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United States v. Harris - Significance, Congress Lacked Power To Pass Law, Impact, Related Cases, Further Readings

plaintiff samuel statute court


United States


R. G. Harris, et al.

Plaintiff's Claim

A federal civil rights statute making it a crime for two or more persons to conspire to deprive another person of the equal protection of the laws or of equal privileges or immunities under the laws is constitutional.

Chief Lawyer for Plaintiff

Samuel F. Phillips, U.S. Solicitor General

Chief Defense Lawyer


Justices for the Court

Samuel Blatchford, Joseph P. Bradley, Stephen Johnson Field, Horace Gray, John Marshall Harlan I, Stanley Matthews, Samuel Freeman Miller, Morrison Remick Waite, William Burnham Woods (writing for the Court)

Justices Dissenting



Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

22 January 1883


That the federal statute was unconstitutional. Therefore, the criminal indictment against the defendants was dismissed.

et al. United States v. Shipp: 1907-09 - An Arrest Is Made, A Near Lynching And A Trial, A Guilty Verdict And Lynching [next] [back] United States v. E. C. Knight - The Age Of Monopolies, Manufacturing And Transportation, Robber Barons, Samuel Insull Trial, Further Readings

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about 11 years ago

The Link for Robert R. Smith is:

The others: William J. Overton, George W. Wells, Jr., and P. M. Wells family members are listed and are definitely not among the "African American Records," but you have to order those sheets with payment.

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over 11 years ago

Although it has little bearing on the results of the case, there is an error of fact in the description above. In US v Harris, the four men who were taken from the jail and beaten (one killed) were white, not black. I don't know where this error came from, probably arose from the fact that this case invalidated parts of the Ku Klux Act.
If you would like to verify this, all four men are listed in the Crockett and/or Haywood Tennessee censuses of 1850 or 186o as white.