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WILLIAMS v. FEARS.

decided: December 10, 1900.

WILLIAMS
v.
FEARS.



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA.

Author: Fuller

[ 179 U.S. Page 273]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

Persons following the occupations named in some twenty-nine paragraphs of section 2 of the Tax Act of 1898, if they failed to register their names before the ordinary, or, having registered, failed to pay their taxes, as required by section 4, were liable to indictment for misdemeanor.

The Supreme Court of Georgia pointed out that it did not distinctly appear whether Williams was charged with having done business without registering, or without paying the tax, but considered that to be immaterial since he could not be punished for a failure to do either, if the provision imposing the tax were unconstitutional.

As preliminary to considering the validity of the provision the court, as matter of orginal definition, and in view of prior legislation, (Acts, 1876, p. 17; Acts, 1877, p. 120; Code, 1882, ยง 4598, a, b, c,) held that the term "emigrant agent," as used in the General Tax Act of 1898, meant a person engaged in hiring laborers in Georgia to be employed beyond the limits of that State.

The court called attention to the fact that while previous acts had required a license, this act provided for a specific tax on the occupation of emigrant agents in common with very many other occupations, the declared purpose of the levy being for the support of the government, and ruled that the question of whether the tax was so excessive as to amount to a prohibition on the transaction of that business, did not arise, and, indeed, was not raised.

[ 179 U.S. Page 274]

     The inquiry is, then, whether a state law taxing occupations is invalid so far as applicable to the pursuit of the business of hiring persons to labor outside the state limits because in conflict with the Federal Constitution.

On behalf of plaintiff in error it is insisted that paragraph ten is in conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment because it restricts the right of the citizen to move from one State to another, and so abridges his privileges and immunities; impairs the natural right to labor; and is class legislation, discriminating arbitrarily and without reasonable basis.

Undoubtedly the right of locomotion, the right to remove from one place to another according to inclination, is an attribute of personal liberty, and the right, ordinarily, of free transit from or through the territory of any State is a right secured by the Fourteenth Amendment and by other provisions of the Constitution.

And so as to the right to contract. The liberty, of which the deprivation without due process of law is forbidden, "means not only the right of the citizen to be free from the mere physical restraint of his person, as by incarceration, but the term is deemed to embrace the right of the citizen to be free in the enjoyment of all his faculties; to be free to use them in all lawful ways; to live and work where he will; to earn his livelihood by any lawful calling; to pursue any livelihood or avocation, and for that purpose to enter into all contracts which may be proper, necessary and essential to his carrying out to a successful conclusion the purposes above mentioned; . . . although it may be conceded that this right to contract in relation to persons or property or to do business within the jurisdiction of the State may be regulated and sometimes prohibited when the contracts or business conflict with the policy of the State as contained in its statutes." Allgeyer v. Louisiana, 165 U.S. 578, 589, 591; Holden v. Hardy, 169 U.S. 366.

But this act is a taxing act, by the second section of which taxes are levied on occupations, including, by paragraph ten, the occupation of hiring persons to labor elsewhere. If it can be said to affect the freedom of egress from the State, or the ...


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