« ForrigeFortsett »
the constitutional provision guaranteeing "freedom of the press" and specifying that "truth" and "good motives" shall be a defense in all trials for libel.1
The publication in the present case appears to have amounted to a deliberate falsehood, without justification. It is, therefore, somewhat difficult to see the bearing of the second clause of this provision, upon which, however, no less than upon the first, the court expressly relies.2 Even if the clause be taken as a guarantee of trial by jury in all cases analogous to defamation, its application to a case in which exist no issues of fact or inference for a jury would seem unwarrantable. For the rest, no authorities are cited, a rapid survey of the history of governmental censorship apparently leading the court to the conclusion, despite a dictum to the contrary, that "freedom of the press" means the absolute and inalienable right to speak, print, and disseminate libels and lies, provided one is willing, subsequently, to pay for the privilege.3
In a previous number of this REVIEW Dean Pound has discussed at length the effect upon equity jurisdiction of such guarantees of free speech and trial by jury. He points out that that interpretation of "freedom of the press" which the court here adopts, though advocated by Blackstone 5 and embodied in certain decisions, is, nevertheless, open to severe criticism. It is far too sweeping and conflicts with many well-established decisions. Any narrower interpretation, however, would fail to support the principal case. Here is involved no right of the defendant freely to publish his own ideas and opinions; the right contended for is that of republishing the composition of another, with a single, deliberately false statement of fact in substance that the plaintiff was no longer a candidate - appended. Moreover, "absolute rights" are a slippery foundation upon which to base a sound opinion; freedom of any sort must inevitably be limited somewhere by the rights of others; and in incorporating in a Bill of Rights, for their better protection, the more cherished common law immunities and privileges, there was no intention of disregarding these necessary limitations. Cooley's interpretation of "free
1 NEB. CONST., Art. I, § 5. "Every person may freely speak, write and publish on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty; and in all trials for libel, both civil and criminal, the truth when published with good motives, and for justifiable ends, shall be a sufficient defence.'
2 In his "concurring" opinion, Sedgwick, J., says: "The opinion does not... say why the fact that it is a defence in an action for libel to prove that the publication was for good motives and for justifiable ends should prevent a court of equity from interfering."
The syllabus, which by statute in Nebraska is written by the judge who voices the majority opinion, recites that "the publication of political matter in a newspaper cannot be enjoined merely because it is false or misleading, such relief being forbidden by... constitutional provisions."
See Dean Pound, "Equitable Relief against Defamation," 29 HARV. L. REV. 640, 648-68.
4 BL. COMM., 152.
The most important is Brandreth v. Lance, 8 Paige (N. Y.) 24.
7 The position that the constitutional provision prohibits previous restraint in all cases of tortious writing or speaking would preclude relief in many cases where equity, however, will enjoin publications which it conceives are incidental to the attempted infringement of contracts or property rights. See the leading case of Gee v. Pritchard, 2 Swanst. 402; and also 4 POMEROY, EQ. JUR., 3 ed., § 1353, and cases there cited. As Sedgwick, J., in his concurring opinion puts it: "the constitution itself pro
dom of the press" as freedom from administrative and legislative censorship only, would seem most in accord with history, logic, common sense, and the authorities in general.10 So construed it would leave unimpaired the general rules of law; and, in the absence of need for trial by jury, equity should be as free to exercise concurrent jurisdiction here as in any other branch of the law of torts. This is the conclusion which Dean Pound reaches on principle; " and it is supported by modern English authority.12
If it be conceded, then, that reason discloses in a case like the present no fatal obstacle to equitable relief, the further question yet remains: Is there in this specific instance any tort, actual or threatened, upon which to base such concurrent jurisdiction? That the intentional infliction of injury, without justification, invariably constitutes a tort may or may not be settled law. But when the means employed are, as here, fraudulent, that is, in themselves illegal, the law is clear. Provided that the damage inflicted amount to "legal harm," the injured party may recover in tort.13 What legal harm, if any, then, has the present plaintiff suffered? Two possibilities suggest themselves.14 The immediate result of the
vides that those who publish are 'responsible for the abuse of that liberty'; and it is the abuse of the liberty that is enjoined and not the liberty itself." See also the remarks of Brown, J., in Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U. S. 275; quoted in 29 HARV. L. REV. 652, n. 29.
COOLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL LIMITATIONS, 7 ed., 605. He defines "freedom of the press" as "complete immunity from legal censure and punishment for the publication, so long as it is not harmful in its character when judged by such standards as the law affords."
10 See supra, n. 7; also infra, n. 12.
11 See 29 HARV. L. REV. 655, 668. Perhaps an added reason may be found in the more than usual difficulty of assessing money damages in the class of cases under discussion.
12 Liverpool Ass'n. v. Smith, 37 Ch. Div. 170; Collard v. Marshall,  1 Ch. 571; James v. James, 13 Eq. 421. The American courts, affected no doubt by Puritanism's distrust of equity, have only recently begun to exercise a concurrent jurisdiction over legal injuries through publication; and that indirectly by viewing such injuries as incidental to unlawful intimidation, boycotts, or extortion. For the earlier authorities, see Boston Diatite Co. v. Florence Mfg. Co., 114 Mass. 69, and the cases cited in Dean Pound's article, 29 HARV. L. REV. 661, n. 60. For examples of the modern tendency, see ibid., 29 HARV. L. REV. 655, n. 41; 666, n. 78; and 667, notes 80, 82, and 83.
13 Ratcliffe v. Evans,  2 Q. B. 524. This case bears an interesting analogy to the principal case in that the defendant newspaper was held liable for publishing a statement that the plaintiff had ceased to carry on business, knowing this to be untrue. Morasse v. Brochu, 151 Mass. 567, 25 Ñ. E. 74. The cases are collected in 1 AMES, CASES ON TORTS, 3 ed., 693 et seq.
14 A third possibility might be added to these because of a certain historical interest. In Gee v. Pritchard, 2 Swanst. 402, Lord Eldon held that the writer of purely personal letters, apparently of no literary value, to whom the actual written pages had been returned, had, nevertheless, a sufficient "property right" to enable equity to enjoin the publication of copies which had been retained by the defendant. It might be urged on an attempted analogy with this famous old case that in the present case a property right of the plaintiff's had been violated by the unauthorized publication of his written statement. Such a contention seems untenable because of plaintiff's own prior publication of his statement to the world. However, it is not without interest. It calls attention to the somewhat metaphysical basis upon which the then unrecognized right of privacy was protected in the "parent" case of this entire branch of our law. It also not unnaturally suggests the thought that relatively very little more creative fancy would be required of a twentieth century Lord Eldon to find in the case before us the infringement of some emaciated but “technical” right of property.
defendant's act was the violation of the plaintiff's right to be freely voted on by his fellow citizens. But such a right is primarily political, not civil; it is enjoyed by enfranchised citizens only, not by all men equally. Its infringement, therefore, falls short of the civil "legal harm sought for.15 Moreover, the practical difficulties in the way of any general interference by equity in local primaries support the view taken by the cases, that remedies other than equitable injunction must be looked to for the redress of such a wrong.16 A loss, however, to constitute "legal harm" need not be of something to which plaintiff was already legally entitled," nor which was even certain, otherwise, to have accrued to him.18 Why then is not the plaintiff's chance of election to public office, like any salaried business position, a probable pecuniary expectancy,19a right of substance? In analogous tort cases the damage need only be proved with such particularity as the circumstances allow; 20 and reason would suggest that a suit in equity might well be maintained in a case like the present, where grave injury, for which damages would be inadequate redress, was clearly and imminently threatened. The answer may well be that such a contention, however much in accord with the actual facts of politics under a spoils system, is too far removed from the common law notion of the nature of office-holding to be maintainable in a court of law.21 But even so, such an office of trust and honor might well be considered a social relation of profit and value, quite apart from the salary entailed. If so, it is as worthy of equity's protection as, let us say, the domestic relation, where value, likewise, cannot be computed in terms of dollars and cents.
