When it comes to readings of the Constitution’s Article 4 Privileges and Immunities Clause, Corfield v. Coryell (1823) gave a broad reading; however, a narrow reading would be applied by the Supreme Court in the era of reconstruction.
Here’s the facts of Corfield v. Coryell. Bushrod Washington, nephew of George Washington, presided over this case in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In his ruling, he upheld a New Jersey statute banning non-residents from gathering oysters and clams. Corfield v. Coryell dealt with the meaning of the Article IV Privileges and Immunities Clause and Commerce Clause.
Now, here’s the holding of Corfield v. Coryell. The Supreme Court ruled non-residents of New Jersey could not gather osyters and clams since this right wasn’t included in the Article 4’s Privileges and Immunities Clause.
This case is famous for providing a broad reading of Article 4’s Privileges and Immunities Clause. In this case, Justice Washington said: “They may, however, be all comprehended under the following general heads: Protection by the government; the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the right to acquire and possess property of every kind, and to pursue and obtain happiness and safety; subject nevertheless to such restraints as the government may justly prescribe for the general good of the whole.” This case provides a broad reading of Article 4’s Privileges and Immunities Clause, which advocates would later cite as a broad reading ot the Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities Clause.
That being said, the Supreme court adopted a narrow reading of the Privileges and Immunities Clause in later years. In the Slaughter House cases (1873), the Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges and Immunities Clause only means access to ports and navigable waterways, the ability to run for federal office, and to be protected while on the high seas. However, the Supreme Court would use the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process clause to remedy the narrow reading of Article 4’s Privileges or Immunities Clause in time.
In conclusion, the Supreme Court hasn’t used the Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities Clause or Article 4’s Privileges and Immunities for over a hundred years; nevertheless, this case is interesting for a few reasons. First, it gave a broad reading to Article 4’s Privileges and Immunities Clause. Second, this case is cited for a broader reading of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges or Immunities Clause in the Slaughter House cases. Also, Corfield v. Coryell’s broad reading of the Privileges and Immunties Clause backed up the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which many believe was the blue print for the 14 Amendment. That being said, the Constitution’s Privilege or Immunities Clause and Article 4’s Privilege and Immunites Clause remains a dead letter to this day.