1. Citizens are the members of the political community to which they belong. They are the people who compose the community, and who, in their associated capacity, have established or submitted themselves to the dominion of a government for the promotion of their general welfare and the protection of their individual as well as their collective rights. The duty of a government to afford protection is limited always by the power it possesses for that purpose.
2. There is in our political system a government of each of the several States, and a government of the United States. Each is distinct from the others, and has citizens of its own, who owe it allegiance, and whose rights, within its jurisdiction, it must protect. The same person may be at the same time a citizen of the United States and a citizen of a State; but his rights of citizenship under one of these governments will be different from those lie has under the other.
3. The government of the United States, although it is, within the scope of its powers, supreme and beyond the States, can neither grant nor secure to its citizens rights or privileges which are not expressly or by implication placed under its jurisdiction. All that cannot be so granted or secured are left to the exclusive protection of the States.
4. The right of the people peaceably to assemble for lawful purposes, with the obligation on the part of the States to afford it protection, existed long before the adoption of the Constitution. The first amendment to the Constitution, 1. prohibiting Congress from abridging the right to assemble and petition, was not intended to limit the action of the State governments in respect to their own citizens, but to operate upon the national government alone. It left the authority of the States unimpaired, added nothing to the already existing powers of the United States, and guaranteed the continuance of the right only against Congressional interference. The people, for their protection in the enjoyment of it, must, therefore, look to the States, where the power for that purpose was originally placed.
5. The right of the people peaceably to assemble, for the purpose of petitioning Congress for a redress of grievances, or for any thing else connected with the powers or 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 that right, and an invasion of it presents a case within the sovereignty of the United States.
6. The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The second amendment means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress, and has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government.
7. Sovereignty, for the protection of the rights of life and personal liberty within the respective States, rests alone with the States.
8. The fourteenth amendment prohibits a State from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, and from denying to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws; but it adds nothing to the rights of one citizen as against another. It simply furnishes an additional guaranty against any encroachment by the States upon the fundamental rights which belong to every citizen as a member of society. The duty of protecting all its citizens in the enjoyment of an equality of rights was originally assumed by the States, and it still remains there, The only obligation resting upon the United States is to see that the States do not deny the right. This the amendment guarantees, but no more. The power of the national government is limited to the enforcement of this guaranty.
9. In Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall, 178, this court decided that the Constitution of the United States has not conferred the right of suffrage upon any one, and that the United States have no voters of their own creation in the States. In United States v. Reese et al., supra, p. 214, it held that the fifteenth amendment has invested the citizens of the United States with a new constitutional right, which is, exemption from discrimination in the exercise of the elective franchise on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The right to vote in the States comes from the States; but the right of exemption from the prohibited discrimination comes from the United States. The first has not been granted or secured by the Constitution of the United States, but the last has been.
10. The counts of an indictment which charge the defendants with having banded and conspired to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate citizens of the United States, of African descent, therein named; and which in substance respectively allege that the defendants intended thereby to hinder and prevent such citizens in the free exercise and enjoyment of rights and privileges granted and secured to them in common with other good citizens by the constitution and laws of the United States; to hinder and prevent them in the free exercise of their right peacefully to assemble for lawful purposes; prevent and hinder them from bearing arms for lawful purposes; deprive them of their respective several lives and liberty of person without due process of law; prevent and hinder them in the free exercise and enjoyment of their several right to the full and equal benefit of the law; prevent and hinder them in the free exercise and enjoyment of their several and respective right to vote at any election to be thereafter by law had and held by the people in and of the State of Louisiana, or to put them in great fear of bodily harm, and to injure and oppress them, because, being and having been in all things qualified, they had voted at an election theretofore had and held according to law by the people of said State, do not present a case within the sixth section of the Enforcement Act of May 31, 1870 (16 Stat. 141). To bring a case within the operation of that statute, it must appear that the right the enjoyment of which the conspirators intended to hinder or prevent was one granted or secured by the constitution or laws of the United States. If it does not so appear, the alleged offence is not indictable under any act of Congress.
11. The counts of an indictment which, in general language, charge the defendants with an intent to hinder and prevent citizens of the United States, of African descent, therein named, in the free exercise and enjoyment of the rights, privileges, immunities, and protection, granted and secured to them respectively as citizens of the United States, and of the State of Louisiana, because they were persons of African descent, and with the intent to hinder and prevent them in the several and free exercise and enjoyment of every, each, all, and singular the several rights and privileges granted and secured to them by the constitution and laws of the United States, do not specify any particular right the enjoyment of which the conspirators intended to hinder or prevent, are too vague and general, lack the certainty and precision required by the established rules of criminal pleading, and are therefore not good and sufficient in law.
12. In criminal cases, prosecuted under the laws of the United States, the accused has the constitutional right "to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation." The indictment must set forth the offence with clearness and all necessary certainty, to apprise the accused of the crime with which he stands charged; and every ingredient of which the offence is composed must be accurately and clearly alleged. It is an elementary principle of criminal pleading, that, where the definition of an offence, whether it be at common law or by statute, includes generic terms, it is not sufficient that the indictment shall charge the offence in the same generic terms as in the definition, but it must state the species,- it must descend to particulars. The object of theindictment is, -first, to furnish the accused with such a description of the charge against him as will enable him to make his defence, and avail himself of his conviction or acquittal for protection against a further prosecution for the same Cause; and, second, to inform the court of the facts alleged, so that it it may decide whether they are sufficient in law to support a conviction, if one should be had. For this, facts are to be stated, not conclusions of law alone. A crime is made up of acts and intent; and these must be set forth in the indictment, with reasonable particularity of time, place, and circumstances.
13. By the act under which this indictment was found, the crime is made to consist in the unlawful combination with an intent to prevent the enjoyment of any right granted or secured by the Constitution, &c. All rights are not so granted or secured. Whether one is so or not is a question of law, to be decided by the court. The indictment should, therefore, state the particulars, to inform the court, is well as the accused. It must appear from the indictment that the acts cleared will, if proved, support a conviction for the offence alleged.
United States v. Cruikshank Et Al
Presser v Illinois