United States v. Cruikshank

(1876)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

Waite’s opinion outlines a concept of dual citizenship first developed by the Supreme Court in 1873 in the Slaughter-House Cases. A citizen owed allegiance to both the federal and state governments and, in turn, could expect those governments to protect the specific rights attributable to each jurisdiction. Under this construction it was left to the states to prosecute cases of murder, manslaughter, and homicide as well as most infringements of civil rights.

Although Waite argues that the Fifteenth Amendment in itself does not guarantee the right to vote, he concedes that the amendment’s second section constructed a new constitutional right that could be protected by the federal government, namely, that voters not suffer discrimination “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Yet such wording, he contends, means that the fact that Cruikshank and his collaborators were charged with murdering black Republican...

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Morrison R. Waite (Library of Congress)

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