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Opinion of the Court.


343 U.S.

ments of northern claims. Nine years earlier, in the very city where the legislature sat, what is said to be the first northern race riot had cost the lives of six people, left hundreds of Negroes homeless and shocked citizens into action far beyond the borders of the State.13 Less than a month before the bill was enacted, East St. Louis had seen a day's rioting, prelude to an outbreak, only four days after the bill became law, so bloody that it led to Congressional investigation." A series of bombings had begun which was to culminate two years later in the awful race riot which held Chicago in its grip for seven days in

12 Tables in Drake and Cayton, Black Metropolis, 8, show that between 1900 and 1920 the number of foreign-born in Chicago increased by over 13 and the Negro population trebled. United States census figures show the following population growth for the State as a whole and selected counties:

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1900...... 4,821,550





85,078 1,838,735 86,685 3,987 5,638,591 109,049 2,405,233 46,627 119,870 8,110 6,485,280 182,274 3,053,017 115,238 136,520 10,136 7,630,654 328,972 3,982,123 246,992 157,775 15,550 1940.... 7,897,241 387,446 4,063,342 249,157 166,899 21,567 1950...... 8,712,176 645,989 4,508,792 521,007 205,995 34,566 For an account of these vast population movements entailing great social maladjustments, see Drake and Cayton, Black Metropolis, 8-18, 31-65; Chicago Commission on Race Relations, The Negro in Chicago, 79-105; Carl Sandburg, The Chicago Race Riots, 9-30.

13 See Walling, Race War in the North, 65 The Independent 529 (1908). This article apparently led to the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Ovington, How the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Began, 8 Crisis 184 (1914). See also Chicago Commission on Race Relations, The Negro in Chicago, 67-71.

14 Report of the Special Committee Authorized by Congress to Investigate the East St. Louis Riots, H. R. Doc. No. 1231, 65th Cong., 2d Sess. See also The Massacre of East St. Louis, 14 Crisis 219



Opinion of the Court.

the summer of 1919.15 Nor has tension and violence between the groups defined in the statute been limited in Illinois to clashes between whites and Negroes.

In the face of this history and its frequent obligato of extreme racial and religious propaganda, we would deny experience to say that the Illinois legislature was without reason in seeking ways to curb false or malicious defamation of racial and religious groups, made in public places and by means calculated to have a powerful emotional impact on those to whom it was presented. "There are limits to the exercise of these liberties [of speech and of the press]. The danger in these times from the coercive activities of those who in the delusion of racial or religious conceit would incite violence and breaches of the peace in order to deprive others of their equal right to the exercise of their liberties, is emphasized by events. familiar to all. These and other transgressions of those limits the States appropriately may punish.' This was the conclusion, again of a unanimous Court, in 1940. Cantwell v. Connecticut, supra, at 310.


It may be argued, and weightily, that this legislation will not help matters; that tension and on occasion

15 Chicago Commission on Race Relations, The Negro in Chicago, 122-133.

16 The utterances here in question "are not," as a detached student of the problem has noted, "the daily grist of vituperative political debate. Nor do they represent the frothy imaginings of lunatics, or the 'idle' gossip of a country town. Rather, they indicate the systematic avalanche of falsehoods which are circulated concerning the various groups, classes and races which make up the countries of the western world." Riesman, Democracy and Defamation: Control of Group Libel, 42 Col. L. Rev., at 727. Professor Riesman continues: "Such purposeful attacks are nothing new, of course. . . . What is new, however, is the existence of a mobile public opinion as the controlling force in politics, and the systematic manipulation of that opinion by the use of calculated falsehood and vilification." Id., at

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violence between racial and religious groups must be traced to causes more deeply embedded in our society than the rantings of modern Know-Nothings." Only those lacking responsible humility will have a confident solution for problems as intractable as the frictions attributable to differences of race, color or religion. This being so, it would be out of bounds for the judiciary to deny the legislature a choice of policy, provided it is not unrelated to the problem and not forbidden by some explicit limitation on the State's power. That the legislative remedy might not in practice mitigate the evil, or might itself raise new problems, would only manifest once more the paradox of reform. It is the price to be paid for the trial-and-error inherent in legislative efforts to deal with obstinate social issues. "The science of government is the most abstruse of all sciences; if, indeed, that can be called a science which has but few fixed principles, and practically consists in little more than the exercise of a sound discretion, applied to the exigencies of the state as they arise. It is the science of experiment." Anderson v. Dunn, 6 Wheat. 204, 226. Certainly the Due Process Clause does not require the legislature to be in the vanguard of science-especially sciences as young as human ecology and cultural anthropology. See Tigner v. Texas, 310 U. S. 141, 148.

