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Amendment executes itself in every State of the
Union. Whatever are the privileges and immunities of a citizen in
the State of New York, such citizen, emigrating, carries them
with him into any other State of the Union. It utters the will of
the United States in every State, and silences every State
constitution, usage, or law which conflicts with it. If to be
admitted to the bar, on attaining the age and learning required
by law, be one of the privileges of a white citizen in the State
of New York, it is equally the privilege of a colored citizen in
that State; and if in that State, then in any State. If no State
may "make or enforce any law" to abridge the privileges of a
citizen, it must follow that the privileges of all citizens are
the same. We have already seen that the right to vote is not one
of those privileges which are declared to be common to all
citizens, and which no State may abridge; but that it is a
political right, which any State may deny to a citizen, except on
account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. It
therefore only remains to determine whether admission to the bar
belongs to that class of privileges which a State may not
abridge, or that class of political rights as to which a State
may discriminate between its citizens.

In discussing this subject, we are compelled to use the words
"privileges and immunities" and the word "rights" in the precise
sense in which they are employed in the Constitution. In popular
language, and even in the general treatises of law writers, the
words "rights" and "privileges" are used synonymously. Those
privileges which are secured to a man by the law are his rights;
and the great charter of England declares that the ancient
privileges enjoyed by Englishmen, are the undoubted rights of
Englishmen. But, as we have seen, the XIV. and XV. Amendments
distinguish between privileges and rights; and it must be
confessed that it is paradoxical to say, as the XIV. Amendment
clearly does, that the "privileges" of a citizen shall not be
abridged, while his "right" to vote may be. But a judicial
construction of the Constitution is wholly different from a mere
exercise in philology. The question is not whether certain words
were aptly employed--but the context must be searched to
ascertain the sense in which such words were used.

It is evident that there are certain "privileges and immunities"
which belong to a citizen of the United States as such; otherwise
it would be nonsense for the XIV. Amendment to prohibit a State
from abridging them; and it is equally evident from the XIV.
Amendment that the right to vote is not one of those privileges.
And the question recurs whether admission to the bar, the proper
qualification being possessed, is one of the privileges which a
State may not deny. In Cummings _vs._ Missouri, 4 Wall., 321,
this court say:

In France, deprivation or suspension of civil rights, or
some of them--and among these of the right of voting, of
eligibility to office, of taking part in family councils, of
being guardian or trustee, of bearing arms, and of teaching
or being employed in a school or seminary of learning--are
punishments prescribed by her code. The theory upon which
our political institutions rest is, that all men have
certain inalienable rights--that among these are life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and that in the
pursuit of happiness all avocations, all honors, all
positions, are alike open to every one, and that in the
protection of these rights all are equal before the law. Any
deprivation or extension of any of these rights for past
conduct is punishment, and can be in no otherwise defined.

No broader or better enumeration of the privileges which pertain
to American citizenship could be given. "Life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness; and, in the pursuit of happiness, all
avocations, all honors, all positions, are alike open to every
one; and in the protection of these rights all are equal before
the law." In _ex parte_ Garland (4 Wall., 378) this court say:

The profession of an attorney and counselor is not like an
office created by an act of Congress, which depends for its
continuance, its powers, and its emoluments upon the will of
its creator, and the possession of which may be burdened
with any conditions not prohibited by the Constitution.
Attorneys and counselors are not officers of the United
States; they are not elected or appointed in the manner
prescribed by the Constitution for the election and
appointment of such officers. They are officers of the
court, admitted as such by its order, upon evidence of their
possessing sufficient legal learning and fair private
character.... The order of admission is the judgment of the
court, that the parties possess the requisite qualifications
as attorneys and counselors, and are entitled to appear as
such and conduct causes therein. From its entry the parties
become officers of the court, and are responsible to it for
professional misconduct. They hold their office during good
behavior, and can only be deprived of it for misconduct,
ascertained and declared by the judgment of the court, after
opportunity to be heard has been offered. (_Ex parte_
Heyfron, 7 How., Miss., 127; Fletcher _vs._ Daingerfield, 20
Cal., 430.) Their admission or their exclusion is not the
exercise of a mere ministerial power. It is the exercise of
judicial power, and has been so held in numerous cases....
The attorney and counselor being, by the solemn judicial act
of the court, clothed with his office, does not hold it as a
matter of grace and favor. The right which it confers upon
him to appear for suitors, and to argue causes, is something
more than a mere indulgence, revocable at the pleasure of
the court, or at the command of the Legislature. It is a
right of which he can only be deprived by the judgment of
the court, for moral or professional delinquency. The
Legislature may undoubtedly prescribe qualifications for the
office, to which he must conform, as it may, where it has
exclusive jurisdiction, prescribe qualifications for the
pursuit of the ordinary avocations of life.

It is now well settled that the courts, in admitting attorneys
to, and in expelling them from, the bar, act judicially, and that
such proceedings are subject to review on writ of error or
appeal, as the case may be. (_Ex parte_ Cooper, 22 N. Y., 67.
Strother _vs._ Missouri, 1 Mo., 605. _Ex parte_ Secomb, 19 How.,
9. _Ex parte_ Garland, 4 Wall., 378.)

From these cases the conclusion is irresistible, that the
profession of the law, like the clerical profession and that of
medicine, is an avocation open to every citizen of the United
States. And while the Legislature may prescribe qualifications
for entering upon this pursuit, they can not, under the guise of
fixing qualifications, exclude a class of citizens from admission
to the bar. The Legislature may say at what age candidates shall
be admitted; may elevate or depress the standard of learning
required. But a qualification, to which a whole class of citizens
never can attain, is not a regulation of admission to the bar,
but is, as to such citizens, a prohibition. For instance, a State
Legislature could not, in enumerating the qualifications, require
the candidate to be a white citizen. This would be the exclusion
of all colored citizens, without regard to age, character, or
learning. Such an act would abridge the rights of all colored
citizens, by denying them admission into one of the avocations
which this court has declared is alike open to every one. I
presume it will be admitted that such an act would be void. I am
certain this court would declare it void. And I challenge the
most astute mind to draw any distinction between such an act and
a custom, usage, or law of a State, which denies this privilege
to all female citizens without regard to age, character, or
learning. If the Legislature may, under pretense of fixing
qualifications, declare that no female citizen shall be permitted
to practice law, they may as well declare that no colored citizen
shall practice law. It should be borne in mind that the only
provision in the Constitution of the United States which secures
to colored male citizens the privilege of admission to the bar,
or the pursuit of the other ordinary avocations of life, is that
provision that

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge
the privileges or immunities of a citizen.

If this provision does not open all the professions, all the
avocations, all the methods by which a man may pursue happiness,
to the colored as well as the white man, then the Legislatures of
the States may exclude colored men from all the honorable
pursuits of life, and compel them to support their existence in a
condition of servitude. And if this provision does protect the
colored citizen, then it protects every citizen, black or white,
male or female. Why may a colored citizen buy, hold, and sell
land in any State of the Union? Because he is a citizen of the
United States, and that is one of the privileges of a citizen.
Why may a colored citizen be admitted to the bar?



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