Corfield v. Coryell

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Corfield v. Coryell (6 Fed. Cas. 546, no. 3,230 C.C.E.D.Pa. 1823) is a landmark 1823 federal circuit court case decided by Justice Bushrod Washington, sitting as a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In it, he upheld a New Jersey regulation forbidding non-residents from gathering oysters and clams against a challenge that New Jersey's law violated the Article IV Privileges and Immunities Clause and that the New Jersey law regulated interstate commerce in violation of the Commerce Clause. The case is available in Thayer's Cases on Constitutional Law, Part 2


The most-cited aspect of Corfield v. Coryell is Justice Washington's listing of the "privileges and immunities" enjoyed by citizens of the United States:

In Dred Scott v. Sandford, the Supreme Court said that the Privileges and Immunities Clause guaranteed to "citizens of any one State of the Union, the right to enter any other State whenever they pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at every hour of the day or night without molestation, unless they committed some violation of law for which a white man would be punished; and it would give them full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its [a State's] own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon public affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went." As the reference to "a white man" might imply, no African-American could have these rights.[1]

Fourteenth Amendment[edit]

The well-known passage from Corfield was quoted in reference to the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment (substantially authored by John Bingham), during congressional debates on the Amendment, for an indication of what the judiciary had interpreted the phrase "privileges and immunities" to mean as it stood in the original Constitution (Article 4 Section 2), but there is substantial evidence to the effect that some congressmen, at the time the Fourteenth Amendment was passed, did not accept Justice Washington's reading of the term. Justice Washington's assessment is often cited by those who advocate a broader reading of the Fourteenth Amendment Privileges or Immunities Clause than the Supreme Court gave in Slaughterhouse Cases.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 60 U.S. 393, 417 (1857).