1892 Supreme Court Case

Original Decision Text

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Print Versions

Justice David J. Bremer’s Historical Analysis of America as a Christian Nation [1]

as appeared in the Supreme Court Opinion of the Church of the Holy Trinity v.
the United States
, February 29, 1892

 

CHURCH OF THE HOLY TRINITY v. UNITED STATES.

No. 143.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

143 U.S. 457; 12 S. Ct. 511; 1892 U.S. LEXIS 2036; 36 L. Ed. 226

 

Argued and submitted January 7, 1892.

February 29, 1892, Decided

 

ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK.

 

The case is stated in the opinion.

 

SYLLABUS: The act of February 26, 1885, “to prohibit the importation and migration of foreigners and aliens under contract or agreement to perform labor in the United States, its Territories, and the District of Columbia,” 23 Stat. 332, c. 164, does not apply to a contract between an alien, residing out of the United States, and a religious society incorporated under the laws of a State, whereby he engages to remove to the United States and to enter into the service of the society as its rector or minister.

 

COUNSEL: Mr. Seaman Miller for plaintiff in error.

 

Mr. Assistant Attorney General Maury for defendant in error submitted on his brief.

 

OPINION: MR. JUSTICE BREWER delivered the opinion of the court.

 

Plaintiff in error is a corporation, duly organized and incorporated as a religious society under the laws of the State of New York. E. Walpole Warren was, prior to September, 1887, an alien residing in England. In that month the plaintiff in error made a contract with him, by which he was to remove to the city of New York and enter into its service as rector and pastor; and in pursuance of such contract, Warren did so remove and enter upon such service. It is claimed by the United States that this contract on the part of the plaintiff in error was forbidden by the act of February 26, 1885, 23 Stat. 332, c. 164, and an action was commenced to recover the penalty prescribed by that act. The Circuit Court held that the contract was within the prohibition of the statute, and rendered judgment accordingly, (36 Fed. Rep. 303;) and the single question presented for our determination is whether it erred in that conclusion.

 

[LEGAL ARGUMENTS FOUND HERE REMOVED FOR SPACE.]

We find therefore, that the title of the act, the evil which was intended to be remedied, the circumstances surrounding the appeal to Congress, the reports of the committee of each house, all concur in affirming that the intent of Congress was simply to stay the influx of this cheap unskilled labor.


But beyond all these matters no purpose of action against religion can be imputed to any legislation, state or national, because this is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation. The commission to Christopher Columbus, prior to his sail westward, is from “Ferdinand and Isabella, by the grace of God, King and Queen of Castile,” etc., and recites that “it is hoped that by God’s assistance some of the continents and islands in the ocean will be discovered,” etc. The first colonial grant, that made to Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584, was from “Elizabeth, by the grace of God, of England, [France] [2] and Ireland, queen, defender of the faith,” etc.; and the grant authorizing him to enact statutes for the government of the proposed colony provided that “they be not against the true Christian faith now professed in the Church of England.” 


[3] The first charter of Virginia, granted by King James I in 1606, after reciting the application of certain parties for a charter, commenced the grant in these words: “We, greatly commending, and graciously accepting of, their Desires for the Furtherance of so noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God, and may in time bring the Infidels and Savages, living in those parts, to human Civility, and to a settled and quiet Government; DO, by these our Letters-Patents, graciously accept of, and agree to, their humble and well-intended Desires.”

Notes:

[1] Copied word-for-word from the original opinion. Legal arguments intentionally removed for space. Long paragraphs broken for readability.
[2] Old spellings replaced with modern words in brackets.
[3] Paragraph divided for readability.

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