Champion v. Ames


–          1885 Congressional Act prohibited the sending of lottery tickets through the mails from one state to another, by any means whatsoever.

–          Appellants were indicted from transporting lottery tickets from Texas to California via Wells Fargo.

Appellant’s Argument

1)      carrying lottery tickets from one state to another state, via a company, cannot constitute as commerce as described in the meaning of the constitution (lottery tickets, in themselves, are of no substantial value)

  1. Court says that this is def commerce w/in the meaning of the constitution

2)      This statute prohibits the carrying of lottery tickets. The intention of the constitution was for congress to regulate commerce, not prohibit it at all.


  1. Can congress prohibit actions between states via the commerce clause?


  1. YES.


“As a state may, for the purpose of guarding the morals of its own people, forbid all sales of lottery tickets within its limits, so Congress, for the purpose of guarding the people of the United States against the “widespread pestilence of lotteries” and to protect the commerce which concerns all the states, may prohibit the carrying of lottery tickets from one state to another.”

Court reasoning

–          Commerce – the carrying from one state to another by independent carriers of the things or commodities that are ordinarily subjects of traffic, and have in themselves, a recognized value of money, constitutes interstate commerce – subject of commerce, under congress’s power is plenary – can only be void if it is unconstitutional.

–          Not only is this lottery stuff wrong, but the federal government is the only source to which can remedy the situation and “crush” it down.

–          10th amendment? – “Powers not delegated to the US, nor prohibited by US, are reserved to the states.” – commerce power was given exclusively to the federal government.

–          Values – “Widespread pestilence of lotteries” viewed as bad, it injured more people than helping more people.

–          Precedent – other state courts “suppression nuisances injurious to the public.”

–          Minority perspective? “Preys upon the hard earnings of the poor, it plunders the ignorant and simple.”


Dissent – destroys the power of the 10th amendment to police your borders (congress is now viewed as having general police power).

–          Lottery tickets are contracts, and are not articles of commerce – destroying your liberty to contract.

The dissent in this case included Peckham, who wrote for the majority in Lochner – in Lochner he was talking about taking away liberty in the form of contracts – i.e. bakery people should be able to contract and thus have liberty – here, it’s the same argument that this is a contract issue, and not commerce – also talks about the N & P clause and how this is not legit legislature to exercise this power.

Harlan, wrote for the minority in Lochner, and writes for the majority in this case – He likes the whole idea of protection of people via the government, let it be the state (in Lochner) or the federal (in champion).

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