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Corfield v. Coryell (1823)

Last Updated: 2006

Article IV, Section 2, Clause 1, of the Constitution provides, “The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several states,” a provision sometimes known as the interstate Privilege and Immunities ClauseCorfield v. Coryell (1823) was apparently the first and remains a leading federal case interpreting this clause. Corfield was not a Supreme Court case, but was decided by Justice Bushrod Washington serving as Circuit Court judge. The case involved a New Jersey law limiting the gathering of oysters within the state to “actual inhabitants or residents of the state.” The law was challenged as discriminating against citizens of other states and thus as in violation of Article IV, Section 2, Clause 1. The question implicit in the case was whether that constitutional provision prohibited states from all discrimination between their own citizens and citizens of other states of the union, or merely prohibited discrimination over a narrower range of rights. Justice Washington concluded the law was constitutional, for Article IV, Section 2, protects only “those privileges and immunities which are, in their nature, fundamental; which belong, of right, to the citizens of all free governments; and which have, at all times, been enjoyed by the citizens of the several states which compose this Union, from the time of their becoming free, independent, and sovereign.” The right to gather oysters, he concluded, was not among these fundamental rights.

SEE ALSO: Baldwin v. Montana Fish and Game CommissionPrivileges and Immunities Clause: Article IVToomer v. Witsell


David S. Bogern, Privileges and Immunities (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003).