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Champion v. Ames


Congress had no constitutional mandate to protect public health, welfare or morals, which traditionally were the responsibilities of the states through their police powers. But in the late nineteenth century Congress began to develop a federal police power to deal with social problems of national scope. To justify this, Congress used its authority over interstate commerce. In Champion v. Ames, known as the Lottery Case, the Court sanctioned the new federal police power, noting that the act did not interfere with the sale of lottery tickets within states and thus did not infringe on states' rights. The Court justified the ban on carrying lottery tickets over state lines as Congress' power to suppress "an evil of such appalling character," thus propounding the noxious products doctrine.

In 1904, the Court enlarged on the Champion v. Ames ruling, upholding a police use of the federal tax power to hinder the marketing of colored oleomargarine. The Court cited the Lottery Case as a precedent when upholding the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Mann Act, which prohibited transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes.

Issues of the extent of Congress' power over interstate commerce and the existence of a federal police power were central to the Progressive Party's attempts at rescuing the poor through strengthening the state. The importance of the harmfulness of a product in justifying a federal police power, stressed in the Lottery Case, gave flexibility that allowed the Court to step back from this position as progressivism declined.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1883 to 1917Champion v. Ames - Significance, An Element Confessedly Injurious To The Public Morals, Suppression Of Lotteries Is A Power Of The States