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PETIT v. MINNESOTA.

decided: April 9, 1900.

PETIT
v.
MINNESOTA.



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA.

Author: Fuller

[ 177 U.S. Page 164]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER delivered the opinion of the court.

Petit was tried and convicted of keeping open a barber shop on Sunday for the purpose of cutting hair and shaving beards, contrary to section 6513 of the General Statutes of Minnesota for 1894, and the judgment was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Minnesota. 74 Minn. 376. This writ of error was then allowed.

Section 6513 reads as follows: "All labor on Sunday is prohibited, excepting the works of necessity or charity. In works of necessity or charity is included whatever is needful during the day for good order, health or comfort of the community: Provided, however, That keeping open a barber shop on Sunday

[ 177 U.S. Page 165]

     for the purpose of cutting hair and shaving beards, shall not be deemed a work of necessity or charity."

We have uniformly recognized state laws relating to the observance of Sunday as enacted in the legitimate exercise of the police power of the State. The subject was fully considered in Hennington v. Georgia, 163 U.S. 299, and it is unnecessary to go over the ground again. It was there said: "The legislature having, as will not be disputed, power to enact laws to promote the order and to secure the comfort, happiness and health of the people, it was within its discretion to fix the day when all labor, within the limits of the State, works of necessity and charity excepted, should cease." And these observations of Mr. Justice Field, then a member of the Supreme Court of California, in Ex parte Newman, 9 Cal. 502, whose opinion was approved in Ex parte Andrews, 18 Cal. 678, in reference to a statute of California relating to that day, were quoted: "Its requirement is a cessation from labor.In its enactment, the legislature has given the sanction of law to a rule of conduct, which the entire civilized world recognizes as cssential to the physical and moral well-being of society. Upon no subject is there such a concurrence of opinion, among philosophers, moralists and statesmen of all nations, as on the necessity of periodical cessation from labor. One day in seven is the rule, founded in experience, and sustained by science. . . . The prohibition of secular business on Sunday is advocated on the ground that by it the general welfare is advanced, labor protected, and the moral and physical well-being of society promoted." Well-nigh innumerable decisions of the state courts have sustained the validity of such laws.

But it is contended that by reason of the proviso this act must be held unconstitutional, because thereby restricted in its operation on the particular class of craftsmen to which Petit belonged as contradistinguished from other classes of labor. The proviso was added in 1887 to section 225 of the Penal Code of Minnesota of 1885, (Laws, Minn. 1887, c. 54.)

By the original statute all labor was prohibited, excepting the works of necessity or charity, which included whatever was needful during the day for the good order, health or comfort

[ 177 U.S. Page 166]

     of the community. As the Supreme Court said, if keeping a barber's shop open on Sunday for the purposes of shaving and hair cutting was not a work of necessity or charity, within the meaning of the statute as it originally read, the amendment did not change the law. And it would be going very far to hold that because out of abundant caution the legislature may have sought to obviate any misconstruction as to what should be considered needful, during that day, for the comfort of the community, as respected work generally so desirable as tonsorial labor, by declaring the meaning of the statute as it stood, therefore the law was transferred to the category of class legislation. The legislature had the right to define its own language, and the statute thus interpreted could not reasonably be held to have made any discrimination.

The question is not whether the bare fact of shaving some particular individual under exceptional circumstances might not be upheld, but whether the public exercise of the occupation of shaving and hair cutting could be justified as a work of necessity or charity.

In Phillips v. Innes, 4 Clark & Finnelly, 234, the House of Lords held that shaving on Sunday was not a work of necessity or mercy or charity. The act, 29 Car. II, c. 7, prohibited work on the Lord's day, "works of necessity and charity only excepted;" and by the Scotch statute of 1579, c. 70, it was enacted, among other things, that "no handy-labouring or working be used on the Sunday;" and the same prohibition was enacted by the statute of 1690, c. 7, which added to the private and public exercise of worship, "the duties of necessity or mercy." The case came to the House of Lords from the Court of Sessions, and Lord Chancellor Cottenham said: "This work is not a work of necessity, nor is it a work of mercy, it is one of mere convenience; and if your Lordships were to act upon this case as a precedent for other cases, founded upon no more ...


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