufacturing for one's use either food or drink; and that while according to the doctrines of the Commune, the State may control the tastes, appetites, habits, dress, food, and drink of the people, our system of government, based upon the individuality and intelligence of the citizen, does not claim to control him, except as to his conduct to others, leaving him the sole judge as to all that only affects himself.

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