The Chase Court (1864–73)


The Chase Court invalidated loyalty oaths in what two decisions?

The Chase Court ruled 5–4 in Cummings v. Missouri and Ex Parte Garland (1867), collectively called the Test Oath Cases, that loyalty oaths requiring individuals to swear they did not support the Confederacy were unconstitutional. In the Missouri case, Father John Cummings, a young priest, challenged a Missouri law requiring various persons in many occupations to swear they had not supported the Confederacy. The Missouri Loyalty Oath was as follows:

I … do solemnly swear that I am well acquainted with the terms of the third section of the second article of the Constitution of the State of Missouri, adopted in the year eighteen hundred and sixty-five, and have carefully considered the same; that I have never, directly or indirectly, done any of the acts in said section specified; that I have always been truly and loyally on the side of the United States against all enemies thereof, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and law of the land, any law or ordinance of any State to the contrary notwithstanding; that I will, to the best of my ability, protect and defend the Union of the United States, and not allow the same to be broken up and dissolved, or the government thereof to be destroyed or overthrown, under any circumstances, if in my power to prevent it; that I will support the Constitution of the State of Missouri; and that I make this oath without any mental reservation of evasion, and hold it to be binding on me.

In Ex Parte Garland, Augustus Hill Garland, an attorney and former Confederate senator from Arkansas, challenged the constitutionality of a federal law that required attorneys to take a similar oath to practice in the federal courts.

The majority reasoned that both statutes were unconstitutional because they were ex post facto laws and bills of attainder. Justice Stephen Field reasoned that the oaths were ex post facto laws because they criminalized conduct that was not a crime when committed. He also reasoned that they were bills of attainder because they punished a certain class of person without a trial.


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