The Cruikshank Case.

The right of assembly was first be-fore the Supreme Court in 18761625 in the famous case of United States v. Cruikshank.1626 The Enforcement Act of 18701627 forbade conspiring or going onto the highways or onto the premises of another to intimidate any other person from freely exercising and enjoying any right or privilege granted or secured by the Constitution of the United States. Defendants had been indicted under this Act on charges of having deprived certain citizens of their right to assemble together peaceably with other citizens “for a peaceful and lawful purpose.” Although the Court held the indictment inadequate because it did not allege that the attempted assembly was for a purpose related to the Federal Government, its dicta broadly declared the outlines of the right of assembly. “The right of the people peaceably to assemble for the purpose of petitioning Congress for a redress of grievances, or for anything else connected with the powers or the duties of the National Government, is an attribute of national citizenship, and, as such, under the protection of, and guaranteed by, the United States. The very idea of a government, republican in form, implies a right on the part of its citizens to meet peaceably for consultation in respect to public affairs and to petition for a redress of grievances. If it had been alleged in these counts that the object of the defendants was to prevent a meeting for such a purpose, the case would have been within the statute, and within the scope of the sovereignty of the United States.”1628 Absorption of the assembly and petition clauses into the liberty protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment means, of course, that the Cruikshank limitation is no longer applicable.1629

Footnotes

1625
See, however, Crandall v. Nevada, 73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 35 (1868), in which the Court gave as one of its reasons for striking down a tax on persons leaving the state its infringement of the right of every citizen to come to the seat of government and to transact any business he might have with it. [Back to text]
1626
92 U.S. 542 (1876). [Back to text]
1627
Act of May 31, 1870, ch. 114, 16 Stat. 141 (1870). [Back to text]
1628
United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 552–53 (1876). [Back to text]
1629
DeJonge v. Oregon, 299 U.S. 353 (1937); Hague v. CIO, 307 U.S. 496 (1939); Bridges v. California, 314 U.S. 252 (1941); Thomas v. Collins, 323 U.S. 516 (1945). [Back to text]