15 Fletcher v. Tuttle, 151 Ill. 41, 37 N. E. 683; Kearns v. Howley, 188 Pa. 116, 41 Atl. 273. As to the converse political right to cast one's vote unhindered, its violation would seem, curiously enough, to be recognized as civil legal harm. At least this is true when the violation is intentional and in bad faith and when the plaintiff is wronged as an individual and not merely in common with the general public. Ashby v. White, 2 Ld. Raym. 938; Lincoln v. Hapgood, 11 Mass. 350; 2 COOLEY, TORTS, 3 ed., 626, 801.
16 Fletcher v. Tuttle, 151 Ill. 41, 37 N. E. 683, distinguishing the use in such connection of the ordinary injunction in equity from that of the prerogative writs of mandamus and quo warranto. Winnett v. Adams, 71 Neb. 817, 99 N. W. 681, in which the court declares that the voters themselves constitute the proper tribunal for the redress of this class of wrongs.
17 Rice v. Manley, 66 N. Y. 82; Lewis v. Corbin, 195 Mass. 520, 8 N. E. 248.
18 In Chaplin v. Hicks,  2 K. B. 786, the court held that the deprivation of one chance in four of winning a beauty contest was legal harm for which actual damages might be estimated and awarded. Note that neither the conjectural nature of plaintiff's probable expectancy nor the fact that it depended wholly upon the act of a third person, intrusted with the final selection, prevented its infringement from amounting to a complete wrong.
19 This right is one form of what Terry calls the "right to unimpaired pecuniary condition." See TERRY, LEADING PRINCIPLES OF ANGLO-AMERICAN LAW, 88 350-358. When the usurper of a public office is dispossessed by quo warranto or other suitable proceeding, the money value of the office is recognized and the rightful holder allowed to recover in damages the amount of the emoluments. 2 COOLEY, TORTS, 3 ed., 629, 630.
20 The leading case is Ratcliffe v. Evans, referred to in n. 13, supra.
21 MECHEM, PUBLIC OFFICES, § 241. Speaking of the common law the author says: "An office was regarded as a burden which the appointee was bound in the interest of the community and of good government to bear."
THE STATUS OF STATE MILITIA UNDER THE HAY BILL. The United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the first circuit, reversing the District Court for the District of Massachusetts,1 has held in a very recent opinion that a member of the Massachusetts militia who refuses to take the oath prescribed in the Hay Bill 2 is not relieved from federal obligations under the Dick Bill and its amendments.3 Sweetser v. Emerson (not yet reported). The appellee, Emerson, contended that the Hay Bill provided for an organized militia consisting exclusively of a class designated National Guards; that no one could be a member thereof without taking the federal oath; that if he refused to take the oath, he could not be part of the organized militia, and so could not be required to do federal service under the terms of his existing contract. In short, he argued that there was an implied repeal of the parts of the Dick Act requiring militiamen to perform such service without the oath."
The law in general is not in favor of repeals by implication; if two measures are not so utterly inconsistent that they cannot stand together, both are enforced in the absence of an express provision to the contrary.s In addition, courts are even stricter when a repeal by implication would mean the relinquishing of a governmental power over any matter of public concern. The construction of the appellee would require such a surrender, and the burden is on him of proving that there is an immediate repeal of the sections of the Dick Bill 10 supposed to conflict with the provisions of the Hay Bill.
The keystone of Emerson's argument is that the classification of the militia is an exclusive one and leaves no organized militia other than the National Guard. He cannot be a member of this force, as he has not taken the required oath, and so he says that he is not a part of the organized militia. That this classification is not intended to be all-embracing is shown by other provisions of the Act. The army of the United States is to consist of certain named bodies, including the National Guard,
1 Emerson v. Sweetser. Opinion given 10 August, 1916.
2 NATIONAL Defense Act OF 3 JUNE, 1916.
3 See 32 STAT. at Large, 776, and 35 STAT. At Large, 400.
• See §§ 57, 58.
5 See 88 70, 71.
6 See MASS. ACTS OF 1908, ch. 604, §§ 85, 86.
7 The Hay Bill contains no express repeal of existing statutes; there is only a general clause, repealing all inconsistent measures. See § 128. Thus any repeal of other acts must be found solely by implication.
