In the case in which it was first called upon to in-terpret this clause, the Court doubted whether “any action of a State not directed by way of discrimination against the negroes as a class, or on account of their race, will ever be held to come within the purview of this provision.”1431 Nonetheless, in deciding the Granger Cases shortly thereafter, the Justices, as with the due process clause, seemingly entertained no doubt that the railroad corporations were entitled to invoke the protection of the clause.1432 Nine years later, Chief Justice Waite announced from the bench that the Court would not hear argument on the question whether the Equal Protection Clause applied to corporations. “We are all of the opinion that it does.”1433 The word has been given the broadest possible meaning. “These provisions are universal in their application, to all persons within the territorial jurisdiction, without regard to any differences of race, of color, or of nationality. . . .”1434 The only qualification is that a municipal corporation cannot invoke the clause against its state.1435


Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 36, 81 (1873). Cf. Weber v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 406 U.S. 164, 177 (1972) (Justice Rehnquist dissenting). back
Chicago, B. & Q. R.R. v. Iowa, 94 U.S. 155 (1877); Peik v. Chicago & N.W. Ry., 94 U.S. 164 (1877); Chicago, M. & St. P. R.R. v. Ackley, 94 U.S. 179 (1877); Winona & St. Peter R.R. v. Blake, 94 U.S. 180 (1877). back
Santa Clara County v. Southern Pac. R.R., 118 U.S. 394, 396 (1886). The background and developments from this utterance are treated in H. GRAHAM, EVERY-MANS CONSTITUTION: HISTORICAL ESSAYS ON THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT, THE CONSPIRACY THEORY, AND AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONALISM chs. 9, 10, and pp. 566–84 (1968). Justice Black, in Connecticut Gen. Life Ins. Co. v. Johnson, 303 U.S. 77, 85 (1938), and Justice Douglas, in Wheeling Steel Corp. v. Glander, 337 U.S. 562, 576 (1949), have disagreed that corporations are persons for equal protection purposes. back
Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 369 (1886). For modern examples, see Levy v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 68, 70 (1968); Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365, 371 (1971). back
City of Newark v. New Jersey, 262 U.S. 192 (1923); Williams v. Mayor of Baltimore, 289 U.S. 36 (1933). back