The Supreme Court limited people’s ability to make general claims that their rights were protected by the “spirit” of the Constitution’s preamble or body.
Henning Jacobson refused to submit to a smallpox vaccination pursuant to a duly passed Massachusetts state law and Cambridge city ordinance and was fined five dollars. At trial, Jacobson insisted that the “spirit” of the Constitution’s preamble and the wording of the Fourteenth Amendment meant he did not have to submit to vaccination. He further attempted to assert that there might be unfavorable health consequences to vaccination, the risk of which he should not be required to endure.
By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court rejected Jacobson’s claim that he could use the “spirit” of the Constitution’s preamble or the “spirit” of the body of the Constitution to assert rights, noting that the specific words of the document were all that could be used to invalidate a state statute. In the opinion for the Court, Justice John Marshall Harlan
Due process, procedural
Due process, substantive