Clyatt v. United States

(Redirected from 197 U.S. 207)

Clyatt v. United States by David Josiah Brewer
Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

197 U.S. 207

Clyatt  v.  United States

 Argued: December 13, 14, 1904. --- Decided: March 13, 1905

Sections 1990 and 5526, Rev. Stat. (U.S.C.omp. Stat. 1901, pp. 1266, 3715), read:

'Sec. 1990. The holding of any person to service or labor under the system known as peonage is abolished and forever prohibited in the territory of New Mexico, or in any other territory or state of the United States; and all acts, laws, resolutions, orders, regulations, or usages of the territory of New Mexico, or of any other territory or state, which have heretofore established, maintained, or enforced, or by virtue of which any attempt shall hereafter be made to establish, maintain, or enforce, directly or indirectly, the voluntary or involuntary service or labor of any persons as peons, in liquidation of any debt or obligation, or otherwise, are declared null and void.'

'Sec. 5526. Every person who holds, arrests, returns, or causes to be held, arrested, or returned, or in any manner aids in the arrest or return of any person to a condition of peonage, shall be punished by a fine of not less than one thousand nor more than five thousand dollars, or by imprisonment not less than one year nor more than five years, or by both.'

On November 21, 1901, the grand jury returned into the circuit court of the United States for the northern district of Florida an indictment in two counts, the first of which is as follows:

'The grand jurors of the United States of America impaneled and sworn within and for the district aforesaid, on their oaths present, that one Samuel M. Clyatt, heretofore, to wit: on the eleventh day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and one, in the county of Levy, state of Florida, within the district aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of this court, did then and there unlawfully and knowingly return one Will Gordon and one Mose Ridley to a condition of peonage, by forcibly and against the will of them, the said Will Gordon and the said Mose Ridley, returning them, the said Will Gordon and Mose Ridley, to work to and for Samuel M. Clyatt, D. T. Clyatt, and H. H. Tift, copartners doing business under the firm name and style of Clyatt & Tift, to be held by them, the said Clyatt & Tift, to work out a debt claimed to be due to them, the said Clyatt & Tift, by the said Will Gordon and Mose Ridley; contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the United States.'

The second count differs only in charging that defendant caused and aided in returning Gordon and Ridley. A trial resulted in a verdict of guilty, and thereupon the defendant was sentenced to confinement at hard labor for four years. The case was taken on appropriate writ to the court of appeals for the fifth circuit, which certified to this court three questions. Subsequently the entire record was brought here on a writ of certiorari, and the case was heard on its merits.

Messrs. William G. Brantley, A. O. Bacon, and W. M. Hammond for Clyatt.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 209-213 intentionally omitted]

Attorney General Moody and assistant Attorney General Purdy for the United States.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 213-215 intentionally omitted]

Mr. Justice Brewer delivered the opinion of the court:


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).