Long ago this Court recognized that the economic rights of an individual may depend for the effectiveness of their enforcement on rights in the group, even though not formally corporate, to which he belongs. American Foundries v. Tri-City Council, 257 U. S. 184. Such group-protection on behalf of the individual may, for all we know, be a need not confined to the part that a trade union plays in effectuating rights abstractly recognized as belonging

17 See, e. g., L. Hand, J., in a symposium in The Saturday Review of Literature, Mar. 15, 1947, pp. 23-24; Report of the Committee on the Law of Defamation, Cmd. 7536, 11 (1948).


Opinion of the Court.

to its members. It is not within our competence to confirin or deny claims of social scientists as to the dependence of the individual on the position of his racial or religious group in the community. It would, however, be arrant dogmatism, quite outside the scope of our authority in passing on the powers of a State, for us to deny that the Illinois legislature may warrantably believe that a man's job and his educational opportunities and the dignity accorded him may depend as much on the reputation of the racial and religious group to which he willy-nilly belongs, as on his own merits. This being so, we are precluded from saying that speech concededly punishable when immediately directed at individuals cannot be outlawed if directed at groups with whose position and esteem in society the affiliated individual may be inextricably involved.

We are warned that the choice open to the Illinois legislature here may be abused, that the law may be discriminatorily enforced; prohibiting libel of a creed or of a racial group, we are told, is but a step from prohibiting libel of a political party.18 Every power may be abused, but the possibility of abuse is a poor reason for denying Illinois the power to adopt measures against criminal libels sanctioned by centuries of Anglo-American law. "While this Court sits" it retains and exercises authority to nullify action which encroaches on freedom of utter

18 It deserves emphasis that there is no such attempt in this statute. The rubric "race, color, creed or religion" which describes the type of group libel of which is punishable, has attained too fixed a meaning to permit political groups to be brought within it. If a statute sought to outlaw libels of political parties, quite different problems not now before us would be raised. For one thing, the whole doctrine of fair comment as indispensable to the democratic political process would come into play. See People v. Fuller, supra, at 125, 87 N. E., at 338-339; Commonwealth v. Pratt, 208 Mass. 553, 559, 95 N. E. 105, 106. Political parties, like public men, are, as it were, public property.

343 U.S.

Opinion of the Court.

ance under the guise of punishing libel. Of course discussion cannot be denied and the right, as well as the duty, of criticism must not be be stifled.

The scope of the statute before us, as construed by the Illinois court, disposes of the contention that the conduct prohibited by the law is so ill-defined that judges and juries in applying the statute and men in acting cannot draw from it adequate standards to guide them. The clarifying construction and fixed usage which govern the meaning of the enactment before us were not present, so the Court found, in the New York law held invalid in Winters v. New York, 333 U. S. 507. Nor, thus construed and limited, is the act so broad that the general verdict of guilty on an indictment drawn in the statutory language might have been predicated on constitutionally protected conduct. On this score, the conviction here reviewed differs from those upset in Stromberg v. California, 283 U. S. 359, Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U. S. 88, and Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U. S. 1. Even the latter case did not hold that the unconstitutionality of a statute is established because the speech prohibited by it raises a ruckus.

It is suggested that while it was clearly within the constitutional power of Illinois to punish this utterance if the proceeding were properly safeguarded, in this particular case Illinois denied the defendant rights which the Due Process Clause commands. Specifically, it is argued that the defendant was not permitted to raise at the trial defenses constitutionally guaranteed in a criminal libel prosecution: (1) the defense of truth; (2) justification of the utterance as "fair comment"; and (3) its privilege as a means for redressing grievances.

Neither by proffer of evidence, requests for instructions, nor motion before or after verdict did the defendant seek to justify his utterance as "fair comment" or as privileged. Nor has the defendant urged as a ground for reversing his

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