8 See I SUTHERLAND, STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION, 2 ed., § 247; SEDGWICK, STATUTORY AND CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, 2 ed., 97.
• See Proprietors of Charles River Bridge v. Proprietors of Warren Bridge, 11 Pet. (U. S.) 420, 547; Wheeling, etc. Bridge Co. v. Wheeling Bridge Co., 138 U. S. 287, 293; Bird v. U. S., 187 U. S. 118, 124. "Neither will the court, in expounding a statute, give to it a construction which would in any degree disarm the government of a power which has been confided to it to be used for the general good- or which would enable individuals to embarrass it, in the discharge of the high duties it owes to the community unless plain and express words indicated that such was the intention of the legislature." Chief Justice Taney, in Brown v. Duchesne, 19 How. (U. S.) 183, 195.
10 The only contention was over the liability of the appellee under his existing contract; it was assumed that no new contracts may be made except under the terms of the Hay Bill. If there was no implied repeal, the appellee admitted his obligation to enter the service of the United States at the time he was called.
11 See notes 4 and 5, supra.
and such other land forces as were authorized at the passage of the statute or might thereafter be authorized.12 By the Dick Act the Massachusetts militia was one of those land forces authorized by law.13 By another provision it is enacted that the section should not be construed to prevent any state from maintaining existing organizations if they would conform to such regulations as the President should prescribe.14 At the passage of the Hay Bill there were no such regulations; so existing organizations would temporarily remain as they were. The Hay Bill further provides that if any state fails to comply with or enforce the requirements of the Act, the National Guard of such state shall receive no aid from the United States.15 This seems to imply that a state may still have a National Guard that is not organized under the Act; true, it will not be recognized for purposes of federal aid, but it certainly does not follow that the United States will not enforce its rights to service from such body. Thus the Hay Bill assumes that organized militia may exist other than under its terms. Undoubtedly the ultimate aim of the policy expressed in the Hay Bill is the establishment of a standardized National Guard, and at the expiration of existing contracts, binding members to other forms of service, this object will be attained. But in the interim, the bill offers members of militia organizations the choice of becoming a part of the new body or of retaining their status under outstanding contracts, subject to all the obligations thereof.16 Emerson, accordingly, was subject to federal service under his enlistment, signed in accordance with the terms of the Dick Act.17
Though not involved in the present decision the question arises as to the scope of authority over the National Guard conferred on the United States by the Hay Bill.18 18 By the federal Constitution the power of Congress over the state militia is limited specifically to three purposes,19
14 See § 62.
15 See § 116.
16 It is clear that congressional debates may not be used as a means of construing a statute, though they may be resorted to as a means of ascertaining legislative environment at the time of enactment of a particular law. See Standard Oil Co. v. U. S., 221 U. S. 1, 50. Reports of congressional committees are to be given but little more respect in interpretation. See St. Louis, etc. R. Co. v. Craft, 237 U. S. 648, 661. There is small aid to be obtained from the Congressional Record in the construction of the Hay Bill. The debates are full of contradictions. See 53 CONG. RECORD 5294; 53 CONG. RECORD 5299. We have, accordingly, confined ourselves to the actual statute, and have found it sufficient to support the court's opinion.
17 Section 61 of the Hay Bill provides that no state shall maintain troops in time of peace other than as authorized in accordance with the organization prescribed under that Act. Militia are not generally considered troops in the sense in which the word is used in the Constitution of the United States. See Dunne v. People, 94 Ill. 120, 138; State v. Wagener, 74 Minn. 518, 523; Smith v. Wanser, 68 N. J. L. 249, 258. There is no reason to believe that the word is used in any different sense in this bill. Accordingly this section would not forbid the continuance in service of men enlisted under the Dick Act.
"The courts have thus far refused to apply the term 'troops' to bodies of men who are armed and who leave their ordinary vocations only temporarily for the purpose of training for short periods as the militia have done in the past, and restrict the application of that term to men who have adopted the military profession more or less as their calling." Statement made by the Judge Advocate General of the United States Army. 18 See 53 CONG. RECORD 4927.
19 U. S. CONSTITUTION, Art. 1, par. 8, cl. 15 and 16.