45 Mass. 111 (Mass. 1842), Commonwealth v. Hunt

Citation:45 Mass. 111
Opinion Judge:Shaw, C. J.
Party Name:Commonwealth v. John Hunt & others
Attorney:Rantoul, for the defendants. Austin, (Attorney General,) for the Commonwealth.
Court:Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts

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45 Mass. 111 (Mass. 1842)



John Hunt & others

Supreme Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk and Nantucket

March, 1842

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This was an indictment against the defendants, (seven in number,) for a conspiracy. The first count alleged that the defendants, together with divers other persons unknown to the grand jurors, "on the first Monday of September 1840, at Boston, being workmen and journeymen in the art and manual occupation of boot-makers, unlawfully, perniciously and deceitfully designing and intending to continue, keep up, form, and unite themselves into an unlawful club, society and combination, and make unlawful by-laws, rules and orders among themselves, and thereby govern themselves and other workmen in said art, and unlawfully and unjustly to extort great sums of money by means thereof, did unlawfully assemble and meet together, and, being so assembled, did then and there unjustly and corruptly combine, confederate and agree together, that none of them should thereafter, and that none of them would, work for any master or person whatsoever, in the said art, mystery or occupation, who should employ any workman or journeyman, or other person, in the said art, who was not a member of said club, society or combination, after notice given him to discharge such workman from the employ of such master; to the great damage and oppression, not only of their said masters employing them in said art and occupation, but also of divers other workmen and journeymen in the said art, mystery and occupation; to the evil example of all others in like case offending, and against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth."

The second count charged that the defendants, and others unknown, at the time and place mentioned in the first count, "did unlawfully assemble, meet, conspire, confederate and agree together, not to work for any master or person who should employ any workman not being a member of a club, society or combination, called the Boston Journeymen Bootmakers' Society in Boston, in Massachusetts, or who should break any of their by-laws, unless such workman should pay to said club and society such sum as should be agreed upon as a penalty for the breach of such unlawful rules, orders and by-laws; and by means of said conspiracy, they did compel one Isaac B. Wait, a master cordwainer in said Boston, to turn out of his employ one Jeremiah Horne, a journeyman boot-maker, because said Horne would not pay a sum of money to said society for an alleged penalty of some of said unjust rules, orders and by-laws."

The third count averred that the defendants and others unknown, "wickedly and unjustly intending unlawfully, and by indirect means, to impoverish one Jeremiah Horne, a journeyman boot-maker, and hinder him from following his trade, did" (at the time and place mentioned in the former counts) "unlawfully conspire, combine, confederate and agree together, by wrongful and indirect means to impoverish said Horne, and to deprive and hinder him from following his said art and trade of a journeyman boot-maker, and from getting his livelihood and support thereby; and in pursuance of said conspiracy, they did wrongfully, unlawfully and indirectly prevent him, the said Horne, from following his said art, occupation, trade and business, and did greatly impoverish him."

In the fourth count it was alleged that the defendants, (at the time and place before mentioned) "unjustly intending to injure and impoverish one Jeremiah Horne, and to deprive him of work and employment, and to prevent his earning a livelihood and support by following his trade of a journeyman boot-maker, did unlawfully conspire, combine, confederate and agree together, by indirect means wrongfully to prejudice the said Horne and prevent him from exercising his trade as a journeyman boot-maker, and impoverish him."

The fifth count set forth, that the defendants, at Boston, on the first Monday of November 1839, "unlawfully, designedly to prejudice and impoverish one Isaac B. Wait, one Elias P. Blanchard, one David Howard, and divers other persons, whose names to the jurors are not known, all being master cordwainers and boot-makers in said Boston, employing journeymen boot makers, did unlawfully, wrongfully and corruptly conspire, combine, confederate and agree together, by indirect means unjustly to prejudice and impoverish said Wait, Blanchard, Howard, and said other master cordwainers, whose names are unknown as aforesaid, and to prevent and hinder them from employing any journeymen boot-makers, who would not, after being notified, become members of a certain club, society or combination, called the Boston Journeymen Bootmakers' Society in Boston, Massachusetts, or who should break or violate any of the rules, orders or by-laws of said society, or refuse or neglect to pay any sum of money demanded from them, by said society, as a penalty for such breach of said by-laws."

