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CourtSpeak: Cummings v. Missouri Loyalty Oath Case (1867)

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Chapter The Chase Court (1864–73)

Justice Stephen Field (majority): “The clauses in question subvert the presumptions of innocence, and alter the rules of evidence, which heretofore, under the universally recognized principles of the common law, have been supposed to be fundamental and unchangeable. They assume that the parties are guilty; they call upon the parties to establish their innocence; and they declare that such innocence can be shown only in one way—by an inquisition, in the form of an expurgatory oath, into the consciences of the parties.”

Justice Samuel Miller (dissenting): “In the discussion of these cases, I have said nothing, on the one hand, of the great evils inflicted on the country by. the voluntary action of many of those persons affected by the laws under consideration, nor, on the other hand, of the hardships which they are now suffering much more as a consequence of that action than of any laws which Congress can possibly frame. But I have endeavored to bring to the examination of the grave questions of constitutional law involved in this inquiry those principles alone which are calculated to assist in determining what the law is, rather than what, in my private judgment, it ought to be.”

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