Cummings v. Missouri

(1867)

Stephen J. Field joined the U.S. Supreme Court in 1863, when American society was experiencing sweeping changes. Early in his tenure, issues arising from the Civil War and Reconstruction dominated the Court’s docket. Field was a champion of individual liberty, which in his mind included entrepreneurial freedom. Anxious to safeguard liberty by confining the reach of government, he insisted that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protected substantive rights. Substantive due process meant that there were certain individual rights, such as the right to acquire property or enter contracts, which government could not arbitrarily abridge. Thus, the due process norm limited legislative power. The due process clause provides both procedural and substantive protection of individual rights. The procedural component of due process requires fair procedures before an individual can be deprived of life, liberty, or property. The substantive component imposes an absolute...

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Stephen J. Field (Library of Congress)

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