Scope of the Guaranty.
Standing by itself, the phrase “due process” would seem to refer solely and simply to procedure, to process in court, and therefore to be so limited that “due process of law” would be what the legislative branch enacted it to be. But that is not the interpretation which has been placed on the term. “It is manifest that it was not left to the legislative power to enact any process which might be devised. The article is a restraint on the legislative as well as on the executive and judicial powers of the government, and cannot be so construed as to leave Congress free to make any process ‘due process of law’ by its mere will.”429 All persons within the territory of the United States are entitled to its protection, including corporations,430 aliens,431 and presumptively citizens seeking readmission to the United States,432 but States as such are not so entitled.433 It is effective in the District of Columbia434 and in territories which are part of the United States,435 but it does not apply of its own force to unincorporated territories.436 Nor does it reach enemy alien belligerents tried by military tribunals outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.437
Early in our judicial history, a number of jurists attempted to formulate a theory of natural rights—natural justice, which would limit the power of government, especially with regard to the property rights of persons.438 State courts were the arenas in which this struggle was carried out prior to the Civil War. Opposing the “vested rights” theory of protection of property were jurists who argued first, that the written constitution was the supreme law of the State and that judicial review could look only to that document in scrutinizing legislation and not to the “unwritten law” of “natural rights,” and second, that the “police power” of government enabled legislatures to regulate the use and holding of property in the public interest, subject only to the specific prohibitions of the written constitution. The “vested rights” jurists thus found in the “law of the land” and the “due process” clauses of the state constitutions a restriction upon the substantive content of legislation, which prohibited, regardless of the matter of procedure, a certain kind or degree of exertion of legislative power altogether.439 Thus, Chief Justice Taney was not innovating when, in the Dred Scott case, he pronounced, without elaboration, that one of the reasons that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional was that an act of Congress that deprived “a citizen of the United States of his liberty or property, merely because he came himself or brought his property into a particular territory of the United States, and who had committed no offence against the laws, could hardly be dignified with the name of due process of law.”440 Following the war, with the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, substantive due process interpretations were urged on the Supreme Court with regard to state legislation. First resisted, the arguments came in time to be accepted, and they imposed upon both federal and state legislation a firm judicial hand that was not to be removed until the crisis of the 1930s, and that today in non-economic legislation continues to be reasserted.
“It may prevent confusion, and relieve from repetition, if we point out that some of our cases arose under the provisions of the Fifth and others under those of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Although the language of those Amendments is the same, yet as they were engrafted upon the Constitution at different times and in widely different circumstances of our national life, it may be that questions may arise in which different constructions and applications of their provisions may be proper.”441 The most obvious difference between the two Due Process Clauses is that the Fifth Amendment clause as it binds the Federal Government coexists with other express provisions in the Bill of Rights guaranteeing fair procedure and non-arbitrary action, such as jury trials, grand jury indictments, and nonexcessive bail and fines, as well as just compensation, whereas the Fourteenth Amendment clause as it binds the states has been held to contain implicitly not only the standards of fairness and justness found within the Fifth Amendment’s clause but also to contain many guarantees that are expressly set out in the Bill of Rights. In that sense, the two clauses are not the same thing, but, insofar as they impose such implicit requirements of fair trials, fair hearings, and the like, which exist separately from, though they are informed by, express constitutional guarantees, the interpretation of the two clauses is substantially, if not wholly, the same. Save for areas in which the particularly national character of the Federal Government requires separate treatment, this book’s discussion of the meaning of due process is largely reserved for the section on the Fourteenth Amendment. Finally, some Fourteenth Amendment interpretations have been carried back to broaden interpretations of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, such as, for example, the development of equal protection standards as an aspect of Fifth Amendment due process.
- Murray’s Lessee v. Hoboken Land & Improvement Co., 59 U.S. (18 How.) 272, 276 (1856). Webster had made the argument as counsel in Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 518 (1819). See also Chief Justice Shaw’s opinion in Jones v. Robbins, 74 Mass. (8 Gray) 329 (1857).
- Sinking Fund Cases, 99 U.S. 700, 719 (1879).
- Wong Wing v. United States, 163 U.S. 228, 238 (1896).
- United States v. Ju Toy, 198 U.S. 253, 263 (1905); cf. Quon Quon Poy v. Johnson, 273 U.S. 352 (1927).
- South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 323–24 (1966).
- Wight v. Davidson, 181 U.S. 371, 384 (1901).
- Lovato v. New Mexico, 242 U.S. 199, 201 (1916).
- Public Utility Comm’rs v. Ynchausti & Co., 251 U.S. 401, 406 (1920).
- Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U.S. 763 (1950); In re Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1 (1946). Justices Rutledge and Murphy in the latter case argued that the Due Process Clause applies to every human being, including enemy belligerents.
- Compare the remarks of Justices Chase and Iredell in Calder v. Bull, 3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 386, 388–89, 398–99 (1798).
- The full account is related in E. CORWIN, LIBERTY AGAINST GOVERNMENT ch. 3 (1948). The pathbreaking decision of the era was Wynhamer v. The People, 13 N.Y. 378 (1856).
- Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393, 450 (1857).
- French v. Barber Asphalt Paving Co., 181 U.S. 324, 328 (1901).