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Champion v. Ames (The Lottery Case)

Citation. 188 U.S. 321 (1903)
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Government indicted appellant Champion for conspiracy to transport lottery tickets of the Pan-American Lottery Company in Paraguay, from Texas to California, in violation of an “act for the suppression of lottery traffic through national and interstate commerce.”

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Congress has the authority to regulate interstate commerce among several States but its power is limited.


The appellant argues that the carrying of lottery tickets from one State to another State by an express company engaged in carrying freight, though such tickets may be contained in a box or package, does not constitute and cannot under the Commerce Clause be legally made to constitute commerce among the States. The Court’s precedents held that commerce among the States embraces navigation, intercourse, traffic and the transmission of messages by telegraph. Appellant further claims that lottery tickets are not of any real or substantial value and thus are not subjects of commerce.


Are lottery tickets subjects of traffic and therefore are subjects of commerce?


No, if, in order to suppress lotteries carried on through interstate commerce, Congress may exclude lottery tickets from such commerce, that principle leads to the conclusion that Congress may arbitrarily exclude from commerce among the States any article, commodity, of whatever kind of nature, or however useful or valuable, no matter with what motive.


Justice Fuller

The majority’s holding that Congress has general police power means that Congress may accomplish objects not entrusted to it and to defeat the operation of the Tenth Amendment. The majority says a lottery ticket is not an article of commerce, but it becomes such the moment when is transported from one State to another. Our view of the commerce clause does not challenge the legislative power of a sovereign nation to exclude foreign commodities. Congress is not reserved with police powers to a foreign nation and the scope of the power is not the same as that over interstate commerce.


The power to regulate commerce among the States has been expressly delegated to Congress. Congress’s authority to regulate commerce among the States, although plenary, however, cannot be deemed arbitrary, since it is subject to such limitations or restrictions as are prescribed by the Constitution. This power may not be exercised so as to infringe rights secured or protected by that instrument. It would not be difficult to imagine legislation that would be justly liable to such an objection and be hostile to the objects for the accomplishment of which Congress was invested with the general powers to regulate commerce among the several States.

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