The defendants were found guilty, at the October term, 1840, of the municipal court, and thereupon several exceptions were alleged by them to the ruling of the judge at the trial. The only exception, which was considered in this court, was this: "The defendants' counsel contended that the indictment did not set forth any agreement to do a criminal act, or to do any lawful act by criminal means; and that the agreements, therein set forth, did not constitute a conspiracy indictable by any law of this Commonwealth; and they moved the court so to instruct the jury: But the judge refused so to do, and instructed the jury that the indictment against the defendants did, in his opinion, describe a confederacy among the defendants to do an unlawful act, and to effect the same by unlawful means: That the society, organized and associated for the purpose described in the indictment, was an unlawful conspiracy, against the laws of this Commonwealth; and that if the jury believed, from the evidence in the case, that the defendants, or any of them, had engaged in such confederacy, they were bound to find such of them guilty."

A printed copy of the constitution of the Boston Journeymen Bootmakers' Society was given in evidence against the defendants, at the trial; and it was agreed that the same might be referred to by the counsel, in the argument, and by the court, in considering the exceptions.

This case was argued, at the last March term, on all the exceptions alleged at the trial; but the argument on those points only, which were decided by the court, is here inserted.

Exceptions sustained, and the judgment arrested.

Rantoul, for the defendants. As we have no statute concerning conspiracy, the facts alleged in the indictment constitute an offence, if any, at common law. But the English common law of conspiracy is not in force in this State. We have not adopted the whole mass of the common law of England, indiscriminately, nor of the English statute law which passed either before or after the settlement of our country. So much only of the common law has been adopted, as is applicable to our situation, excluding "the artificial refinements and distinctions incident to the property of a great commercial people; the laws of revenue and police; such especially as are enforced by penalties." 1 Bl. Com. 107, & seq. 1 Tucker's Black. Appx. 406. Statutes do not bind colonies, unless they are expressly named. 2 P. W. 75. Chit. on Prerog. 33. The English law, as to acts in restraint of trade, is generally local in its nature, and not suited to our condition. It has never been adopted here, and the colonies are not named in the statutes on that subject which have been passed in England since they were settled. Van Ness v. Pacard, 2 Pet. 144. Wheaton v. Peters, 8 Pet. 658, 659. Dawson v. Shaver, 1 Blackf. 205. The Sts. 1 Edw. VI. c. 3; 5 Geo. I. c. 27; 23 Geo. II. c. 13; 14 Geo. III. c. 71; the innumerable statutes of laborers, and the statutes against seducing artisans, &c. illustrate this point. All the law we ever had on these subjects was domestic, and is now obsolete. See Plymouth Colony Laws, 28, 72, 76. Anc. Chart. 210. 6 Mass. 73.

The original of the law of conspiracy is in St. Edw. I., (A. D. 1304) and includes in its definition only false and malicious indictments. 2 Inst. 561, 562. 2 Reeves Hist. (2d ed.) 239, & seq. 1 Hawk. c. 72, §§ 1, 2. 6 Petersd. Ab. 96. The early cases were those of such indictments. See Yelv. 116. 9 Co. 55 b. Cro. Eliz. 563, 871, 900.

The next stage of the law of conspiracy appears in the early editions of 1 Hawk. c. 72, § 2: "That all confederacies wrongfully to prejudice a third person are criminal at common law; as a confederacy by indirect means to impoverish a third person, or falsely and maliciously to charge a man with being the reputed father of a bastard child; or to maintain one another in any matter, whether it be true or false." By "indirect means," unlawful means are meant.

The case of The King v. Journeymen Tailors, 8 Mod. 10, was decided after Hawkins's work was published, and is not a part of the law laid down by him, in his first editions. In that case, it was held that a conspiracy among workmen, to refuse to work under certain wages, is an indictable offence. This case, if correctly reported, introduced new law, unless it was decided on the statutes of laborers. (See a compend of these statutes, in Jacob's & Tomlins's Law Dict. Laborers. See also, 1 Bl Com. 426. 14 East, 395.) The doctrine of that case, therefore, is not a part of the law adopted in this State. It was not the doctrine of the common law, when our ancestors came hither, and...

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