Readings on the Relation of Government to Property and Industry

By Samuel P. Orth | Go to book overview

vastly increase the effectiveness of their labor laws. That the state labor bureau officials are leading in this movement and inviting the coöperation of others is a fortunate circumstance.

* * * * * * *


CONSTITUTIONAL LIMITATIONS AND LABOR LEGISLATION1

BY ERNST FREUND OF THE COLLEGE OF LAW, CHICAGO UNIVERSITY

(From the Proceedings of the American Association for Labor Legislation, Third Annual Meeting, December 28-30, 1909)

In the development of legal principles twenty-five years is not a very long period. In 1884 the body of constitutional doctrine by which labor legislation has since been judged, was practically non- existent and it is consequently a growth of a span of time within the legal memory of most of us. There had been previously a solitary decision of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts2 in which the Court was obviously a good deal puzzled how to deal with the objections raised, disposing of them in a rather offhand, and not altogether satisfactory, fashion. This dated back as far as 1876. In 1877 the decision of the Federal Supreme Court in the Granger cases3 and cases following. established the principle of public control of economic interests, although without a proper appreciation of the limits that have since been recognized. The control was also asserted only with reference to businesses affected with a public interest, and a significant observation fell from Ch. J. Waite, that the Constitution does not confer power upon the whole people to control rights which are purely and exclusively private.

The decision of the New York Court of Appeals in the Tenement Labor Case in 1885,4 was the first to take a decided stand against the power of the State in a case where labor was involved. The freedom in that case, however, was asserted in favor of the individual workman and the relation between employer and employees was not directly discussed. The novel doctrine of freedom of contract between capital and labor was inaugurated in 1886 by two decisions; one from Pennsylvania,5 the other from Illinois.6 It is not until the 90's that the judicial mind can be said to be aroused to the realization that important con-

____________________
1
Copyrighted; all rights reserved.
2
Com. vs. Hamilton Mfg. Co., 120 Mass.383.
3
Munn vs. Illinois, 94 U.S.113, and cases following.
4
In re Jacobs, 98 N.Y.98.
5
Godcharles vs. Wigeman, 131 Pa. St. 431.
6
Millet vs. People, 117 Ill.294.

-418-

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