Soon Hing v. Crowley , 113 U.S. 703 ( 1885 )

  • 113 U.S. 703 (1885)


    Supreme Court of United States.

    Submitted December 16, 1885.
    Decided March 16, 1885.

    *707 Mr. David McClure and Mr. Thomas D. Riordan for plaintiff in error.

    No appearance for defendant in error.

    MR. JUSTICE FIELD, after making the foregoing statement of facts, delivered the opinion of the court.

    The ordinance of the Board of Supervisors of the city and county of San Francisco, the legislative authority of that municipality, approved on the 25th of June, 1883, is similar in its main features to the ordinance under consideration at this term in Barbier v. Connolly, ante, page 27. It differs in the designation of the limits of the district of the city and county within which its provisions are to be enforced, but not otherwise in any essential particular. The fourth section is identical in both. The *708 prohibition against labor on Sunday in this section is not involved here, as it was not in that case; and the provision for the cessation of labor in the laundries within certain prescribed limits of the city and county during certain hours of the night is purely a police regulation, which is, as we there said, within the competency of any municipality possessed of the ordinary powers belonging to such bodies. Besides, the Constitution of California declares that "any county, city, town, or township may make and enforce within its limits all such local, police, sanitary, and other regulations as are not in conflict with general laws." Art. XI., § 11. And it is of the utmost consequence in a city subject, as San Francisco is, the greater part of the year, to high winds, and composed principally within the limits designated of wooden buildings, that regulations of a strict character should be adopted to prevent the possibility of fires. That occupations in which continuous fires are necessary should cease at certain hours of the night would seem to be, under such circumstances, a reasonable regulation as a measure of precaution. At any rate, of its necessity for the purpose designated the municipal authorities are the appropriate judges. Their regulations in this matter are not subject to any interference by the federal tribunals unless they are made the occasion for invading the substantial rights of persons, and no such invasion is caused by the regulation in question. As we said in Barbier v. Connolly, "the same municipal authority which directs the cessation of labor must necessarily prescribe the limits within which it shall be enforced, as it does the limits in a city within which wooden buildings cannot be constructed." No invidious discrimination is made against any one by the measures adopted. All persons engaged in the same business within the prescribed limits are treated alike and subject to similar restrictions.

    There is no force in the objection that an unwarrantable discrimination is made against persons engaged in the laundry business, because persons in other kinds of business are not required to cease from their labors during the same hours at night. There may be no risks attending the business of others, certainly not as great as where fires are constantly required to carry them on. The specific regulations for one kind of business, *709 which may be necessary for the protection of the public, can never be the just ground of complaint because like restrictions are not imposed upon other business of a different kind. The discriminations which are open to objection are those where persons engaged in the same business are subjected to different restrictions, or are held entitled to different privileges under the same conditions. It is only then that the discrimination can be said to impair that equal right which all can claim in the enforcement of the laws.

    But counsel in the court below not only objected to the fourth section of the ordinance as discriminating between those engaged in the laundry business, and those engaged in other business, but also as discriminating between different classes engaged in the laundry business itself. This latter ground of objection becomes intelligible only by reference to his brief, in which we are informed that the laundry business, besides the washing and ironing of clothes, involves the fluting, polishing, blueing, and wringing of them; and that these are all different branches, requiring separate and skilled workmen, who are not prohibited from working during the hours of night. This fluting, polishing, blueing, and wringing of clothes, it seems to us, are incidents of the general business, and are embraced within its prohibition. But if not incidents, and they are outside of the prohibition, it is because there is not the danger from them that would arise from the continuous fires required in washing; and it is not discriminating legislation in any invidious sense that branches of the same business from which danger is apprehended are prohibited during certain hours of the night, whilst other branches involving no such danger are permitted.

    The objection that the fourth section is void on the ground that it deprives a man of the right to work at all times is equally without force. However broad the right of every one to follow such calling and employ his time as he may judge most conducive to his interests, it must be exercised subject to such general rules as are adopted by society for the common welfare. All sorts of restrictions are imposed upon the actions of men notwithstanding the liberty which is guaranteed to each. It is liberty regulated by just and impartial laws. Parties, *710 for example, are free to make any contracts they choose for a lawful purpose, but society says what contracts shall be in writing and what may be verbally made, and on what days they may be executed, and how long they may be enforced if their terms are not complied with. So, too, with the hours of labor. On few subjects has there been more regulation. How many hours shall constitute a day's work in the absence of contract, at what time shops in our cities shall close at night, are constant subjects of legislation. Laws setting aside Sunday as a day of rest are upheld, not from any right of the government to legislate for the promotion of religious observances, but from its right to protect all persons from the physical and moral debasement which comes from uninterrupted labor. Such laws have always been deemed beneficent and merciful laws, especially to the poor and dependent, to the laborers in our factories and workshops and in the heated rooms of our cities; and their validity has been sustained by the highest courts of the States.

    The principal objection, however, of the petitioner to the ordinance in question is founded upon the supposed hostile motives of the supervisors in passing it. The petition alleges that it was adopted owing to a feeling of antipathy and hatred prevailing in the city and county of San Francisco against the subjects of the Emperor of China resident therein, and for the purpose of compelling those engaged in the laundry business to abandon their lawful vocation, and residence there, and not for any sanitary, police, or other legitimate purpose. There is nothing, however, in the language of the ordinance, or in the record of its enactment, which in any respect tends to sustain this allegation. And the rule is general with reference to the enactments of all legislative bodies that the courts cannot inquire into the motives of the legislators in passing them, except as they may be disclosed on the face of the acts, or inferrible from their operation, considered with reference to the condition of the country and existing legislation. The motives of the legislators, considered as the purposes they had in view, will always be presumed to be to accomplish that which follows as the natural and reasonable effect of their enactments. Their *711 motives, considered as the moral inducements for their votes, will vary with the different members of the legislative body. The diverse character of such motives, and the impossibility of penetrating into the hearts of men and ascertaining the truth, precludes all such inquiries as impracticable and futile. And in the present case, even if the motives of the supervisors were as alleged, the ordinance would not be thereby changed from a legitimate police regulation, unless in its enforcement it is made to operate only against the class mentioned; and of this there is no pretence.

    It follows that the several questions certified must be answered in the negative and the judgment be affirmed;

    And it is so ordered.