The father of two children employed at a factory sought to obtain an injunction barring the enforcement of the challenged the law at issue.
The power to regulate given to Congress includes the power to prohibit the movement of ordinary commodities.
The father of two children employed in a cotton mill in North Carolina challenged the law that prohibited the transportation in interstate commerce of goods produced in factories that hire children under the age of fourteen or hire children between the ages of fourteen and sixteen for more than eight hours a day.
Is the law – that prohibits the transportation in interstate commerce of goods produced in factories that hire children under the age of fourteen or hire children between the ages of fourteen and sixteen for more than eight hours a day – unconstitutional?
Yes, the law that barred the transportation in interstate commerce of goods produced in factories employing the children under the age of fourteen violates that Constitution, because Congress, through the law, is essentially regulating the hours of labor of children in factories within the States, a purely state authority. The act exceeds the power given to Congress over commerce as to a purely local matter and goes against the Constitution.
Congress’ ample power to regulate commerce cannot be qualified by the fact that it might interfere with the execution of any State policy by local authorities. States may regulate their internal affairs and domestic commerce as they wish, but when the goods cross the borders, they are no longer within the States’ rights. Congress does have the authority to execute its views of public policy whatever indirect effect they may have upon the State activities.
What Congress is seeking to do is not regulate transportation among the states, which Congress may do so under the Constitution, but standardize the ages at which children may be employed in factories within the states. The goods shipped are of themselves harmless. The mere fact that the goods were intended for interstate commerce transportation does not make their production subject to federal control. While Congress does have ample power with respect to interstate commerce, the production of articles, intended for interstate commerce, is a matter of local regulation. Also, Congress is not granted with police power to prevent possible unfair competition that might occur within the States.