In upholding a federal statute that prohibited the transportation of lottery tickets in interstate commerce, the Supreme Court defined commerce broadly and authorized the development of a federal police power.
Although the U.S. Constitution contains no federal police power, a broad interpretation of the commerce clause allowed the federal government to become involved with the public’s safety, health, morality, and welfare. In the late nineteenth century, Congress began to enact commerce-based police power legislation. For example, the Federal Lottery Act of 1895 had the goal of attacking gambling activities rather than regulating an object of commerce. When C. F. Champion was convicted of disobeying the statute, he asserted that the act was unconstitutional for three reasons: First, lottery tickets, as such, were not objects of commerce; second, even if they were objects of commerce, the word “regulate” in the commerce clause did not include the power to prohibit; and third, only the states, according to the Tenth Amendment, could exercise the police power.
Speaking for a 5-4 majority, Justice John Marshall Harlan
Commerce, regulation of
Hammer v. Dagenhart